Ladies and gentlement, boys and girls, readers, breeders, and fellow bottom-feeders, I have, at long last, without even seeking out the title, been named a Dhimmi-crat. Oh happy day.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
You know, say what you will about Lévi-Strauss, but at least he went to the fucking jungle when he wanted to write about the natives, you prolix little closet case.
Recall if you will. It was a bright, warm day in September, and the clocks were striking thirteen. In the busy East of the country, trains, planes, and automobiles disgorge lines of still-sleepy workers. Across the Great Plains and into the Rockies, men and women wake slowly to their coffee. Out West, children yet dream of three-picture deals as the moon wanes over MGM. 19 Saudis fly three jets into three buildings.
Now, in a warm, humid July six years later, "The Bush administration is preparing to ask Congress to approve an arms sale package for Saudi Arabia and its neighbors that is expected to eventually total $20 billion at a time when some United States officials contend that the Saudis are playing a counterproductive role in Iraq." (That's not actually the biggest cut of the côte du boeuf either. It's over $30 billion to Israel. But that's another post, another day.)
I seem to recall a conservative adage that you can't fix a problem by throwing money at it, but like so many others, that maxim went out a convenient window as soon as the money was theirs to throw. Plus ça change.
Anyway, this all falls under my own maxim: Don't listen to what they say; look at what they do. In this case, category Say is "prevent a wider regional war" and category Do is "pour billions of dollars worth of arms into the fragile, quarrelsome, precarious neighbors of an escalating civil war ever percolating under an American occupation. The Congresscrats make oppositional noises on this one, but like their howler monkey counterparts, they're much smaller than their voices. Never dangerous. Timid. Easily spooked.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Since, as a number of you delight in pointing out regardless of the proliferation of clear, easily identifiable caveats to exactly this extent, there is no such thing as A Libertarian, no one can accuse me of breaking with orthodoxy when I say that so long as the Constitution permits and the government requires that we pay income taxes, I have no particular problem with graduated rates. Hell, I support them. It is perfectly in keeping with the devil and Dr. Rawls that an hourly worker making twenty grand a year and receiving no benefits should pay a smaller pecentage of his income than me, and it's perfectly fair and reasonable that I in turn should pay less than my Dad-the-Executive.
I figure that benefits and perks considered, Dad makes about ten times what I do, and pays a comparatively high percentage of his income in taxes. And yet his spending can't reasonably be called constrained. He owns a lovely home. He drives a swift little Bimmer. Mom drives a Lexus so quiet it sounds like it runs on butterflies and air. When my grandmother finally had to stop working, they bought her condo for her. This year, they've been once to Napa, once to Montreal, twice to New York, once to Florida, and once to Arizona. At Thanksgiving, they'll be in Spain. In other words, the income tax is not driving the well-to-do into the sort of Edwardian penury of once-great families in a Waugh novel. And keep in mind that la famille IOZ is on the much lower end of the fabled upper one percent.
So in a vague and meaningless sense, I side with John Edwards in his little tiff with Mitt Romney over tax proposals. The tax code should be fair to everyone, rich and poor alike, and it's galling to hear the fabulously well-to-do--especially gajillionaires like Massachusetts Mitt--rend their garments and tear their hair over the unfairness of it all when not only do they have on hand a vast chace of resources to minimize their repsective burdens, but also because they simply cannot claim that their tax burden objectively, meaningfully constrains their expenditures.
But in a substantive sense, I think they're both loons, focusing on a marginal debate about some redistributive kookery--as if closing a loophole or easing filing will substantially benefit Joe Q. Autoworker--instead of noting simply, as supposed anti-war candidate Edwards, for instance, might, that we could not only reduce our individual tax burdens but also, concurrently and without breaking a sweat, vastly increase the reciprocated benefits in terms of transportation infrastructure, disaster remediation, and, hell, universal motherfucking healthcare, if we were not spending a trillion or so dollars a year to rule the world (and not very effectively at that). This is not a new argument.
