IF anything, we happen to be a wish-prone nation. If wishes were horses, for instance, we would all be merrily riding away into the sunset. About that some other time! Talking of horses brings to mind another line of thought. Has the perspicacious reader ever met a person who looked uncannily like a horse? Several experts who should know have expressed their considered opinion that the constant company of certain animal species leaves an indelible mark on an individual. And when one expresses this thought, it is not merely ephemeral. Some experts even go so far as to aver – somewhat uncharitably one is constrained to add – that persons who live too closely around certain animals ultimately end up resembling them.
Over the ages, man has been rather close to the horse and vice versa. That phenomenon may explain how certain internationally known personalities have been remarked as having developed definite equine attributes over a period of time. And, one might add, this certainly is no empty utterance. One can hardly miss it. All one has to do is keep looking around with one’s eyes – and mind – open. A certain well-known member of the British Royalty – who shall remain nameless – is an outstanding example.
And while on this subject, why confine one’s attention merely to the equine species? There are divers other inter-species resemblances that one can hardly help noticing. To take just one example, one has often come across persons – in public life, no less – exhibiting specific reptilian attributes of sorts; particularly in the way their tongues have the tendency to dart in and out of their mouths every time they open them. No offence meant, but one can hardly help wondering whether they also possess other characteristics peculiar to reptiles!
Literature through the ages has run riot in so far as man’s relationship with the rest of the species on the planet is concerned. While describing, a character in one of his books, the inimitable P. G. Wodehouse wrote, “He looked more like a parrot than most parrots do”. How is that for a loaded comment? Wodehouse was, of course, being facetious as was his wont, but one would not class his remark as entirely flippant. It is not at all unusual for humans to have uncanny resemblance to members of other species. Some would do so physically, others in mannerism and still others in their very nature.
Field Marshal Rommel was popularly known as the “desert fox” and not without justification. Similarly, a person may be described as ‘slimy as a serpent’ or perhaps ‘slippery as an eel’. Rodents are particularly popular animals in the writers’ quest for homologues. A particularly low category of person, for instance, gets the epithet of a ‘rat’. Being called a ‘dirty rat’ would be tantamount to adding insult to the injury. The devastating role played by “moles” in the field of espionage need hardly be over-emphasized. In the contemporary world – when kiss-and-tell books are very much in the vogue – publishers and writers can hardly be faulted for being constantly on the look-out for ‘moles’ of another genre!
Those interested in history will no doubt have read all about the exploits of ‘King Richard of the Lion Heart’. A person, thus, may be praised as being ‘lion-hearted’ or – on the other end of the spectrum – possessing the heart of a chicken. The poor peacock has to suffer the ignominy of being considered the embodiment of vanity. Insects, surprisingly, have had the best press of the lot. The ant is constantly extolled by all and sundry as being an exemplary worker. The bumblebee has received top billing as one that is ever so busy! Even the lowly grasshopper has not garnered such a bad billing at all.
Humankind prides itself on being the exalted of the species. That may sound well in theory. One is justified in asking, though, what has man done lately to merit that lofty attribute? Man is known as the rational animal and yet emerges as the one specie committing the most irrational of acts. Man condemns what he derisively terms as ‘the law of the jungle’, yet his own moral codes are hardly fit to write home about. What is more, the human being is constantly on the lookout for the attributes possessed by various species of the animal world to copy for his own benefit. The bat, the honeybee, the dolphin, the humming bird are among the animal species that figure in man’s quest to extend the frontiers of scientific knowledge.
Knowing all, man still persists in practices that are not at all fair to the animal species. Call it an irony if you will, but the fact remains that Man’s cruelty to the other species is surpassed only by his cruelty to his own kind. And yet despite Man’s cruel treatment of animals, many of the latter species still outnumber the human beings on our planet. There are perhaps more insects on the Earth than all the other species put together. Nature has put each living being on earth for a particular purpose. Living beings are all meant to fit into a set pattern in what can only be seen as a perfect balance of nature. It just would not do for Man to continue to make clumsy attempts to disturb this balance.
In a different context, it is a well-known fact that scientists and researchers continue to benefit from the study of divers animal species. It is thanks to their efforts and research that the frontiers of science are being constantly expanded. What humankind needs to learn and appreciate is the fact that it is in its own interest to give due consideration, and credit, to the other living species. This may be the only way for it to reap the benefit of the laws of nature.
— The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.