Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Are we a generation of wussies? part 1

My wife just brought a book from our local library she thought I'd like. (She bought herself a set of Thomas Carlyle on sale.) I opened it at random and found this passage:

"It was silent in the woods, but something horrible happened everyday. Once the crows fell upon Friend Hare's small son who was lying sick, and killed him in a cruel way. He could be heard moaning pitifully for a long while. Friend Hare was not at home, and when he heard the sad news he was beside himself with grief."

The book is "Bambi, A Life in the Woods."

Yes, the book the Disney movie was based on, written in 1923 by Felix Salten. The author was born Siegmund Salten in Budapest in 1869. He was taken to Vienna by his parents as an infant, after Vienna admitted Jews to full citizenship.

He actually wrote two books about Bambi, and a few more where Bambi appears as a minor character. I understand they're all as dark as this.

Bambi was translated into English in 1928 and became a hit. Disney made it into a movie in 1942.

Salten's books were banned by Hitler (an animal-lover and vegetarian) in 1936, and in 1938 he moved to Switzerland, where he died in 1945. So I guess at least he got to see the smashing of the Reich.

This was a fortuitous coincidence, because a few nights ago I covered the 25th annual Buck Show, sponsored by our local Wildlife Federation.

There I was, feasting on chili in a crowd of families, many with small children, surrounded by tables laden with deer heads.

Awards were given for antlers in the categories of typical and non-typical, mule and whitetail deer, according to a complicated formula used by the national Boone and Crockett Club. There is a junior division for ages 14-17, and you could see the pride in their parents eyes as their boys, and girls, got their recognition for the bucks they'd shot.

I was aware of course, that a lot of city folk would think this appalling. Especially when I saw one curious youngster reach out and touch a buck's eyeball.

About that time, I saw the news reports about Michael Vick plea deal resulting in three-years probation. Vick is already serving a 23-month sentence for his involvement in dog fighting.

Dog fighting is illegal in the U.S., and cockfighting illegal in every state except New Mexico, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.

When I was travelling in Baja California, sleeping on beaches some years back, I camped next to a cockfighting arena near La Paz once. Very popular, with a big sign on the wall advertising, "Gallenas!"

Vick's case evoked a surprising degree of rage in people. My former roommate in D.C. knew Michael Vick, and pointed out Vick's numerous and significant contributions to charity were not getting any mention at all in the media, so great was the indignation.

Another NFL player, "Pacman" Jones, has a record of assaults, one leading to a man being paralyzed, and has yet to do serious time. Anybody who isn't a football fan heard of this?

There has been serious discussion that if Vick returns to the NFL eventually, his life might be in danger from outraged animal advocates.

I love dogs. There are people I'd rather see put down than some of the dogs I've known. But I still cannot believe the extent to which so many people want to take this man's freedom and ruin his livelihood - over a bunch of damn dogs!

So here's what I'm getting at. Some of us who've worked in the gritty jobs necessary to keep civilization running have been always been aware that Americans, and presumably all citizens of comfortably developed countries, seem to share certain unspoken assumptions.

They think food comes from a supermarket, clean water comes from a tap, and when you flush, sewage goes - away.

To put that breakfast bacon on your plate, a hog had to be killed and butchered.

Is it cruel?

Yes. Nature's cruel.

And you don't get a pass by being a vegetarian. Agriculture involves massive loss of animal life, directly from the process of plowing, planting and reaping, and indirectly from the loss of habitat.

Not to mention that when you wipe out, or severely limit predator species, you must become the predator to maintain nature's balance.

Only people insulated from raw nature by civilization can afford sentimental notions about it.

And, this seems to have consequences in the political realm.

Is it possible to be too civilized?


  • At 5:55 PM, Blogger TJIC said…

    I am a meat-eating, hunting-license-owning American, and I think that the outrage over Palin standing by while turkeys were processed is insane.

    That said, I think the outrage over Vic is correct.

    The difference between killing an animal for meat and encouraging animals to tear each other apart is three fold:

    (1) eating meat is part of nature, and is morally acceptable to almost all of us

    (2) using animals cruelly for entertainment is not a thing one typicall sees in nature, and is not considered moral by almost any of us.

    (3) To use an inherently theistic argument, forcing dogs - creatures that are kind, sensitize, and amazing companions - to deal out cruel punishment to each other is a perversion of their purpose (I believe in evolution, and would not use "purpose" in a teleological sense when describing a random walk / hill climbing evolutionary algorithm, but I will use it in a moral sense when describing human's interactions with the natural environment.

  • At 4:50 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    I am also repulsed by dog fighting, though I find it hard to get upset about roosters.

    Question still remains, do you want to take this man's freedom for a significant period of time, and his livelihood forever - over dogs?

