It cracks me up that so much positive emphasis is put on stuff that is ‘natural’. Talk to your average punter in the street and they’ll invariably make the assertion that the more natural something is, the better. The fact that arsenic, earthquakes and cancer are 100% natural and that most things human beings do is pretty goddamn unnatural seems to idly pass them by. We should be getting back to nature, they say, whereas I say – much in the manner of Kate Hepburn in The African Queen – that ‘nature’ is what we are here to rise above.
Nearly everything you do in your waking life is magnificently unnatural, and rightly so. You get up and eat cereal covered in cow’s milk (eek!) – which is rather unnatural. You then brush your teeth with unnatural fibres, put on clothes woven with unnatural materials, get in your unbelievably unnatural car, drive on an unnatural road, go to work in a completely and utterly unnatural building and sit on your unnatural computer all day unnaturally communicating with similarly unnaturally-inclined people all over the world.
You come home, pet your unnatural dog, eat your unnaturally heated dinner off a plate that I’m fairly sure didn’t grow on a tree and watch stuff on your comprehensively unnatural widescreen TV before – if you’re lucky – doing some devilishly natural things in the bedroom.
Let me break this scenario down: we shouldn’t be able to drink cow’s milk. Most people in the world are lactose intolerant beyond the age of around four. No mature animal in the natural world drinks milk squirted out of another species. Your toothbrush is made from oil found up to a mile below the surface of the Earth and I have to say I haven’t seen too many cats drilling for oil recently (despite what Eddie Izzard says). The same is true of the nylon and polyester in our clothes and the fact we wear clothes in the first place – do chimps wear pyjamas? Only when they’re selling PG Tips.
As for cars, roads, buildings, computers, the internet: hells bells! How much more unnatural do you want to be??
As I said yesterday, your dog is not natural, it’s a genetically modified wolf. You think that in the natural world bees make a ridiculous amount of honey for FUN? More than they would ever possibly need? Of course not: we did that, dicking around in our apiaries, poking around with their queens and generally meddling with powers we cannot possibly comprehend.
What other animals own Playstations, fly aeroplanes, race each other on the backs of other animals, play sports, read books, brew beer, trade money, go skydiving, undergo chemotherapy, use contraception, launch telescopes into space, pay taxes, look after the disabled, produce Mars bars or go Scuba diving?
Are any of these things natural? No. Are any of these things good? Hell Yes.
But for some reason (marketing, I’d say) the world ‘natural’ has become synonymous with ‘good’. Funny how when things are perceived as good they are called ‘natural ingredients’, whereas they when they are perceived as bad they are ‘harmful chemicals’. What’s the hell is this NaCl doing on my chips…?! Grr…
The most unnatural things we do are associated with medicine. In the natural world, an impoverished family has a child, it dies. In the natural world, if a child is born blind, it dies. In the natural world 1 in 3 human births result in the death of the child or the mother. We don’t live in a goddamn natural world. And thank f—k for that!
The horrible truth is that the ‘natural’ reaction to the news that your wife has been unfaithful is to kill the other guy and give your wife a damn good raping. Civilised? No – not by a long chalk, but at least it would be ‘natural’.
I can’t state this enough: civilisation is not natural. You want nature? Check out the warring tribes of Papua New Guinea, the thousands of Indian children who die every year from diarrhoea or the systematic rape of woman in Darfur. I’m sorry, says the scorpion as he sinks to his death, it’s my nature…
Isn’t it interesting that while the Catholic Church is happy to condemn the unnatural-ness of contraception, they have little to say about how incredibly unnatural welfare states are. The very same welfare states that ensure the survival of unwanted or poverty-stricken children produced as a indirect consequence of the Church’s unwarranted annexation of the reproductive systems of half the human race. Half, mind you, and – of course – it’s never their half, is it?
While the Pope is content to live his life steeped in unnatural trimmings – and I’m not just talking about his hat – and go so far as to profess SUPER-natural abilities, he (and many religious and prejudiced people of his ilk) see the completely 100% NATURAL fact that a good number of us humans are attracted to members of the same sex (as are a good proportion of dogs, sheep, penguins, fruit flies, etc…) as ‘unnatural’ and therefore ‘immoral’.
Just in case you really believe that humans invented homosexuality for a laugh (possibly with the intent of making Baby Jesus cry), I would really like you to read up about our closest cousin, the Bonobo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonobo. I think you’ll find the information under the heading ‘Social Sexual Behaviour’ most illuminating.
And if that’s not enough for you, the good people at Wikipedia have put together a marvellous list of all the gay animals it can get its grubby little hands on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexual_behavior_in_animals. Be warned, it’s not a comprehensive list: there are at least 1,500 species – mammals, insects, birds, lizards – you name it – that, for one reason or another, sometimes prefer to bowl from the pavilion end.
This bumbling adherence to the mantra of “natural = good, unnatural = bad” is overly-simplistic, morally abhorrent and intellectually bankrupt. It needs to be stopped, forthwith! If people find the idea of two men going at it hammer and tongs distasteful or are haunted by the fact that given a certain angle and a certain light they themselves might be ‘turned’, they should just admit it – to hide behind the old lie of ‘it’s not natural’ is not just cowardly – it’s demonstrably wrong.
But in this world we live in, so desperate are we to condemn others for the choices made for them by Mother Nature, so pathetic our need to one-up each other, that we have made the word ‘unnatural’ synonymous with the monstrous, the perverted, the subversion of civilisation… when it should mean anything but. As Hobbes pointed out a long time ago, life for humans in our natural state is brutish, nasty and short.
We live in a world of pernicious memes: viruses of the mind. And while ad men conning us with their ‘100% natural ingredients’ is just a bit of fun, the flip side of that way of thinking takes us to some very dark places indeed. In short, some natural things are great, others are not so great. The same goes for unnatural things. You can’t, and shouldn’t, use something being ‘unnatural’ as an reason to espouse fear or hatred – especially when the activity in question occurs all over the natural world.
The maddest thing about all this is that when you think about it long enough, nothing we do is really that unnatural: everything on this planet is made of naturally-occurring elements and isotopes. We just find new combinations and uses for them… using our highly evolved brains and opposable thumbs.
In fact, the only thing we can talk of as being 100% unnatural isn’t to be found here in this old plane of reality. The only truly unnatural thing is the supernatural. And as such – thankfully – it only exists as a quirk of the human imagination. But (naturally!) that’s another story…