Our On-Again Off-Again Relationship With Wild Animals

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One way that people in modern technological society have of dealing with the sensory distortion in their living environments is by importing exotic wild animals into the private spaces that they, the humans, inhabit.  A good but extreme example of this is the private zoo created by the Colombian gangster Pablo Escobar.  The zoo included many animals that were not normally found in Colombia such as zebras, elephants, giraffes, bison, rare goats, exotic birds such as ostriches, and, of course, the famous hippopotamuses.  After Escobar was killed, most of his animals either died or were sent to public zoos in South America.  The exception to this is the hippopotamuses that went feral and that have become quite a problem for the communities where they now dwell as well as for the Colombian government. 

 Hippopotamuses are very dangerous animals.  I once read that the hippo is actually the most dangerous animal in Africa.  The good news is that the Colombian government has come up with the solution of sterilizing the animals.  Anyway, this is a perfect example of what happens when one brings an animal species into a living environment and the animal species has no natural predators there.  Its population explodes and it wreaks havoc. 

 In the Florida everglades, average Americans have dropped off Burmese pythons that they had originally bought from pet stores when they were much smaller.  As the snakes grew, they became too big for the pet owners to handle safely.  So instead of taking them to a zoo, they did what they probably thought was a favor for these animals which was to return them to a natural environment.  Either that, or the owners were just plain lazy in terms of taking them some place where they could be taken care of in a controlled environment. Releasing them in the wild was great for the snakes, not so great for the local fauna.  The pythons have been eating up all the local animals in the everglades and upsetting the local ecosystems.  In addition, they wind up back in people’s homes, not in cages or terrariums, but roaming around freely in places where one would not expect to find them, like toilets for instance.

Pythons represent a fusion of organic stimulation as well as abrasive stimulation, a source for the organic stimulation that people in modern technological society are yearning to have as well as the abrasive stimulation that their nervous system has learned to absorb as a result of living in modern technological society.  For people who enjoy having wild animals around them, conventional domesticated pets just are not enough.  The latter have been trained in defined discrete patterns of behavior which means that they can be very boring for people who are looking for something else in their lives.  More spontaneity, more unpredictability.  Wild animals can be very unpredictable which means they can be everything from irritating to dangerous.  But whatever negative reaction they can create, it still can be very useful to help pull people out of their numbness.

Many years ago, when I was living in Mexico City, I would go to a market in Polanco where one could buy everything from diet soda, which was very difficult to find in Mexico in those days, to old books and collectibles to all different kinds of pets.  Some of them were more conventional domesticated kinds of animals like parrots.  Some of them were not so conventional.  I remember once one of the vendors was selling a baby lion.  

But the animals that interested me the most were the hawks and the falcons.  They were so majestic and beautiful.  In particular, I almost succumbed to buying a sparrow hawk.  After all, I thought, they were not so big and overwhelming as their larger relatives.  And although they were wild, they were trainable wild.  All one had to do was buy them a few mice or whatever other rodents they would eat every week.  And of course, remember to always have a leather glove on when picking them up.  So that their talons couldn’t pierce one’s skin to the bone.  At any rate, I kept this fantasy alive for a couple of months, and then I dropped it.  I was not ready to make the commitment of time, energy, and state of mind that I would actually need to keep my bird happy.  I was definitely not ready to immerse myself in something akin to falconry.

My situation with the sparrow hawk is a metaphor for the mixed sentiments that many people feel in modern technological society regarding wild animals..  Basically, they yearn for a form and intensity of stimulation that they are unable to properly absorb.  Even though a sparrow hawk is not dangerous like a python, I am sure it would have had its way of showing anger and displeasure if not treated properly.  So, we have the problem of people trying to absorb stimulation from wild animals that sooner or later they have to separate from.  And then we have the problem of some wild animals being let loose in traditional natural living environments in which they don’t belong, and in which they then create a lot of damage.  And all because we modern humans don’t know where we belong anymore and with whom.

Acerca de Laurence Mesirow

Durante mi estadía en la Ciudad de México en los años setenta, me di cuenta que esta enorme ciudad contenía en sus colonias distintos "medio ambientes vivenciales", que iban desde muy antiguas a muy recientes; desde muy primitivas a muy modernas.Observé que había diferencias sutiles en la conducta de la gente y en sus interacciones en las diferentes colonias. Esta observación fue fundamental en la fundación de mis teorías con respecto a los efectos de la tecnología moderna sobre los medio ambientes vivenciales y sobre la conducta humana.En México, publiqué mi libro "Paisaje Sin Terreno" (Editorial Pax-México), y luego di conferencias para la U.N.A.M. y la Universidad Anahuac. También, presenté un ensayo para un Congreso de Psicología.Ahora que mis hijas son adultas, tengo el tiempo de explorar mis ideas de vuelta. Le agradezco mucho a ForoJudio.com y en especial al Sr. Daniel Ajzen por la oportunidad de presentar mis ideas.

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