Straw Dogs

I think my keyboard appears to be hungry. The ‘m’ key, which doesn’t work any longer, has now taken to sporadically exclaiming ‘mmmmmmmmmmmmmm…’ or simply inserting the letter where there is no need. Now, I would reasonably attribute this to the fact that I caused it grievous harm on Friday night, sometime between the hours of three and five am. On the other hand, this piece of technology may simply have reached the end of a long and productive life. Perhaps I am placing too much faith, not only in the reliability of the computer, but also in my ability to be master of it. Perhaps I had nothing to do with it breaking. This is unlikely – I know, pretty much for sure, that its technological blood is on my hands.

I just finished John Gray’s Straw Dogs a few hours ago. I read it, not because I have some deeply felt revulsion towards humanity, but simply because a friend recommended it to me. Numerous friends, actually. I’m not sure if they perceived the difficulty of this action, as it’s not exactly a book that you would recommend to a friend, any friend. It is an interesting book, if only to prompt definition and verbalisation of an opposing stance. In this polemic, Gray attacks humanism, the myth of progress, religion; basically anything that gives us humans some means of distinguishing ourselves from animals. We perceive ourselves as different, Gray says, when really this is a myth. We are simply another species of animal, the most violent and destructive of all. Sooner or later, Gray says, we will self-destruct, leading to a massive drop in population, whereby the Earth will have a much-needed chance to catch her breath. Worryingly, Gray spouts this hyperbole with all the enthusiasm of a dog salivating over a bone.

Of course its true that humans make quite a mess in comparison to other animals. Wars, genocide, environmental destruction; with progress inevitably comes a multitude of various detrimental activities. The myth of progress, that we have progressed equally on an ethical level as on a technological one, is certainly a myth. Lessons are invariably not learned from past mistakes. For internalising this illusion, we are obviously a deeply irrational species. And so what? Gray outlines his argument in Straw Dogs on the basis on rationality, in so doing missing the point of what it actually means to be human. Irrational behaviour, from religion, to art, to love, to war, forms the basis of the humans species. In telling us that the myth of progress is a fallacy, and that we are deeply irrational creatures, Gray is telling us nothing new. It is all these irrational activities that actually separate us from other animals. And so its a bizarre book to be recommended to by a friend, of any description. For it actually denies the role of love, or friendship, in what it means to be human.

Gray might say that in believing that I broke my computer I place my own influence over and above factors I cannot humanly control. That I fail to perceive the multitude of things that shape my life on a daily basis, over which I hold no sway. I’d say that if he’d seen me in action he might not be so doubtful of my capacity for destruction. Not only destruction, but also…

 

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