Wild autonomy in an age of political domination

Often I’ve looked into the eyes of wild animals. The animal will respond in one of three ways. It might avert its gaze, avoiding or ignoring me completely. In certain instances, as in confronting a predator, my gaze could prove confrontational, provoking an attack. Most commonly, though, an animal will return my gaze with a blank and dignified stare. Its eyes suggest to me that, despite our shared existence, its perception and consciousness are not my own.

Now reverse the scenario. I am the wild animal. I return the gaze of those whose intent and values I can’t fathom. But I must accommodate the encounter. I can’t ignore it or abdicate my responses to others. Nor will I be provoked, reacting blindly in rage. So I choose the third return: my gaze will assert my self-contained difference. I will hold to my nature. But I will not be smug. I won’t assume a superiority as I accommodate or reject the perceptions of others.

Wild animals are utterly free from domination. They resist when they can. And if they must submit to overwhelming, diminishing forces, they do so not as acceptance but as a matter of existential course. I remember, daily, to rejoin their ranks.