Tuesday, 10 November 2015


I recently had an interesting discussion with a friend about Power Animals, an animistic feature of some neo-shamanistic philosophies. Each whole human being apparently has a spirit or power animal within them, a symbiote that reflects elements of its human host’s personality as well as imparting its defining characteristics to them and providing protection. With training, a person can access their power animal in times of need and commune with it in order to find extra reserves or, indeed, a cool, calm place of inner safety. Other outcomes may ensue. I’ve done some research and discovered that my power animal is The Hawk, a creature which represents vision and intuition, perspective and observation. It’s not a particularly tight fit, if I’m honest, but I’m okay with that, hawks are cool. 

I’m not sure how I would feel if my power animal was from a species I didn’t like or admire. For every jaguar there is a yak, for every shark, a baboon. I hate and fear baboons, and have done ever since I watched the film The Sands Of Kalahari as a child. Unbelievably, earlier this year, I had to attend a corporate thing at a local wildlife park, what we used to call a zoo. The ‘treat’ of the day was to feed a troop of thirty or so baboons. I’m an intelligent, rational man in my forties, so was not prepared for the sickening rush of paranoia and dread that came over me as I thought of having to hand feed some hideous, dead eyed ape, its unspeakable yellow fangs bared for food, for fun, for sport, its stone age mind pondering whether to humour me or to rip me from throat to groin and drape key bits over a branch for later. Naturally, the illogical fear turned out to be illogical: there was a Perspex wall between humans and baboons at all times. Of course there was: it seems preposterous that I ever thought otherwise. The monsters’ keeper, an enthusiastic lady who was clearly enthralled by her animal charges, gasped in horror and shook her head slowly when I asked if she ever went into their enclosure. As I suspected, baboons don’t play nice, and that sort of cross-species interaction would be short and bloody. 

The walls of their enclosure were covered in a matt black material that stopped them from climbing out. It required constant attention, as the baboons spent a great deal of their time trying to escape. It occurred to me that, post-Crisis, these unattended bastards would be messing around with my satellite dish by tea time. An involuntary shudder rippled through my body. One of the juvenile male baboons noticed the movement, and stared blankly at me. As instructed by the keeper, I lowered my gaze. My human ego was furious; the wise hawk within me felt relief.

The most interesting thing I found out was that the alpha male, the boss, the one with the reddest arse, the most fur, the biggest muscles, the most prominent snout and jaw and brow, the one that swatted the kids and bullied the women and pushed all the other lesser males around, that guy – the one I feared the most – had a secret. His secret was that the colourful bottom, the coat, the bulk, the face were, technically, on loan, like the hat and coat and chain of a Civic Mayor. When his time as the boss was over, when his dominance was challenged and he was deposed, he would just go back to normal, just another beta schmuck. It struck me that this was exactly the same in the human kingdom: leaders are often physically pumped up by power, diminished by returning to ordinary life. Look at Bush and Blair, two men who looked in the prime of life when leading their respective countries, but now look like the desiccated corpses they left scattered around the world - one foot in the mass grave. With anyone else, it could be a question of conscience, but I hardly think these gentlemen are troubled by anything quite as obvious as that.

Post-Crisis, who knows what genetic marks of authority will eventually evolve, what physical characteristics will come to identify the warlord, the magus, the enforcer, the dictator, the high priestess, the fixer, the mandarin, the general, the lawmaker, the slaver, the God? Will these accoutrements of authority be new, or will they simply be half-remembered signifiers from lost stereotypes, mosaic memories of cinema and television, folkloric flecked tropes of what once constituted a man or woman of distinction or difference, whether elevated by intellect or force of will, natural talent, hard work or hard fists and feet? Make no mistake, the post-Crisis hierarchy will need to be savage, as dangerous to its fellows as a tightly wound king baboon surrounded by rivals it must fight, fuck or flick away. Who knows how this will manifest itself in the faces and arses of the chosen ones? Who dares imagine it? Certainly not this Hawk Man hybrid.

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