Anthropomorphism is the ultimate narcissism, the manifest symptom of species-privilege. We are too egocentric to conceive of, decipher, or imagine the inner lives, social and communication needs of other species. So, to ascribe human speech and behaviour to animals is to pander to man’s utter inability to get past his limited, binary thinking, to get over himself; to somehow show that our interiority is not the only experience available. It becomes a bit of a tautology, I know. That pig may be singing to the moon or he may be doing something totally beyond our ken. Hard to say. As Jane Austen once wrote: “second-hand conjecture is pitiful”.
It is a failure of imagination to resort to anthropomorphism to explain or explain away animal life: a sorry reductionism to justify why their lives are less valuable than ours or equally valuable. I would resent having had to resort to such a conceit to accommodate the solopsism of man except for the pleasure I took in writing the horses’ dialogues. Still and all, language is as callow as we are, and further restricted when framed by the demands of storytelling, stimulating pity and fear and all that jazz. So that failure of the imagination is, perforce, mine as well. Just ask Babe.Read More
I‘m excessively tired just now, but I have to say a few words about “The Cove”, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2010. The direction is so exemplary–it’s a thriller. A thriller about Japan’s decimation of dolphins without the approval of the Japanese people. It features a perfect mix of a very human story about a man who changed his mind: a dolphin trainer (the trainer of Flipper) who has an epiphany, almost overnight, and launches an immediate (like, the next day) crusade to save dolphins from the selfish and savage vagaries of man (well, vagaries may be too soft a word). The doc follows him and the recruitment of the producer/director (I forget his name) who, along with others (like Sea Shepherd, and Surfers for Cetaceans), attempt to film the “killing cove”–an out-of-sight, remote cove on the Taiji Island of Japan where 23,000 dolphins a year are separated from their young (remember, they’re mammals like us), and speared repeatedly until the cove waters run red with their blood. The International Whaling Commission is shown to be ineffectual in stopping Japan from this annual savage slaughter whose gain goes to dolphin shows and zoos–like SeaWorld and the like, which we, Westerners, pay to enjoy, unaware of, or indifferent to, whether the dolphins amusing us are content, healthy or adapted to what is clearly not their natural environment. The most recent newsletter of the Sea Shepherd features their presence in Taiji, and I’ll have a direct website addy for you shortly. In the meantime, if “The Cove” is showing on TV or anywhere else in your neighbourhood, make a point of seeing it. I guarantee it’s got more action than “Lethal Weapon” and the screaming of the dolphins being sloppily and randomly speared will stay with you…through the night.Read More
The puerile but concise rant of the postee mentioned earlier–full of a venomous smugness–is in stark contrast to the man who showed up at the Massueville demonstration last Monday. As luck would have it, this poor sap showed up amongst the demonstrators–some sporting fake bullet holes in their foreheads (I guess he didn’t notice as he pulled in to park beside them)–with the intention of asking the abattoir to slaughter his young stallion for him. As I shepherded him over to the group (he didn’t notice the big signs they were holding up with “arretons l’abattage des chevaux” written on them either), he told me the abattoir would pay him $350. So it was that when at least five of us pressed in on him, all talking at once and in two languages, he was taken aback, as if he’d opened the door to what he thought was a room and found himself on the edge of a cliff instead. (Well, one can never safely predict one’s destination with any certainty at the best of times.) I’ll give him credit though; he didn’t turn and leave (run away! run away!): he stayed as the group grew more vocal, imploring him not to do this heinous thing, inundating him with facts and proof and alternatives. Now nonplussed, he argued back that no cruelty existed at the slaughterhouse. That wasn’t true, he knew for sure. They shot the horse dead right in front of him last time because he’d told them he didn’t want it to suffer. I nearly wiped a tear from my eye. I suggested they might have done that because he was a witness, and judging from the paucity of windows in the building, they didn’t really want witnesses to their daily goings-on. Furthermore, I asked if he thought they had the time to process 80 or so horses a day in that kind fashion–would that be an efficient way to render a high volume of product? When he looked back at me blankly, I thought maybe I’d driven the point home to him and that he was processing new information or maybe, old information in a new way. But no.Read More
A few hours ago, I returned from…bowling. Yes, you read right: bowling. To a second-wave feminist, an activist, a boomer who was going to change the world (again)–the type who threw linen over the lampshade and thought Pier 66 wicker was boss–the very idea of bowling was anathema. Imagine renting used shoes–yes, wearing footwear probably full of fungi and other contractable foot disorders–to participate in a game once imaged in full crinoline skirts and innocuous suburban flirting, slinging a small ball against pins shaped like old coke bottles. JMJ…preserve me! Eww! Well…I had a blast! Extremely friendly people, from all walks of life; of all ages; some extremely gifted at targeting even a single coke bottle standing in a remote corner, and others no better–and sometimes worse–than I was, just having fun, canoodling for seconds at a time, pressing the flesh with high-five’s (with nary a worry about germs, not an antibacterial in sight), and enjoying a two-hour reprieve from daily life and its many burdens. Even five years ago, if you’d told me I’d be bowling, I’d have laughed (ha!HAH!) in your face. But the foreshadowing was receiving a gift sub to Reader’s Digest about five years ago. The woman who subbed to Vanity Fair, GQ, Vogue and Cosmopolitan now kept Reader’s Digest in the, um, restroom just as a, shall we say, quick and dirty read.Read More
“They changed things around, dam’em…they smeared it with blood. I’ve just gotta find another way to live, that’s all,” says Gable in the last movie he ever made. Almost by default in order to be the counterpoint to the three men’s lifestyle, Monroe champions the mustangs who Gable and his pals used to capture so they could be trained as riding horses, and now, as the naive Marilyn finds out, they’re captured to be sold by the pound for dog food.Read More