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December 21st, 2005
12:39 am
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Predators and prey
nicked_metal: "Attraction to novelty is the mark of the predator."

I read that post, hit that line, and thought, "Oooh, now that's a great topic to spin some thoughts off of for next_of_kin." (I still owe it to myself, and him, to do so for "The Utility of Pretension," too; I've just been a flake.) But along the way it spun into a broader thought on civilization, instead.

I mean ... "Predators like novelty!" It's the sort of thing that sounds like it really ought to be some sort of litmus test to add to the "Am I a dragon?" pile; and heaven knows that, practically by definition, anyone who has enough social cojones to call themselves other-than-human in public could quite fairly be branded a novelty-seeker. Dragons are predators. QED.

But ...

Taking a broader view of Otherkin, it immediately falls apart. After all, the same statement applies quite equally to those who consider themselves elves and unicorns, and other such not-quite-top-of-the-food-chain species; and 'kin or furries who identify with "prey" species, from badgers and ungulates down to rabbits and rodents. All of which people are quite deliberately moving toward the fringe -- seeking novelty -- to fill some sort of inner need, be it spiritual or social.

If anything, a broader look at Otherkin and other such fringe thought groups shows just how far society has upended "predators like novelty."

The sort of people who have a strong likelihood to find themselves in fringe thought groups are the ones whose needs aren't getting met in mainstream society. The freaks. The loners. The intellectuals. Exactly those who, long ago and far away in a zebra pack, would be wandering around the outside edges to get picked off by the lions.

But that behavior, as far as I can tell, sure makes us happier than trying to fit in at the bottom of a pecking order we don't really have any interest in anyway.

Today, it's the "prey"* that gains from openness to novelty. Strange and beautiful world we live in.

--

* I expect to be widely misquoted or misunderstood here, but I'm not sure how to put it any better. I'm speaking only in the savage-wilderness evolutionary sense outlined in nicked_metal's post and the zebra-pack analogy thereof. Like it or not -- all thoughts of Otherkin aside, us fringe types by definition are the stragglers of the herd. That's all I mean to say here.

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From:jolantru
Date:December 21st, 2005 09:57 am (UTC)
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I find it interesting that it's often the freaks, the gamers, the loners who see themselves as dragons, wolves, tigers and such like. And it's often interesting to see fringe-people desperately looking for friendship or kinship online (and even perhaps, offline too).

I do think that there are fringe dwellers who see themselves as powerful or at least strong predator/hunter types. I often find it amusing to see people going "I am a lone wolf. I am born to be alone." That doesn't work in wolf society: a lone wolf is a wolf in danger of being attacked ... unless it has the gumption to stay alive and find a pack.

Hope this makes sense. My nap seemed to have taken away my grey matter.
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From:roaminrob
Date:December 22nd, 2005 06:29 am (UTC)
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That's a good start.

If someone's going to start trying to lump people (persons, humans & otherkin, etc.) into prey and predator groups, you have to acknowledge differences between the way that person sees themselves, and the way they actually behave.

For example, I've known a few people who would fancy themselves to be a predator of some kind, but wouldn't last very long in a true "eat or be eaten" situation.

I also find it curious that the original author managed to mention lions without realizing that lions live and move in prides, and I'm kinda wondering how he came to the conclusion that lions see zebra herds as a singular organism.
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From:jolantru
Date:December 22nd, 2005 11:47 am (UTC)
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Heh. I am speaking from a more or less therian/animal person viewpoint. There are a lot of people who fancy themselves as wolves and view themselves as aggressive/fierce - the stereotypical predator. However, if you look at them individually as a person, they are just... people. Wolves, yes - either by identification or metaphorical example. But they are definitely not "aggressive" or "fierce". Most of the time, they got the "right" predatorial mindset and their animal type mixed up. They think: "I am a wolf, therefore I should act like this."

