Do realize, of course, that this essay is a little bit allegorical – you don’t have to worry that I’ve become some sort of – what would you call it? Something that is kinda like Swift.
I’ve laid out how we may have been societalized by the herbivores that we keep for food. But we should consider how other creatures have, for good or bad, become tightly bound to our world.
The Chinese calendar goes around in a 12-year sequence. This year, Chinese New Year – The Year of the Monkey – began on February 8th and lasts until January 27th, 2017.
Here are the various attributes of the creatures in the cycle:
Monkey: Ingenious, resourceful, curious, susceptible, impulsive, scatterbrained
Rooster: Visionary, versatile, clever, selfish, poor concentration and ostentatious
Dog: Honest, loyal, respectful, stubborn, assertive and demanding
Pig: Serious, just, good disposition, reckless, impatient and inflexible
Rat: Careful, creative, accumulative, lustful, hoarding and doubting
Ox: Patient, preserving, receptive, obstinate, methodical, proud and aggressive
Tiger: Wise, compassionate, benevolent, short tempered, proud and aggressive
Rabbit: Gentle, friendly, intelligent, discordant, fickle and furtive
Dragon: independent, strong-willed, aggressive, powerful, arrogant and prejudice
Snake: Idealistic, Intuitive, insightful, financially secure, vain, jealous and egotistical
Horse: hard-working, sociable, determined, keen sighted, high sensual, talkative, easy to anger
Sheep: warm-hearted, graceful, obedient, independent, creative, faithful, pessimistic and sensitive, timid
The symbolized animals are all imbued with distinct personalities and characteristics. Notice that there are several classes of animals:
- Food Animals:Creatures kept principally for food (especially in China.) The horse was also used as a food animal, but in the US this is socially forbidden.
- Work and play animals: Creatures kept for their ability to work on behalf of humans, and to accompany them. Many food animals can be kept as pets, which has caused much ambivalence in human families when the food options are running low.
- Commensals: The rat (and mouse) are rodents well-adapted to feeding in the presence of stored human food. There are also insect commensals with a high predilection for the human environment, such as the cockroach.
- Wild and Mythical Animals: Largely undomesticated, although the tiger/housecat relationship is relatively close. Housecats are otherwise an omitted household working and pet animal.
If one considers Oceania, the Pacific islands stretching across from New Zealand to Chile, there has been a massive collapse of species caused by mankind, and our fellow travelers.
We deliberately brought a few, and then inadvertently allowed others to accompany us. They have recently devastated Oceania in the last 1500 years, as they have slowly done as our accomplices elsewhere.
The familiar rat, cat, pig, dog, sheep, cow, horse, mouse and chicken are all widely-traveled, and inhabit the globe as a result of our span of settlement. They are as new to many places are we are. They occupy relatively fixed and independent niches in the penumbra of human society. The carnivores, cat and dog, are similar in niche but can co-exist; the rat and mouse, because the niches for rodents are widespread. Cowherds and shepherds are notorious for their conflict, but the animals differ enough so as not to prevent their own coexistence.
And they may well have left us with an expanded range of our social proclivities. In them we see the characteristics of being accumulative, aggressive, arrogant, assertive, benevolent, careful, clever, compassionate, creative, creative, curious, demanding, determined, discordant, doubting, easy to anger, egotistical, faithful, fickle, financially secure, friendly, furtive, gentle, good disposition, graceful, hard-working, high sensual, hoarding, honest, Idealistic, impatient, impulsive, independent, inflexible, Ingenious, insightful, intelligent, Intuitive, jealous, just, keen sighted, loyal, lustful, methodical, obedient, obstinate, ostentatious, patient, pessimistic, poor concentration, powerful, prejudice, preserving, proud, receptive, reckless, resourceful, respectful, scatterbrained, selfish, sensitive, serious, short tempered, sociable, strong-willed, stubborn, susceptible, talkative, timid, vain, versatile, visionary, warm-hearted and wise. We imagine that we anthropomorphize all these characteristics. How many of them are back-crosses into human society?
[To be continued]