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The Leash

Dreamed 1995/6/26 by Chris Wayan


I've been wondering what an articulate wild animal might tell human biologists about how such people affect the creatures they study. Try a thought-experiment: picture alien scientists treating us like that--paralyze us, measure us and stick tags and radios on, do bizarre things... all the classic UFO abduction stuff. Wow, how demoralizing! Not just the abuse per se, but the way the alien researchers won't acknowledge us as people--just study us as things. So we might start unconsciously feeling we ARE just things, so far below the researchers we could never understand them. Yet many of the researchers' behaviors look obvious--even stupid. They must be subtleties beyond our tiny brains...

Wrong! Humans can be idiots--but how could we animals see past the jeeps and phones and guns and pretensions?

I think animal research relies on the (religious, Cartesian, unproven) assumption that their subjects can't feel the way researchers do--having cruel, senseless, stupid gods move in next door and toy with them doesn't trouble animals, oh no. Researchers' assumptions thus not only filter the data they get, they may subtly infect their subjects too (compare dogs to wolves for the long-term effects!), CREATING the very gap between human and animals the researchers then observe!


My father is reading The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin. Only it's a new, revised edition. In the classic one, her Gethenians become male and female at different times; but in this version, they change species too. On any given day, they're pretty stable, but over a lifetime, each experiences many forms.

When outsiders land on Gethen, they have a shocking effect they don't even realize, far beyond their mere existence or technology. For they bring a dog on a leash! The Gethenians naturally assume the dog is a person and the leash means slavery. Such advanced beings, and they still practice slavery! Why, injustice must be inevitable, reform must be impossible. No point in trying, any more...

An insidious and quite unintentional chilling effect on a whole civilization--from a quarter-inch plastic strap.


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