Homo Sapiens- The World’s Most Domesticated Species
Intelligent above all others or blindly domesticated and whipped into submission? Disconnected from their natural habitat and instead taught to live in the cage of the modern world, homo-sapiens are breaking free at last.
Recently I went for breakfast with a good friend of mine, Laura. City girl by nature, she feels perfectly at home here in the urban jungle- the diversity, the street art, the different textures all around- she has a great eye for spotting hidden beauty. Originally from the Mid-West, she has left country life behind for good, she says.
But during the course of our conversation she commented that because of the lifestyle that she leads (she is a successful and busy restaurant owner), she has realised that she rarely has the opportunity to connect with nature. She lives slap bang in the city centre and between her daily walk from home to the restaurant, all she sees is a few trees dotting the streets and buildings.
So this conversation got me thinking. How many of us are in the same situation?
Domesticated and Separated from our Natural Habitat
More and more modern daily life sees us leaving our house in the morning in some form of transport, thereby experiencing the natural world through the window or not even that if you get an underground metro.
Then we arrive at our offices, with central heating in the winter and air-con in the summer. If you are fortunate you will have some natural light and a space to put a pot-plant perhaps. Then we return home in the same manner in which we arrived and go back to our comfortable homes, again normally equipped with central heating to keep the cold (or the natural world) at bay.
Not that there is anything wrong with this, of course, I like being comfortable too! But it is undeniable that the modern world we live in takes us ever further away from the natural world of which we are part. So much so that we have special words that highlight this separation: we talk about nature; about the environment.
It is as if we are one thing and ‘nature’ is another. When we talk about ‘taking care of the environment’ we refer to taking care of the thing that is outside of normal life, outside of ourselves.
I have always found this distinction strange- how can we be separate from something that we are evolved from, that we are born from and that we depend on for our very existence?
We have created a system that leads us to believe that that the trees are separate from us, that the oceans are separate from us, that the other beings in the world -the bees, the birds, the other animal species- are all separate from us.
Hence why we can so easily destroy them.
In fact, we have another word that indicates this separation- ‘wildlife’. As opposed to the domesticated species of the world: Western homo sapiens and their pets.
So domesticated we have become that many of us think the manicured lawns and planned urban parks as being ‘nature’ and that is the nearest that we come to experiencing ‘it’ first hand.
Unless you have a dog of course, which means that you will be duty-bound to go out into the green spaces in your neighbourhood and give them a walk. (Or is it them walking us?).
Early experiences with the Earth
I was lucky enough to have grown up with dogs and in a place with lots of countryside to go and explore. My dad taught me how to spot the signs of nature and we had lots of fun spotting badgers, foxes, owls and other members of Earth’s family. My dad being the nature-lover that he is, I’m sure would have taught me these things with or without dogs.
I remember my mum one day letting me and my friend Sophie, at age 6 or 7, rub our faces in the earth, coming home completely filthy! I’ve always remembered that moment as being lots of fun (although Sophie’s mum wasn’t so appreciative!)
But many people are not so lucky and grow up without learning to appreciate nature and the world around them. They are taught that getting muddy is bad and consequently as an adult, they turn their nose up at any kind of dirt coming close to them.
This seems to me to be the height of domestication of the human species- it is the rejection of the ground that we came from, the ground that our body is made from and sooner or later, the ground that our body will return to.
In essence, this equates to the rejection of our own mother. Or even our own self.
This separation can also be seen by the way we value some jobs over others. Generally speaking, jobs that involve more contact with the natural world- farmers, builders, gardeners- are not seen to be particularly desirable or prestigious. On the other hand, having a job that bears no relation to nature at all (unless exploiting it counts)- marketing, business, finance- these carry much more value (both socially and financially).
Perhaps you think that this distinction is too simplistic, and that may be the case. However, it is interesting to note that the same trend exists in other countries too.
A global phenomenon
Take a lot of Asian countries, for example, that value having whiter skin over being tanned because tanned skin is associated with lower income jobs, e.g. farming. They see people with lighter skin as obviously spending less time outdoors and therefore more likely to work in offices- a more respected and lucrative type of work.
This trend exists everywhere. This is a global phenomenon. Take what is happening with India´s farmers; with the void of young farmers in the U.S; the death of thousands of rural villages in Spain; the fact that many European countries depend on migrant labour to harvest their produce, as in the UK.
In the past, harvest time was a time of celebration– the bounty of the Earth on our tables! And now we don’t even know what season a vegetable is grown in, let alone want to pick it.
Life is increasingly less rural and more urban. And with it, less natural, more domesticated.
More, more, more
But this is an inevitable sign of progress, right? As more and more people have access to education, it’s natural that people aspire ‘for more’.
But I wonder if we have really got more after all. More money perhaps and more material wealth. More new clothes and more travel to distant lands. But also we have more stress, more anxiety, more depression, more mental health problems.
Work more, buy more- save time
Speaking of more money to buy things, I have recently become aware of the most popular kitchen gadgets on the market- enter the Thermomix. An all singing and dancing device that my 12-year-old students advise me can make anything you want- cakes, bread, stews, chopped vegetables. You name it, the Thermomix can do it. It is the career person´s answer to all their food preparation problems. Save time, eat good food, and use your Thermomix.
I’ve even spotted Thermomix recipe books!