As for the so-called complexity of the tax code, the unfairness borne of its byzantine depths: well, that's what happens when the soviets of a sorta-kinda planned economy that wishes to maintain a veneer of Capitalism-on-the-March are reduced to using the tax code as a principle means of control and reward. Since you can't say "subsidy," you instead say, "tax break." And what occurs is that those with armies of accountants acquit themselves just fine--and indeed, CPAs everywhere are doing brisk work these days--while those who don't, don't. But offering "middle-class" people more tax breaks and "tax incentives" and write-off opportunities and this and that and the other is no solution. It's like throwing a glass of drinking water to a man drowning in the ocean. I mean, thanks, but . . .
And that's all I have to say about that. For something more substantively libertarian, I'm always happy to pimp ideas like this.
We here at Who Is IOZ? are in general opposed to phrenology in all its hoary forms. Nevertheless, we suggest that if this is your mug----it is probably advisable to avoid the kiddie porn. People, you see, suspect.
And a note for Kathreine Jean Lopez: Not. In. Massachusetts.
Hey. Iran. Hey. Yeah, you. Iran. Hey. Yeah, you. And you too, Russia. Yeah, you. Yeah, I'm talking to you. Yeah. You listenin? You listenin? You listenin? Yeah? You're listening? You're both listenin? Good.
Now elsewhere and otherwise, people have already covered Michael Gerson's thoroughly retarded cri in today's Post. So I'll only add comment on one minor piece of Gersonian reportage:
When the statistics on teen sexuality are controlled for social and economic factors, conservative Protestant teens first have sex at about the same time as their peers -- the average is midway through their 16th year. That is hardly comforting to conservative Protestant parents, who would expect more bang for the bucks they spend funding Sunday schools -- well, actually, less bang.Tops and bottoms, males and shemales, Barbaras and Hedwigs, let us tease this out to its last, angry inch. The barren ground on which we chastely tread is just under ten months from side to side. The average life expectancy of American men and women is right around 76.5 years. Haul out the old abacus, and what do you get? You find that this whole range is almost precisely 1% of an average American life! Big changes, baby. You get the quick-dawning realization that all the threats and harangues of a vast, callous, implacable god and all his earthly interlocutors cannot budge the average age of intercourse by any statistically significant margin.
But these numbers shift when controlled for religious intensity. For those who attend church often, sexual activity is delayed until nearly 17, while nominal evangelicals begin at 16.2 years, earlier than the national average.
To put it in language that Mike might understand: Come sophomore year, someone is gonna do your daughter. Does it really matter if it's at homecoming or at the prom?
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream whose operational details I cannot describe in open session, because it is an ongoing dream..
I have a dream that [REDACTED].
I have a dream that one day in a certain location which I cannot disclose because of the sensitive nature of that information, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a piece of equipment that I would be happy to discuss in further detail in closed session.
I have a dream that at a certain point--although I am unfortunately unable to offer deadlines or timeframes at this moment--even a state that I would prefer not to specify due to privacy concerns raised by advisors in my office, a state whose particular characteristics I'm going to decline to elaborate on given a number of current litigations whose outcomes I would prefer not to appear to have prejudged, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that [REDACTED] children will one day live in a nation, although I'm not able to discuss any specifics here, as I'm sure you understand.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream, although I'm not going to engage in speculative timetables, that down in a state distinct from the state which I could not identify above for the reasons I noted, which I will also not identify here so as not to give the impression of unduly influencing any outcomes, with [REDACTED], with its governor supporting policies that I am not going to comment on here in great detail, given ongoing negotiations; one day right there in this state--again, I apologize for my necessary reticence on the particulars--little boys and girls will be able to join hands with little boys and girls in certain capacities that, unfortunately, are not within the purview of my particular department.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every location shall be, unfortunately, uncharacterized, every hill and mountain shall be made available to those with the appropriate clearances, and that all the appropriate benchmarks shall be met.
