I watched the movie The Unbearable Lightness of Being last night, hoping it included this classic quote found in the original novel by Milan Kundera…
“True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power. Mankind’s true moral test, its fundamental test (which is deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.”
Unfortunately, the film version, while still a great flick throughout its 3-hour running time, did not make room for that or these other timely quotes (also found in the book) about dog and god and death and shit, which (aside from shit) have been the topics of some of my recent posts (my emphasis add in bold)…
“Dogs do not have many advantages over people, but one of them is extremely important: euthanasia is not forbidden by law in their case; animals have the right to a merciful death.”
“The very beginning of Genesis tells us that God created man in order to give him dominion over fish and fowl and all creatures. Of course, Genesis was written by a man, not a horse. There is no certainty that God actually did grant man dominion over other creatures. What seems more likely, in fact, is that man invented God to sanctify the dominion that he had usurped for himself over the cow and the horse.”
“…Nietzsche leaving his hotel in Turin. Seeing a horse and a coachman beating it with a whip, Nietzsche went up to the horse and, before the coachman’s very eyes, put his arms around the horse’s neck and burst into tears.
“That took place in 1889, when Nietzsche, too, had removed himself from the world of people. In other words, it was at the time when his mental illness had just erupted. But for that very reason I feel his gesture has broad implications: Nietzsche was trying to apologize to the horse of Descartes. His lunacy (that is, his final break with mankind) began at the very moment he burst into tears over the horse.”
“Spontaneously, without any theological training, I, a child, grasped the incompatibility of God and shit…either man was created in God’s image – and has intestines! – or God lacks intestines and man is not like him.
“The ancient Gnostics felt as I did at the age of five. In the second century, the Great Gnostic master Valentinus resolved the damnable dilemma by claiming that Jesus “ate and drank, but did not defecate.
Shit is a more onerous theological problem than is evil. Since God gave man freedom, we can, if need be, accept the idea that He is not responsible for man’s crimes. The responsibility for shit, however, rests entirely with Him, the creator of man.”
“The river flowed from century to century, and human affairs play themselves out on its banks. Play themselves out to be forgotten the next day, while the river flows on.” ― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Yesterday’s blog post, “Man I Wish You Were Never Born,” took to task the whole of the human race for the fact that Homo sapiens doesn’t just kill other animals to fill their bellies, they destroy them in droves out of spite, to eliminate the competition…or just for fun. That post received across-the-board praise from readers committed enough to the cause to take a sober view of the only species ever to fly to moon, invent a god or cause a mass extinction.
But do I dare take it a step further and examine the origins of the overexploitation of non-humans when doing so means questioning the nearly universally-held tenant that certain groups of people shall remain blameless, even genetically incapable of wrongdoing? Well, just to prove that I’m an equal opportunity misanthrope and my compassionate misanthropy is colorblind, I’m going to come right out and say that contrary to popular belief, the hunting practices of stone-age people were extremely cruel and often had a staggering impact on wildlife populations.
Ever since the first hominid shunned our primate predecessor’s plant-eating lifestyle and sank its teeth into the flesh of another animal, our hairy fore-bearers have been scratching their heads, and armpits, trying to devise deadlier weapons than their neighbors. The simple, sharpened stick, later recognizable as the spear, reigned for over a hundred centuries before the atlatl propelled the human predator to a higher level of planetary destruction. With that new technology, localized over-hunting—then early mass extinctions—followed the spread of Homo sapiens to every corner of the earth. Later, of course, gunpowder unleashed a firestorm the likes of which the world had never known.
So, why bring this up? Why not let people have their illusions about their peaceful origins and the notion that any humans were ever harmonious in their animal exploitation? Because belief in fantasy only fuels the case for hunting and delays the day we finally move beyond it as a species.
Harvard biological anthropologist Richard Wrangham and author Dale Peterson address revisionist history in their 1996 book, Demonic Males: Apes and the Roots of Human Violence. In a chapter titled “Paradise Imagined” they write: “Many of us who…absorbed the ideas of anthropologists like Margaret Mead, find deeply comforting their evocation of paradise and their notion that human evil is a culturally acquired thing, an arbitrary garment that can be cast off like our winter clothes.” The chapter goes on to challenge this fallacy with examples of human ill-behavior throughout the ages and concludes with: “To find a better world we must look not to a romanticized and dishonest dream forever receding into the primitive past, but to a future that rests on proper understanding of ourselves.”
Some folks find it painful to accept that pioneering Paleo-Indians, the predecessors of Native Americans, actually drove aboriginal animals like horses over cliffs by the thousands and ultimately to an early extinction. Now, Washington’s Yakima tribe wants to send their wild horses (brought back to the continent and inadvertently released by early Spaniards) to modern-day slaughterhouses, like the introduced cows they raise on their reservations.
A Seattle news article entitled, “Yakamas Urge Feds to Consider Horse Slaughter,” quotes Yakama Nation Chairman, Harry Smiskin, who said in a March 29 letter to President Barack Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack: “We don’t understand why it is OK to slaughter many animals in this country – certainly the White House and the USDA have meat on their cafeteria menus every day – but for some reason horses are considered sacrosanct.” One of the absurd excuses Smiskin presents for pushing horse slaughter plants is that they are a “humane” way to deal with unwanted horse herds. I’m sorry, but being crowded into a windowless building of an industrial slaughterhouse that reeks of blood and reverberates with the sound of saw blades cutting bone and the cries of terrified animals being butchered alive is anything but humane for domestic cows—let alone wild horses!
This is just the latest instance of an autonomous Washington State tribe undermining federal protections for animals. The Makah mocked the Marine Mammal Protection Act by blasting a grey whale to death with a 50 caliber rifle, the Colvilles instated the first and only wolf hunt in the state since wolves started to make a comeback and now the Yakimas are pushing back advancements made for wild horses.
Ironically, the captains of animal industry are using our politically correct attitudes toward Native Americans to further their agendas and squelch the perception that any other species besides Homo sapiens has intrinsic value. After all, only a misanthropist or an animal rights extremist would dare to question the stated objective of an American Indian.
If you’re one of those hold-out voters we keep hearing about who hasn’t yet decided who to elect for President, here’s an idea for you: cast your vote against the guy that boasts a bow hunter as his Vice-presidential partner in crime—the Robin to his Batman. (That would be the Republican, Mitt Romney—in case you’ve been lucky enough to miss his outspoken VP sidekick and hunting addict, Paul Ryan, yammer on and on about his favorite hobby of launching aluminum shafts tipped with razor-sharp arrowheads into the bodies of innocuous, peace-loving deer.)
I can understand and relate to the disillusionment anyone might feel about our current President. Some of the things he’s pulled—joking about eating dogs, removing their canine cousins, the wolves, from the federal Endangered Species list thereby casting their fates into the eager hands of hostile states, or relegating horses and burros to the slaughterhouse—are unforgivable. We can’t let him get away with that sort of thing in the future.
But, there’s no doubt that the other candidate would commit equally atrocious crimes against animals, in addition to mocking global warming with his stated goals of approving the Keystone pipeline and opening up fragile federally protected lands to oil drilling. Adding insult to injury, Romney had to go and tap not just a hunter, but a goddamned bowhunter—the most sadistic strain of killer out there—for a running mate.
Unfortunately for dedicated animal advocates, we’re forced to have to choose between the lesser of two evils yet again. In this case, the bowhunter is clearly the greater evil on the ballot.