Calimero Complex

In the Low Countries the Calimero Complex refers to people, organisations or countries that feel they’re under-appreciated because of their small size. The name given to the complex refers to the lead character Calimero in an Italian animated cartoon series featured in the early 70’s on Dutch and Belgian public tv. Calimero is a small black chick in a family of only yellow chicks. He wears half of his egg shell still on his head. His small size often makes him cry out: “They are big and I is small, and that’s not fair, oh no!”. Rather than the Napoleon Complex or other forms of supposed low self-esteem because of size, the Calimero Complex is understood to be a more passive state of feeling sorry for oneself while at the same time blaming others for your own shortcomings. It’s presumptuous, to say the least.

The Dutch are the tallest people in the world. It is therefor interesting to note that the use of the term Calimero Complex is used exclusively in the Low Countries. After all it is easier to make such size-related judgements of a specific type of behaviour or character from the perspective of (mistaken) presumed superiority. Saying somebody has a Calimero Complex says just as much, or more, about the person saying it.

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What does it mean when your spelling control keeps changing the word degrowth into the word regrowth? How obsessed with growth must a society be when decades after the word degrowth was introduced to inspire a paradigm shift towards the destructive idea of continuous economic growth, our vocabulary still does not except it, and not only presumes it to be a mistake but suggests us to embrace the correct ideology of regrowth? Are our ‘intelligent’ economy-bound algorithms not allowing us to think in terms other than more?

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Amplexus Tantra

It may seem farfetched and even a little awkward to discuss a frog’s preferred sexual position as part of a strategy to shrink. However, to change humanity’s irrational desire for bigger towards a much wiser desire for smaller we must invest as much in alternative fantasies and imaginative storytelling as in the instantly practical.

In the light of the dominant universal female preference for taller males, the dominant amplexus technique seen in frogs, toads, newts and horse crabs opens up a window of tantric opportunity. During amplexus, the female carries the male around on her back. To make sure he doesn’t fall off different species of frogs have different preferred places to hold onto. Sometimes it is the back, sometimes the legs and in some cases the head. All this hanging around may not seem particularly friendly towards the female frog, and perhaps it wouldn’t be if it were not for her preference for small males. The smaller the male, the more stamina and the more pleasant it is for the female to perform her side of the act. Which is all the better since the whole thing can last many hours.

But most importantly,  the smaller the male the smaller the offspring.

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Micro-Livestock’s Short Shadow

Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, a 2006 report released by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, assesses the impact of the livestock sector on environmental challenges, along with potential technical and policy approaches to mitigation. The livestock sector poses serious challenges to the environment at every scale from local to global. According to senior U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization official Dr. Henning Steinfeld the meat industry is “one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems” and “urgent action is required to remedy the situation.” The report evaluates that livestock are responsible for 1/5th of global greenhouse gas emissions, arising from feed production, fertilizer production, deforestation, feed and animal products transport, soil erosion in pastures and feed crops, enteric fermentation and methane and nitrous oxide emissions from manure. If man shrinks his needs shrink. Physically downsizing existing livestock or moving towards smaller alternative livestock options will have significant consequences in battling meat’s negative contribution to environmental challenges.

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Shrink Exercise: Buster’s Unfolding

Buster Keaton GIF by Maudit

Buster Keaton was a master of visual comedy in the era of the silent movie. His use of props and perspective often brilliantly deflates presumptions on how things are supposed to be. In the opening scene of The High Sign (1921) the simple gesture of unfolding a newspaper turns into a beautiful shrink/growth exercise; in many ways more accurate than our A01 to A07 Exercise. Is the newspaper growing or is Keaton shrinking? And is it a coincidence that a small man appears on the pages?

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Zebrafish Oannes

The zebrafish is one of The Incredible Shrinking Man’s most beloved spirit animals. Being a model organism for endocrinological and genetic research positions it between fact and fiction, the known and the unknown, the present and the future, thus allowing us to follow it to realms of reality yet undiscovered. The series of zebrafish portraits shows how they, as an extension of the human body, have become a space of desire, a mirror of what we want. Yet at the same time they are part of the great unknown, the riddle of life, the majesty of the wild. Lately the zebrafish has become somewhat of an iconic figure in our shamanistic dance routine, the Abun’dance. The dance represents the desire to break free from our dominant paradigm of continuous growth while illustrating and enacting the alternative perspective of shrinking. The fish on our feet perhaps symbolise the above mentioned desire as well as the notion of temperance, sometimes represented in western iconography by fish drawn or painted on feet. Sometimes we wear a lab coat painted (rather amateurish) with fish scales reminiscent of Oannes, the Babylonian fish/man hybrid that taught man the use of letters, sciences, agriculture, law, architecture, and arts of all kinds. And in our mind (not out loud because it is not very good) we hum the Shaman’s Fish Song.

None of this makes direct sense from the perspective of the actual scientific or societal desire to inspire a smaller human species but perhaps when it comes to radical change, making sense is not the best place to start. The Zebrafish Oannes may disrupt comfortable understandings of how we will attain the knowledge to reach abundance for all forms of life by introducing of ’something’ we cannot yet put into words.

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Several years ago Dutch artist Joep van Lieshout suggested that rather than reduce human height to 50cm (as The Incredible Shrinking Man has investigated) people should shrink to the size of a parasite and live in the stomach of  a cow. It’s an interesting suggestion, not only because it opens up perspectives on collective use of resources, ecological connectivity and community but because it’s been done before, by size-shifting jellyfish also known as myxozoans.

