Wednesday, May 16, 2007

To a Mouse

My youngest (and I'm sure he would say, best looking) law partner knows of my peculiar affinity for stories about chimpanzees. Consequently, he sent me an interesting one the other day about a woman in Europe who is trying to get guardianship of a chimp. In orfder to do that, she has to prove that the chimp is human. She is trying to do this through expert testimony, the lynch pin of the argument being that chimps have about 98% of the DNA you and I do. While I have certain doubts as to whether chimps are human, I contacted, via e-mail, the author of the story, a Scottish newspaperman, to see if I could assist the attorneys involved in trying to bring about the adoption. The world being what it is today, I received an instant reply from a very gracious Scot who told me that he had picked the story up off of a European wire service, he gave me a number of nother reporter to call (in Scandanavia). Due to a rather incessant billable hours commitment, I chose not to follow the story any further.

One of the things that intrigued me about the story was a scientist speaking for the defense perspective. He seemed incensed at the whole idea and announced that mice have 90% of the DNA we had and quetioned whether the world was ready to give 90% of human rights to mice. Well that did not sound so bad to me. I have nothing against mice. I asked my daughter her opinion of the matter that night. Her response was "what more rights do the mice want ? They have more than 90% of our rights now. They have freedom of movement, can eat when and where, and mostly what, they want, sleep when they are tired and mate with whomever (or is it whichever) is in the general vicinity. My daughter was confusing rights with the absence of the exercise of authority. She has not yet spent $175,000 of her parents money, over a four year period, to live the latter while she studies the former. Mice have only the rights we choose to give them and a good many of the "little white mice" species, far from having rights, live a rather horrible life ingesting tobbaco and other drugs and running through mazes in the name of science.

The great Scottish poet Burns, thought that the difference between people and mice was that mice had no psychological baggage of guilt or anxiety. "Still thou art blessed compared with me, the present only toucheth thee, but ouch I backward cast my eye on prospects fear, and forward though I can not see, I guess and fear."Burns made this observation after writing a number of lines about the mouse in question scurrying around to put together a nest before the winter frost set in. If Burns really thought that mice did not worry, then why was this particular mouse so concerned about getting his nest built on time ? According to Burns, any member of the species would, at that time of the year , be expected to be lounging around in the sun, or, looking to catch a grain filled freight to Florida for the winter.Frankly, that's how Burns lived his life. He was not really a poet so much as he was a song writer who spent all the time that he could drinking whiskey and debauching women. Still, at the end of the day, hundreds of milions of people, if not mice, in the English speaking world sing his words at the stroke of midnight every New Years Eve. He work is in every major English Poetry anthology ever published. For all of my responsible ways, I have a mostly unread blog and one poem on a Cowboy Poetry web site about Wyatt Earp. But Burns had no where near the "rights" that I have. His whole country was in subjugation to the English. He could have been arrested, drafted and probably simply killed by authorities from outside of his native land on the most minor of whims. I can legally say anything I want to any government official and(apparently) carry a Glock with a 17 bullet clip down Congress Avenue at high noon, if I choose. Which of us has the greater life ? That is the question that the chimp needs to be asking himself as he petitions the court for human status. Oh, wait a minute, that's right,the chimp did not petition, someone(without asking him) petitioned for him to be a human. Does anyone see the irony here ?

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