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We Live in a Zoo

What a day for a title like that, eh? What, with about a million cattle and sheep herding around D.C., trying to get an angle on how they get to be led around by the nose for the next four years…

Alas, politics isn't the core subject of this post. Rather, I would like to introduce you to someone worth paying attention to. I got an email from this gentleman last week introducing himself, and I'm sure glad he did. His name is Erwan Le Corre and he operates MovNat.

The “zoo” is a modern, global and growing phenomenon generated by the powerful combination of social conventions, technological environment and commercial pressures. Increasingly disconnected from the natural world and their true nature, zoo humans are suffering physically, mentally and spiritually.

Are you experiencing chronic pains, are you overweight, do you often feel depressed or do you suffer from frequent illnesses and general lack of vitality?
These symptoms indicate that you are experiencing the zoo human syndrome. Modern society conditions us to think that this is normal and unavoidable.

We don’t think so. Our true nature is to be strong, healthy, happy and free.

We have designed a complete education system that empowers zoo humans to experience their true nature.

That stuck an immediate chord with me, as several days earlier I had compared how we had gone soft as humans with the way domestic dogs are ill-equipped for survival on their own, unlike their genetic ancestor, the wolf.

Now, what I'd really like you to take a look at is his video. There is also a YouTube version (of significantly less quality; Later: turns out there's a 'watch in HD' link that is of superb quality) if your particular browser doesn't bring up the one on Erwan's site. The thing to take away from that is to notice how natural and functional are all the movements. This, folks, is the Gold Standard for exercising the body designed by evolution.

Finally, Chris Highcock at Conditioning Research came across Erwin as well, and went and conducted an interview that's very much worth the read. Given the political theme of the day — the inauguration and replacement of the 'old bad king' with a 'new good king,' and with everyone stumbling over everyone else to see who can more quickly and readily dispense with their individualism in exchange for "hope" and duty to the collective, I particularly liked this bit in Erwan's interview.

The zoo is not just an environment, it is a phenomenon, a process, which is designed to keep you a captive of both external and internal cages. It is something that conditions many of your behaviours: clearly it is to me a domestication system, no less. The zoo impairs our ability to experience our true nature which is to be strong, healthy, happy and free. […]

But I personally have a problem with morals or ethics when it comes to deciding what is good or what is not good for me, what is done and what's not, what I should do or what society expects me to do or would like to impose to me as some form of duty.

After all, a tool is useful, a cog in the machine is useful right? I accept no institutional duty. Free will is the most precious thing in my eyes. If I choose to be helpful to others, which I in fact often do because I tend to like others, it is because I decide so and not because I have to. The problem is, many people often think of altruism as sacrificing oneself or one's resources unconditionally for others, even for those that are total strangers to you or even if it's going to be seriously detrimental to yourself. I prefer to impose no moral code in MovNat and leave it up to each individual to decide for themselves what is best when it comes to investing their energy or risking their physical integrity for others, because each situation is different. MovNat training will greatly increase your preparedness so that, in time of need, you have the ability to respond efficiently to practical challenges.

Notice this grand distinction, folks: utility is amoral. Pay attention whenever you hear or read of a justification for something on the grounds that it's useful, functional, efficient. Think really hard.

That, my friends, is the essence of individualism, and there could be no greater contrast between that individualism and those old, tired, collectivist ideas straight form the zookeeper's manual – hauled out and polished up for those ignorant of the failures of history — delivered by the new Zookeeper-in-Chief, himself.

In fact, I wonder if 'zoo' is even the right metaphor for what we're going to get, now. I think ant farm or bee hive might be a little bit more fitting.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

19 Comments

  1. Jim on January 20, 2009 at 18:52

    Take a look at the second photo here, and tell me it doesn't look like a swarm of ants. 😉

    https://web.archive.org/web/20111015211046/http://news.cnet.com/8301-13580_3-10146314-39.html

  2. Chris H on January 20, 2009 at 15:38

    Great post Richard

    I feel very privileged that Erwan did that interview for me. There are scores of important and inspiring insights on exercise and – more importantly – attitude within it. I've read it several times and I keep picking up new things.

    He is a good guy and I think he has been impressed by the interest in his approach and that there is a paleo community on the internet of which he was unaware.

    By the way, you might recall that I live in Scotland, as far as I know not part of the united states. Yet at 5pm there were crowds in my office gathered round the TV or watching the BBC news streaming the inauguration of the messiah, all of them carried away with admiration for Obama. My cynical comments were treated like the ravings of a heretic!

  3. Tom on January 20, 2009 at 16:38

    The YouTube version is actually much better than the one on his site, if you click the 'HD' link.

    (The video on his site won't play for me, regardless of browser.)

    BTW, there's a reason your readership exploded once you dropped the politics: your blog became interesting.

  4. Jim on January 20, 2009 at 18:28

    This is probably the best post I've read today about the inauguration, even though it's not really about the inauguration.