Cecilia Bartoli sings Mozart's "Voi avete un cor fedele", conducted by Harnoncourt
Jessye Norman sings Johann Strauss' "Es gibt ein Reich" from Ariadne auf Naxos
Pavarotti sings "Rondine al nido," a sappy old Italian song.
Bryn Terfel and some other dudes doing "Don Giovanni, a cenar teco m'invitasti." You know. The awesome part where he gets dragged down into hell. Cool.
Let's take a break, shall we, and make some salad.
Frisée with shallot and strong mustard vinaigrette
It's a bit counterintuitive, but it's the chicories and not the leaf lettuces that are the most cooling. The key is to moderate their bitterness with something sweet and sour. Here, the sweetness comes from marinated shallots and the mustard base, the sourness and spiciness from vinegar and the strong pepper of the mustard. The ingredients here are simple.
1 head frisée (per two servings)
1 medium shallot
good white wine vinegar
strong mustard with green pepper (moutarde au poivre fort)
extra virgin olive oil
Finely dice the shallot. Put it in a small mixing bowl. Pour in vinegar until the shallots are just covered. Add a pinch of salt and stir to dissolve. Set aside to macerate. You'll want to give them fifteen to twenty minutes.
Cut the root end off the frisée and separate the thin leaves by hand into a colander. Rinse well with cold water, then lay out between clean towels or paper towels and pat dry.
To complete the dressing, add 2 to 2.5 parts oil to your vinegar and shallots. Then add one teaspoon or so of mustard. You can just scoop it out with a fork and then stir with the tines. The mustard will help emulsify the dressing. Return the frisée to the colander and dress there. I like dressing in a colander because any unemulsified oil and liquid will drain off, leaving a perfectly dressed green salad.
Salad of grated cleriac, carrot, rutabaga, and green apple
Root vegetables aren't just for the cold months, stewed or roasted. Raw, grated, and dressed generously with citrus, they make complex, flavorful salads for the summer. Here, the unique flavor of celeriac (celery root), the sweetness of fresh carrots, the slightly bitter, slightly sweet, turnip-y flavor of rutabaga, and the tartness of green apple make a very special and colorful dish.
1 celery root
1 medium carrot
1 tart green apple (such as a Granny Smith)
juice of l large lemon, freshly squeezed
Grated vegetables brown quickly. Grating vastly increases the ratio of surface area to volume, which speeds oxidation. So the key to this recipe is to work quickly and logically.
First juince the lemon. I try to get every bit, and I like a little residual pulp. Dissolve in a generous pinch of salt. Then peel your root vegetabls and divide them into workable chunks. Skin the apple, core it, and do the same. Grate them quickly on a moderate setting--if you've got a food processor, acquit yourself of its glorious efficiency. If not, put some elbow grease into it, you pansy.
Toss the vegetables together in a bowl. Dress them with oil until they are thoroughly coated but not weighted down or soggy. Add the lemon juice. Mix together well. Add white pepper to taste.
A nice presentation is to use a small prep bowl, or an ice-cream scoop to make clean portions on the plate.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
The zealotry with which the federal government pursues its useless, ceaseless, baseless drug war is really something else. Now all good people, not to mention presidential candidates, admit to youthful dalliances, experimentations, encounters, awareness. At least of pot. It's fodder for sitcoms and films for teenagers. The parents that I know fret about cigarettes, but tell them their teenage sons and daughters are toking up from time to time and they shrug. "As long as she's not drinking and driving."
Yet still the government hounds these poor people. You know who goes to grower's clubs and marijuana dispenseries? Old, arthritic hippies; kindly grandmother's with glaucoma. Cancer patients! I have seen young men drink two bottles of over-the-counter Tussin DM and go realing off into the night with a loaded pistol and an uninspected Chevy Cavalier, searching for death and destruction. Meanwhile, Grandma Moonbeam Starshine Lovenstuff, who only wants to ease her joint pain enough to keep making homemade yogurt and to put the Caliphone needle in the right groove on her Joni Mitchell records is awaiting a federal sentence.
