I read recently that Japanese scientists studying the Great Tit had discovered that it used compositional syntax in its calls, i.e. it combined different noises to create new meaning and convey more complex ideas. This was previously thought to be something only humans do. It was an interesting study but the headline, however, was ‘bird talk just like humans’, which is hardly the point. It got me thinking about how mankind behaves like a solipsistic brat, utterly incapable of processing anything without reference to ourselves. Great Tits don’t talk like human beings, they use compositional syntax. Yes, this is something that humans also use, but it’s not something that we own.
Mankind has always been hard of hearing when it comes to nature. If we were to walk into a jungle, for example, we would be deafened by an array of animal calls. They all mean something, usually very specific. In this example, they may be warning each other about us. Yet, because we don’t understand it, we don’t value the sounds they make as communication, so we simply ignore it as noise. If, however, we can get a parrot to say ‘fuck off’ or a dog to say ‘sausages’ then we laugh and shake each other’s hands like we’ve just discovered fire. We’re idiots. A dog isn’t delighted if a human makes a barking noise, it just wonders what on earth they are trying to do and what they are trying to say. They probably get annoyed at themselves for not understanding, but then dogs are less intelligent than us, aren’t they?
Humans are obsessed with remaking the animal world in our own image. Look at social media: depressed cats, dogs in trousers, penguins on motorbikes, donkeys laughing, otters that look like Dominic Bumbercuntch. Even when people try and 'talk' to animals, like Johnny Morris, or Dr. Doolittle, it's a ventriloquist act, not a dialogue. The animals are given a human voice, and a silly accent. Is there any reason meerkats are Russian? Oh yes, because it's funny*. And all this is presented to reinforce the idea that mankind is where it’s at, and nothing else matters unless it is serving, amusing or copying us. And where has this got us? The world, once a genuine paradise, now resembles a well-used football: denuded, disfigured, slowly losing shape and air.
Think about the Earth and how it was only a few hundred years ago. Think about the Earth as it is now. Think about how the Earth will be in a few hundred years. Yeah, I know, miserable isn’t it?
Now dry your eyes, because there is potentially good news around the corner. When The Crisis comes, as come it must, it may only destroy our way of life, not the world we live in. That seems fair: let human beings pay the bill they have run up. We are the only thing the world needs less of, and everything else will benefit from our misfortune: animal numbers will thrive, plants and trees will grow, the planet will compose itself itself, cool and clear its lungs. It will take a while, but it will happen. Most importantly, it will happen without any help from us, our input is simply not required; we’ve done more than enough. We measure everything in terms of lifetimes, as if a seventy or eighty year period has any cosmic relevance. Even a thousand years of human history seems like an impossibly long period of time. It’s pathetic. Our planet is used to the long game, and it has seen off nuisances before in its four and a half billion year history.
Post-Crisis, post-industrialisation, post-mechanisation, post-capitalism, post everything we know, perhaps those of the species that are left will be assimilated to the extent that they will have time and sensitivity and silence enough to finally listen to the world and the noises it makes, to actually hear what everything else is trying to say. That’s my hope. Evolution is an ongoing process, after all.
* It's worth pointing out that these 'silly' meerkats are the brains behind the UK's most successful price comparison website, so they're actually laughing all the way to the bank.