Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Killer Instinct

In the days of old an instinct for warfare was developed in the struggle with wild animals; this is no longer necessary; nay, rather, co-operation and mutual understanding are seen to produce the greatest welfare of mankind. Enmity is now the result of prejudice only.

(Abdu’l-Bahá, Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 19)
A few days ago, as I was walking to work, I saw a cat approaching in “attack” mode. Claws in the air, it jumped out in front of me and then immediately went into “make a friend” mode. It seems that when he noticed the relative size of his intended victim, friendship seemed like a better idea. As he purred and rubbed up against my legs, I tried to reason with him, but to no avail. It seems trying to reason with a cat is an act of futility. However, he did draw my mind to some facts of nature.

When animals are domesticated their instincts remain. In their natural setting, cats needed to hunt for food. Now being fed by humans their hunting is no longer necessary, but the instinct remains so we often see them out chasing birds or other small creatures. So long as you don’t leave a cat alone with your budgie or hamster no real problem occurs.

Dogs are another matter. Having worked with a turkey farmer in the past, he told me how pet dogs were the worst menace to his free range turkeys. When recognizing a neighbours pet chasing his turkeys, he would inform the neighbour who claim that it could not have been his dog since it never left his farm. Many times, unknown to the owners, pet dogs join together at night and form hunting packs that may even attack humans. These animals, in nature would kill their food. Now, as pets they do not need to do that, but the killer instinct is still there. This turkey farmer informed me that a wild animal may attack his flock and kill one bird which it would haul away and devour. These pets aren’t hungry, so they attack and kill many birds and leave them there to rot.

Now we bring this up one level to humanity. Ancient humanity lived by hunting and gathering. They not only had to kill what they would eat, but had to protect themselves from wild animals that were sizing them up for lunch. In modern society this is no longer necessary; however man does possess the killer instinct. The difference with man is that he has a spiritual side and has reasoning powers that animals don’t possess. When humans develop their spiritual side the desire to kill is abolished and they live peaceably with their own, but animalistic mankind still wants to kill for personal gain or to squelch a perceived threat. It has been said that when a man acts like an animal he becomes lower than the animal. The animal has no reasoning power and acts on instinct through ignorance. When man allows his animal nature to take over, he has reasoning power and can override his instincts, so he knowingly inflicts cruelty on his fellow man and is worse than the ferocious beasts.

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