On the spectacularly obvious

We have to shift our attitude of ownership of nature to relationship with nature. The moment you change from ownership to relationship, you create a sense of the sacred.

Satish KUmar

Well, I try quite hard not to respond to all the examples of head-banging idiocy I see in the press, because life is short and I need to manage my blood-pressure. But every now and then I come across something so extraordinarily dumb that either I throw my laptop across the room or I write a blog post. And I can’t afford a new laptop, so here we go.

Ladies and gentlemen, I invite you contemplate the question posted in this headline: Do animals have emotions? No, seriously, this is apparently a thing. Indeed, it is a Big Idea, because presumably we are all supposed to reel in shock at the very notion.

Short answer: Yes. Yes, they do. Indeed, we do, because in case you haven’t noticed – and the author of the headline apparently hasn’t, perhaps having been off sick the day their school covered literally the whole of biology – we are animals. Therefore our very ability to reel in shock at this notion itself demonstrates the truth of the proposition.

Now I probably shouldn’t be too shocked to find such things in a newspaper which apparently finds it astonishing that fish can feel pain. But it is representative of a certain mindset which is ubiquitous in what passes for the intellectual culture of industrial civilisation, namely that all our intuitions about the world are false unless Studies Show™ that they are correct. We cannot claim that water is wet, unless Studies Show™ that it is indeed wet. And by a mind-boggling coincidence, it turns out that Studies Show™ only what commercial interests would like them to show, because that’s how they mostly get financed. Fancy that. I don’t suppose you saw that one coming.

Am I then daring to question The Science™? You can bet your sweet bippy I am, my friend, if it is talking obvious tosh. And I am referring here to the kind of thing that epistemologists technically describe as the bleeding obvious.

We are living beings. There are other living beings on this planet, although naturally we are doing our best to fix that. I find it hard to imagine how any of my fellow-beings have managed to lose sight of this blindingly obvious fact. Do they really need to have read a peer-reviewed paper before they can accept that water is wet? How do they even conduct their daily lives? That’s not a rhetorical question; I am genuinely perplexed.

We are living beings. We need nutritious food, clean water, breathable air. We eat, we shit, we fuck, we have emotions. Is any of this actually newsworthy? It’s not as if there have been many slow news days lately. What’s newsworthy, it seems to me, is the fact that some people find these basic and obvious facts new and surprising.

We are living beings. There are other living beings on this planet. They also do their equivalent of eating, shitting and fucking. Stap me, it’s almost as if they were like us. Who’d have thunk it? They’ll be telling us next that things fall to the ground when you let go of them. Thank goodness we have The Science™ to enlighten about all this, because we’d never have figured it out on our own.

We are living beings. There are other living beings on this planet. They are not things, and treating them as things is the kind of barbarism that gave us Treblinka. I do not know what it is like to be a dragonfly, or an oak tree, or a song-thrush. I do, however, know that there is such a thing as being a dragonfly, an oak tree, or a song-thrush. We don’t actually know what it is like, exactly, to be another human being. That’s no excuse for not trying to understand one another.

We are living beings. There are other living beings on this planet. As David Cameron was so fond of insisting, we’re all in this together. We have some vital interests in common. We could start from there when it comes to making policy decisions. Or we could just go along with vested interests, because Studies Show™ that they are always objectively right.

We are living beings. There are other living beings on this planet. Some of them are not that attractive, I grant you, but they have as much right to live here as we do. (Even David Cameron.) Perhaps we could take that fact into consideration when we are deciding if we really need to flood that valley or blast the top off that mountain or build a nuclear power station just there.

We are living beings. There are other living beings on this planet. Maybe, just maybe, their lives matter to them just as much as your life matters to you, or my life matters to me. Maybe the point of the universe is something other than Amazon’s share price. Maybe we could learn something of value if we just shut up and paid attention.

We are living beings. There are other living beings on this planet. Water is wet. No citation needed, thank you very much.

Comments are welcome, but I do pre-moderate them to make sure they comply with the house rules.

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