Under the brim of a red hat, through the pixels rotting in my computer, his eyes are hard and unflinching, like hot stones, bored into his head, bounced back at the lens. Stopped by some researcher, or some tourist, some invader, he stands straight, holding a long thing log, and bears down at the camera. This is the picture; this is the thumbnail for the Wikipedia page ‘Human.’ These are examples of an adult human male, and an adult human female, in Northern Thailand. These are the exhibits, the creatures behind the glass, the mirror.
Their conservation status is ‘least concern.’ Least concern to who? The beasts I see prowling the streets, the ones in the glass towers deciding which animals are expendable and which are in the bracket of ‘threatened,’ their highest concerns are themselves.
I wonder what animal could possibly have written this, this torch-light insight into the human world, something that suddenly feels so un-understandable and deeply complex… The era humans have churned through and sculpted, the anatomy of flesh, bone, organs, the psychology of social norms and language and dreams, the deep and blossoming flower of human thought, creation and destruction. Who could’ve written this?
I walk past an old moustachioed man eating a hot dog on the beach front. A seagull takes the last of his bun from him. Children slithering in the remains of ice cream cones play stickily in the sand, communicating in their non-existent and lilting language. Arguments, laughter, noises, footsteps, the creations of human effort, engineering, accident, bloom overpoweringly around me.
Past wondering if the writer of the article is human or not, I begin to wonder what, if they are human, they have missed out from this article, through being the subject. What haven’t we pulled out of ourselves and, frowning, jabbing with scalpel, exclaimed ‘What does this do?’ I sweat it out late in the room, reading over our tendencies to form ethnic groups and societies, to have consciousness and thought. Everytime I leave I watch the humans around me having to work it out in their habitats, having to solve each little puzzle for a little reward, avoiding failure in these puzzles for the bristles of pain it will bring. I watch them in their bizarre cultural and social gestures; someone proposes to someone else in the park, someone holds a door open for someone else, people wave, smile, blow kisses, kiss for real, snap their fingers, shake their fists.
Least concern. Is it that we have the least concern for other animals, for the basic and natural maintenance of the planet? I could write a list of things I’m concerned about, and a lot of it is probably humans. Who is concerned about us? Do orang-utans and bonobos look at the stars in their forests and sigh; “I am concerned about our silly cousins, the humans.”
I wonder if the gorillas could write a dense article about themselves if it would include trade and economics, art, music & literature, religion, philosophy, or war. We have absorbed these details into our being. They are unquestionably human, they are ours. We can’t change them if they’re in the article.
I start spending a lot of time at the zoo, which I hated doing anyway, feeling too much pity for the prisoners. But I feel I am closer and closer to feeling the confusion, and the disgust, that must hold a deep and hot place in them, a feeling upon feeling humans. In the chambers of my mind I hear useless apologies echo.