Summary Of James Cones A Black Theology Of Liberation

Wednesday, December 1, 2021 7:17:37 PM

Summary Of James Cones A Black Theology Of Liberation



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Thousands of plovers and sand-coursers run over the beach, searching their food, whistling, and simply enjoying life. Further on, on almost each wave, a duck is rocking, while higher up you notice the flocks of the Casarki ducks. Exuberant life swarms everywhere. But as soon as they approach, their presence is signalled by dozens of voluntary sentries, and hundreds of gulls and terns set to chase the robber.

Maddened by hunger, the robber soon abandons his usual precautions: he suddenly dashes into the living mass; but, attacked from all sides, he again is compelled to retreat. From sheer despair he falls upon the wild ducks; but the intelligent, social birds rapidly gather in a flock and fly away if the robber is an erne; they plunge into the lake if it is a falcon; or they raise a cloud of water-dust and bewilder the assailant if it is a kite. In the face of an exuberant life, the ideally-armed robber must be satisfied with the off-fall of that life.

The air, near and far, is, so to say, full with fowls. The oyster-catcher is renowned for its readiness to attack the birds of prey. The barge is known for its watchfulness, and it easily becomes the leader of more placid birds. The turnstone, when surrounded by comrades belonging to more energetic species, is a rather timorous bird; but it undertakes to keep watch for the security of the commonwealth when surrounded by smaller birds. Nature is variety itself, offering all possible varieties of characters, from the basest to the highest: and that is why she cannot be depicted by any sweeping assertion.

Coming together at nesting-time is so common with most birds that more examples are scarcely needed. As to the protection derived by the weakest birds from their unions, it is evident. That excellent observer, Dr. The little peaceful birds had no fear of their rapacious neighbour; they never let it approach to their colony. They immediately surrounded it and chased it, so that it had to make off at once.

Life in societies does not cease when the nesting period is over; it begins then in a new form. The young broods gather in societies of youngsters, generally including several species. Social life is practised at that time chiefly for its own sake — partly for security, but chiefly for the pleasures derived from it. And, finally, we have that immense display of mutual aid among birds-their migrations — which I dare not even enter upon in this place. Sufficient to say that birds which have lived for months in small bands scattered over a wide territory gather in thousands; they come together at a given place, for several days in succession, before they start, and they evidently discuss the particulars of the journey.

Some species will indulge every afternoon in flights preparatory to the long passage. All wait for their tardy congeners, and finally they start in a certain well chosen direction — a fruit of accumulated collective experience — the strongest flying at the head of the band, and relieving one another in that difficult task. They cross the seas in large bands consisting of both big and small birds, and when they return next spring they repair to the same spot, and, in most cases, each of them takes possession of the very same nest which it had built or repaired the previous year.

This subject is so vast, and yet so imperfectly studied; it offers so many striking illustrations of mutual-aid habits, subsidiary to the main fact of migration — each of which would, however, require a special study — that I must refrain from entering here into more details. I can only cursorily refer to the numerous and animated gatherings of birds which take place, always on the same spot, before they begin their long journeys north or south, as also those which one sees in the north, after the birds have arrived at their breeding-places on the Yenisei or in the northern counties of England.

For many days in succession — sometimes one month — they will come together every morning for one hour, before flying in search of food — perhaps discussing the spot where they are going to build their nests. The birds which are not exactly migratory, but slowly move northwards and southwards with the seasons, also perform these peregrinations in flocks. So far from migrating isolately, in order to secure for each separate individual the advantages of better food or shelter which are to be found in another district — they always wait for each other, and gather in flocks, before they move north or south, in accordance with the season.

Going now over to mammals, the first thing which strikes us is the overwhelming numerical predominance of social species over those few carnivores which do not associate. The plateaus, the Alpine tracts, and the Steppes of the Old and New World are stocked with herds of deer, antelopes, gazelles, fallow deer, buffaloes, wild goats and sheep, all of which are sociable animals. When the Europeans came to settle in America, they found it so densely peopled with buffaloes, that pioneers had to stop their advance when a column of migrating buffaloes came to cross the route they followed; the march past of the dense column lasting sometimes for two and three days.

