January 19, 2013 7:52:07 PM
Adele Elliott - [email protected]
"Our ancestors were savages. The story of Romulus and Remus being suckled by a wolf is not a meaningless fable."
Henry David Thoreau
Sometimes it seems that we are surrounded by people who were raised by animals. The "bull headed," the "greedy pigs," the "sly foxes" are all around us. "Personification" and "anthropomorphism" -- we employ these concepts every day. They are shortcut explanations -- easy to understand, but usually not literal.
However, if we are to believe the concept of "Raised Wild" (Animal Planet, Fridays, 8 p.m. CST), there are actually feral children, raised by animals, in countries all over the world. In this show, a beautiful anthropologist, Dr. Mary-Ann Ochota, travels the globe to research stories of "The Dog-girl of the Ukraine." "The Bird-boy of Fiji," and "The Monkey-boy of Uganda." And, surprisingly, she finds them ... sort of.
Most of the time they are mentally challenged. By the time she reveals these former animal-babies to her viewers, they have grown into adults and are living a normal-ish life. Even though this is a form of "reality" television, and many of the facts are exaggerated and dramatized with a large dose of hyperbole, there is always an element of truth. These children actually identified with their animal role models so much that they behaved quite like a monkey, or barked like a dog, or pecked the floor like a chicken. To date, the one thing that these stories have in common is that a kind woman, most often a teacher or social worker, took an interest in them and gave them love and guidance. One said of the so-called "bird-boy" (raised with chickens), "I saw a light in his eye. I knew there was a human in there."
Around here, we might jokingly refer to ourselves as "Bulldogs," because of Mississippi State University's mascot. Except possibly for an occasional bark, we are far from being dog-like.
"Raised Wild" certainly suggests how very much influence a person's early life determines their outcome.
Everyone loves "rags to riches stories" about a child from the slums who overcomes all odds to become wealthy and celebrated. But, in truth, those are fascinating because they are so very uncommon. The probability of that kind of fairy tale ending is extraordinary and remarkable. Most people who come from poverty, or from uneducated parents, or with so many countless things lacking, are destined to remain in the same sort of prison. There is a reason why the "apple-tree" cliché rings true.
I keep thinking about what a great responsibility it is to be blessed with children. Directing and molding a young life must be the hardest and most important job in the world. It's a wonder we don't require in-depth instruction, and a hard-to-get license for the task. But, we do not. It is all on-the-job training.
Most parents in our area are not producing wild progeny with animal-like behavior. (Take a bow. You deserve it.) Remember though, you probably had a bit of help. We might give some credit to those underpaid teachers and school system employees who spend so much time with our offspring. I wish we could "arm" our teachers with a fatter paycheck and a big dose of gratitude.
Parents love their kids unconditionally. That comes with the job. But educators went into their profession for a love of learning and a devotion to teaching little ones who are not even theirs. Who knows what would happen if we didn't have them? The Golden Triangle just might be overrun with "Buck-boys" and "Squirrel-girls." Oh, my!
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.