21. Hello My Friend Hello (07/2009)
In a crowded city like London it is quite normal for people to walk right past thousands of others every day. On buses and trains, in lifts and aeroplanes there is almost no acknowledgement of other human beings at close range. But this also happens in Prince Albert where even familiar folk are sometimes painfully oblivious to intercourse. The universal struggle for individuality is unraveling social cohesion.
In general, human attitudes continue to change in the quest for advancement, while other animals continue to interact in much the same way. Animals encountering one another will always show interest. For reasons ranging from food to sex, attention may be brief or sustained, plain or complex, subtle or unrestrained. Animals also notice and are fascinated by human beings. Interspecies recognition goes beyond mere greeting, and exists as a kind of mutual verification, a tacit inclusion in the intricate network of life flourishing and dwindling on a shared planet. Many modern humans shun instinctive communication rituals. Not only do we routinely ignore members of our own species, but others too.
Nobody likes to be ignored. And domestic animals in particular are sensitive to exclusion. Even the coolest cat secretly craves attention. The domestic species are mostly social animals like humans, and crave company. Hierarchy maintains the inherent order in a given group of animals. The constant interaction between individuals is an instinctive dynamic of affirmations demonstrated through behaviour, body language, vocalisation, and subtler forms of communication. This harmony is disrupted when too many animals are crowded together under abnormal circumstances as in feedlots or broiler houses. Chickens can recognise up to 100 individual birds. Broiler farming crams thousands of chickens into confined spaces, so they constantly encounter strangers, causing high levels of stress and fighting because they cannot establish familiarity.
The understanding of gaze and non-verbal recognition is essential to evolve the way we view animals. It is self destructive to remain exclusive. An attitude that embraces every living thing and reveres the inherent value of different life has the miraculous effect of inspiring wonder. In the wildest jungle and the bleakest space, creatures are alerted to every human face. Our response is a measure of courage and conviction to relate and integrate.
We see the world in bold brush strokes that obliterate marvelous and mesmerising intricacies. We simplify the landscapes and the skies, and cast a murky veil of lies to hide fears and flaunt pride. Animals are immersed in the detail of their immediate worlds and the fullness of life. Like swimming, riding a bicycle, or keeping the peace, perhaps humans also need to learn to respect life.