Although there are more terrible things in, of, and for America, including of course our endless wars, it is the eternal harrassment of our own citizenry that offends me most. What amazed me when I lived abroad was that France, a country of ruthless centralization, of a powerful investigative and administrative judiciary, of Napoleonic law, of a State apparatus that extends into almost every aspect and strata of national life, just doesn't bother its people so very much. What occurs behind les volets fermés stays there.
Perhaps it's only that they're demographically disinclined to child bearing, and with fewer children who are the future, they don't think so much of the children, who are our future.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
It was Kant who said of Davey Hume, "[He] interrupted my dogmatic slumbers." I guess I always supposed it was a one way street. Once awakened, the dreamer can't return to his dream. Alas. He can.
In January of this year, we found that "commentator Rod Dreher . . . is so dismayed at the way President Bush is handling the Iraq war that all of his prior beliefs have come into question." Fine. Cool. Awesome. We noted it and moved on.
Yet then again in June, he read All Quiet on the Western Front, and lo and behold, earth shake and sky burst with lightening, rivers to blood and fields strewn with firstborn, he discovered that all his prior beliefs had come into question once more. We paused and scratched our chins. Had he found a new set of prior beliefs: full and complete as a regrown starfish arm? No. It appears his beliefs, having been called into question back near the new year, withstood his momentary, interrogatory zeal unharmed. But surely not twice now!
Oh emm gee, as the kids say. Dreher is back with the same rented mule of a Weltanschauung. He's beating the poor thing by the side of the road. Betrayed, he is! Or at least delayed.
Dreher has discovered that: absolute certainty under emotional duress is an delusion; governments are not universally honest; the Republican party is not awesome; force alone cannot "solve deep cultural and civilizational problems"; and liberal democracy isn't the default state of mankind.
In short: Rod Dreher, the Crunchy Con, is now a B student in high-school civics. Next up: Columbus did not really discover the Americas; Nero did not really fiddle while Rome burned; Odysseus' crew didn't really turn into pigs; Atlas doesn't really hold the world on his shoulders.
How, I ask you, how can a man pass through his entire life endlessly reliving the same poor-man's epiphany? And if you can tell me, then tell me how it can so thoroughly fail to stick? And if, at last, you've got that answer, tell me how this blind babe, this foal, this shaky-legged fawn, could master this life sufficiently to not walk out into the street, freeze in someone's headlights, and die like a miserable opposum? Mammals with brains so thoroughly desiccated spend their lives eating eucalyptus and wagging their ears at tourists. They never learn left from right or up from down or article from pronoun or gravity from strong nuclear. They do not speak or walk upright or understand music or experience hope and joy and tragedy and defeat. Taken individually, each of Dreher's confessed beliefs is merely naïveté. Taken together, it astonishes me that the man remembers to breathe.
Of course, in another month, he will remember once more to haul out his prior beliefs for their regularly scheduled shattering.
Via AntiWar blog.
Now I have put a fair amount of white powder up my nose in this life. Lord knows. Usually in order to keep drinking. Cocaine is not a particularly pleasant drug, even the good stuff. It's short-lived speed with a brief euphoria that is to better drugs and natural endorphins what a furtive jerk-off in a dorm shower is to the ass of that dancer who's always wearing those cut-off sweats around campus. (Or, uh, something.) Coke is the Pringles of drugs. Mass-produced. Not for connoissieurs. But once you pop, you can't stop. How many times have I seen good, decent, altruistic, friendly, unobtrusive, pleasantly conversational human beings turn into slavering, atavistic, line-grubbing zombies as the night progresses. They are not having fun, and yet they are compelled to continue, hoovering more and more, faster and faster, demanding, "No, LISTEN to what I'm saying!" until at last, as dawn creeps over the Alleghenies, the still small voice whispers, "Has anyone got any more?" There is a tragic humor in this, because everyone has long since become a hoarding bastard, shorting everyone else's lines, folding secret stashes into dollar bills and corners of magazine pages.