    Your last paragraph reminds me of a story about Gurdjieff. I am paraphrasing here since I can't find the exact quote, but someone asked Gurdjieff "what is the fate of mankind on earth?" . He replied, "the fate of mankind is already decided; the only question is ants vs. bees".

    There is no surer way to destroy a society, than to shield individuals from the consequences of their actions.

  5. Tom on January 20, 2009 at 18:54

    The German philosopher Nietzsche prophesied the de-evolution of the 'last man'. A passive creature that never ventures outside of his comfort zone. Doesn't like to make waves or take risks. Follows the herd creating a society of mediocrity. Long live the 'free thinkers' that buck this trend!

    • mutagon on July 2, 2010 at 12:49

      and the “free do-ers”!

  6. Rory Hodgson on January 21, 2009 at 01:29

    Richard,

    Why do you think it is that we have become so passive?

    Also, thank you very much for sharing that video. It was inspiring. I could watch that guy jog all day — although I'd rather be doing what he's doing!
    I've started the Paleo diet, and I've still got a lot of tweaks to make (to get rid of the hunger – it's just that meat is expensive and I'm a student).

    You know it's funny, watching this video of a man performing various physical actions /didn't/ make me think of some brute force. It actually made me think that this was an intelligent, focused, purposeful creature. I don't know why, but that shot against a rock wall, of his shadow, really emphasised that. There is something truely beautiful about that man, and I don't think I've ever said that about another man before, not even the leanest, healthiest men I've seen.

    Thanks again for sharing.

  7. Richard Nikoley on January 20, 2009 at 19:15

    Yep. And just as meticulous in its geometry.

  8. Richard Nikoley on January 20, 2009 at 19:20

    If I were to wildly speculate, it might be on the order of cannibalism (literal) as the final nail in coffin for "civilization." While the zoo metaphor is a great one, I'm still partial to my friend's metaphor for modern politicized society: "cannibal pot hysteria." All politics now, turns essentially on who goes in, and who gets to feast.

  9. Rory Hodgson on January 21, 2009 at 05:02

    I realised that that question is rather simple: obviously, we live a more sedate lifestyle. What I mean is, why, with the greater freedom we have now, have we chosen to remain more insular and removed from activity, compared to, say, the outdoorsmanship attitude which grew during the 18th & 19th century, when ordinary men were actually able to take vacations and enjoy cavorting with nature?

  10. Monica on January 21, 2009 at 08:18

    Awesome post, Richard. While practically every other post I read that had anything to do with the inauguration basically complained about the state of events, you offered a positive, inspiring vision of freedom instead. I posted the YouTube video to my blog. Very inspiring. I echo what Jim said. Your post was without doubt the best inauguration post I read yesterday (though it wasn't really entirely about the inauguration –thank goodness!).

    One thing I noticed. Did you notice that this guy is running on the upper edge of the bridge instead of the safe middle? Wow.

  11. Richard Nikoley on January 21, 2009 at 09:30

    Amen to that, Todd.

  12. Richard Nikoley on January 21, 2009 at 09:37

    So passive? Essentially, the human animal, like all omnivores that eat high-energy-density animal foods have lots of time on their hands, unlike herbivores that must feed constantly. Add reason to the picture and we have the ability to not only sustain ourselves, but to build wealth. Once there's wealth, there's something to steal, so man now occupies his time rooting for the team that's going steal the most on what he believes is his behalf.

    The funny thing is, most people who heavily involve themselves in the political process believe they're not passive at all, but active. But they're only fooling themselves. They're active in the support of thieves, oppressors and slave masters (and zoo keepers).

    Regarding the meat, go with the inexpensive stuff like ground beef, chicken, and fatty cuts of meat like short ribs and such. That should be more in a student's budget. For ribs & roasts, google how to slow braise meat. Then you can make stuff and enjoy for days for pretty little money.

  13. Richard Nikoley on January 21, 2009 at 10:16

    Rory:

    The simple answer to that is that we used to have a large percentage of real men in America. Flawed, in many ways, but still men who knew how to take responsibility, to create and produce things at their own expense and terms, for their own sake and the sake of loved ones.

    Today, everyone prefers to "play a role" and look for angles.

  14. Karen on January 22, 2009 at 11:05

    As much as we might like to keep politics out of our paleo lifestyle, it would be a mistake. In 10-20 years, we may not have the choice to eat meat (or own a pet). The Animal Rights Extremists (HSUS, PETA, etc.) are engaged in an ever increasing effort to eliminate all domestic animals. They are doing it by lying to the public to get $$ and then using it to influence anti-pet, anti-animal agriculture, anti-hunting, etc., legislation nationwide. They want to eliminate our pets and our food animals. They do not believe in choice, but in imposing their beliefs on others. Complacency will allow them to win.

