The beast in us

This piece of article is not written by me. But i just want to share it here because it is very interesting piece. The original writer is Benson Heng who does not has high education and paper qualification.

He submitted this article to a local newspaper for publication but it was rejected. An editor later explained that this article is too good to be published considering that he is not an expert, or a specialist, or a proffesor, or a scientist, simply because he has no paper qualification.

BUT through lots of readings and observations as well as experience, this is his story.

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GETTING TO KNOW THE BEAST IN US

 

by Benson Heng

 

STORY ONE

When I was little, I loved to play with kittens. The exciting bit was to engage them in a game of chase and be chased. I’d tie a cluster of stripped newspapers to a string and drag the shabby lump across the floor to lure the riotous brats into a play mood. Upon spotting the object brushing by, the kittens would give chase and I’d run like the wind with the lure article in tow, and I’d be madly thrilled by the pursuers hot on my heels as I scampered around the house.

 

Then at any moment, I’d swing around to growl like a lion and claw like an eagle. Startled, the pussies would run helter-skelter away, and it’d now be my turn to chase them till they vanished into their hiding places.

 

First round over, and I’d again tempt the mischievous tots out of their hiding and the game would be repeated. My mother would sometimes be so annoyed that she’d grab a cane and administered a few stinging strokes on my legs to stop the pandemonium.

 

STORY TWO

When I was a Primary 4 school kid in a remote riverine village in Beliong, I reared some chickens.

 

One late morning during a school holiday, as I went to feed them, I stumbled upon a batch of eggs which were hatching while mother hen was out. Imagine my excitement when I saw moist chicks faltering out of their crackling shells one by one and when their fur dried up, they enlarged into yellow flossy balls with tiny glistening eyes.

 

When chicks’ mom returned, clucking and feather all fluffed up to show her displeasure at seeing me, her attitude elicited an equally unfriendly respond from me; so, with a snappy kick from my filthy barefoot, I sent the grumpy fowl squawking and flapping away into the bush. I found out later that I’d actually terrorised it to the extent that it didn’t dare to even poke its head out of the bush for nearly an entire day.

 

With mom gone, I was free to flirt with the chicks. And as it happened, a crumpled brown paper bag still containing some chickenfeed which I had brought along to the coop was the first thing the chicks saw when they came out of their shell. One curious thing I noticed was that as soon as the chicks gained their composer, they’d shove themselves between the crevices of the bag’s bottom. It was like they were seeking protection; apparently thinking that the paper bag was their mother. So, I left the bag inside the box for their comfort.

 

Later in the afternoon, I went to check on the chicks again and gave them some food. Their mom had not returned. Noticing that the box was a bit crowded for them, I decided to set the chicks free. But when I tilted the box to its side to let them out, I was puzzled by their behaviour–instead of scrambling off excitedly, the chicks refused to be separated from the paper bag. When I shifted away the bag; they moved to huddle around it again. When I shifted it further away, again they did the same thing. Then I dragged the bag across the ground and they followed it just as chicks would normally do with a real mother hen. Crushing the paper bag to about the size of a football, I rolled it around in the chicken coop to amuse myself. The chicks foolishly ran after it wherever it rolled to. After a while, I heard the clucking of their mother outside.

“There your real mother is back,” I said aloud to the chicks and hid myself behind a rusty drum in order not to scare away their mom.

 

To my surprise, the chicks ignored their mother when she came in. Instead they huddled themselves even closer to the paper. I knew then that the chicks had indeed adopted the paper bag as their mother. I was all mushy when I heard the pathetic cackle of the mother hen that sounded like a ballad that bespoke of a broken hearted mom disowned by a dozen of her own little darlings.

 

I felt guilty to see the chicks grew up as orphans.

 

STORY THREE

When I was a junior secondary boarding school boy at Penrissen School in the late 1960s, I was sometimes engrossed in watching swarms of big cicadas swirling around a streetlamp at night. The dark brown insects, attracted by the soft light, would keep on flying around and around the lamp although doing so would result in them repeatedly bashing themselves against the glass casing of the lamp to the extent that many fell to the ground dazed or injured.

 

I used to wonder why they were so stupid by persisting to circle the lamp and in the process they also crashed into the lamp and hurt themselves.