So when Lindsay Lohan says the cocaine on her person isn't hers, you can be abso-fucking-lutely sure that she's telling the truth. It isn't hers because she bogarted it from the pile, wherever she was. A thief, an addict, and a liar. My kind of people.
UPDATE: Also, this courtesy of that. Maybe I am a Giuliani man.
There can be little debate that the framers saw the Congress as the central organ of government, and there can be little doubt that that dream is dead. No proper eulogy--only the impotent anger, eye-rolling, sighing, shuffling of papers, rocking in seats, hollow threats, vapid assertions of personal and institutional disappointment from Senantors Specter and Leahy, honor amputees who can't even enforce their own subpoenas or contempt citations, let alone, ye gods, end a numbingly disastrous, criminal war. Bested by a twit with a faulty memory. What a day for the Greatest Deliberative Body Evar Assembled.
The good senators have taken the unsual tact of whittling a mountain down to a molehill, mounting its minor rise, and bellowing as if their voices will carry and echo. Press coverage emphasizes to varying degrees that, yes, the committee is very, very, very displeased with the Attorney General. And yet with all the machinery of power bestowed on them by the central organizing document of these United States--the power to spend or deny, the power to hold their own trials if the courts and executive fail them--they choose to avail themselves only of the power to pontificate, which any madman with a streetcorner and a conviction about the drug trade, alien overlords, and the Queen of England can do just as well.
Ordinarly I would be a fan of any diminishment of the powers of government, but there's no favor to be found in increases in the power of executive fiat. The plain course of action is to impeach the president. The argument that impeachment is an action of such gravity that it can only be taken up under the most dire necessity--and the corollary that the Clinton impeachment was entirely destructive to the system--strike me as wholly unconvincing. I too regretted that Clinton's impeachment sprung from the very expensive and largely fruitless investigation of a partisan witch-hunter, but I hoped that taking the tarps off the mechanisms of impeachment a few decades after they'd been tuned up for Nixon would normalize the process, that we would see a legislature far more willing to use this tool to hold executives to account, that perhaps a greater preponderance of executive trials--once every couple of decades, at least--would be a neat blow to the age of executive power.
Clinton, recall, went in and beat the charges: a perfectly fine, reasonable, substantive outcome. This business that it "prevented" him from "governing" is transparent nonsense. It assumes that governance is a positive, singular act emenating from one man. Unfortunately, the idea stuck that "the business of governing" was somehow impeded by the government acting in one of its Constitutional duties, and it made everyone timorous.
Last night on NPR I heard ol' La Nan Pelosi prattling on about not having "a signature," about Senatorial obstructionism, about "ending this war." The mad scene is better out on the heath. What you have here is a supposedly coequal branch of government that has spent decades ceding its own power--willingly and often willfully. When last it dusted off one weapon in its arsenal, it was terrified by the Bang! And put it away. And pretends it doesn't exist. To be bested by Alberto Gonzales--a man of no skill, no distinction, no particular intelligence, no popularity, no honor, no dignity, no especial worth; to be bested by a guy whose only tactic is to play dumb; to wail and cry and harangue and harumph and hold hearings and threaten the tyranny of heaven and earth and the seven seas; and to come away holding nothing but your own dicks? The word for that is contemptible. The word for that is lame.
This was not, in fact, advocacy for Communism. Some of you seem to be confused. Dog help us, I swore when I started this-a-here blog that I would never explain a joke. Alas, alack, it comes to this.
