13 January 2001 Welcome - Charles - Thoughts - Permanent childhood

Some little while ago, I chanced to see a television program which considered what made domesticated animals domesticated. (The program was broadcast perhaps during 1999.) I remember it as starting from the idea that dogs trained people as much as people trained the dogs. Each needed the other. Similarly for cats and cows and horses, etc. The domesticated version of the animal needed humans.

The basic thesis was that people decided which animals should breed; those individual creatures that were most useful, obedient, and relatively harmless. Further, these characteristics were those associated with the juvenile stage of the animal. Herein the animal was obedient, playful, and probably cute and cuddly as well. It was also dependent. With successive generations, the characteristics were set for life. Though the animals physically matured, they continued to behave as juveniles.

I thought this to be a reasonable concept. It allowed for animals not becoming domesticated just by living near people. It explained the animals' sometimes seemingly irrational devotion. Then I realised we are now applying the same selection procedures to people... and are in danger of creating a group of perpetual children.

Consider it in this way. We try to provide the best for our children. The ones that respond well - respect us, help us etc. - we try to keep near. The others get shown the door. The modern version of this behaviour is that the ones that please us and learn to perform tricks properly get further training. We send them to colleges and universities. There they are encouraged to continue in the ways of the juvenile, though not always with as much success as we might like! The worrying thing here is that many of the trained ones breed among themselves, and acquire the cultural impetus to bring up their offspring as they were. Domestication!

In the wider view, the distinction between these trained and untrained could be seen as increasing. The division of society into upper and lower groups, of urban areas into safe and unsafe, and population into rich and poor seems to me to reflect this. Perhaps the "haves" and the "have nots" parallel the greater and lesser domestication of people?