At the End of the Day

We need a small adjustment to our species name

I just walked into my garden to take a leak (one risks frostbite in an important place doing this at the moment) and an owl the size of a golden eagle leapt from the honeysuckle like an avenging hobgoblin. It’s the same chap I spotted some months back sitting on my fence, spewing up the innards-ball of a shrew he’d eaten earlier. He does that 360-degree head-turning thing that always puts me in mind of The Exorcist. Owls are spooky things: even when just a kid I always thought The Owl and the Pussycat was a daft idea. You just knew that, in real life, the cat would try to kill the owl, and the owl would tear it limb from limb with ruthless – nay, casual – efficiency.

Anyway, I’ve changed my trousers now – clean on today they were – and am sitting here in my den near to a log-burning stove. It’s Saturday night, and I’m very much in the mood to hunker down and write about how the world isn’t such a bad place after all. But the world remains unfeasibly bonkers, so I’ll have to think about something else to write about. While I do, here’s some music:

J J Cale: rhythm for the Thinking Man. And while we’re on the subject of Man (you can be in this too if you want Wimmin, but I’m far too much of a gentleman to share the blame gratuitously) I wonder if anyone sane any longer thinks that Homo sapiens is the right descriptor? It’s true that we do think a lot; we’re just not very good on the consequences thing. And when we put the thinky-thinky into practice, we refuse to learn why and how it went wrong. (See euro, neoliberalism, Marxism, appeasement, multiculturalism, globalism, Nazism, deist religion, supporting Arsenal and the Tower of Babel).

So maybe we should be called Homo discere non possent. Except there’s something about the metre of that phrase suggestive of modern Italian: as in “Eh – yooo – waddisitawithayoo – is you some kinda Homo discere non possent? Shaddapa yo face”. No: I think the thing we need to ditch is the ‘thinking’ allegation. Let’s face it, most of us think with our nether regions….and research shows there isn’t any brain tissue down there.

The one genuine delineator between us and other species, I’m told, is that we make tools: we use things external to our bodies in order to make life “easier”. Even this is open to doubt: hippos use birds to remove their ticks, and chimps use each other. For all I know, the hydra population has a thriving hifi market – we just can’t see it. But for the sake of argument and me getting to bed some time before Monday, let’s assume that the delineator is right.

Thus we become Homo faber. In fact, this description has been applied to us by anthropologists in the past. I love that word ‘anthropologists’ don’t you? It suggests a bunch of folks dedicated to being apologists for Man. But I digress. The problem with the faber noun is that it leaves out any sense of our species being Mickey Mouse the Sorcerer’s Apprentice…which is, sadly, as near as damnit spot on.

But this would mean us becoming Homo Mickey Muris ad Veneficus scriptor Apprentice which is a bit of a lingua caninum prandium. In fact, Latin may not be the language we need: plain English might be much better.

For example, Plonker Man. Or EgoMan. MememememeMan. BoystoysMan. And so forth.

Now this is all very well and vaguely amusing, but at the same time, somewhat puerile. I fancy we do need to return to the Dead Language so deplored by Blairite idiots to get at the core of Man.

That core is, I think, this: we are f**king useless at learning from the past, but boy do we fancy ourselves when it comes to predicting the future….to our own advantage, naturally.

For example, ‘The stand-off between Angela Merkel and the radical Greek government of Alexis Tsipras over austerity could derail David Cameron’s plans to overhaul Britain’s membership of the European Union, Norman Lamont has warned.’

What’s more, ‘Stefano Pessina, the driving force behind the $70 billion transatlantic merger of Alliance Boots and Walgreens and one of the country’s largest private sector employers, has warned that a Labour government would be a “catastrophe” for the UK.’

And then there’s James Delingpole, who thinks every last iota of climate warming data is bollocks. The flaw in Jimbo’s view is that (a) he isn’t a climatologist (b) he has no fall-back position if he’s wrong, and (c) if the climate is cooling not warming, what does he propose we do about it? Answer comes there none.

Henry Ford said “History is bunk”, but The Slog says “Futurology is bunk”. It follows, I think, that a species which gets the past learnings wrong is going to be absolutely crap at getting the future right. And in turn, a gigantic tidal wave of evidence supports that view: simply Google visions of the future from 1955-75, and you will quickly discern what utter drivel they have all turned out to be.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I give you Homo iniuria: Man who is wrong.

Apart from being empirically accurate, this is the one definition even the Wimmin could get behind: for a man’s place, when all’s said and done, is in the wrong.

Earlier at The Slog: Why Syriza’s victory is about far more than Greek debt