 

Okay, I guess you’d have noticed that the three stories I’ve told have no connection with one another, but they all have one common theme, though — instinct. It is the beast hidden in all living creatures on earth, including us!

THE KITTENS’ BEAST

The kittens sprang into action to chase the paper lump because the moving object looked like a mouse running across the floor. Of course it was possible that the kitties knew it was not a mouse, but because the sight of a quick moving object would have such a fundamental resemblance to a running mouse that it would be enough to trigger a mouse-catching response from the little predators.

 

In the wild, any small thing scurrying on the ground would most likely have been a real mouse or a small animal of some kind. Cats see that as food in motion and any food that moves should be caught. Although cats that humans now rear don’t need to catch mice for food anymore, the instinct to catch mice is still very strong in them.  Thus, inside each of our cuddly pets at home, still lives a beast that catches mice.

 

THE CHICKS’ BEAST

In the natural environment, when chicks hatch, the first large object they see is a mother hen. That image would get imprinted into the chicks’ mind as their mother.

 

When the chicks first saw the paper bag, their brain straight away registered the dumb bag as their mother, which was why they later rejected their real mother when she showed up. It was the beast in them that had made their little heads go bonkers.

 

 

THE CICADAS’ BEAST

Cicadas have been on earth for about 300 million years, but human beings, not even a million years. That means the period of human existence is only a tiny fraction of that of the cicadas. Thus, to the cicadas, humans are a kind of creatures that have suddenly popped up in the final second of their history; so anything that humans do is a very new thing to them.

 

When humans put up a street lamp, cicadas don’t see it as a street lamp. Instead, they see it as the moon. Cicadas use the moon as a reference point to navigate at night because the moon would appear to be at a fixed position wherever they fly to. But they wouldn’t experience the same effect with a street lamp. This confuses the cicadas and in that confused state makes them fly around and around the lamp. The beast in them is not able to deal with such a situation that’s unnatural.

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NOW THE HUMANS’ BEAST

My stories of the kittens, the chicks, and the cicadas are meant to demonstrate how much alive and kicking the beast in them still is, in those three types of creatures. There’s countless number of examples that can be used to illustrate that every life form has a beast instinct in them; and this beast instinct is none other than an innate behaviour whose fundamental function is to ensure the survival of each life species.

 

From nature’s point of view, problem arose when evolution came up with a creature known as the human being. It was as if Mother Nature had made a mistake by pushing one form of life to become too intelligent and thereby bringing upon herself   an everlasting catastrophe.

 

But for humans, it was a necessity that’s also a dilemma—if humans had not become intelligent, they’d not have survived as a species. Yet when they become intelligent, they create an artificial world that ends up not compatible with their primordial instinct. In other words, the world that humans create is not suitable for the beast that lives in them. How did it happen?

 

Naturalists say the species that humans belong to is the Homo sapiens which emerged in Africa some 200 thousand years ago. It so happened that by around that time the condition of our planet was so unstable that the only way humans could survive was to use the intellect of their brain.

 

The seed of real trouble was sowed when humans invented language. When humans started to speak to one another, they could transfer their thoughts to one another and thus enabled them to not only share enormous amounts of information and ideas, but also enabled them to transmit their knowledge from one generation to another.

 

Matters were aggravated when humans found a way to record what they had learned because their recorded knowledge could then be value-added from time to time, thus saving each individual from going through the drag of having to learn everything from scratch. Humans could therefore use their already raised level of inherited knowledge to build upon and ascend to a greater height of knowledge.

 

As for the other creatures, they had to live life through trials and errors. They had to very gradually evolve and adapt themselves to the changing environment. This process of evolution by natural selection, which allowed the survival of only the fittest, was a painfully slow passage paved with high mortality rate. Evolution could take thousands or even millions of years to produce just a slight useful change in a species.

 

But humans “cheated” their way through this slow natural process by circumventing that treacherous and time-consuming path. They “illegally” used the unnatural speedy way to pass on their accumulated knowledge which eventually gave rise to what we call human civilisation and which would later be followed by development of science and technology. With science and technology as powerful tools, humans could then manipulate and fashion nature according to their own whims and fancies and pretty soon humans were living in an environment which was way far ahead or far removed from their primitive instinct. It was like humans were suddenly plucked out of their primeval natural world and then dumped onto a modern artificial world.

