Repost: Playing Dead in the Face of Responsibility
Every creature on the planet has a way of dealing with fear or horror or its potential demise. It's hardwired in the instinctual system—when a predator threatens to take a creature's life or home or food, every creature has a built-in response.
The big ones are less interesting because they are generally less creative. Brute strength and big talons and monstrous jaws are easy instruments of defense. The Grizzly Bear, by virtue of his size and physical prowess, doesn't have to be creative with his response to another Grizzly Bear. Bellow loud enough to shake the trees and beat the living shit out of anything in his path.
It's the defense mechanisms of the smaller, lesser able creatures, that are truly fascinating.
Malaysian ants internally combust under threat, causing their bodies to explode (they wait until their enemies are close enough to die before detonating). Camponotus saundersi soldier ants have large glands full of poison inside their bodies. When they sense a threat, they contract their abs, causing the glands on either side of their bodies to explode and spray poison.
The Proboscis monkey gets a rage boner, spreads his legs and waves his now bright red, rock hard cock at his predator.
The Blowfish puffs itself up to look scarier than it is.
The cute little opossum has a number of tricks up its defensive sleeve. It can play dead. It can foam at the mouth in an attempt to convince its predators that it is toxic, sick or perhaps just batshit insane. It can also emit a green anal fluid that smells nearly as bad as a skunk’s offensive spray (though mercifully it can easily be washed off). Opossums playing dead actually slip into a semi-comatose state, thus removing any excitement of the kill for a predator.
Ultimately, most smaller creatures use a form of misdirection to avoid being eaten.
Human beings are among the most vulnerable creatures on the planet. No armor, no big claws, can't fucking run fast, not particularly strong. Even the strongest man on the planet (you know, the redneck fucker who can pull a tractor with his teeth or hang an anvil from his balls) is just a thin-skinned hot dog meal to a mountain lion.
So we compensate with misdirection.
American politics is not worse than it has ever been. The polarization of our population is not worse than it has ever been. It's just that our defense mechanisms, our misdirections, are becoming more apparent.
"Hey, Rage Boner Monkey! That's just a hard dick!"
"Yeah—but you have one, too!"
"Yeah—but mine is justified!!"
"So is MINE!!"
Our politics have always been blowfishes puffing up and trying to scare and intimidate each other rather than the real predators. The predators of human society are the Koch Bros. The leaders of drug cartels. The people who secretly use their vast wealth to prevent equal rights to all citizens and promote global wars. The companies that dump waste and chemicals in our water.
And puffing up or waving a bright red hard-on doesn't scare them away.
Most of us, however, do that cute little opossum trick and pretend we're comatose. When you walk by a homeless man and do nothing to help, watch a black kid get harassed by the police, stand by as an airline steward or the TSA profiles a Muslim, you're just playing dead until the moment passes. And limiting your involvement to social media is just playing dead with a keyboard clutched in your inert claws.
I once heard Roger Bonair-Agard tell a story at Grown Folk Stories wherein he related the idea that "... loud niggers are never really thugs..." meaning that the more someone—anyone—gets loud and flashes his rage boner, the less a threat he is.
The Burrow Owl can imitate the sound of a deadly snake to ward off potential aggressors. You wanna know which creature that tactic does not work on? Actual snakes.
And, in America, the actual snakes don't make a lot of noise.