Ben Novak shared this interview on democracy with me. It contains a nugget on dogs that’s striking in how true it is:

In Holland, America or Australia one rarely sees any free dogs, though human beings are allegedly free in these Western democracies. But if you go to a place like Egypt or Senegal or India you always see free dogs. In the West there are no unleashed dogs. Every dog seems to have a master. In India, Senegal, Egypt and many other African countries most dogs are without a leash. They’re free. They have freedom of movement, and the freedom to bark. This suggests there is some kind of relationship between political forms, human beings and animals, and even multi-lingualism. Dogs in India have at least two languages: one to speak with humans and another to communicate with fellow dogs. In Melbourne or New York perhaps the only place where one dog can meet another dog is in a park. Even there the master pulls the leash, or growls, refusing his or her dog permission to interact with another dog. Have scholars looked at this relationship of democracy, dogs and freedom?

There’s something of answer to this question in the interview. In short, we name things so we can recognize them. This can be both good and bad. In politics it can lead to liberty or statism. In daily life it can lead to egocentrism or altruism. In community life it can lead to biases about what’s normal. 

We forget that animals being animals is normal. It’s the opposite that isn’t. There’s something about politics in that, of course.


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