 

To live a modern life, we humans in fact need to be as human as possible. But the psyche of the wild beast in us is not human enough to be in sync with the condition of the artificial world that our intelligence has created.

To live a modern life, we humans in fact need to be as human as possible. But the psyche of the wild beast in us is not human enough to be in sync with the condition of the artificial world that our intelligence has created.

 

It was a bad thing to put intelligence into a beast, so to speak; because the combination is a chemistry that produces a lethal formula that gave rise to many problems we face in this world today. Things like wars, atrocities, aggressions, greed, slaveries, rivalries, adulteries, rapes, robberies, murders, cheatings, dishonesties, bigotries, fanaticism, chauvinism, tribalism, injustices, egoism, and a hundred and one things more are all ultimately attributable to the resultant effect of the interplay of the human-beast conflict in us.

 

And to deal with those complexities, we come up with devices like governments, politics, systems, ideologies, soldiers, police, guards, lawyers, judges, prisons, written agreements, documentation, fences, locks, alarms, money, banks, passwords, and the list goes on and on. And, of course, we must not forget to include rules and laws. We can say that laws are created to forbid us to do what the beast in us wants us to do. If we think more deeply, we would realise that we are actually using up a hell lot of our time, energy, and resources just to combat the evil in us, which, in fact, is combating the beast in us.

 

SIGNS OF THE BEAST IN US

But what proofs are there that there’s such a beast in us? There’re many tell-tale signs, but I’ll just give a few as examples. Wait, before I proceed, might it be pertinent here for me to point out that geneticists have found that 96% of a chimpanzee’s genome is the same as that of a human? That means, biologically, only a meagre 4% of us is human, and the rest of us is beast. How about that for a start, fellow humans? Okay, let us now proceed with the specific signs.

 

SIGN ONE: I can still vividly remember my reaction to my first interview for a job. My heart hammered my ribs; my blood ran cold; my mouth went dry; and the palms of my hands were moist with sweat. That was an adrenaline rush symptom of my body when I came face to face with a threat.

 

Such a response would have been very useful to me if I were in a bush and a tiger was facing me. But the “threat’ that was facing me that time was a panel of five interviewers who would like to see me calm and composed and be able to answer their questions smoothly.

 

The way my body had reacted was certainly not helpful at all because it could screw up my chance of getting the job I wanted so much. But then even though it was an inappropriate reaction from the human me in that situation, it was in fact a necessary physiological reaction from the beast in me because the beast was preparing itself to fight or to flee.

 

Anyway, fortunately for me, before the grilling began, one of the interviewers calmed the beast in me quite a bit by cracking a joke about how much he liked my haircut.

 

SIGN TWO: Sometimes we may have heard people say: “How can that man behave like that? It’s very unbecoming of him as a professor to lose his temper in public like that.” Then another person may answer, “Well, he’s only human.”

 

It’d be unkind for me to say, “Well, he’s only a beast.” But as a matter of fact, it is the beast in the human that has been provoked into an outrage.

 

So, no matter how learned and cultured a person is, when he’s confronted with a situation that’s too much for his human side to handle, his animal side would take over the situation. When he has calmed down, the person might then regret his outburst and wonder why he has reacted the way he did.

 

SIGN THREE: Over a phone conversation, we usually can already know if the person we talk to is happy or sad though he has not said anything about his feeling. The vocal tone of the speaker, which is a form of body language, reflects the speaker’s emotion and this is proof that body language is a very crude and a very powerful communication tool used by humans to communicate with one another before language was invented.  That’s why humans still use body language alongside the vocal one because body language is actually the language of the beast in us; which also explains why we can hardly hold a conversation without waving our hands, shrugging our shoulders, raising our eyebrows, or vacillating our vocal tone. Such behaviour is so natural that even when we talk through the phone and in spite of the fact that we know that our listener cannot see our body actions, we’d still mechanically act out the gestures. The gestures is the beast in us helping us to do the talking.

 

SIGN FOUR: I’ve often seen swarms of swallows swirling in the sky catching insects to eat. Although they buzz around one anther chaotically, they don’t collide into one another. But if humans were to fly their jets in that manner, you can imagine what would happen. Swallows can do it accident-free because the beast in them is an expert flyer, but the beast in humans is not; let alone using machines to do so.