The only catch? It comes in at around 1000 euros for a new one, and maybe around 600 euros second hand.
Either I am not as well off as I think I am, or something here is amiss.
Work so hard that you don’t have time to cook normally and then buy this swanky device with all that extra the money you earn instead- and save time!
For me, the Thermomix is the perfect showcase of our consumer society. Work more-have less time- buy things to save time- work more- have less time- buy more things to save time.
Generate a new need; a product arrives on the shelves to meet the need and hey presto- this is the model that the economy is built on.
Of course, if there is no need, there would be no product, so I am sure that that there are a lot happy Thermomix customers out there. And great, if they have more time to spend with their kids or to do something meaningful with their time, I am all for it.
I must admit, if I had a spare grand lying around I might very well be tempted to buy one myself!
But I don’t so I’m going to have to keep cooking my food as the regular folks have for millennia in a pot and pan.
It seems to me that separation from nature also separates us from ourselves, from our deepest, truest nature. We have lost touch with what really brings us happiness. Instead, we are told that the key to happiness is more material wealth and like good students, we follow the instruction and buy.
Life has become so busy that we have to work for expensive gadgets to create more time. And in the process this creates a tunnel vision– we have no time to reflect on those deep questions that we have spoken about in previous posts, or to reflect upon the sanity of the system, thus keeping the system in place.
‘That’s right everyone, you keep working hard! Buy and then you will be happy! Don’t you worry about these people talking about ‘purpose‘ and ‘fulfilment’ or ‘a more beautiful world‘. Just keep on working, keep on buying and all will be well! We have your own wellbeing at heart remember! This is what human beings are designed for; having more things. And don’t forget- this is the only way to a successful and happy life. So be obedient and work and buy, like a good consumer!’Consumer Society spokesperson
The funny thing is, that this system doesn’t really serve anyone. Even the people at the top- I highly doubt that they are truly joyful and happy. These are people who have lost all perspective and lost sight of their own soul. And they are just as domesticated as the rest of us- spiders stuck in their own web.
If you are drinking too much you have a problem with booze; eating too much and you have a problem with food; consuming too much and you have a problem with over-consumption.
What is the hole we are trying to fill here? Have we gone to far away from the essentials of life that we no longer know what is missing? Have we become so domesticated and desensitised to the simple pleasure of life after so much time spent separated from them? We dash around like headless chickens over-doing, over-buying and over-stimulated.
I do not see joyfully happy people around in the streets. Nor do I read about them in the newspapers. So it seems to me that this whole set up ain’t working and isn’t conducive to real human wellbeing.
I think a radical shakeup in order, a whole new rethink, and major paradigm shift.
It is clearer than ever that in order to survive, we need a drastic change of lifestyle and a change of perspective.
Or more importantly, a change of heart.
How might this change look, how might it be, what it will feel like I can’t say. But I know for sure that the homo sapien is going to break free from its cage at some point.
Tired of the monotony of caged life, it will break out and explore new possibilities. It will return to the essentials and discover what it really means to be a creature of the Earth.
There will be people who will try to make them look stupid and belittle them-not through malicious intent but through ignorance and fear.
Forgive them for they know not what they do.
In fact, there are already a vast number of homo sapiens that have returned to the wild, seeking a more sustainable way of life, fully reunited with The Earth after so many years of separation.
And the Earth in her generosity doesn´t hold grudges and opens her arms warmly to those who go to her, as a mother would.
She’s waiting. It’s time to go back home.
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This article conflates Civilization with Homo sapiens. The hunter-gatherer societies that still thrive today where they have not been destroyed didn’t domesticate anything. It’s not a “species” issue, it’s a cultural one.
Thanks for commenting Peter. Of course, it is a cultural one, I think it is clear that I am talking about the Western world, not the indigenous cultures. I am just writing about what I see, from the perspective of my life, which is mainly white, European. I use Homo sapiens for literary effect. However, maybe you are right in pointing out that the article doesn´t reflect the indigenous cultures of this world, or at least what I know of them…I wouldn´t like to assume anything either of cultures that I don´t know much amount and don´t have any first-hand experience of.
So in case there is any doubt, in this article I am writing about the modern, Western perspective of the world and is based on my own direct observations and experience of life within this Western perspective.
Hi Nina! Thanks for taking the time to comment in such a thoughtful way. I definitely agree with you that part of our wildest nature as humans is the part of us that is ok with just following the course of our life without so much controlling and planning. Maybe it is our fear of not being in control that pushes us into a place of submission or to a place where we are more susceptible to be controlled by what we see around us. I wonder if we can begin to see what is going on around us without judgement but also without buying into it, we will begin the process of re-wilding ourselves…
It´s funny that you should mention fear…that´s what my next post is about! 🙂 How did you know?? 😉
Hey. I’d never thought of humans as domesticated, so it’s a really interesting point. Domesticated definitely implies submission; submission to societal expectations, goals, etc. The other implication is that we are extremely rigid. If a certain act or behavior doesn’t fall in line with how we are expected to behave as a species or following the path of buy more, it’s looked down upon and people wonder when you will get back on the “right path.” I think our more wild nature that we’ve tamed is that part of us that sees where life takes us. But then fear comes into the mix. I wonder if a lot of how we have developed as a species is a result of fear.