Then again, there are different kinds of wolves. Different personalities and temperaments. And yes, I have seen people who see themselves as predators but in real-life situations, they don't really last long enough. In fact, I have seen them breaking down and fragmenting out of sheer stress. That's not true "predatorial" behavior.

Eep. I am rambling.

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From:thoughtsdriftby
Date:December 22nd, 2005 06:53 pm (UTC)
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Curious of the concept I first visited Further Confusion to see the extent of stereotypical predators. Seeming instead more herds of sheep with wolf tails. Prey wandering around aimlessly complaining and clustering around the escalator and elevators. Again curious at this fierce image I would at times spot the "lone predator" or "pack" walking the opposite direction and use body language to move them from my path.

In the first three hours observing I remained the only one using the main stairs. Physical exertion and even going without a meal seem far from the norm there. I did note a few exceptions, barely a hand-full.

I do remain a supporter, but see myself well outside the distribution and accept some labels only as an honorific. A gift of acceptance/sharing from many within the furry/therian communities.
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From:baxil
Date:December 23rd, 2005 02:16 pm (UTC)
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Part of the subtext of my post was the idea that "predator" is not nearly as simple as one's species self-image. So ... yeah. Conventions tend to be full of people, well, being people. I'm not surprised there was little predation on display.

... You were at FurCon and I didn't even get to say hi? Aw, man. Any plans to attend again?

As for the observations you made on fitness, they really don't reflect on furries as much as they reflect on Americans: Nearly two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight, and 30.5 percent are obese.
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From:thoughtsdriftby
Date:December 24th, 2005 05:55 am (UTC)
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viewing less for predation, more relying on perception/vibe on potential

usually register, time available determines if/when
Scott Ruggle's lecture/talk to Heather Alexander extent of '04, no time '05
minor shopping/viewing art/artists most others, Aeto's lecture '01 ...
'04 you were away from your work area, likely I'll drop by again

fitness comment more pondering the furry lifestyle fraction
talk of outdoors/survival, envisioned future lives in the wilderness
intelligence is not enough, most would fail even in rural settings
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From:baxil
Date:December 23rd, 2005 10:41 am (UTC)
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> I find it interesting that it's often the freaks, the gamers, the loners who see themselves as dragons, wolves, tigers and such like.

Ah, that would be the can of worms that I was trying to skirt in the post -- and worthy of an entirely separate discussion I wasn't trying to start. ];=8)

In a paragraph, though, my take on it --

I agree that this isn't a coincidence. There's certainly a correlation there (but not the causation that most critics of Otherkin (and other fringe movements) think there is). And while "interesting," sure, it's really pretty basic: Otherkin is a foreign idea*, and as such, is not routinely considered or even discovered by the average person. People who are exposed to it and give it some thought have the usual chance to have it shape their ideas and behavior. But the "freaks, gamers and loners" -- because of their attraction toward foreign ideas -- are overwhelmingly the ones exposed to, and open to, it.

--

* There's nothing inherently "strange" about Otherkin ideas. Which is to say, it's not an idea that is counter to our experience as living beings, pack animals, humans; it's just an idea that is foreign to our culture.
From:glitterychaos
Date:December 21st, 2005 05:04 pm (UTC)
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One cannot help being "prey" in a society that favors conformity, normality, and acceptance of the generalized fashion of living among its members. Were I to let it be known I think I`m a star incarnate, my boss would react *very* negatively, and attack me in the one way he knows how: by firing me. My teachers would ignore it, likely deeming me too nutty to even reason with, and aquaintances would ridicule me (another form of attack). So yes, otherkin are the prey of society when they let themselves be known.

I do not think my seeking out otherkin explainations to who I am is a search for novelty. Way back in the days of my early discoveries, I knew I wasn`t the first. I was simply seeking what felt like truth. If that search had led me to common truths, I would be just as happy. As it is, yes I suppose calling myself a star incarnate is rather novel in a way, but I highly doubt that that has ever been the *goal* of myself, or the other people I have known and respected.

