Here are two of the many ways humans are creepy. One, is the hatred the majority of us have for the barn-loving and urban-living raccoons. And this hatred has received, in my opinion, its fullest expression in Avengers: Endgame, a film that will be seen by possibly billions of humans. Rocket Raccoon has already had a hard time of it in the other Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy films. He has no idea that he is a raccoon. But he's nevertheless ashamed about this confusion. Somehow Rocket is aware of the fact that this kind of animal he is confused with is not regarded very highly by the dominant macroscopic animal on Earth. This is the joke that never gets old. But in Avengers: Endgame, which mostly takes place on this planet, the humor goes hard-core mean. Rocket is given almost no love, and, in one really dark moment, is informed, in his furry face, that he is despised because he eats garbage. And what do the humans in this film eat? Taco Bell looking tacos, Wonder Bread sandwiches, hot dogs, and hamburgers—all fall of which fall under the category of junk food. But Rocket is a raccoon. He is a trash panda.
What's creepy here is the persistence and universality of human raccoon hatred. Avengers: Endgame is only reflecting a common and deep-rooted feeling. But during a recent visit of the North American (if not the world) capital of raccoons, Toronto, I found the hatred for the "largest [member] of the procyonid family" transcended even politics. I met people on the left who expressed the exact same level of contempt toward raccoons as those on the right. The same was true for class—it's a hatred held by the poor and rich alike. Indeed, the only raccoon I saw during the five-day visit was huge and dead in the middle of a street not far from Chinatown. But I was the only human who seemed to be concerned about it. No one else noticed it. Wanted to notice it. It was nothing to Toronto.
But here is the thing, and what connects this human creepy hatred with another human creepiness. It was revealed to me by an elderly bartender in Toronto's international airport on April 15, 2019—yes, the day the spire in Paris went down in flames. (Do not ask how this conversation started, accept it happened.) She said to me: "I can't stand raccoons because of their little busy fingers. They are always up to something no good. You know. Those hands are just damn creepy." I was amazed. A fellow human was telling me this without a second thought.
What kind of animal are we, then? Where else does our species-specific animality come from but our land-liberated hands and weirdly nimble fingers. At this point, I saw that the bartender, who could not take her eyes away from the burning cathedral, opened the door to another creepy aspect of the human that we, being ourselves, cannot easily see in ourselves but can see in the raccoon; but, in the way we see it in the raccoon, might be the way all other animals see it in humans: our hands are creepy.
Think about it. Most animals have limbs committed to a specific function. Your dogs, your cats; those zebras, those giraffes have no hands to show. (And the fingers of all other primates are nowhere near as dexterous as those of humans.) But imagine what a horse sees as a human is typing a post or shucking corn? Something very evil-like. Fingers looking like they are thinking themselves. What fucking kind of animal is this? The horse's watery eyes grow in horror. And this must be true for all other mammals (I expect bees and ants don't give a shit about human hands). But what happened when the human totally liberated their forelimbs from the bounded business of mobility? They became, in the opinion of some, the point at which the human mind began its long journey to unusual largeness. How so? Because, hands became general. They did not do one thing, but very many. This generalization placed greater and greater pressure on computation. Forelimbs that are confined to a few operations present a much simpler computational challenge to a centralized nervous system than those that are doing all sort of things. The social physiologist Michael Gazzaniga makes a point along these in lines in Who's In Charge?.
One of the major dissimilarities... is that the abilities of other animals do not generalize: Each species has an extremely limited set of abilities and these abilities are adaptations restricted to a single goal: Scrub jays plan for the single goal of future food but not for other things, nor do they teach or make tools in the wild. Crows make tools in the wild but only for obtaining food, and they do not plan or teach. Meerkats don't plan or make tools in the wild, but they teach their young one thing only: how to eat poisonous scorpions without being stung. None can take their skill and adapt it across many domains. The meerkat teaches its young how to safely eat scorpions. Humans, on the other hand, teach everything to their young, and what is taught usually generalizes to other skills. In short, teaching and learning have been generalized.Our ability to generalize, Gazzaniga conjectures, is having generalizing hands. But we would be silly to think they are not seen as utterly creepy by much of the animal kingdom that's large and on all fours. Creepy raccoon hands are not that different from creepy human hands.