Earth Options for Multicolored Corps: Animals, Sentience and Other Rings

One of the problems I’ve always had with the Green Lantern mythos is the presumption that each sector of the universe had not just life but intelligent life, and not just intelligent life but emotional life, and not just emotional life but life capable of being afraid, overcoming that fear then wearing a ring to do something about it. Kind of stretches credulity doesn’t it?

Then Geoff Johns went and added another six corps! This just makes everything that much worse!

In all of sector 2814 we know of exactly one planet with life on it: Earth. I’m going to ignore Abin Sur’s homeworld of Ungara since it’s not even significant enough to have a Wikipedia page. So that means to fill out the spots for the other 6 corps we have to stick to Earth. And I know this sort of happened in an issue of Blackest Night, but I think that was too centered on humans. There are at least 7 species on this planet that are sentient, thus we should be able to spread the rings around a little bit better, yes?

What is sentience?

Sentience is a tough word to define, but the general idea is that to be considered sentient an organism must be self-aware and have the capacity to feel (same root word as ‘sentiment’). These both seem like things that would also be necessary to be a member of any of the various corps, so establishing sentience in non-humans seems a good place to start.

This leads us to our next very important question: How do you test self-awareness in animals?

This has been a huge question in biology for decades, and Charles Darwin himself took some of the first baby-steps towards coming up with an answer, but it wasn’t until the 1970’s did true breakthrough happen. Gordon Gallup Jr. came up with an elegant test using nothing more than some dye and a mirror.

To run the test, Gallup would put a spot of dye on the animal’s body in a place that would be visible in the mirror. Then the animal was shown a mirror. To pass the test, the animal had to demonstrate that it understood that the dot in the reflected image represented a dot on itself. For example, a dog might sniff or lick the mirror thinking it was a different dog, whereas a chimp would attempt to rub the spot of dye off its own forehead while continuing to look in the mirror for reference. It’s a very elegant proof and can be applied easily to most of the animals we suspect might be sentient.

And to date enough animals have passed the test that I think they should be eligible for rings. So now with that not-so-brief introduction out of the way I’m ready to assign rings to the different species of earth. Granted, the ring would chose the member of the each species that best exemplifies the qualities of that corps, but I don’t know enough individuals to tease out personality traits, I’m leaving that to the ring.

 

Red Ring of Rage: Chimpanzees

Our closest living relative is also one of our most violent. Now to be fair we’re about equally related to both chimps proper as well as the subspecies bonobos (more on them later) and people tend to refer to either species depending on whether they’re condemning humanities virtues or extolling them, but reality, as is often the case, is complex with shades of gray. So chimps get to represent our rage, and by inference the rage of our sector. And why not? We hunt them for meat and fake medicine, destroy their habitat, and enslave them for entertainment. They’ve got a lot to be mad about. This isn’t an animal rights or conservation post (because this isn’t the website for it) but these are the facts of life for the endangered chimps of the world. And it’s not like chimps really need a reason to be angry, they’re violent by nature. Every cute chimp you see on television is pre-pubescent, i.e. not even an angst-filled teenager yet. A full grown male chimp could knock over a linebacker without trying. Then rip his face off (if he’s in a good mood). Chimps definitely get the red ring in my book.

 

Orange Ring of Avarice: Parrots

In the interest of full disclosure, parrots have not passed the red dot mirror test, but other birds have. I’m not sure that they’ve actually tried testing parrots but I’m going to assume that something like an African Grey would pass with flying bland colors. Friends of mine that have had the bird as pets claim the bird refers to itself in the first person. I’m also told they have the emotional maturity of a toddler, which means they’re probably pretty self-centered, making them ripe for an Orange ring. Plus parrots eat seeds, that’s what the big sharp beak is for, many other birds wait for the fruit develop, thereby helping spread seeds in their droppings, but not parrots. So even the plants hate (as much as plants are capable of hate) them for being so greedy.

 

    

Yellow Ring of Fear: Orca

Free Willy created a generation of Killer Whale sympathizers, but let us not forget the name of the very animal we love: Killer Whale. Why did this animal get this cuddly name? Because it’s one of the largest carnivores on the planet and regularly kills bigger whales for food. These things are the wolves of the sea, if wolves had sonar and were 30+ feet long.  Orcas kill other juvenile whales by drowning them only to eat the tongue, they ride the surf onto beaches to snatch sea lion pups for a snack, and they’ll pummel Great White Sharks to death for a bite of sweet sweet shark liver. Read that line again: they kill Great Whites because their liver is a delicacy. They don’t even eat the whole shark. If these animals had thumbs I wouldn’t feel safe near the shoreline. If they had a power ring… I don’t even want to think about that. *shudder*

Green ring of Will: Humanity

I’m happy to give this one to Homo sapiens. I think, of all the sentient species, we’ve bent the earth to our will the most. Moving on…

 

  