I of course really only have my experience to base my thought on, but I have always felt that those who are seeking otherkin for the novelty factor are seeking for the wrong reasons... Its always been about truth and what feels right, no matter how fantastical the results may be.

I like the way your posts inspire thought though, thank you!
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From:jinian
Date:December 21st, 2005 05:34 pm (UTC)

dragons == predators?

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What, no baleen dragons?
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From:baxil
Date:December 21st, 2005 06:00 pm (UTC)

Re: dragons == predators?

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"I am the top of MY food chain! Stop dragging YOURS into this!"
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From:thrames
Date:December 21st, 2005 06:45 pm (UTC)
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Of course, they all have a pretty common thread running between them. Namely, they have human brains. Humans, being omnivores that engage in hunting and being primates, do enjoy at least some novelty in some things. Familarity breeds contempt, as the old platitude states, thus encouraging novelty-seeking behavior. While it is a rare person who wants new things all the time, I'd go so far as to say ALL humans want or appreciate certain, new changes in their environment (getting a new game, eating something they haven't eaten before, moving across the country, being attacked by wild monkeys getting a pet, etc.).
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From:roaminrob
Date:December 22nd, 2005 06:31 am (UTC)
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You obviously never met my great-aunt Shirlene.
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From:paka
Date:December 21st, 2005 09:15 pm (UTC)
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I think the way we're basically immature pongids keeps the treatment of novelty from being some sort of clear-cut predator/prey type of deal. To us, novelty is this constant mix of the two. I also think our existence as social animals also means there's a continuously shifting balance of risk and security as evolutionary strategy which means that when we are willing to risk novelty - and how many of us - doesn't neccessarily follow the easy to predict patterns.
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From:natetg
Date:December 21st, 2005 09:48 pm (UTC)
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Strange, that you refer to the fringe as stragglers when we all know there's a ragged leading edge, and quite a number of who manange to march to their own drummer in the middle of the pack.

By the bye, it's humans that like novelty, and, perhaps some other scavenger types. Many animals, including quite a number of predators are not well suited to changes in environment.
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From:nicked_metal
Date:December 22nd, 2005 12:10 am (UTC)
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By the bye, it's humans that like novelty, and, perhaps some other scavenger types. Many animals, including quite a number of predators are not well suited to changes in environment.

Mind elaborating on that? I've had difficulty tracking down good references on the topic.
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From:roaminrob
Date:December 22nd, 2005 07:02 am (UTC)
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It's a kind of a romantic idea, and I hate to break it, but ... uh?

Dragons are predators. QED.

Aren't there vegetarian dragons? ;-)

Today, it's the "prey"* that gains from openness to novelty.

So, I'm having a little trouble following all of this. nicked_metal starts out with ... uh ... well, somehow he gets from predatory versus prey behavior to internet forums, but then you pick that up and use it to try to fit multiple social styles into a prey-or-predator group arrangement.

I think we need to agree on some kind of definition for prey vs. predator. laochbran asserted that "Attraction to novelty is the mark of the predator"; you asserted that "Today, it's the 'prey'* that gains from openness to novelty".

And, even stepping away from that for a moment, I'm pretty sure that I could point out examples of predatory versus prey behavior among individuals of the fringe groups, for most definitions of "predator" or "prey".

So, I guess I don't get why you're defining psychological and human social behavior in terms of predatorial behavior. Are all goths "prey"? Or are they "predators"? Are they predators because they don't shuffle around in the same packs as the mall rats? What's their prey, then? Or are they prey that just happen to be stragglers of their pack? That would make some kind of sense, in that fringe groups tend to get preyed upon by the larger mainstream group, but then does that also mean that the average sociopath is a prey animal?

laochbran, I think, was at least trying to distinguish between prey behavior or predator behavior on an individual basis, although what he wrote didn't really make a whole lot more sense.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:December 25th, 2005 07:34 pm (UTC)
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In his short story "At the Core", Larry Niven suggests that curiosity is the mark of an omnivore.

--
"Yesterday upon the stair
I met a man who wasn't there."
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