The First presentation on the conference to remember Animals
Looking a little frazzled after a sleepless night spent sharing his billet with a hyena. The secret to survival, the rabbit discovered, was lots of room service.
Exhausted, the rabbit speaks into the microphone, “I would to open today’s first session with a welcome to all those visitors that did not make last night’s opening ceremonies. You missed a good party!”
The audience laughs and calls out “Hear. Hear.”
The rabbit continues, “Today’s presenters are from northern Uganda. We were fortunate that they were on a lecture tour, and could make our conference. It is with great pride that we can offer you a chance to hear from Joe and Wendy Ik.”
The rabbit pauses. A couple members of the audience clap, but the rest are waiting for more information. The rabbit continues, “For those of you who haven’t read Jo and Wendy’s book, ‘Living with Anthropology: You should Have to too.’ Jo and Wendy are from a tribe called the Ik. The Ik, for those of you unfamiliar with their circumstances live in extreme deprivation. According to the hundreds of anthropologists—all documented in Jo and Wendy’s book—the Ik’s cultural structure reflects their deprivation.
For instance, the Ik are known for being highly individualistic and are frequently employed as metaphors for a kind of existential angst in many genres of human literature. Without further ado, I bring you Joe and Wendy from the Ik!”
Joe and Wendy step towards the microphone, they manage to say, “Thank you. Thank you.” Before the two of them become locked in a struggle over control of the microphone. Some hissing and very loud feedback is heard in the audience. Many of the animals with acute hearing have to cover their ears. The mice ear mice are at a loss as to what they should do.
After much heated struggle, Joe emerges holding the microphone. “I will go first since Wendy has not been fast enough to get the microphone.” Joe holds the microphone in the air as Wendy, shorter by four inches, jumps up and down, trying to grab the instrument.
“As you can see. Wendy and I are a pair bonded couple from the Ik tribe. We live in a small village, surrounded by people we never communicate with. Our living quarters are quite separate. I mean that each house in the village is separated by walls, as well as Wendy and my own house, which has a stout wall that separates my quarters from her’s.”
“I selected Wendy as my spouse as I needed help to build a house. We Ik know that it is impossible to build a house without a spouse. If it were not for this architectural imperative, I would not have chosen Wendy.”
The audience watches as Wendy gives up on trying to jump for the microphone. She goes backstage for a moment, and returns holding a chair. She sneaks up behind Joe, and swings the chair, hitting Joe squarely (and his head is rather squarish) on the back of his head. Joe collapses, and Wendy runs after the microphone, which is rolling towards the audience.
A Canadian Goose turns to his neighbour, and says, these people are humans!
Wendy is brandishing the microphone as if it were a prize. A look of girlish pleasure lights up Wendy’s otherwise sullen face. The smile is gone so fast, it is as if it wasn’t there in the first place.
She looks at the audience, “Well, you have just witnessed the first principle of being Ik. It’s every man, woman and three-year-old child for him or herself. We Ik, have achieved a certain amount of fame for our survivalist tendencies. The expression of which is entirely dependant on the anthropologist who is studying us at the time. Some say our culture has entirely collapsed and others say that we have a culture but it is one of survival. Either way, collapsed or unique, culture or no culture, we Ik have a pretty rough time of it. Mostly because we are busy surviving and then anthropologists are dropping in, pretty much unannounced. And then writers are using us as a metaphour, which I know all you animals have experienced. And it is, quite frankly exhausting.”
”HEAR! HEAR!” The audience is up off its seats, applauding—those that can applaud, which is mostly limited to an otter or two and a dophin. But the rest that have feet stomp them, and others squeak, quack and otherwise express their approbation.
The Rabbit is sitting in the wings watching the speakers. He sighs with relief. He knew the Ik would be a hit, although the speaker fee was almost more like extortion, but the rabbit is glad his gamble has paid-off.
The audience has just noticed Joe, who had used the last round of cheering for cover, has slithered behind Wendy. He grasps one of her ankles and pulls her down. They wrestle around, grappling over the microphone. The audience, who’s sympathy lies more with Wendy than Joe, cheer for her every time she bites Joe. Joe holding a rather large chunk of Wendy’s hair and the microphone, tries to speak, but at that moment, Wendy has managed to get her foot in his face, and Joe is unable to complete his sentence.
The audience is hugely entertained by the antics and all eyes are on the stage. Suddenly a fight breaks out in the back. Geese are quacking and flapping around. Two small children who appear to be around 3 or 4 year’s of age—are later discovered to be an Ik age-band—are running off with a Canadian goose. Wendy notices before Joe, so she releases her hold; by this, I mean that she drops Joe’s arm from her mouth and takes off after the age-band in order to wrestle the goose away from them.
Joe, unaware of the reason for Wendy’s sudden departure. Picks up the microphone and speaks, “Well. I thought she’d never….”
Joe doesn’t finish his sentence as he finally notices that Wendy has gone after the age-band, and is in the process of trying to wrestle the goose from the children. Joe drops the microphone, which makes a loud noise which is barely audible over the screams of the audience. It seems some carnivores, inspired by the Ik, have begun helping themselves to the tastier participants in the conference.
Once again, the rabbit sighs. Shakes his head, says, “Never again.” Looking on at the participants, he wonders how he is going to get the room in shape for the next speakers.