The human zoo?

Posted: Sep 01, 2005 12:00 AM

The "Human Zoo," a four-day exhibit last week at the London Zoo, was designed, zoo spokeswoman Polly Wills told The Associated Press, to get the public to see "people in a different environment, among other animals," and teach "that the human is just another primate."

 Bunk. If the humans were just another primate, other primates -- like monkeys -- would make zoos. Ditto gorillas. Fact is, humans are the only primates that create zoos, which means humans are not just another primate.

 So why the "human zoo" stunt? Don't blame science. If science had been a factor, the zoo would have selected a representative sample of homo sapiens. The human exhibitionists would have been racially diverse and would have included disabled people and bent-over geezers. Instead, the zoo picked five comely young ladies and three men -- two buff, one with a beer gut -- then stripped them down and made them wear synthetic fig leafs. In publicity shots, they look like the cast from an episode of the original "Star Trek" series.

 "Warning: Humans in their natural environment," a sign explained.
Hardly. While the eight human guinea pigs were placed in a bear enclosure, they spent the night in a hotel. They weren't au naturel, and they weren't dressed as they normally would. They played board games, ate catered meals and drank Starbucks coffee.

 One participant who called herself Spinning Girl posted a blog in which she wrote, "Nobody is willing to say: This may have been a stupid idea." May have been? No. It is a stupid idea.

 It reflects the compulsive need of trendy folk to squeeze the meaning out of every word until their definitions have been rendered meaningless.

  Zoo: My paperback Webster calls that "a place where a collection of wild animals is kept for public showing." Thanks to the faddists, a zoo now can be a collection of tame Starbucks swillers.

  What's more, while zoos are supposed to enthrall visitors with the distinctiveness of wild species, Wills described the "human zoo" as an exhibit designed to make patrons believe the human primate isn't all that special.

 What next? "Baboons, boring." Or, "Orangutans. Yawn." And "Ho hum chimpanzees." No, you would not see a zoo exhibit work to lower the public's opinion of an animal -- unless that animal is human.

 Then, the zoo's mission of educating the public evolves into the latest fad, promoting human self-loathing. (They're free to push that argument, but they delude themselves if they think they are original or scientific.)

 A Zoological Society of London spokesman told The Independent: "We are saying, 'Look, here are human beings stripped down and treated exactly the same way as other animals.' We are the same, and the way we treat animals has consequences."

 The Independent also reported how the "human zoo" highlighted humankind's status as a "plague species" that threatens nearly 15,600 species, and has destroyed 844 other species and "some 800 million of its own kind." So the zoo transforms itself from an institution designed to inspire and teach about nature into an institution that departs from science -- with this phony natural habitat and erroneous claim that humans are "the same" as other animals -- to teach people that humanity isn't so hot.

 Defenders can argue they are trying to push people to think about mankind from a different perspective. Except that the simplistic conclusion -- that people are bad unless they're the good people who lecture about how bad people are -- is so common these days that there is nothing unique about the message. Man is a "plague species" -- with few redeeming qualities.

 In short: Man is just like any other primate ... only worse.