And when the Russians took possession of Siberia they found it so densely peopled with deer, antelopes, squirrels, and other sociable animals, that the very conquest of Siberia was nothing but a hunting expedition which lasted for two hundred years; while the grass plains of Eastern Africa are still covered with herds composed of zebra, the hartebeest, and other antelopes. Not long ago the small streams of Northern America and Northern Siberia were peopled with colonies of beavers, and up to the seventeenth century like colonies swarmed in Northern Russia. The flat lands of the four great continents are still covered with countless colonies of mice, ground-squirrels, marmots, and other rodents.

In the lower latitudes of Asia and Africa the forests are still the abode of numerous families of elephants, rhinoceroses, and numberless societies of monkeys. In the far north the reindeer aggregate in numberless herds; while still further north we find the herds of the musk-oxen and numberless bands of polar foxes. The coasts of the ocean are enlivened by flocks of seals and morses; its waters, by shoals of sociable cetaceans; and even in the depths of the great plateau of Central Asia we find herds of wild horses, wild donkeys, wild camels, and wild sheep.

How trifling, in comparison with them, are the numbers of the carnivores! And how false, therefore, is the view of those who speak of the animal world as if nothing were to be seen in it but lions and hyenas plunging their bleeding teeth into the flesh of their victims! One might as well imagine that the whole of human life is nothing but a succession of war massacres. Association and mutual aid are the rule with mammals. We find social habits even among the carnivores, and we can only name the cat tribe lions, tigers, leopards, etc.

As to the great tribe of the dogs, it is eminently sociable, and association for hunting purposes may be considered as eminently characteristic of its numerous species. It is well known, in fact, that wolves gather in packs for hunting, and Tschudi left an excellent description of how they draw up in a half-circle, surround a cow which is grazing on a mountain slope, and then, suddenly appearing with a loud barking, make it roll in the abyss. During severe winters the packs of wolves grow so numerous as to become a danger for human settlements, as was the case in France some five-and-forty years ago. The prairie-wolves Canis latrans are known to associate in bands of from twenty to thirty individuals when they chase a buffalo occasionally separated from its herd.

Hyenas always live in societies and hunt in packs, and the hunting organizations of the painted lycaons are highly praised by Cumming. Nay, even foxes, which, as a rule, live isolated in our civilized countries, have been seen combining for hunting purposes. Even some bears live in societies where they are not disturbed by man. Thus Steller saw the black bear of Kamtchatka in numerous packs, and the polar bears are occasionally found in small groups.

Even the unintelligent insectivores do not always disdain association. However, it is especially with the rodents, the ungulata, and the ruminants that we find a highly developed practice of mutual aid. The squirrels are individualist to a great extent. Each of them builds its own comfortable nest, and accumulates its own provision. Their inclinations are towards family life, and Brehm found that a family of squirrels is never so happy as when the two broods of the same year can join together with their parents in a remote corner of a forest. And yet they maintain social relations. The inhabitants of the separate nests remain in a close intercourse, and when the pine-cones become rare in the forest they inhabit, they emigrate in bands.

As to the black squirrels of the Far West, they are eminently sociable. Apart from the few hours given every day to foraging, they spend their lives in playing in numerous parties. And when they multiply too rapidly in a region, they assemble in bands, almost as numerous as those of locusts, and move southwards, devastating the forests, the fields, and the gardens; while foxes, polecats, falcons, and nocturnal birds of prey follow their thick columns and live upon the individuals remaining behind.

The ground-squirrel — a closely-akin genus — is still more sociable. It is given to hoarding, and stores up in its subterranean halls large amounts of edible roots and nuts, usually plundered by man in the autumn. According to some observers, it must know something of the joys of a miser. And yet it remains sociable. It always lives in large villages, and Audubon, who opened some dwellings of the hackee in the winter, found several individuals in the same apartment; they must have stored it with common efforts.

