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Animals: A Relational Ambiguity

Joined: 4/30/2015
Posts: 1

The language, terms, and images humans use to portray our interactions with those beings we deem as 'other' often structure our unconscious systems in regards to their value. While the apparent intellectual flowering of eighteenth and nineteenth century Europe is venerated in historical texts as the age of scientific 'enlightenment,' this trump card of apparent rationalism also served to reduce our conception of most creatures inhabiting the earth to voiceless automatons.

The subversive cultural suspicions attached to these 'dumb beasts' in earlier eras were now woven into new pseudo-scientific classification systems that dictated 'higher' and 'lower' animals in the "great chain of being." The tendency to overestimate our own superiority in tragic misinterpretations of biblical dominion (in the religious sphere) and our desperate, but ever diminishing claims of traits unique to our own kind (in academic research) are the subversive links in the chain persisting to the present day.

Our mental schema thus rank 'wolf' as villain and dog as 'friend,' one worthy of a billion-fold pet product industry and the other still hunted with a frighteningly cold vengeance throughout the globe. The troubling ecological uncertainties confronting us in a decade of mass extinctions calls for reform in how we think, and most of all act, toward those lupine shadows; they howl not in celebration of savage blood-lust, but maybe in mourning for their fractured status, as ghosts of our past mistakes.

In my own state, only a few more than 600 wolves cling to existence: they dwell in ecosystems which are, in turn, threatened by logging, mining, and gas and oil exploration. People love romanticized fantasies of the 'wild,' of pristine areas that we partition for our own benefit and invade or neglect as we want. However, we retroactively fume when the wolves in that wilderness stray beyond the boundaries we set out for them, lines they do not acknowledge but that we punish them for crossing. Even though these wolf families tread in niches unknown to me, I would never try to breach this gap in my natural experience by forcing an interaction through the bars of a cage.

I feel a tinge of regret that I have never seen a wolf in one of those patchwork vestiges of forest - a moment I miss because it might never happen. The closest approximation of such an encounter is the dog in my living room, but his limpid eyes gaze at me with undoubted adoration, not the wariness characteristic of his distantly related and much-ostracized American brethren. .

Even still, for now it is enough for me to imagine those wolves north of here, their babies tumbling out of secreted dens and blinking in wonder at the light; to defend their legal protection against volatile political sentiment; to advocate for their preservation in territory they wandered so long before we came. And to enjoy the thump of my own dog's tail on the floor and his happy grunt as he leans into my fingers scratching the velvet of his ear.
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