 

And because it’s an artificial thing for the natural human beast to fly, it’s also an artificial thing for it to drive an artificial car on an artificial road. That explains why we humans are so prone to accidents on the roads although we have road signs and traffic rules to help us.

 

NATURE AS DESIGNER

You might have sensed that I’d alluded to nature like it was a conscious thinking entity that’s able to design things. But that’s not what I mean. Characterising nature as a designer is simply a way of making it easier for me to explain things. In fact, nature as a designer is a whole separate subject of its own, so broad and so deep that it’s not possible for me to discuss it here. It took Charles Darwin, a naturalist, 21 years of observation to understand how nature designed things and only then he dared to present, to the scientific audience of his time, his theory of how nature came up with the various forms of life.

 

But just to give you an inkling of how the designing mechanism might work, let me share with you a story of how I myself first came to understand a bit of the so-called  design of nature. Ironically, I learned that bit of theory from a farmer I visited in a remote village somewhere in Peninjau near Miri, Malaysia, in the late 80s.

That farmer reared a lot of kampung chickens, but all his chickens were brown. The colour of their feathers matched exactly the colour of the dead leaves on the ground they foraged on; a place under the trees where they scratched for worms and insects to eat all day long. When the chickens were resting and not making any movement, I couldn’t see them because they were very well camouflaged.

 

Out of curiosity, I asked the farmer why his chickens were all brown.

 

He replied: “I started out with chickens of different colours; I had black, white, grey, and spotted chickens. But that was a long time ago.”

 

“Then what happened?” I prodded.

 

“The one by one, the chickens of all other colours were eaten away by the eagles,” he explained, “but the eagles often missed out those chickens with brown feathers because the birds couldn’t quite see them. In the end I was left with only brown chickens, and brown chickens would of course produce more brown chickens and very few of other colours.”

 

He said when it came to the sixth or seventh generation, all his chickens were just brown only. It was like the gene to produce other colours was already totally weeded out. So, the farmer would never see his chickens in any other colours anymore; unless he brought in new stock of fouls from outside to breed.

 

From that incident, we can see the mechanics of how, just at one location, nature had gradually transformed the appearance of a flock of chickens from a multi-colour flock to a one-colour flock. More noteworthy is the fact that the shade of brown and pattern on the chicken feathers had eventually come to look very much like the rotting leaves where the fouls foraged on.

 

Now, once we already can get a notion of the mechanics that might be involved, the mystery of how nature designs or makes changes to the design of things might be considered solved. By extension, it is therefore not impossible to imagine that such mechanics of change might also be applicable to other aspects like feature, structure, anatomy, or even the behaviour of a creature. Every slight change that results in an advantage for the creature would be genetically passed on to the next generation. In the brown chicken case, being born brown was an advantage because that was the colour that could protect them from being preyed upon by the eagles.

 

It is now also possible for us to understand why and how some jungle insects have come to look like leaves or twigs of plants. We don’t have to think of nature as a thinking being who has to deliberately fashion those insects to look like plants in order to hide them from their predators. Thinking so would only corner ourselves to be confronted with the question of why a thinking Mother Nature who wants to protect the insects would subsequently want to defeat her own purpose by also creating predators for them.

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CONCLUSION

As already mentioned, the beast in us is still very much alive and kicking. It’s driving and influencing our behaviour in almost every aspect of our life. Getting to know the beast in us would make us understand ourselves better and that could make us more forgiving, more compromising, or more tolerating when it comes to us having to deal with certain human idiosyncrasies. Deep in our heart we’d know that the phenomenon is caused by the beast in us.

 

How long more we humans would evolve out of our beastly instinct is a question nobody can answer. A life species may have to evolve through thousands or even millions of generations before losing a particular instinct or characteristic.

 

Human beings are the latest species of life that emerge on earth. The earth is about 4.5 billion years old while the human species is only about 200,000 years old.  That means, if the age of the earth were to be scaled down to only one year, humans only emerged on earth in the last minute of 12 midnight of 31st December.

 

Thus if Mother Nature were to speak out, she can say that it was only after the emergence of human beings on earth that the earth started to get sick. It can thus be said we’re actually a freak of nature.

 

In fact, nature doesn’t need us, but we need nature. Recognising that should humble us into treating nature with respect; which should also make us more careful when it comes to us handling the beast in us. – END

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