Animated storytelling has become quite popular over the decades. The stories are warped in reality and delivered through a series of characters, especially animals, who are given a voice and personality to establish a connection and convey a message.
Starting from an early 70’s character of Robin Hood, a singing fox who makes being an outlaw sound so much fun to the Baloo, a bear in contemporary The Jungle Book, who takes the best care of ‘man-cub’ Mowgli—the human traits have constantly been impersonated to suit the ends of the narrative. Such symbolism of animals in visual storytelling is known as anthropomorphism— “the attribution of human form or other human characteristics to any nonhuman object”.
Not only in fiction but there are also some tragic incidents in human history wherein certain words and images stripped people of their basic human traits. In the Nazi era, the film The Eternal Jew depicted Jews as rats. During the Rwandan genocide, Hutu officials called Tutsis “cockroaches” that needed to be cleared out.
The question pops up: Why this dehumanization? Why is there a need for such an anthropomorphized animal projection, laced with human-like emotions and motivations? If animals are shown as the ones adhering to human attributes, like compassion or altruism, why are humans divorcing the same traits? And that too, very fast.
Of course, there is a general malaise around that puts skepticism high about the relevance of human attributes. Perhaps the everyday events and situations are throwing up certain equally shocking and surprising lessons that mock the essence of these very traits. Despite the incredible capacity for humanity, something that makes us human, we have this capacity for being inhuman.
The growing intolerance clubbed with gory violence, is the issue that has placed the notion of “humanness” in a controversial crucible. Almost all over the world. And if it’s just that simple, it’s both about the fire of devastation, and then a hail of death. A harrowing account of the damage wrought by the politics of deceit and prejudices.
The minds that dare to question getting castigated to the maximum. The communities and religions are demonised and demeaned to the extent of absurdity. The stormy evils of doublespeak and manipulation, from men down to their media, discrediting human traits blatantly. As such, no place on earth seems sane and safe.
As a result, average human beings no longer put across a call that can stimulate the possibility of perfectly happy worlds in their ordinary lives. There is this dull and dreary ride down the heartless trajectory of their existence, which has reduced human traits to travesty.
That’s why, more and more interchanging of humans with animals, the transfer of meaning to nonhuman creatures—Dogs are more faithful than men; cats are more loving than us; lions are quicker than leaders; foxes are more clever than rebels; bears are more generous than individual custodians; and so on and so forth.
Whatever, it smacks of pathetic fallacy. A miserable moving into the world that is getting blindly ruthless, utterly malicious and shamelessly inhuman. From the soft targeting of persons to the bombing of sacred religious places, and the claptrap of infamous individuals to riotous rabble-rousers and many more who take sadist pleasure in any kind of violence—the world has actually gone gaga. Humans are failing to remain human.
Yes, all human beings are oscillators. Our commitments and convictions are rickety. We vacillate. We waver. Move randomly. Change constantly. And never keep the time for our biased alterations.
But that constant, complex turn-coating is the process of human debasement itself made visible. There seems absolutely no hope of reclamation—of all that defines a human being as a throbbing, thinking entity, full of thoughtfulness and compassion.
That’s why there is this hole in all of us, in our souls. It drains out all the goodness and empties our reservoirs of humanness. We are robbed of our ‘own-ness’. And are left broke.
Finally, what we are left with is just “a brutality of thought and mistrust of subtlety”, to quote Frantz Fanon. And it’s a symptom of cruel catastrophe.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK