The Thrill of the Hunt…for Humanity.
These readings, particularly the first one by Ritvo were interminably boring. However, I found the phenomena they were discussing to be very intriguing. It seems that this semester is the semester of Victorian Culture for me, and I must say that this is an interesting facet of it. Now that I have “awakened” to something resembling a sense of compassion or even moral integrity, I can freely admit that I find the sport hunting of animals to be one of the few truly reprehensible treatments of animals in the world. I found “The Most Dangerous Game”, a famous story about a man hunted by another man on a deserted island to have a great sense of poetry to it. The plundering of Africa and India and the subsequent endangering of so many majestic and awe inspiring creatures has been one of the most tragic and resounding proofs for the ever expanding impact that the progress and ignorance of humanity can have on our planet. While I do not think it is possible for us ever to “destroy” the planet, I think we certainly could make it entirely inhospitable to life of any form we are accustomed to. In his essay (?) Ritvo states “they (animal trophies) were constant reminders of the hunting expeditons during which they had been procured, a symbol of the force and power that supported and validated the routinezed day to day domination of the empire” (Ritvo 415-16). The brutal declaration of the atavistic and unerring dominion of the British Empire that was represented by the rampant sport hunting and obsessive adventure seeking of well-to-do nobility and look-to-prove military meant that an entire ecosystem was unbalanced, and entire generations were denied encounters with vital members of our ecosystem. I am a believer that animals have a spirit, and that they have lessons to teach us. I agree with Derrida that it is through the next closest organisms to ourselves, animals, that which move and breath and eat and sleep and even love, that humanity can peer into the genuine mirror of existence. Yet our intention, particularly for the sake of amusement of spectacle, seems to be to shatter that mirror, and to ignore what is suggests for us as creatures. I do believe that it is right, and natural to eat animals, but I believe that this must be done with the full capacity of compassion and gratitude that we possess. That too is natural.
However, I also acknowledge humanity’s humanity. It is agreement by which we live our lives; agreement on laws, agreement on norms, agreement on tastes, agreement on every facet of our world. And more often than not a man cannot alter the agreements into which he is born, and the thought that he might change his world does not even enter his mind. Few are Ghandis. And indeed, society might not even function if we all were. Orwell highlights this, and helps to add an understanding view to the imperialist and amusement obsessed nature of most humans. He says “I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys” (Orwell 441). It is the agreements he creates that bind a man to a fate. And more often than not, I think that cruelty is not born from moral weakness, or malicious intention, but the abject terror each person lives their lives in. Orwell later adds, when considering doing the “right” thing and not shooting the mad elephant he has been called to deal with, “The crowd would laugh at me. And my whole life, every white man’s life in the East, was one long struggle not to be laughed at” (Orwell 441). Though Orwell is relating us to what the reality of English Imperialism was for most men, not the hyper-masculine, hyper-competent charicatures that strutted about the lecture circuit in Ritvo’s essay, but the simple man, trying to live life in extroidinary circumstances. This is the man whom must be reached. This is the man that must be taught what respect for life is.