The Animal Of The Dative Case

Homo sapiens has been given many labels as a kind of animal: “Man is a political animal”, “Man is the tool-making animal”, “Man is the only animal that feels shame, or has reason to”, and so forth. My own contribution has been “Man is the Enslaving Mammal”, the only one that can make others do his work for him.

But another one comes to mind, expropriating a common medieval joke about the papal curia, that the only case to which they responded was the Dative. I once knew a woman whom I called “Mlle. Tu-me-donnes” after her favourite conversational opening, but it occurs to me that the same could be said of the species as a whole. Just as Shaw’s Joan of Arc called the English “the Goddamns” because that was what she heard them say the most, I wonder whether there are extra-terrestrials out there who call earthlings “the Gimmes”.

We have invented courtesy, I fear, to disguise from ourselves the truth that our basic mode of interaction with our fellows is ‘Gimme! Gimme!’ So we dress it up. The miracle is finding a person who is content doing something by himself without demanding from others. This may be due to enlightenment and sanctity, or having had his spirit crushed early in life; unfortunately, the outward effects are much the same.

It occurs to me also that the true difference between the normal and what we call the “psychopath”, often described in terms of the means he uses to attain his ends, may more accurately be described in terms of whether or not he accepts not getting what he wants.

Posted on April 5, 2009 at 20:11 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: MONKEY BUSINESS, Beings and Gentlebeings

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