Saturday 14 May 2016

Watership Down

There was a very odd story the other day. Channel Five had decided to take a break from showing softcore porn and CSI spin-offs, and one afternoon had broadcast the film Watership Down. A great many parents were very upset about this as it contains upsetting scenes. There are fields of blood, near death experiences, tremendous barbarism. I am just now watching it again, and intend to reread it in a week or so. I can see why parents wouldn't want their children to watch such subject matter. It's upsetting. It's sometimes horrifying. It opens your eyes to how unthinkingly cruel humans are. You assuredly don't want your children to realise that. It's the sort of thing that could even turn your children into vegetarians or - horribile dictu - vegans. It happened to me, after all.

I watched it, a long time after I read it, I suspect, and both initiations said to me that humans can be pretty horrible people. This was a long time before I understood the Holocaust or what WWII was about or what nuclear weapons were. I was just a little boy, and rabbits were being killed by humans for no reason. One of the attributes of the rabbits in Watership Down is that they are depicted with human characteristics, which helps small children understand that they are not just inanimate objects, but conscious beings. Don't worry too much, parents: when we small children get older we realise that bunnies don't compose poetry, for instance.

However, we may well realise (and retain the realisation) that rabbits do feel. They feel pain and love and hate. They quite possibly (probably) don't feel them as we do, but they experience them, nonetheless. That is an awkward time for a child. For one begins to wonder if other creatures feel some of that. The pig sliced into ribbons for our breakfast? The cow chopped into chunks for our lunch? Do they feel? Then we might go and observe, and find that they do feel. Then we look about ourselves, and we see that our fellow humans know that these creatures feel, but still don't care about killing them. We look at ourselves and ask whether we feel happy about killing them just because they taste good.

Maybe for you the taste is argument enough for murder. Perhaps you don't think of it as murder. It could well be that your parents cleverly stopped you from watching this film (or something kin to it) at such an impressionable young age, so animals never got anywhere near your conception of people. Maybe your parents used sophistry or argumentum ad populum or ad vericundiam to make you eat your sausages. Many do, I think. Maybe you cared for a little and then stopped caring. Perhaps you cared, and want to spare your child the feelings you experience.

It's so much simpler, after all, to cut down any obstacle, to blast through any blockade, to eat anything that is in your way, and to teach your children to do the same. Crush the weak. Take their possessions. They are but your playthings. Just be sure to keep your children safe until they grow strong enough to seize and snatch, rob and grab, kill and burn.

This probably will be an unpopular blog. There is no way of which I am aware to point out to people that they are supporting mass murder and cruelty on a global scale that doesn't make them angry with you. To get a whole other bunch of people angry with me for one moment, the Israeli government seems to be stuffed with awful people. You can't say that without making people angry. Then, as I expect you know, some Labour MP was recently revealed to have said some horrible things years ago, and was defended by Ken Livingstone, who was himself defended by an American chap called Finkelstein, who argued that suggesting one move the denizens of Israel to America would - in America - have been treated as a hard-nosed piece of satire. That struck me as a weird thing to say, given that when one thinks of moving a whole ethnic group from A to B, with the concomitant death toll, one tends to think of the Holocaust, where a cruel bunch of people cruelly moved another group from place to place to death. There's no humour there. There's horror, which also begins with an H.

One can't really "joke" about ethnically cleansing the Jews from Israel to America without invoking and evoking the Holocaust. Well, you can (for a given value of "joke")...but you shall annoy people. Likewise, you can't point out that the Israeli government is pretty horrifyingly evil without upsetting people, nor that mankind is egregiously despicable in how it treats other species. Heck, the only two comments I had on my blog before last, discussing a lady attacked by men, were insulting rejections of her position, which didn't deal with the substance of her argument at all.
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