Friday, July 31, 2015

Murder, Empathy and Some Songs

It is Friday, time for more music - but maybe more than music. One of these days I might manage more than one post a week! but until then it can't hurt to expand the one post a bit.

Another week with a lot going on, I admit. Might we relate some of these events?

1) In Cincinnati, another policeman shooting another black person - this time, though, the cop has been indicted. The cop shot the man for no reason, and did it on camera - so... stunning how much it takes to get a case to come to this level of justice; also stunning to think just how arrogant some cops can be. How little attention they pay to the evidence that could emerge against them.

2) Cecil the Lion: this has been dominating the internet lately - a famous lion on a wildlife reservation in Zimbabwe was lured off the preserve and shot by an American dentist called Walter Palmer who paid $50,000+ to kill a lion. International outrage follows. Palmer's dental practice is chased out of business in short order by internet abuse and real life protests. Well - he deserves it. It's hard to fathom the awfulness of this person - flying around the world to kill rare animals for fun, at least some of the time breaking the law to do it; and then look at the way he immediately blamed his guides when he got caught! A real class guy.

It really is an awful story - I just don't get it at all. I understand hunting - I don't have any interest in it myself, never did, but I grew up in semi-rural places, and most of my family still lives in rural and semi-rural places, I have always known lots of hunters. And they strike me as being as unlike this Palmer character as I am. Hunting deer and birds - they hunt things they plan to eat (and that seems like a baseline: if you aren't going to eat it, don't kill it - not a complete moral system there, but an irreducible core of one); they hunt things where they are part of the ecological system. Deer hunters help control the population, which can cause problems when it gets too big - they have replaced the wolves and puma humans killed off centuries ago... And most of the hunters I know are also part of the ecology in the sense that they hunt where they live, hunt in the same environment. They live with deer year round; they share the ecology; the deer eats their zucchini and they eat the deer.... All this is completely unlike Palmer: he isn't eating the lions and elephants and bears he's killing; he isn't hunting creatures who are plentiful and have no other predators - in fact some of them are quite rare; and he isn't part of the ecology of the place he's hunting in. He's flying halfway around the world and paying someone else thousands of dollars to let him take a shot at something. Oh yeah - the deer hunters I know do their own shooting; they don't hire a band of locals to take all the risks and do most of the work. There's simply no level of contempt deep enough for this fucker.

3) A meme - I have seen a couple instances of this, complaints about all the attention for a dumb beast and none for the poor suffering XXX. Marco Rubio might be the most prominent person to post it (if Marco Rubio can be considered prominent), and he put it in the most ignorant and dishonest form, bringing up that bogus planned parenthood story.... For people like Rubio the lies are deep - because in what universe is anyone ignoring that planned parenthood video? both sides are flogging the hell out of that thing - no one is ignoring it. And really, the whole point is absurd. Yes there is a lot of attention paid to Cecil and his killer, but there is plenty of attention paid to the rest of the world. Look back at #1 - another police killing, getting a fair amount of attention. That is a pattern of stories that has been receiving attention for a couple years, which continues. The three recent mass killings in the good old USA continue to get plenty of attention. I've seen stories popping up about George Zimmerman, poor fellow. (He's homeless apparently - a shame, since in a just world he would be housed at the state's expense for some decades.) It's hard to see evidence that people are not moved by human suffering. Maybe not every single horror show the world has to offer - but there are no lack of horror shows.

The meme (why are people so worked up about a dead lion when there is human suffering to worry about?) misses the important point: all of this - all compassion, for anyone and anything - is based on the human ability to empathize. I came across a TED Talk about the rise of human beings - how did we become the apex predator of apex predators? The answer? Imagination - or maybe empathy - the ability to create stories that other people share, that bind us together. Or you could say - the ability to see ourselves in others - other people, other animals. To imagine their inner lives. It;'s obvious how this works with people - maybe less so how it works with animals, though it's not too far off - isn't that how we came to domesticate animals? We imagine dogs and cats (and horses, and even cows and pigs and chickens) as beings with some kind of consciousness that we can relate to, and we relate to them. Even a lot of the creatures we eat - we form bonds with them. (And they benefit - at the evolutionary level anyway: cows and pigs and chickens won't be endangered any time soon.) So - how can it be bad that people form a bond with a wild animal living half a world away from us? And understanding how killing it is an abomination? I don't think it distracts from our ability to sympathize with people - I think it helps form the habits of sympathy, that extends to other people.

Well - I guess that was more than just some observations to attach to a lit of songs... So I guess we're in for something less random today - today And now I find that I have written too much to allow me to append a random list of songs... so less random:

1. The Germs - Lion's Share
2. Dire Straights - Lions
3. Neko Case - Lion's Jaws
4. Sleater Kinney - Lions and Tigers
5. Wire - Ex Lion Tamer

Video: start with Dire Straits:

And add a bit - maybe Ladysmith Black Mambazo singing the Lion Sleeps Tonight?

And maybe some topical humor. In case of accidents he always took his mom - also appropriate I think:

This also comes to mind:

1 comment:

Sam Juliano said...

Stephen, your editorial styled condemnation of that monstrous sadist from Minnesota deserves my congratulations. That was utterly brilliant my friend. So brilliant in fact that I simply must reprint it with the proper credit of course on my Monday Morning Diary late this evening. Your music too as always is first-rate, and I applaud your capsule assessment of another killer cop, this time from Ohio!