Blue Ring of Hope: Blue Whale

Like the parrot this is a bit of a stretch because blue whales have not passed the mirror test. But as mentioned above, orcas have, so I think this whale would. Unlike orcas, there are no Blue Whales in captivity so it becomes difficult to actually administer the test, and I think that if we could give them the test they would pass. And really, what better animals for a blue ring? The blue whale is the largest living organism on the planet. Ever. To me, something about growing to that size is inspirational and, well, hopeful. Plus they sing. I know a lot of whales sing, but not all whales are blue, so stick with me. Whales sing, which is sort of hopeful by itself, but they sing across the entire ocean, across distances humans could only communicate with wires and satellites. Whales just belt it out and let the water carry the tune. Sending a signal into the void and hoping that someone on the other side hears it and that it matters to me is the epitome of hope (especially for podcasters) so I have no problem granting big blue a blue ring.

 

  

Indigo Ring of Compassion: Elephant

Compassion is probably the toughest emotion to find in another species. Really, compassion is hard to find in our own species most of the time. No joke, evolutionary biologists have debated for decades just how compassion could have even evolved in the first place, since it seems to go against the notion of the survival of the fittest. But I think elephants have it where it counts. Elephants are social animals, they live in groups, and they care for young above and beyond most other animals. So much so that elephants seem to mourn the death of a youth. If a young elephant dies the mother stays with the body long after it makes sense to from a strict evolutionar perspective. It’s heartbreaking to see, especially when the cause of death is a bullet. But another aspect of compassion is the ability to feel the rest of the emotions across the spectrum. And I think elephants do. They rage against humans when they escape from the circus. They learn to fear our hunters. They love the herd and their young. Perhaps I’m projecting human emotions onto a beast, but if the beast protects its own against other species, and that other species is us, I’m ok saying elephants are the truly compassionate ones.

 

  

Violet Ring of Love: Bonobos

We started with chimps, and we end with bonobos. If chimps are the fighters. then bonobos are the lovers. Besides us and dolphins, bonobos are one of the few species that mate for pleasure. If that kind of behavior doesn’t warrant admission into the Star Sapphires, I’m not sure what does.

 

And there you have it. Earth gets protection across the corps board all from hometown heroes. Got an animal from the emotional animal service you think was overlooked and could pass the mirror test? Let us know about it in the comments!

 


Ryan Haupt gets the Opal Ring of Indecision for the amount he debated internally with himself while writing this article. Hear him debate externally on his podcast Science… sort of.

Comments

  1. I think Ryan is quickly becoming my favorite writer on this site. 

  2. hahaha. I don’t have anything to add. I just wanted to express that this made me laugh.

  3. Awesome article.  Also, that is exactly what my puke looks like when it comes out.  It’s remarkably easy to clean up.

  4. Ryan, your justification for the Blue Whale as an avatar for Hope was quite touching and apt. Well played. Also, there are so many species that hoard, I was surprised by the choice of parrot. I can’t believe I’m actually thinking about these things seriously on the same page that has a chimp puking red blood on it.

  5. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    All Will Be Whale!

  6. I think household dogs would have also made a good one for the Indigo tribe of compassion.

  7. I would love to see a Blue Whale in the Blue Lantern Corps! Geoff Johns should read this.

  8. @azrael1213  Dogs cannot pass the mirror test. Plus it seems weird to give the compassion ring to a carnivore.

  9. @PaulMontgomery  super slow golf clap for that one. nicely done.  (If i ever have the time and place to say this, I’m stealing it.)

  10. LOVED this article. Really thoughtful, interesting approach to the corps. And if domesticated dogs could pass the mirror test, I would totally second them for the Indigo tribe.

  11. Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    Wonder work here, Haupt. Well thought out and hilariously Photoshopped.

    From my own personal experiences and encounters with animals, I would argue that house cats should have the Orange Ring of Avarice. The two that we currently own are selfish, demand their desires for play and food be met immediately, and uncaring about even each other’s comfort. More than once has one of our cats jumped up onto our recliner where the other cat is already sleeping and proceed to take up all the space until the first sleeping cat leaves. They’re just about the worst. Good thing they’re cute.

    While I don’t know if cats can pass the mirror test, if Dex-Starr can get a red ring, surely another house cat can get an orange one. 

  12. Awesome.

     

  13. @JeffR  Domesticated cats also fail at the mirror test.

    Human babies can’t pass it either. It’s how Darwin first caught on to the idea, an oragnutan at the zoo did better than his daughter and he realized something must be up.

  14. @PaulMontgomery  All will be whale actually made me laugh. Thanks, Paul.

  15. Great idea, Ryan. The Blue Hope Whale concept was very well concieved.

  16. @stuclach  Finally!  The answer to what does @stuchlach’s puke look like!  My day has been made.

  17. @PaulMontgomery  Well done, sir.

    @Haupt Awesome article. Great way to start my morning.

  18. Star Sapphires bit is lol funny!