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Analyzing the Post Contact Zone

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Alisha Clark


Professor Jody Cohen 

Novemeber 21, 2014


Usually, evolution is put in the framework of , "apes vs. humans”. But, if you evaluate the process of evolution closely, it is clear that humans are apes. Humans share the same branch with apes due to many similar traits with other apes, just as they are known as primates and mammals. However, other apes share striking similarities to humans as well. Even though everything isn’t the exact same, there are unique features that set each gorilla, chimp, ape apart from the rest. Nevertheless, humans are a kind of ape who’ve established many contact zones included one amongst nature. 


People can comprehend the close relation to apes by referring to them as cousins. However, humans only like to interact with apes for entertainment purposes. Gray metal bars that outline the perimeter of the isolated confinement. Assuming everyone has a good moral core, no one would intently hold their own cousin captive. However, that’s were the problem lies. It isn’t a new theory that humans evolved from apes. But, it is a new concept that humans aren’t a kind of ape. According to Elizabeth Kolbert’s, The Sixth Extinction, she says, “The history of the science of extinction can be told as a series of paradigm shifts. Until the end of the eighteenth century, the very category of extinction didn’t exist.” (Kolbert, 93) The quote shows an analysis of the human impact on the world. From the beginning, unlike any other specie, humans have been doing the impossible. Consequently, humans weren’t the first to test the water. Other intelligences, who’ve been on the Earth before already developed language before humans could even grab the importance to having a language. However, as humans’, we also don’t like to acknowledge other species intelligences. 


Apes, gorillas, chimps, and other species are laughed upon behind the bars of a zoo to help humans distance ourselves from the uncomfortable reality. In Vilayanur S. Ramachandran's, A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness, he writes that perhaps, “ ...the rhythmic staccato sound of laughter evolved to inform our kin who share our genes: don't waste your precious resources on this situation; it's a false alarm.” His theory explains that laughter advanced into a signal that helps to downplay threatening situations into something that actually isn’t true. It also helps to explain nervous laughter. For example, as humans, we make fun of others when they don’t use silverware. In attempt to normalize the situation presented, humans laugh at them because they look as if they’re barbarians, which shows animalistic characteristics. The laughter, again, is used as a comfort method to refrain from human realization to our close connections with other species. We're signaling ourselves that whatever horrible thing [noticing similarities to species we refer to as animals] we've just encountered isn't really as horrible as it appears [we’re not animals], something we often desperately want to believe.


Just as much as it is a known facts that humans are a part of nature, their existence and impact on nature is often frown upon. If only humans accepted their connection with other species, then a lot of things wouldn’t be much of an issue such as nervous laughter. However, there’s no going back because we’re too far into what we’ve started. Our print within the contact zone between other species is too deep. While reading Kolbert, she writes of the post-contact zone. Pratt, who introduced contact zones, helps to analyze Kolbert because we can compare Kolbert’s stories of extinction as post-contact zone. Each person, who helps her analyze each extinction that’s presented within each individual chapter, promotes the reader to question human’s superiority/power relations and how it impacts the Earth. Is the establishment of a contact zone actually productive? 


When issues arise, we just communicate with ourselves as if we’re just superior and can just disregard everything else.  But in essence doing this is the very act that is driving humans into extinction. If people really acknowledged this, it will ultimately make them insane because it is too much for the mind to wrap around. This concept can be compared to characters in Ruth Ozeki’s, All Over Creation. Momoko, a character who we follow into her insanity. Momoko’s connection to her plants is key. But, what’s even more intriguing is how people view Geek. In All Over Creation, Ozeki creates Geek to be the voice of reason surrounded by people who can’t even grasp some of his most basic concepts, such as Frank. For example, one encounter between Frank and Geek left Frank confused, “And besides, what’s the big deal? A potato’s a potato, right? As long as you can make it into fries that comes with a burger and a Cook for a couple of bucks. I’ll tell you, that’s a good meal where I come from.” (Ozeki, 125) Greek was trying to enlighten Frank on the issues of Monoculture. But, to Frank, it seemed as if Geek was speaking another language. He even says, “You lost me, Geek. I was never any good at English.” (Ozeki, 125) Geek’s knowledge is crucial, however people couldn’t comprehend his thoughts as something essential; instead he was thought of as crazy.


Since humans impacted the Earth so severely, there isn’t going to be a happy ending. Kolbert ended The Sixth Extinction openly because there isn’t anything that can knock our own extinction from Global warming off its course. That’s even if the bizarre change of climate is what actually takes every human being off the Earth. But, who else is there to blame for our own faults? Establishing contact zones between other species was our first downfall because we’ve been recording the extinction to others. Others who we need for protection and food. Therefore, there’s no real answer to situations like this. Only thing that is left to do is to wait for destiny to play out and nature to take over.