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Gordon's D-Zone Arcive (2006-2014)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

ON THE WILD SIDE

I was quite unsure what to write about today, but as my luck would have it I stumbled on some information regarding what are called ‘feral children’, or children brought up by animals and who usually are identified as such once they have the fortune (or misfortune) to be found by their own kind (that’s me and us).

Although I was familiar with the reality of these children, each time I read about their story, I wonder and question things that I had taken for granted, or as givens.

For starters, I am particularly amazed that some of these children are adopted by animals that we often fear or demonise, such as wolves and bears. Not only that, but these animals offer them a home and a sense of belonging – even if it is only as part of the wolf pack or the bear family (for instance). That said, the other option they could have chosen would be to kill or even eat them. This didn’t happen and it’s quite fascinating if you consider it.

But what really sets me thinking is that these children challenge the distinction we may wish to make between what we call ‘human’ and ‘non-human’. Because, at the end of the day, we are exposed to language, a value system, a culture, an identity and a sense of whom we are. But what if all this is not there? Or never was?

I was troubled with that question before because it’s is not that different from thinking about death. For like death, it forces us to place ourselves into thinking which involves things we cannot understand but only observe from a safe distance. That is why it might be upsetting for us to get to know of these children because their existence upsets our idea of who we think we are and the ‘pride’ (recognised or not) that we have of calling ourselves human.

Then again, I read many articles here and there on feral children but it’s sad to note that most of them take a clinical approach to the matter. As if what is being witnessed to is simply a specimen or an interesting object of research. And this is not just the fault of science but also of the media which also exploits not only feral children but anything that simply goes beyond the ‘ordinary’ or arouses public curiosity.

The fact is that even in our apparent tolerant culture, there is an inconsistency in what we understand as being human. The power of language in the way it shapes our identity is quite scary. Imagine being referred in terms of your medical condition or impairment. Does make you feel a little uneasy and more of an inanimate thing. But what are our alternatives to language?

Here I must admit that language and meaning have played a significant part of my life because without them I would feel lost. But perhaps this is what draws me to ask myself questions when I’m exposed to the reality of feral children. Or indeed that even if these children might appear so very different from me, the truth is that they are a reflection of who I am and who we are if stripped of our clothing, customs and social order. This is not to say that these children are either negative or inferior people as some moralists may be tempted to conclude.

Far from it, these children actually invite me to examine what it means to be myself and perhaps examine once again what is truly my purpose and mission here. That is to say not what others tell me to do or who I should be... But really what I am living for.

Strangely enough, the story of feral children gets repeated all over again with different types of people. Especially those who fall out of our view of being human. That is perhaps another reason why I have to ask myself what is right or not... Take this scenario:

After I rob a boy or girl from his/her group – usually by killing the adoptive family, I go on and try to eradicate the child’s past. I start using psychological terms that have no meaning to the child or words that are really meaningless sounds. And then, to add insult to injury, I declare myself as some kind of benefactor to the child because I am attempting to make him/her more acceptable and ‘normal’.

When we are faced by difference, we often wish to make it suit our world view. But what about the other? Do we ever consider that we have to recognise it in order to move forward? Those are some thoughts. But the ultimate questions, who are we if we did not know our name?

Would we have a soul?

Would we know we were individuals?

Would we know how to express what is inside?

Disturbing as it might be, the fact remains that we must be very careful when speaking in terms of absolute truths and generalisations about personhood. That I have learned myself because I have been so judged. But then aren’t we always judging and being judged? The point is where should we go to know ourselves?

I do not mean to condemn anyone here, but what I have been trying to say perhaps is that nobody has the exclusive right to define what is human.

TO READ SOME RESOURCES ON FERAL CHILDREN:

WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE ON FERAL CHILDREN

INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR ON FERAL CHILDREN BOOK

INTERESTING DISCUSSION OF THE MEANING OF BEING HUMAN

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