Thursday, November 24, 2011

Kitchen of the Future: Vermin

Mouse Trap vs mind trap

For those in the US: Happy Thanksgiving. I just wanted to put up a short Kitchen post today for those sneaking away from the family for a moment of peace and quiet.

A few months back Ambling Along The Aquaduct had a great post on constitutional personhood and the future of human rights that included the following passage taken from an article in the Emory Law Journal by Scott Bennett, "Chimera and the Continuum of Humanity: Erasing the Line of Constitutional Personhood":

Presently, Irving Weissman, the director of Stanford University's Institute of Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine, is contemplating pushing the envelope of chimera research even further by producing human-mouse chimera whose brains would be composed of one hundred percent human cells. Weissman notes that the mice would be carefully watched: if they developed a mouse brain architecture, they would be used for research, but if they developed a human brain architecture or any hint of humanness, they would be killed.
John Hancock Tower; the living architecture of a Brookyln 'vertical lawn'

The passage has stuck with me because I live in a small coach house off an enclosed courtyard. One wall of the courtyard is covered with a thick mat of ivy. My neighbors and I, who share the space, refer to it as our vertical lawn. It is also a mousey high-rise. Every spring our lawn comes alive with a new generation of tiny mice (each, no bigger than the end of my thumb). These especially tiny juveniles don't know enough to not clown around on a vine stalk that is three stories high, so for a few weeks each spring the vertical lawn rains young foolhardy rodents down on our slate paved courtyard. I pity the fallen, but file their misfortune under the rubric of Darwin Awards, and move on. As the summer wears on we are left with a sharper group of wiser and really small, extremely fast mice that dart in and out of sight - but no longer plunge to their death. They are a pleasant additions to the life of the courtyard - like squirrels at the park.

Here's the thing: when the weather turns (like it is now), and the little mice need a place to live, my house is old and permeable. I'm a bachelor and habitually keep almost nothing but condiments in my kitchen, but that doesn't seem to mater - they want the warmth. Every winter I am faced with a little tribe of mice looking to make a new life under my stove or behind my cabinets. If the mice didn't shit on my kitchen counter they would be welcome to stay the winter in my place. But they do shit on the counter. So every winter I am forced to trap and poison those tiny bastards and feel wretched about it. (I've tried safe traps too, but they never seem to end the problem - it's like unloading a clown car.) I don't like to kill unnecessarily, but mouse shit on my countertop makes these killings totally necessary as far as I am concerned. 
Of Mice and Men

They haven't appeared yet this year, but they will. What I keep thinking about is, if I knew that the mice had "developed a human brain architecture" - what would I do? I know scientists are trying to recreate dinosaurs - more power to them. Michael Critcheon's fears are not mine. My fears are that eventually a mousey chimera is going to go ferrel and I will be faced by a rodent, with clear traits of humaness, and I will have to decide whether or not to murder them or live with their shit on my counter. I am not against killing animals. I eat meat, I have friends who hunt. I am a member of a predatory species. But I feel strongly that it is wrong to kill human beings. I am not a pacifist, but believe war should be an absolute last restort, carefully targeted to avoid killing civilian, not a pre-emptive act of indiscriminate "shock and awe" (fuck those guys). I believe that any society that has the means to isolate and contain dangerous individuals, executing criminals is a morally reprehensible absurdity. I like to imagine that mousey/human chimera might have have enough humanness that we can come to an understanding: don't shit on the counter tops and your welcome to stay the winter. 

That said - if the day comes when we face a Neural Cherynobl, and I have to deal with sewer rats exhibiting "any hint of humanness" - I can't imagine being so hospitable. It is that idea I find most disturbing; a future I truly dread. That I would dehumanize a humanized animal. That humanness might someday become linked in my mind with vermin. Happy Thanksgiving. 
The Pepper Spray Cop; The Orkin Man

1 comment:

  1. Do you know Adam Zaretksy's work?
    And silly, but Adam in a work of mine: