Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Tale of the Suicidal Turtle

Yes, more Walker Percy...

Speaking of the failure of the modern scientific age, Percy in his essay "The Delta Factor" speaks of man's unique position, not as homo sapien but as homo loquens, man the talker. Alone among animals, humans speak constantly and unceasingly. Modern scientists only see man as an organism in an environment, but as I shared earlier, man behaves like anything other than this (just look at how miserable people are, even in good environments).

But scientists, though their enterprise is doomed from the beginning, must batton down the hatches and dig in their heels.
Accordingly, it did not strike anyone as peculiar when scientists sought an explanation for man's perversity and upsidedownness in this or that atavism from man's evolutionary past. Man blamed beasts for his madness. Next, it seemed natural to look for the source of man's "aggressive" behavior in the aggression and "territoriality" of more primitive species...even though no...creature but man has been observed to wage war against itself (suicide) or against its own kind (war).
Curious, I took advantage of my modern age and used the internet to look for people who do think that animals commit suicide (I knew somebody must believe it). I was not disappointed.

One article, by Stefan Anitei, "Do Animals Commit Suicide?" says from the beginning that it is hard to really know if animals commit suicide, but then goes on to argue that they do, anyway. The entire article is a series of anecdotes which tell us more about the author than about the behavior of animals. If you enjoy Milo and Otis-style articles filled with anthropomorphic animal tales, this article will quite fit your fancy. The highlight of the article is actually the comments section, which I have a hard time taking seriously. Here is a standout written by "Brad":
I happen to know that animals DO commit suicide, and quite often... In fact I used to have a pet turtle who is my living proof. It enjoyed watching movies with me, some of its favorite's were films like Forest Gump, and Kill Bill. One day we watched Requrium [sic] For A Dream, and instantly after the movie, it crawled to its fake log in its cage, lifted it, then slammed it down on its neck, resulting in a catastrophic paralysis injury. I then had no other choice but to batter it with a heavy spoon to put it out of its own misery. Animals DO commit suicide.
Hilarious as this story might seem, I believe the author is sincere. Look at this response I found a little further down the page.
wow truly emotional brad..... yea wow. Animals have feelings like humans. People tend to think since animals are not so complex as us that they are less superior therefore less capable of emotions. Also that animals follow a daily ritual everyday. Just because they dont have a civilization or just because they dont have as many genes as us. does that mean they arent as complex as us? If you think about it, some animals minds work just like us. just because they cant speak a language or do other things like us dosnt mean that they are not capable of feeling emotions. cats and dogs show great emotion. if you have a dog or a cat when you are down about something (my cats atleast) will jump up on my lap and start purring and loving on me because they sense depresion. they obvioulsy can point it out so why do we think that they arent capiable to feeling it. thus deppression is the leading emotion to suicide in humans. So if animals can reconize depression and feel depression whats stopping them. plus we can argue that humans are animals too. just because we get out of the "state of nature" dosnt mean we arent animals, or mamals we are apart of them and they are apart of us.
Brilliantly, this comment by "vash" illustrates the absurdity of modern man which Percy is addressing. Professing to be unique among the animals for his ability to "get out of the 'state of nature'," vash still says that we are animals. There is nothing tongue-in-cheek about vash's response to the tale of the suicidal turtle. These people really believe that this turtle is capable of comprehending the crushing depth of man's lostness illustrated in Requiem and then responding with existential hopelessness by devising a mechanism of crushing its own skull.

If ever Percy needed help substantiating his claim that "Man blames beasts for his madness," Brad and Vash have done it for him.

I wonder if an internet search might find someone who believes that animals tell tales to one another of their human masters committing suicide...

Another (less fanciful) article on the subject from Time Magazine

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