    Which leads to an interesting point. None of the outraged that I'm aware of have called for, say, a whopping big fine. They want the whole enchilada, jail and banning from the NFL.

  • At 7:51 AM, Blogger Ted said…

    Is it possible to be too civilized?
    This was the question crossing my mind when a war that should have taken 8 minutes, or three months, at the outside, dragged out til now.
    It's entirely possible, when you have a bunch of mulleted, Coke-bottle-glassed, effeminate-voiced lawyers from the ACLU - and various other leftist outfits - interfering with everything, allegedly to protect civil liberties, but actually to advance communism under that guise ("If it helps ONE weirdo, it's worth it!").
    Compound that error with a President who believes in redistribution of wealth from your pocket to those of his backers and banker friends using the war as excuse.
    One comes away with the impression that "civilization" is just a cheap veneer of respectability with which we hide behavior more savage than anything that goes on in the jungle, because it may not be ethical, but it is, after all, "legal".

  • At 7:58 AM, Blogger Ted said…

    The whole Vik thing was produced by the green retreaded hippies, and directed by the animal rights retreaded hippies hippies, got the support of dithering ditzes across the land that feeeeeel it's wrong, and such empty-headed-emotionalism (NOT thought, or even reason) carried the day.

  • At 2:44 PM, Blogger Atomic said…

    While I agree with your overall point- I do think it's ENTIRELY possible to be too civilized, and that large portions of us are- I think the Vick case isn't the best example.

    It's not just that they're dogs. I know plenty of folks who have get-your-hands-dirty hard jobs, enjoy hunting, and fully understand the nature of, well, nature, and they were just as angry.

    It's that we have a visceral reaction to pointless cruelty to the helpless- we can conceive of an adult person as having some ability to defend himself, but animals are like children- helpless more or less by definition. The same instinct that arouses our special ire over cruelty to children, the old, and the handicapped kicks in with regard to dogs.


  • At 6:59 AM, Blogger Libertarian_Libertine said…

    I'd have to agree with TJIC, minus the theistic part.

    I eat meat and very much understand where it comes from, from the farm to the slaughterhouse and have no problem with hunting either. My father used to hunt, I have a lot of friends that hunt, and enjoy eating game. I also support animal research since it ends more suffering than it causes.

    However, I do not tolerate cruelty, specifically cruelty for entertainment or sadism. First, Vick already has a lot of money so losing his job wouldn't be like most people losing their job. Secondly, he knowingly risked his career because he's a sick man who likes watching dogs tear each other apart. "Lose his freedom over some dogs"? Why not? He has shown he is capable of cruelty on a pretty large scale and people have gone to prison for much longer for far more petty crimes.

    I do hold animals to a lesser position than people, but they are capable of feeling pain and I think that someone who is needless cruel to them shows a certain contempt for life. I have no pity nor sympathy for Vick.

  • At 11:16 AM, Blogger Ken said…

    Vick was wrong. Should he lose his whole life and career? Probably not. At least not until other crimes are treated with the same harshness. I have no idea why Pacman is getting away with what he's done. Unless it's because he's playing in Dallas and the Cowboys are one of the NFL's favorites. Plenty of other players have suffered more for lesser crimes.

    We do seem to have a problem with what's relative and really important. And a lot of people seem to have forgotten what the world is really like and what human nature really is. I don't know that it's so much because we're too civilized because I know plenty of people who haven't forgotten. It's more than being civilized, it's a turning away from the struggles it took to be civilized and why we had to struggle to begin with.

  • At 11:25 AM, Blogger Ken said…

    Forgot to mention that I think we might be headed towards a wake up call. Though I hate to think of how bad it might have to be seeing as how a lot of things that have happened somewhat recently should have, but have not reminded people what humanity is really like.

  • At 5:51 PM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    So what do you all think of Spanish-style bull fighting?

    (As opposed to the bloodless Portuguese style.)


  • At 8:09 AM, Blogger Ken said…

    First of all, my experience with Spanish Bull fighting or cockfighting is small and mostly limited to things I've seen on tv. If you need an animal for meat etc, kill it cleanly and quickly. Not sure playing with it is necessary. And while there may be a sport to it, it's not one I feel a need to participate in. Don't think that I'd decide it had to stop if I were in charge though.

  • At 7:13 PM, Blogger Steve Bodio said…

    I'm a naturalist and conservationist, a hunter as well. (Falconer, big game "meat" hunter, bird hunter.)

    I come from New Mexico and opposed the recent ban on cockfighting-- more "natural" than dogfighting, thoough some recent cultural accretions like Filipino blades are ugly.

    There is almost too much to say in the space of a comment. AR is almost always wrong, and takes a bigger bite every time. This is one place where we must watch Obama supporters-- I don't think he knows or cares but watch out who gets power.


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