The large tribe, of the marmots, which includes the three large genuses of Arctomys , Cynomys , and Spermophilus , is still more sociable and still more intelligent. They also prefer having each one its own dwelling; but they live in big villages. That terrible enemy of the crops of South Russia — the souslik — of which some ten millions are exterminated every year by man alone, lives in numberless colonies; and while the Russian provincial assemblies gravely discuss the means of getting rid of this enemy of society, it enjoys life in its thousands in the most joyful way.

All kinds of rapacious birds and beasts of prey having proved powerless, the last word of science in this warfare is the inoculation of cholera! The villages of the prairie-dogs in America are one of the loveliest sights. As far as the eye can embrace the prairie, it sees heaps of earth, and on each of them a prairie-dog stands, engaged in a lively conversation with its neighbours by means of short barkings.

As soon as the approach of man is signalled, all plunge in a moment into their dwellings; all have disappeared as by enchantment. But if the danger is over, the little creatures soon reappear. Whole families come out of their galleries and indulge in play. The young ones scratch one another, they worry one another, and display their gracefulness while standing upright, and in the meantime the old ones keep watch. They go visiting one another, and the beaten footpaths which connect all their heaps testify to the frequency of the visitations. In short, the best naturalists have written some of their best pages in describing the associations of the prairie-dogs of America, the marmots of the Old World, and the polar marmots of the Alpine regions.

And yet, I must make, as regards the marmots, the same remark as I have made when speaking of the bees. They have maintained their fighting instincts, and these instincts reappear in captivity. But in their big associations, in the face of free Nature, the unsociable instincts have no opportunity to develop, and the general result is peace and harmony. Even such harsh animals as the rats, which continually fight in our cellars, are sufficiently intelligent not to quarrel when they plunder our larders, but to aid one another in their plundering expeditions and migrations, and even to feed their invalids.

As to the beaver-rats or musk-rats of Canada, they are extremely sociable. In their villages, always disposed on the shores of lakes and rivers, they take into account the changing level of water; their domeshaped houses, which are built of beaten clay interwoven with reeds, have separate corners for organic refuse, and their halls are well carpeted at winter time; they are warm, and, nevertheless, well ventilated. As to the beavers, which are endowed, as known, with a most sympathetic character, their astounding dams and villages, in which generations live and die without knowing of any enemies but the otter and man, so wonderfully illustrate what mutual aid can achieve for the security of the species, the development of social habits, and the evolution of intelligence, that they are familiar to all interested in animal life.

Let me only remark that with the beavers, the muskrats, and some other rodents, we already find the feature which will also be distinctive of human communities — that is, work in common. I pass in silence the two large families which include the jerboa, the chinchilla, the biscacha , and the tushkan , or underground hare of South Russia, though all these small rodents might be taken as excellent illustrations of the pleasures derived by animals from social life. At any rate, our common hares, which do not gather in societies for life in common, and which are not even endowed with intense parental feelings, cannot live without coming together for play.

Dietrich de Winckell, who is considered to be among the best acquainted with the habits of hares, describes them as passionate players, becoming so intoxicated by their play that a hare has been known to take an approaching fox for a playmate. Their tempers are too widely different not to be an obstacle to friendship. Life in societies is again the rule with the large family of horses, which includes the wild horses and donkeys of Asia, the zebras, the mustangs, the cimarrones of the Pampas, and the half-wild horses of Mongolia and Siberia.

They all live in numerous associations made up of many studs, each of which consists of a number of mares under the leadership of a male. These numberless inhabitants of the Old and the New World, badly organized on the whole for resisting both their numerous enemies and the adverse conditions of climate, would soon have disappeared from the surface of the earth were it not for their sociable spirit. When a beast of prey approaches them, several studs unite at once; they repulse the beast and sometimes chase it: and neither the wolf nor the bear, not even the lion, can capture a horse or even a zebra as long as they are not detached from the herd.

