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THE SEMI-INTELLIGENT ANIMAL PROBLEM

Dreamed 1986/4/6 by Chris Wayan

I'm at an open-air symposium in a clubhouse on an army base. Ten old white guys, folding chairs, water glasses filled with clandestine Scotch, and arguments. Lots of arguments.

This panel of ecologists and military leaders is discussing the semi-intelligent animal problem. The apes are the main question. They were smart already and now they're approaching human intelligence. Not quite people yet, but not quite animals either. What to do? The ecologists are worried letting the apes go free will disrupt the rest of the ecosystem. Military researchers, who bred the new animals, point out the investment of money and time they put in, and the importance of finding out how well mutant animals can manage to live off the land. Can't have soldiers till you have survivors!

Animal rights representatives? Very funny, my friend.

The Old General, leader of the panel, hears them all out, and then sums up: "Well, we all know an ecologist is a guy who gives you fine impossible advice, but occasionally faces reality, and gives you fine IMPRACTICAL advice." Laughter. At least from the guys with braid and Scotch. Clearly they're the power here. The ecologists are just for cover.

No one even mentions the other mutant animals: they aren't militarily important. Seems likely they'll just go on being quietly jailed and studied, forever.

I leave the conference, wander off through the golf course and scrubland and dunes. At last I find myself in a sandy valley where stands an oval cement waist-high wall, with a tight roof of heavy ripstop.

I know the animals are inside, awaiting judgment.

Remembering the ecologists' worries, I hesitate; then I pry the roof up enough to free them all. They slip out in a furry rush. No timidity, no time for that. Maybe they're only semi-intelligent, but they know it's their only chance for life.

Ecological stability isn't everything. Stability isn't everything.



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