Myxozoans are cnidarians, just like corals, sea anemones and regular sized jellyfish. In the process of shrinking the myxozoans lost their jellyfish characteristics to a degree that hadn’t been thought possible. ”It would be like finding a one-celled creature and discovering that genetically, it’s a mammal that had lost its genes for lactation and keratinaceous hair”, explains team leader Dorothee Huchon of the Department of Zoology Tel Aviv University. During this process of extreme evolutionary transition they embraced a parasitic life, surrounding themselves with other organism’s organs so they need almost none of their own. Simple, effective, easy; just like Joep van Lieshout suggested.

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8000 Lil’s

Spotify now features over 8,000 artists with “Lil’” at the beginning of their name – from the well-known Lil Wayne and Lil’ Kim,  to Dutch favourite Lil Kleine (which actually translates as Lil Little).  It’s interesting that the seemingly macho world of hip hop seems to have embraced ‘little’ as one of its favourite monikers. In the past year, all these lil ones have made quite an impact on the music industry: being the names behind 33 of the top thousand songs puts the Lil’s at a 106% increase over the same timespan in 2017, and a whopping 725% increase from 2016. While some of this growth can be attributed to breakout artists such as Lil Uzi VertLil Xan and Lil Yachty, legends including Lil’ KimLil’ Troy and Lil Wayne have long represented the “Lil” prefix. Some of its popularity as a prefix may just be the result of the word “‘lil” becoming increasingly used in the everyday vernacular. But no doubt there are copycats who presume the success of the other Lil’s may rub off on them. And then there are those that understand that small is smart.  Smart, beautiful and contagious.

A short survey of artists using the somewhat less street savvy ‘Little’ shows there are also many thousands, going as far back as music history will take you. Not surprisingly though, Big, Biggie, and B.I.G. are still quite popular also.

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Original Final Words

Richard Matheson’s novel ‘The shrinking man’ was published in 1956 and soon adapted for film.  In the film the famous last words in are inspiring but quite different from the original final words in Matheson’s book. Supposedly the original text was adapted by director Jack Arnold. Therefor, not to lose any of its visionary potential, we hereby publish Matheson’s equally inspiring last words.

“How could he be less than nothing? The idea came. Last night he’d looked up at the universe without. Then there must be a universe within, too. maybe universes.he stood again. Why had he never thought it; of the microscopic and submicroscopic worlds? That they existed he had always known. Yet never had he made the obvious connection. He’d always thought in term of man’s own world and man’s own limited dimensions. He had presumed upon nature. For the inch was man’s concept, not nature’s. To a man zero inches meant nothing. Zero meant nothing. But to nature there was no zero. Existence went on in endless cycles. It seemed so simple now. He would never disappear, because there was no point of non-existence in the universe. It frightened him at first. The idea of going on endlessly through one level of dimension after another was alien. Then he thought: If nature existed on endless levels, so also might intelligence. he might not have to be alone. Suddenly he began running towards the light. And when he’d reached it, he stood in speechless awe looking at the new world with it’s vivid splashes of vegetation, its scintillant hills, it’s towering trees, it’s sky of shifting hues, as though the sunlight were being filtered through moving layers of pastel glass. It was a wonderland. There was much to be done and more to be thought about. His brain was teeming with questions and ideas and yes- hope again. There was food to be found, water, clothing, shelter. And most important, life. Who knew? It might be, it just might be there. Scott Carey ran into his new world, searching.”

Whe will we run into ours?

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Fisherian Runaway

Fisherian runaway is a mechanism proposed by the mathematical and evolutionary biologist Ronald Fisher, to account for the evolution of exaggerated male ornamentation by persistent, directional female choice. When females are attracted to a certain trait within males, this trait over time gets over-emphasised because males with the trait will be selected by the female. An example is the colourful and elaborate peacock plumage. The bird’s extremely long tail seems incompatible with natural selection because it requires a great deal of energy to grow and maintain, reduces the bird’s agility, and may increase it’s visibility to predators. Yet, the tail has evolved, which indicates that females have a preference to mate with peacocks that possess a longer and more colourful tail. Peahens that select long-tailed males  in turn have male offspring that are more likely to have long tails and thus are more likely to be sexually successful themselves. Equally importantly, the female offspring of these peahens are more likely to have a preference for peacocks with longer tails. However, because the costs for the production of such a tail are so high the absolute fitness levels of all the members of the population (both male and female) is less than it would be if none of the peahens had a preference for a longer or more colorful tail. In his book The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins writes: ” In a society where males compete with each other to be chosen as he-men by females, one of the best things a mother can do for her genes is to make a son who will turn out in his turn to be an attractive he-man. If she can ensure that her son is one of the fortunate few males who wins most of the copulations in the society when he grows up, she will have an enormous number of grandchildren. The result of this is that one of the most desirable qualities a male can have in the eyes of a female is, quite simply, sexual attractiveness itself.”

90 to 95% of women feel more attracted to tall men. Much like the peacock’s tail this means more people are born that are tall and/or have a preference for taller partners. In this Fisherian runaway the human species continues to grow taller while it is abundantly clear that height itself has few, if any, real advantages, is mostly a unnecessary ornament and from a survival perspective ultimately leads to maladaptation.

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