When a drought is burning the grass in the prairies, they gather in herds of sometimes 10, individuals strong, and migrate. And when a snow-storm rages in the Steppes, each stud keeps close together, and repairs to a protected ravine. But if confidence disappears, or the group has been seized by panic, and disperses, the horses perish and the survivors are found after the storm half dying from fatigue. Union is their chief arm in the struggle for life, and man is their chief enemy. Before his increasing numbers the ancestors of our domestic horse the Equus Przewalskii , so named by Polyakoff have preferred to retire to the wildest and least accessible plateaus on the outskirts of Thibet, where they continue to live, surrounded by carnivores, under a climate as bad as that of the Arctic regions, but in a region inaccessible to man.

Many striking illustrations of social life could be taken from the life of the reindeer, and especially of that large division of ruminants which might include the roebucks, the fallow deer, the antelopes, the gazelles, the ibex, and, in fact, the whole of the three numerous families of the Antelopides, the Caprides, and the Ovides. Their watchfulness over the safety of their herds against attacks of carnivores; the anxiety displayed by all individuals in a herd of chamois as long as all of them have not cleared a difficult passage over rocky cliffs; the adoption of orphans; the despair of the gazelle whose mate, or even comrade of the same sex, has been killed; the plays of the youngsters, and many other features, could be mentioned.

But perhaps the most striking illustration of mutual support is given by the occasional migrations of fallow deer, such as I saw once on the Amur. When I crossed the high plateau and its border ridge, the Great Khingan, on my way from Transbaikalia to Merghen, and further travelled over the high prairies on my way to the Amur, I could ascertain how thinly-peopled with fallow deer these mostly uninhabited regions are. I found the Cossacks in the villages of that gorge in the greatest excitement, because thousands and thousands of fallow deer were crossing the Amur where it is narrowest, in order to reach the lowlands. For several days in succession, upon a length of some forty miles up the river, the Cossacks were butchering the deer as they crossed the Amur, in which already floated a good deal of ice.

Thousands were killed every day, and the exodus nevertheless continued. Like migrations were never seen either before or since, and this one must have been called for by an early and heavy snow-fall in the Great Khingan, which compelled the deer to make a desperate attempt at reaching the lowlands in the east of the Dousse mountains. Indeed, a few days later the Dousse-alin was also buried under snow two or three feet deep. Now, when one imagines the immense territory almost as big as Great Britain from which the scattered groups of deer must have gathered for a migration which was undertaken under the pressure of exceptional circumstances, and realizes the difficulties which had to be overcome before all the deer came to the common idea of crossing the Amur further south, where it is narrowest, one cannot but deeply admire the amount of sociability displayed by these intelligent animals.

The fact is not the less striking if we remember that the buffaloes of North America displayed the same powers of combination. One saw them grazing in great numbers in the plains, but these numbers were made up by an infinity of small groups which never mixed together. And yet, when necessity arose, all groups, however scattered over an immense territory, came together and made up those immense columns, numbering hundreds of thousands of individuals, which I mentioned on a preceding page.

Several striking pages might be given to the sociability and mutual attachment of the seals and the walruses; and finally, one might mention the most excellent feelings existing among the sociable cetaceans. But I have to say yet a few words about the societies of monkeys, which acquire an additional interest from their being the link which will bring us to the societies of primitive men.

It is hardly needful to say that those mammals, which stand at the very top of the animal world and most approach man by their structure and intelligence, are eminently sociable. Evidently we must be prepared to meet with all varieties of character and habits in so great a division of the animal kingdom which includes hundreds of species. But, all things considered, it must be said that sociability, action in common, mutual protection, and a high development of those feelings which are the necessary outcome of social life, are characteristic of most monkeys and apes. From the smallest species to the biggest ones, sociability is a rule to which we know but a few exceptions.

