But Orwell only touched upon the slightest glimmer of truth when he wrote Animal Farm, and in allegory at that. The greatest psychological manipulation is not expressed in allegory through animals – it is actual manipulation, by the animals themselves.
Homo sapiens has a reputation of snapping up things that appear practical, only to rue their acquisition later. We made some serious mistakes
Jared Diamond discussed ” the universal tendency for populations that have acquired agriculture and domestic animals to first develop a large population and then to move.” That, intrinsically, is herding animal behavior. There is no need to dispute the behavioral mimicking of the herd by human society.
The first herd animal to be domesticated was the goat, around 10,000 BC, around the borderline of the Paleolithic-Mesolithic boundary. It is no coincidence that the advancement of tools was contemporaneous. Herd animals, after all, are for killing. The elements of the hunt are no longer needed – merely, the killing and butchering of the animal for consumption.
The goat gave us food, we gave it shelter. But it also gave us a Delphic gift in its close association with humanity. They gave us their culture, that of the herd animal.
Humans are, if anything, most skilled in adapting their behavior to meet the demands – an intellectual short-circuiting of the lengthy process of neurobehavioral evolution. We can observe, and we can think. And we observed, and we thought about the herd animals.
Even more profoundly, Freud and his contemporaries discussed the matter that occult thinking goes on in the human mind, which does not play across the consciousness, but rather processes away silently, perhaps the great predominance of our mentation – that which occurs at a lower processing level, as it were. Dreaming is thought to be a sleep of the highest levels of consciousness, while the lower levels continue their ignominious and inelegant duties of connection and association, all through the night.
Goats, and herd animals in general, can be called “stupid.” Their behavior is driven largely by propinquity. A goat on its lonesome is an unhappy goat. A goat surrounded with goats is a happy goat. They tend to act socially – they vocalize when finding food, or being threatened by predators. Privacy of thought is not of value to a goat – neither is individuality.
Many of our concepts of the civitas were undoubtedly founded upon the goat, the sheep, the cow. Towns are collectives with safety and sustenance. Nomadic wandering is useful, of course, in barren countries, and the tribes gather along their herd animals to come with them. But in rich countries, goats and sheep and cattle can also congregate, and even act commensally to eat unwanted plants and bits of plants which are not suitable for human consumption. This is, of course, selected for – the more that a food stock can encourage the diversity of vegetable food stocks, the more likely its masters will eat from the flora and not from the fauna.
There is ovine, bovine, caprine behavior all over human behavior – the crowd instincts, the various difference in social behavior when in dense masses and when alone. Sparsely-settled lands may perhaps foster more individualism; the congested and tightly packed lands, the social lubrication that comes with herd behavior.
But is it a coincidence, or is there a true causality in the connection between the behavior of the herd animals and the behavior of the humans? No student of the history of animal husbandry would doubt the various stages of domestication and the changes in aimal behavior through the generations in response to increased association with, and domestication by, humans. We have change what may be hundreds of millions of years of mammal behavior in ten thousand years. But we humans have only been around for perhaps a million or so years, starting out as frugivores (and trashivores) with few resources or natural advantages in the gathering of foodstuffs. We fit in no niche, so we fit in every niche.
Did we evolve over the last 1% of our existence, in the same way that the herd animals evolved over the last 0.01% of theirs?