I made a mistake in Berlin. On Tuesday, in my ongoing quest to be unacceptably insubordinate whilst sparklingly competent, I gave the talks I wasn't covering a miss and went to the Berlin Zoo. I hadn't been a zoo in twelve years and about as soon as I entered and ran to the ape section I remembered why. I don't have much of a problem with seeing most animals in captivity; I think most of them are probably deeply relieved nothing's trying to eat them, or that there's enough food just sitting there, or that, if it's a proper zoo, there are others of their kind and they can fuck and communicate.
But some animals need more than that, of course, and hoofing it to the ape section right away reminded me of that. Chimpanzees and gorillas are ugly hair people, and they're in small enclosures, and their tits are visibly bored off. They look like characters from Oz during a bit of violence downtime. As much as I hate to sound in accordance with people who annoy me as badly as Richard Dawkins and PETA, here it goes: it was visibly obvious they're people - ugly hairy people in a gawking-jail - or that we're ugly naked apes, imprisoning hairy apes and gawking. They have our mannerisms and features and visible symptoms of our mental agonies. It was a fucking downer, and while it's totally unfair, it was the first thing in four days that made me remember I was in the old Nazi capital.
The only great thing about it - besides the largeness of the revelation that they are ugly hairy people and should be respected as such - was that a bunch of moronic Italian teenagers were standing next to me next to the gorilla enclosure, going on about how ugly and stupid the greyback looked, and then a mouse popped out of a nearby hedge, and they freaked the fuck out. It was great. Mock something that shares most of our genetic code and could tear your arms off when a nice big ditch is separating you, and then lose your shit when approached by a harmless overfed rodent. Beautiful. They were boys, too.
The other thing that was deeply depressing, besides the gorillas and chimpanzees (the orang-utans, surprisingly, weren't depressing at all - they seemed to be having a marvelous time playing on a swingy rope-maze), and maybe one of the most depressing things I've ever seen, was Knut the polar bear. Now, I'm not a fucking animal psychologist. But that poor fucker obviously has no fucking idea he's a polar bear, and on getting back home I've read one of his handlers agrees. He was pacing back and forth on the part of his enclosure closest to the audience - back and forth - I watched for ten minutes, went away for half an hour, came back, he was still pacing - another half hour, still pacing - staring at the people, sort of tossing his head around and struggling to make eye contact with them. It was the worst thing I'd ever seen an animal do when it wasn't in actual physical pain.
So that's it for me and zoos. No more. It was dreadful. I'm still not opposed to them in principle but there are some species who are going to lose their fucking minds in there, and some animals who are going to lose their fucking minds if they can't remember what kind of animals they are . . . why do they need all the animals in there, that's what I don't get. Why isn't there some sort of acknowledgement that it's going to drive some species apeshit? I don't know. I'm done, though. No more. Next time I'll just get some pay-per-view porn in the hotel room.