The nocturnal apes prefer isolated life; the capuchins Cebus capucinus , the monos, and the howling monkeys live but in small families; and the orang-outans have never been seen by A. Wallace otherwise than either solitary or in very small groups of three or four individuals, while the gorillas seem never to join in bands. But all the remainder of the monkey tribe — the chimpanzees, the sajous, the sakis, the mandrills, the baboons, and so on — are sociable in the highest degree. They live in great bands, and even join with other species than their own. Most of them become quite unhappy when solitary. The cries of distress of each one of the band immediately bring together the whole of the band, and they boldly repulse the attacks of most carnivores and birds of prey.

Even eagles do not dare attack them. They plunder our fields always in bands — the old ones taking care for the safety of the commonwealth. The little tee-tees, whose childish sweet faces so much struck Humboldt, embrace and protect one another when it rains, rolling their tails over the necks of their shivering comrades. Several species display the greatest solicitude for their wounded, and do not abandon a wounded comrade during a retreat till they have ascertained that it is dead and that they are helpless to restore it to life.

The hamadryas not only post sentries, but have been seen making a chain for the transmission of the spoil to a safe place; and their courage is well known. And if we find among the highest apes two species, the orang-outan and the gorilla, which are not sociable, we must remember that both — limited as they are to very small areas, the one in the heart of Africa, and the other in the two islands of Borneo and Sumatra have all the appearance of being the last remnants of formerly much more numerous species. The gorilla at least seems to have been sociable in olden times, if the apes mentioned in the Periplus really were gorillas. We thus see, even from the above brief review, that life in societies is no exception in the animal world; it is the rule, the law of Nature, and it reaches its fullest development with the higher vertebrates.

Those species which live solitary, or in small families only, are relatively few, and their numbers are limited. Nay, it appears very probable that, apart from a few exceptions, those birds and mammals which are not gregarious now, were living in societies before man multiplied on the earth and waged a permanent war against them, or destroyed the sources from which they formerly derived food. But, in proportion as we ascend the scale of evolution, we see association growing more and more conscious. It loses its purely physical character, it ceases to be simply instinctive, it becomes reasoned. With the higher vertebrates it is periodical, or is resorted to for the satisfaction of a given want — propagation of the species, migration, hunting, or mutual defence.

It even becomes occasional, when birds associate against a robber, or mammals combine, under the pressure of exceptional circumstances, to emigrate. In this last case, it becomes a voluntary deviation from habitual moods of life. The combination sometimes appears in two or more degrees — the family first, then the group, and finally the association of groups, habitually scattered, but uniting in case of need, as we saw it with the bisons and other ruminants. It also takes higher forms, guaranteeing more independence to the individual without depriving it of the benefits of social life.

With most rodents the individual has its own dwelling, which it can retire to when it prefers being left alone; but the dwellings are laid out in villages and cities, so as to guarantee to all inhabitants the benefits and joys of social life. And finally, in several species, such as rats, marmots, hares, etc. Thus it is not imposed, as is the case with ants and bees, by the very physiological structure of the individuals; it is cultivated for the benefits of mutual aid, or for the sake of its pleasures.

And this, of course, appears with all possible gradations and with the greatest variety of individual and specific characters — the very variety of aspects taken by social life being a consequence, and for us a further proof, of its generality. This need takes a higher development and attains a more beautiful expression in mammals, especially amidst their young, and still more among the birds; but it pervades all Nature, and has been fully observed by the best naturalists, including Pierre Huber, even amongst the ants, and it is evidently the same instinct which brings together the big columns of butterflies which have been referred to already.

The habit of coming together for dancing and of decorating the places where the birds habitually perform their dances is, of course, well known from the pages that Darwin gave to this subject in The Descent of Man ch. Visitors of the London Zoological Gardens also know the bower of the satin bower-bird. But this habit of dancing seems to be much more widely spread than was formerly believed, and Mr.

Hudson gives in his master-work on La Plata the most interesting description, which must be read in the original, of complicated dances, performed by quite a number of birds: rails, jacanas, lapwings, and so on. The habit of singing in concert, which exists in several species of birds, belongs to the same category of social instincts. Hudson found them once in countless numbers, ranged all round a pampas lake in well-defined flocks, of about birds in each flock.

