THE HUMAN ZOO
A Zoologist's Study Of The Urban Animal
This is a highly readable but thoroughly irritating book. Morris is a forceful stylist but the same quick flow of discourse which can be insightful about modern society often edges over into blunt absolutes or dire predictions open to question. In a chapter discussing man's reaction to too little or too much stimulation, for example, he remarks, "In infancy there is the example of prolonged thumb-sucking, which results from too little contact and inter-action with the mother." Or in a chapter dealing with race relations ("In-Groups and Out-Groups") he blithely says, "A second American Civil War seems to be imminent." in essence Morris' point is that life on our over-humanly crowded planet mimics the unnatural existence of captive animals in zoos. Under such conditions animals may become homosexual, change their eating and sleeping habits, pace to and fro, get bored, enraged, break down. It follows then that "natural" man in "unnatural" society exhibits the same aberrations for the same reasons: isolation, restriction of territory, lack of stimulation, etc. But man today is not the sum of all mammalian or even higher primate behavior, nor are his sexual behavior patterns or his need for stimulation neatly contained in ten phases of six principles. It is this kind of constant reductio ad absurdum that weakens the value and invites the kind of controversy Morris' books have generally provoked.