  15. Max on January 22, 2009 at 09:48

    Great post Richard. I said the same thing about the Inauguration ceremony…all of those people looked like ants. With all the hype around the new president we are doomed to fail and be disappointed. Free thinking is gone. The zoo analogy is spectacular. It makes so much sense. Thanks for the different view point. It was refreshing.

  16. wes on January 22, 2009 at 19:34

    Hey there. Just throwing my thoughts out there too. Obama wasn't my favorite, and I haven't taken the "hopium" but I think what happened on inauguration day was inspiring. Just for the fact that there was an african-american president. I don't think he'll be able to make a huge difference (although I though the same with Bush ugh), but it marks a difference in our society.
    A lot of people come to this site for the Devany offerings of knowledge and the hope of someday being thin. These people are treated differently in society. Perhaps you felt discriminated against because of obesity. There are people with scars and worse marching this land for civil rights. The simple right to eat bad food in horrible restaurants is recent (think denny's). To see a black president is pretty cool, shows we're aiming at what this country was founded for,and may automatically garner a little respect from the rest of the globe. Not that it really matters. Plus he play a power law sport! As far as an obese president. Hopefully never happens.

    More inspiring to me though was Aretha Franklin singing country tis of thee. FReedom….

    Maybe it's because I hadn't read any other coverage that yours affected my so.

    Saw these natural movement videos from conditioning research. Man, what a beautiful place to train. Train? Live. Of course no one is perfect he seems to like long course triathlon? Also seems he's always been svelt. Hope your journey turns to be more inspiring Richard.

  17. Dana on February 3, 2009 at 15:19

    The simple truth is that we're expected to arrange ourselves into nations rather than tribes, and the food is all locked up. It's one thing to want to protect wealth that you've worked hard to obtain, but food (as with health care or shelter) should not be considered wealth, but instead, a human right. You talk a lot about paleo this and paleo that, well, in paleo times people shared a lot more, and people were able to take risks and work for themselves more because there was no state to run their lives and no greedy rich guy with an angle to take their food away and lock it up.

    In paleo times I could just go hunt something or pick something off a tree. These days I'm likely to be arrested for that if it involves going on someone's "private property." Land ownership wasn't a paleo value either.

    Don't get caught up in the envy of the upper classes and the desire to be one of them. They are part of the zoo too; a zookeeper is an employee of the zoo, after all, not the owner of it and certainly not outside of it.

    I don't think "zoo" is a good analogy, anyhow. We're domesticated, just like dogs. Zoo animals are by definition locked-up wild creatures. The few wild humans still in existence are constantly being eroded away by private property and domesticated wealth concerns, if not being converted away from their wild cultures by well-meaning(?) Christian missionaries.

    You're not wild either. You were born into the kennel and you're still here along with the rest of us.

    I really think the impulse that has so many voting Democratic year after year isn't a conscious desire to steal or to find an "angle" but perhaps a yearning to get back to a time when human social groups were smaller and more intimate and people could freely care for one another when it was needed–and when people didn't have to jump through stupid pointless hoops just to get something to eat.

    Libertarianism, if that's what you're espousing, really doesn't provide an answer because it doesn't do anything to reverse our domestication and it does nothing to smash the state.

    Not that I think anybody really can do anything about the situation at this point. I think it will have to play itself out until it collapses. Meanwhile I don't blame African-Americans for being enthusiastic about Obama even if I do agree he's not half the Messiah they seem to believe he is. They've been even more domesticated than whites have, if that's possible, and they've never before now been able to believe they would ever see one of their own in the highest office in the land. That's a big deal to them, just like it will be a big deal to me if a woman is ever elected.

    Sorry for the text wall. But the "rugged individualist" bit gets tiring.

  18. Richard Nikoley on February 5, 2009 at 12:34

    I somehow missed seeing this until last evening.

    Re food as a human right…

    By what means, and at whose expense? Food, as are most all human values necessary for survival, must be PRODUCED in some way, just like animals must produce theirs by going out and hunting it. So, how do you plan to have it produced so that everyone may access it as a right? Of course, those same points go to health care and shelter.

    I'm anti-state, BTW; anarchist, if you prefer. Have been for 15ish years.

    Re private property…

    We're territorial animals, just like most. In order to exercise a natural right to our lives, we must be free to act to obtain, produce, keep and defend those values. And a rational system of land ownership is a perfectly legitimate way to go about that. However, I think such systems ought to exist by voluntary association between small groups of people.

    Re voting for democrats…

    What everyone wants is to have their own values enacted as the law of the land, paid for at someone else's expense. I detest voting. A fried calls it "cannibal pot hysteria," and I couldn't agree more. The chief antagonism in modern politics is who goes in (to the pot) and who gets to feast.

    All that said, most of my (political) thinking nowadays is informed by the realization that we evolved to account for the values and actions of about 30 people. In other words, everyone is a valuable part of the group with real potential to influence the group. In the context of voting, everything should be unanimous. In other words, each individual has a choice of accepting the wishes of the others, or going his own way.

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