On another occasion the same writer saw a whole plain covered with an endless flock of chakars, not in close order, but scattered in pairs and small groups. It was a concert well worth riding a hundred miles to hear. Life in societies renders these weapons useless. That life in societies is the most powerful weapon in the struggle for life, taken in its widest sense, has been illustrated by several examples on the foregoing pages, and could be illustrated by any amount of evidence, if further evidence were required. Life in societies enables the feeblest insects, the feeblest birds, and the feeblest mammals to resist, or to protect themselves from, the most terrible birds and beasts of prey; it permits longevity; it enables the species to rear its progeny with the least waste of energy and to maintain its numbers albeit a very slow birth-rate; it enables the gregarious animals to migrate in search of new abodes.

Therefore, while fully admitting that force, swiftness, protective colours, cunningness, and endurance to hunger and cold, which are mentioned by Darwin and Wallace, are so many qualities making the individual, or the species, the fittest under certain circumstances, we maintain that under any circumstances sociability is the greatest advantage in the struggle for life. Those species which willingly or unwillingly abandon it are doomed to decay; while those animals which know best how to combine, have the greatest chances of survival and of further evolution, although they may be inferior to others in each of the faculties enumerated by Darwin and Wallace, save the intellectual faculty.

The highest vertebrates, and especially mankind, are the best proof of this assertion. As to the intellectual faculty, while every Darwinist will agree with Darwin that it is the most powerful arm in the struggle for life, and the most powerful factor of further evolution, he also will admit that intelligence is an eminently social faculty. Language, imitation, and accumulated experience are so many elements of growing intelligence of which the unsociable animal is deprived. Therefore we find, at the top of each class of animals, the ants, the parrots, and the monkeys, all combining the greatest sociability with the highest development of intelligence.

The fittest are thus the most sociable animals, and sociability appears as the chief factor of evolution, both directly, by securing the well-being of the species while diminishing the waste of energy, and indirectly, by favouring the growth of intelligence. Moreover, it is evident that life in societies would be utterly impossible without a corresponding development of social feelings, and, especially, of a certain collective sense of justice growing to become a habit. If every individual were constantly abusing its personal advantages without the others interfering in favour of the wronged, no society — life would be possible. And feelings of justice develop, more or less, with all gregarious animals.

Whatever the distance from which the swallows or the cranes come, each one returns to the nest it has built or repaired last year. If a lazy sparrow intends appropriating the nest which a comrade is building, or even steals from it a few sprays of straw, the group interferes against the lazy comrade; and it is evident that without such interference being the rule, no nesting associations of birds could exist. Separate groups of penguins have separate resting-places and separate fishing abodes, and do not fight for them.

The droves of cattle in Australia have particular spots to which each group repairs to rest, and from which it never deviates; and so on. Sociability thus puts a limit to physical struggle, and leaves room for the development of better moral feelings. The high development of parental love in all classes of animals, even with lions and tigers, is generally known. As to the young birds and mammals whom we continually see associating, sympathy — not love — attains a further development in their associations.

Leaving aside the really touching facts of mutual attachment and compassion which have been recorded as regards domesticated animals and with animals kept in captivity, we have a number of well certified facts of compassion between wild animals at liberty. Max Perty and L. Weddell saw more than once during his journey to Bolivia and Peru, the strong males covering the retreat of the herd and lagging behind in order to protect the retreat.

As to facts of compassion with wounded comrades, they are continually mentioned by all field zoologists. Such facts are quite natural. Compassion is a necessary outcome of social life. But compassion also means a considerable advance in general intelligence and sensibility. It is the first step towards the development of higher moral sentiments. It is, in its turn, a powerful factor of further evolution.

If the views developed on the preceding pages are correct, the question necessarily arises, in how far are they consistent with the theory of struggle for life as it has been developed by Darwin, Wallace, and their followers?

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