Since I’m @sweden this week, I thought I’d translate a text or two. I wrote this one for the swedish magazine Amos.
Which animal are you? We’ve all been asked the question in silly tests since we were little. The american Indians had totem animals and other peoples have played with or made religion of similar thoughts. Most people choose animals like wolves, bears, lions or eagles. Some have a passion for the ocean and become dolphins. Someone always thinks she’s so cute that the choice falls on a completely adorable housecat. Another kind of people, let’s refrain from saying that it’s only guys,, lean more towards choosing tiger, they might not admit it’s because He-Man rode on one. In addition, the tigers are basically like lions but are solitary hunters. Maverick tigers. Simple as that.
But quite honestly, are most of us really majestic lions? Certainly, lions rest around 19 hours per day, which speaks to a lot of people’s advantage. But they are also in the top of the food chain and only eat the finest antelope-meat. Very rarely instant macaroni or deep-frozen pan pizza. Also, a lone male lion has the ability to defeat a pack of hyenas almost single-handedly while most of us can barely defend ourselves against a poorly placed curb. Would a lion really slip and break a leg? Too many of us do.
No, people’s totem animal is usually not a noble beast who rules the savannah, forest and sky. Man is a dog, cockroach and rat. Jackals and the cowards who eat the leftovers of what other, more powerful individuals have done. People gather around the remains. Hungry and wild-eyed like vultures. Nevertheless, even rats are a totem that is hard to live up to. New findings show that rats cannot be conditioned to counterproductive behaviors. If you give the rat a reward for the behavior it makes it a habit. But if the reward stops it changes it almost immediately. Brooding, addictions and bad habits are nothing for rats. How many of us can say the same?
Many people rather flee than fight badly when the shit hits the fan. For them, the penguin may be an appropriate totem animal, since penguins hardly even dare to defend their own kids when the giant storm-bird make dinner of them a few feet away. This is despite the fact that they seem to stick together. It’s just for show and documentaries. Proximity does not always produce solidarity it seems. Or perhaps, letting big birds eat their children, it’s a way for penguins to show that they are disappointed with their bratty children.
And then we have the magnificent dolphin that tends to be an animal favorite in almost every camp. In fact, dolphins have proven to be psychopaths who on a regular basis enslave and rape each other. It’s a common claim that they’re as intelligent as humans, and perhaps this is precisely the reason why so many of them have the ability to behave as Hannibal Lecter. Although killer whales is estimated to be roughly the same IQ level as human beings, they have also been witnessed to play badminton with baby seals without even bothering to eat up the remaining sludge hands afterwards. It may be something to consider when having individuals with bad table manners selects their totem animal.
We often choose animal that stands out above the other gray biomass of the world. Yet most of us is just like everyone else, it’s in the nature of things. And just as it’s not particularly becoming of a person to compare their own appearance with James Franco (or Alexander Skarsgård) or Natalie Portman, we should probably be careful not to emulate lions, dolphins or eagles. There’s no shame in being a completely unremarkable pet. They understand more of the good life than all the magnificent predators together.