An uniquely insightful slab of meat

I must confess to a certain unedifying, if only occasional, habit: poring over the stories of people who got themselves hurt or killed through breathtaking displays of stupidity. Such online rubber-necking is popularly catered for by the Darwin Awards website; but I tend to find more cause for morbid fascination in the antics of a class of people who might be termed 'Doolittles'.

The Doolittle, as the name suggests, is a person who thinks that he or she can make friends with dangerous wild animals. A common pattern is for the Doolittle to experience a long run of luck with this unwise show of affection, which gives rise to an inner conviction of his or her "special connection" with the predatory species of choice, before the fantasy is dispelled in a few violent moments and with a great deal of blood. Unfortunately, what might be a case of individual natural deselection often results in the death or injury of sane bystanders, for Doolittles are hardly shy about dragging other people into their lunacy.

One example of a Doolittle would be Dr. Erich Ritter, who had most of his calf bitten off after standing for more than an hour in shark-infested water...to prove that sharks aren't really dangerous. A more serious case was that of Sandra Herold, who pampered her 200-pound pet chimpanzee and treated him as a "son", until he decided to go on a rampage and rip off her female friend's face. But if there is a King of the Doolittles, it is probably Timothy Treadwell, who went on regular expeditions in a wildlife sanctuary to live with grizzly bears - and ended up, together with his less enthusiastic girlfriend, furnishing a live supper for a bear that attacked his unprotected camp.

It strikes me that Doolittles, for all of their back-to-nature fantasies, are decidely un-natural products of a peculiar kind of modern human society. For one thing, I notice that they are invariably of white European descent; to go out into the wilderness and play pat-a-cake with dangerous predators does not seem to be a general human need. It also seems to me that their psychology does not exist in isolation, but forms the more extreme end of a spectrum - the rest of which fills up with progressives intent on flooding European countries with aggressive, unassimilable Third Worlders, who have long been perceived by them as "noble savages" analogous to the Doolittle's "pets".

Challenging conventional narratives about sharks
If this is the case, then Doolittles - by virtue of being a more extreme manifestation of the psychological type - can teach us a great deal about progressives. So let us first jot down, in  no particular order, the distinctive characteristics of the Doolittle:

  • Close, chummy, affectionate behaviour towards wild animals, and efforts to close the human-animal gap by assimilating one to the other (Treadwell not only claimed to "love" the bears, but went as far as to identify himself with them; Herold dressed her face-eating chimp in human clothes and fed him on lobster);
  • A tendency to downplay the very obvious dangerousness of wild animals, and blame humans for being overly paranoid, jumpy, aggressive etc. (e.g. Ritter's "theories");
  •  Conceited personal fantasies about possessing a "special connection" with wild animals or a "special ability" to handle them safely, which is of course denied to the majority of human beings (in truth, this is an illusion created by the tolerance of the animals);
  •  A moralistic and contemptuous rejection of other human beings (e.g. Ritter's belief that everyone except him was wrong about the dangerousness of sharks, and Treadwell's practice of acting like a bear to scare away tourists), which can develop into a self-aggrandising 'saviour act' towards the animals (Treadwell claimed to be "protecting" the nationally protected Alaskan bears, and fulminated against "poachers" who apparently did not exist)
  •  A willingness to 'proselytise' for Doolittleism and thus put others in harm's way.

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