It’s difficult to define what sets us, as humans, apart from the rest of the species on the planet. This is especially true in times of extreme stress, or in a crisis, or in the infield of a NASCAR racetrack.
In these situations — and countless others — we often revert to the instinctive, primal drives that helped our distant ancestors to survive millennia of perils — like an ice age, sabertooth beasts and cars that you pedal with your own feet. But does that really make us unique? Haven’t mice and alligators and Joan Rivers done mostly the same thing? What is it that makes humans special?
“Haven’t mice and alligators and Joan Rivers done mostly the same thing?”
Every time I’ve seen this question answered, some critter comes along to throw a wrench into the works. Someone will say that we’re the only species capable of using language — and then some chimp will emerge who hand-signs “I’m a Little Teapot” on cue and deconstructs Neitzsche for bananas. Another expert will claim that we’re the only ones with fully articulated digits suited for detailed work — which is all well and good until some zookeeper trains Bobo the bonobo to give that expert the finger every time he walks past the monkey pen. Say that only we use tools, and a gorilla might literally fling a wrench into your works. You don’t want that. The wrench doesn’t want that. And your works will never be the same.
So I’ve given the matter some thought. If none of these important-sounding things truly set us apart from the rest of the menagerie, then maybe the difference is more subtle. More superficial. Trivial, even.
And I can do trivial.
So here are a few things that I’ve come up with that I believe really set us humans apart from the world of beasts. So long as we’re not attending a pro wrestling match together. Because in some settings, all bets are off.
Be a grammar nazi:
Let’s say I’m standing in my kitchen, holding a Snausage. I can call my dog using a hundred different sentences of varying grammatical quality — “Here, girl” or “Come and get it” or “Yo, stupid” or “Ain’tchu want this here goody?” — and she doesn’t give a particular slobbery damn. Just so long as she gets the treat.
Only we care about how others of the species say something. The rest of the fauna are too busy barking and hissing and growling and purring at each other to worry about whether it’s spelled “meow” or “mrow” or “I say, that’s quite a fetching saucer of cream you’ve just laid out, by jove”.
While we’re busy running spell-check and conjugating verbs, animals are… well. Just conjugating, most of the time. I’m kinda wondering whether we missed the boat on this one, as a species.
Cheat on our taxes:
We’re actually in luck on this one. There are animals out there that make a bit of scratch, one way or another — horses, dogs, certain trained monkeys and Zach Galifianakis, just for instance. But these species also happen to also be some of the most honest in the animal world. So while they may pay taxes, they’re not the sort to cheat on their taxes.
Not like, say, hyenas. Hyenas would bilk the balls off the government, if they ever had the chance. But who’s going to hire a hyena, or fill out its W-2 form? Nobody, that’s who. Ditto for raccoons. And blue jays. Most lizards. Beetles, too. And millipedes. You turn your back on a millipede, and its probably got its thousand grubby paws all over your wallet. Distasteful little critters.
And yet — no money. So no taxes. Only lower forms of humans can turn that cheating trick. So, you know — yay, us.
Check the toilet lid before peeing:
Sure, you can teach a dog to use the toilet. But to perform the simple task of lifting the seat first? Apparently not.
Don’t ask questions. Just trust me on this one. And weep for a handful of fuzzy seat covers, sullied in the prime of their lives.
Most animals can’t play the guitar. The ukulele, maybe. A mandolin, on a good day. But the guitar? Hardly.
So you’d think they’d be queuing up in herds to play air guitar. We humans have proven that air guitar takes absolutely no talent, particularly as said talent might pertain to actually playing a guitar.
And some animals would put us to shame, too. Take giraffes. Giraffes would totally eat our lunch at air guitar. Or octopi. They could air guitar, air drum and air keyboard all at the same time, with limbs left over to air fondle groupies and throw devil horns at the air crowd.
I’m not sure how you make devil horns out of a suction-cupped feeler, but I imagine the octopods would find a way. It’s not like they’ve been sitting on their many thumbs all these years.
Luckily for us, none of the animals seem interested in putting us in our air place. Maybe they just can’t appreciate the dulcet strains of a Ry Cooder jam or Yngwie Malmstein solo. Or maybe they’ve seen themselves playing air guitar in a mirror, and decided to maintain a shred of public dignity.
My vote’s for the second one.
Surf for internet porn:
I used to think this was because only humans could properly control the computer mice, or type naughty URLs into the address bar. But with all the advances in technology these days — eyeball-laser pointing devices, bark-to-speech converters, pop-up blocker blockers and the like — I’m pretty sure a randy moose or horny buck could get their furry rocks off via the interwebs.
But they don’t. Not so far as I know, anyway.
So now I blame Animal Planet. Let’s face it — when people look for porn, it’s to see other people having sex. Or pretending to have sex, or recruiting other people to have sex, or eating exotic fruit in ways that are both reminiscent of sex and would probably have gotten the fruit held up in customs, had the agents only known how it was going to be used.
Just me? Riiiiiight.
Anyway, why would animals need to go through all the trouble, what with the myriad of nature shows slapped all over the satellite dial? That’s all Animal Planet and their ilk are — animals boinking and grinding and schtupping and humping and chomping Chiquitas like they’re made of chimp cocaine. If there were channels full of people doing all that, all day every day, most people would never leave the house.
Correction. If there were FREE channels full of people doing all that, most people would never leave the house.
Except maybe to buy mangoes. Dirty, dirty mangoes.
So that’s what sets us apart from the beasts. Kinda makes you proud to be a human, dunnit?Permalink | No Comments