Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Human Exhibit

A new London zoo exhibit is creating quite a stir. Not content to offer visitors the more traditional array of wildlife, curators of the zoo have broadened the scope of their selection to include an exhibition of humans. This latest exhibit is appropriately located near the zoo’s primate collection, our “relatives” in the evolutionary chain. The participants consist of a group of three men and five women, clad in bathing suits and fig leaves, who move about in Rousseaunian-like innocence within their outdoor setting, amusing themselves with board games, hula-hoops and rubber balls. The principle reason for the endeavor is ostensibly to raise awareness of the ape plight and man's relationship with the animal world. While admittedly funny at first glance, it seems that, digging deeper, one could see a thinly veiled agenda that is contributing to the depersonalization of the human being. This is not to say that the “Human” exhibit is contributing to the attack on human life and dignity to the same degree as, say, abortion and embryonic stem cell research. I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to assert however, that projects such as this play their small part in an overall movement that has as its goal the shattering of the traditional view of the human being that understands man as a person, not just a thing or a means.

Great Britain's Brightest and Best

Organizers of the project, entitled “Humans”, and its participants reveal their motivation for taking part. Tom Mahoney, a 26 year old chemist currently frolicking about in the make believe garden of Eden, comments that, “A lot of people think we are above other animals, when they see humans as animals, here, it kind of reminds us that we’re not that special.” Determined not to be outdone in ramblings of sheer lunacy, Zoo spokeswoman Polly Wills says that, “Seeing people in a different environment, among other animals…teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate.” This project is taking place in a country that, along with the rest of Europe, is gradually losing its grip on the beauty and transcendent mystery of the human person as a unique creation set apart from the rest of the world. It comes as no surprise that having abandoned God, it didn’t take long for a society to find itself in utter confusion as to its identity and sense of place in the order of creation. No doubt, this will be a significant contribution toward the widespread denigration of human dignity in a society already heavily anesthetized to their own personhood. A sad realty of the modern mind sees animals being afforded lofty “rights,” shielded under the mighty protection of law while human beings, who after all are "not that special" are at risk of being stripped of their rights and dignity. The fact is that it becomes a lot easier to manipulate and attack a person if he is no longer seen as a person. Certainly Christianity contributes a thing or two to the lofty position of the human condition. The reality, or some have called it the scandal, of the Incarnation must be radically reintroduced into a world whose people have lost touch with God and subsequently themselves.

Could this latest zoo project have a more sinister goal in mind? Or, perhaps this is an overreaction to an innocent endeavor. But it seems that a recent child visitor to the zoo was on to something when he asked his mother, "Why are there people in there?"