human zooSomeone, somewhere, somehow has missed a trick. Or quite possibly I am not doing my research well enough. But while on the telephone to a friend I had a brainwave. Now before divulging this brainwave, I do consider it intellectual property of the highest order: therefore publishing it on my blog that nobody reads seems a fairly secure way of recording the data securely “in the cloud” (don’t get me started). The idea is one preposition, and two nouns: the human zoo. I envisage two responses to this: 1) what a stupid idea – that defeats the point of a zoo and 2) that’s cruel. In answer to the first there are two definitions for ‘zoo’. The first is a collection of animals typically wild, in a public place, for study, conservation or display to the public. I will concede therefore that the concept of a human zoo would only hold perfectly to the term we are most familiar with if the creatures on show were indeed wild. Here we reach a bit of a moot point: can a human be wild? Must we define ‘wild’: “Of an animal or plant living of growing in the natural environment, not domesticated or cultivated.” In this sense then one could argue that a human can be both wild: grow-up in their natural surroundings (like New-Guinea untouched tribes). But at the same time, if the idea of domesticated pertains to humans then how can a human be wild? This would imply that an untouched tribe could have domesticated dogs, but still be considered that they are, themselves, still wild… We reach a bit of a regress and could endlessly define terms until we converged on an absolute definition or- most likely – not. Simplest thing to do is say here that humans, as a species do not constitute animals in the sense we assume, therefore the notion of wild is an irrelevance.

Either way, the idea of a human zoo ripping people from their natural habitats and shoving them into a zoo smacks somewhat of the victorians, empire and travelling freak circuses. So in answer to question 2) yes, invading the lives of those who have never been exposed to anything else would indeed be cruel – and not at all my point!

human zoon2What of the second definition of zoo? “A situation characterised by confusion and disorder”. In this instance zoo becomes adjectival and synonymous with terms like chaotic and anarchistic. I venture that this sort of description makes the London underground, Houses of Parliament, any rugby match, the perfect embodiments of human zoo.

This is not my idea: my idea is more of a sociological one: Would it not be incredible, perhaps an exhibition in the Tate Modern, for there to be a collection of different peoples and cultures that the public could interact with. I suppose it would be a voluntary thing. But it would be excellent if you could bring together people from different cultures in one place. (And I am not talking about the UN – for which both definitions of ‘zoo’ would apply) One could walk around and go to the ‘German stand’ (imagine the humour of that area), or the Costa Rican area, or the Israli zone (although it will be hard to establish just where that goes) and talk to people from that nation, paid, or volunteers to interact with the public and give an insight into their lives and culture.

Anyone who has partaken in the ancient art of ‘people-watching’ will instantly see the attraction of this! Somewhat like the game of ‘spot the profession’ on the London Underground, I believe most normal people have an unnecessary fascination in the lives of others. Look at all the gossip magazines in the newsagents if you are still on the fence!

But I should explain that the inspiration for this comes from a friend of mine, who talking to simply makes me laugh – it is not that he is a funny guy, he is actually rather drab; it is his life long method acted performance as a general disaster that wins him this comedy accolade. This is the guy who, in two months lost two pairs of glasses and broke his other pair… Leaving him with a choice, wear his prescription sunglasses for the duration (which he deemed was the right choice for watching presentations inside on a projector) or wear a pair that had lost both one arm, one lens and most of the rim of the right eye, leaving the nose piece in tact. He could only wear the second pair as a kind of mono glass and had to keep his head tilted at strange angles! For some reason the mono glasses he wore outside when digging in the sunshine, based on the logic that he didn’t want to ruin his remaining working pair! The analogy is of owning two cars – one being stolen and you not using the other for fear of something happening to it and using a rusty old bike instead (don’t worry: he owns one of these as well!). The same guy who, a week before going to Vietnam, sent his passport to the Cambodian embassy for a visa, because he thought that Cambodia was “like Wales – so basically counted”. human zoo 3My query: if you know they are different countries why not send it to the right one!?!? His reply: “didn’t think it mattered”.

As such I attribute the idea to this great individual and I nominate him and Boris Johnson to represent the UK in the Human Zoo!