Sunday, 20 August 2017

How can we try to know what we don't know?

Spending a little bit more time at our cottage in Northumberland recently, I started chatting to a local man who was a fisherman. During our conversation, he told me about his and his wife's affection for a semi-tame partridge that spent much of its time in their garden, and consequently, from time to time they fed the bird. They had called it Freddie, and he talked in warm terms as though it was almost a surrogate offspring. He and his wife felt it abhorrent that these cute birds, together with pheasants, were bred by the local hunting estate that he lived within, just to be shot for sport over the next year.

This seemed to me to be rather a conundrum which I pondered upon for quite some time. As a freshwater fisherman, he prided himself on his prowess to catch trout and salmon, and then probably kill them to eat later after frying them or oven baking them.

-What is the difference between fishing and game bird shooting I might have asked him?-But my manners and circumspection precluded me from asking such an ill judged antagonism...

I conclude, and this seems to meet with the ideas of John Berger and others such as Donna Haraway, that humans assume that it is acceptable to kill animals when they cannot personify, or relate in some way with their prey, or food that is hunted. Berger wrote of this in "Why look at animals" (1977), but in a slightly different way. He spoke of the peasant farmer who loved his pig and looks forward to salting [and probably eating] it. The operative word in the sentence is "and". Humans have lost their binding of both respect and necessity to kill and eat. The killing is done elsewhere or by somebody else. Any creature to be killed is, therefore "marginalised" as Berger puts it in his observations of zoo animals.

Likewise I think of the predicament of the Peregrine in that he/or she has to hunt in order to live. In fact, death requires life and necessarily life requires death and the cycle is a continuous one throughout nature. There are no rules to nature is Nietzsche pointed out almost a hundred years or so before John Berger's writings.

Whilst thinking about this strange conundrum that humankind put themselves into, I imagined myself looking down on a line of rocks that appear as an outcrop in the distance, and quickly sketched a detached view.

In thinking about my sketch, the detached observation in itself is a metaphor for thinking about the human condition in so many ways.

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