According to Wikipedia:
The term paranoia was derived from the Greek term Paranous, which roughly meant “beyond the mind”. It was used to describe a mental illness in which a delusional belief is the sole or most prominent feature. In original attempt at classifying different forms of mental illness, Kraepelin used the term pure paranoia to describe a condition where a delusion was present, but without any apparent deterioration in intellectual abilities and without any of the other features of dementia praecox, the condition later renamed “schizophrenia”. Notably, in his definition, the belief does not have to be persecutory to be classified as paranoid, so any number of delusional beliefs can be classified as paranoia.
I thought that the term paranoia only referred to an intense delusional belief that people or institutions are conspiring against you. I did not know that the word originally referred to a broad spectrum of limited delusional beliefs.
Can social animals suffer from paranoia? Unlike us, they cheerfully nurse their young in the middle of a herd, regularly engage in public sex and sometimes defecate at the dinner table. When one considers these kinds of animal behavior, they certainly don’t appear to suffer from the same hangups about being judged by others that we do.
I watched a doe nursing her fawn from my deck yesterday. They were a hundred yards away so I watched the little family through binoculars. They looked calm and happy, and I doubt they were aware of being watched.
While staring at a human mother nursing her child would have been unspeakably rude, my observation of the deer was a sweet moment, the kind we enjoy a lot in our home in the woods. And while I was careful not to disturb the deer’s peace and tranquility – did I violate their rights?
As quoted recently in Science Daily:
Dr Brett Mills from the University of East Anglia argues that while wildlife programmes can play a vital role in engaging citizens in environmental debates, in order to ‘do good’ they must inevitably deny many species the right to privacy.
That’s right, Dr. Mills believes that animals have an inalienable right to privacy.
Call me speciesist if you like, but I have a hard time taking this seriously when there are human beings in the world who are still fighting for their basic needs and rights.
I’m further annoyed because I suspect that Dr. Mills’ opinions have more to do with his own pecksniffian ideas about oppression and fairness than with a sincere concern for how living, breathing, thinking animals really feel though, ironically, Mills himself points out the fact that animals don’t understand the concept of privacy the same way that we do:
Unlike human activities, a distinction of the public and the private is not made in the animal world. There are many activities which animals engage in which are common to wildlife documentary stories but which are rendered extremely private in the human realm; mating, giving birth, and dying are recurring characteristics in nature documentaries, but the human version of these activities remains largely absent from broadcasting.
Dr Mills said: “It might at first seem odd to claim that animals might have a right to privacy. Privacy, as it is commonly understood, is a culturally human concept. The key idea is to think about animals in terms of the public/private distinction. We can never really know if animals are giving consent, but they often do engage in forms of behaviour which suggest they’d rather not encounter humans, and we might want to think about equating this with a desire for privacy.
“When confronted with such ‘secretive’ behaviour the response of the wildlife documentary is to read it as a challenge to be overcome with the technologies of television. The question constantly posed by wildlife documentaries is how animals should be filmed: they never ask whether animals should be filmed at all.”
Wild animals don’t avoid the proximity of people because they’re worried about what we think of them. That kind of neurosis (or paranoia) is uniquely human. They avoid us because we’re weird and unpredictable and potentially dangerous. They avoid us because they don’t want to have to watch out for us, not because they’re uncomfortable being watched.
Animals are a wonderful PR tool for people like Mills. If he took on a real human cause he might inadvertently choose an individual or group that disagreed with his ideas. They might even (horror of horrors) take their cause up for themselves thus eliminating the need for a savior cum spokesmodel. Animals, on the other hand, are perfect political pawns because they can’t talk and they can’t liberate, or even lobby for, themselves. Unlike human victims, animal victims need a human agent to speak for them and decide what’s best for them.
And therein lies the rub. I suspect that Mills’ campaign, like many others in the animal rights movement, is based more on massaging his ego and whoring for publicity than in mindful consideration to the kinds of things that are really important to animals.
It’s pure paranoia.