You should all be ashamed of younzselves.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
My thoughts on the last Democratic debate amount to a dawning sense that I should advocate for communism. Under communism, we could all just admit that our leaders are corrupt, lousy, whore-mongering power addicts and go about ingeniously undermining the system in a thousand little ways. Remember, folks, in Communist China, you devour Cthulhu!
Here is Professor I, Robot endorsing in his habitual half-hearted way a book called Hitler's Beneficiaries. "Putting the Socialism back into National Socialism," he quips. And the blurb:
In Hitler's Beneficiaries: Plunder, Racial War, and the Nazi Welfare State, Gotz Aly argues on the basis of extensive evidence, that German support for Nazi rule was maintained by the creation of a massive welfare state funded in large part by plunder captured in Hitler's foreign conquests, but also partly by means of "soak the rich" taxation within Germany itself. . . . Like some modern opponents of globalization and free trade, the Nazis viewed economics as a zero-sum game between nations, where increasing wealth for one country could, in the long run, only be achieved by impoverishing or conquering others.Well, I stopped reading at the "Nazi Welfare State." The what?
Friends, Romans, Deutschevolk, lend me your sneers. It's going to take more than a free lunch program to pin the Death's Head to my lapel. There is, in any case, a voluminous history of Nazi Germany. It is the most plumbed and spelunked and microscoped history in the world. The authorities are contentious and tendentious and occasionally specious. On many, many particulars they disagree, and on matters of grand meaning there are universes between them. And yet everyone seems to agree, as a general fact and principle, that despite the Party title, the Nazis were not, in fact or thought or essence or ether, socialists. The Third Reich was not a welfare state. The Holocaust was not the WPA.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Reflecting on the Michael Vick case, Crispin Sartwell writes that the priciple take-away is that "as a society, we have no idea what we think about animals." I think I might rephrase it: As a society, we have no idea what to think about animals." But the point is well taken, and since two of my main interests are moral reasoning in the use of violence and the culinary arts, I thought I might add a few thoughts.
Sartwell writes, "[O]ur moral counting of animals seems to vary with their proximity to ourselves." As one of his commenters notes, that moral reckoning isn't unique to our interactions with pets and livestock and wildlife. Every year for the last five years the United States and its agents have killed tens of thousands of people, the majority of them "innocents" or "bystanders" or otherwise categorized to indicate that their deaths were incidental to our military and policy aims. An Iraqi life is not counted as much as, say, a Spanish life, and a Spanish life isn't counted as much as an American one. South Korea is far removed geographically and culturally from America, but certain political, cultural, and economic affinities render South Koreans "closer" to Americans than Iraqis, and so the plight of two dozen caputred South Koreans appears to us as more significant than the commensurate plights of many, many Iraqis abducted and killed on a daily basis. It is probably fair to say that all moral accouinting proceeds from proximity or rather arbitrary affinity. I'm not sure, therefore, that it's fair to imply our interactions with animals--moral or otherwise--are unique in this regard.
I've previously written that I think of J.M. Coetzee as the most profound living moral philosopher, and the moral autonomy of men and animals is the great theme of his life's work. In The Lives of Animals and then in Elizabeth Costello, Coetzee imagines an aging Australian author named Elizabeth Costello who is less an authorial stand-in or interlocutor than a sort of Coetzeean doppleganger: neither quite the author nor quite not the author. Costello is increasingly obsessed with animals' "sensation of being," with man's right to destroy animal life, and ultimately with the primacy of reason (the possession of it) in determining moral stature. Would we kill babies? Would we kill the mentally ill? Have we before? What are our current judgments about such practices? Do they not extend naturally to other living, autonomous beings, even if those animal beings likewise lack certain capacities of adult, human consciousness?
Elizabeth Costello shocks her audience. The killing of animals for food in mass agriculture is worse than the Holocaust. It is not merely the extermination of life, but the perpetual breeding and maintenance of life for the purpose of perpetual, utilitary slaughter. Livestock are bred to be executed. Creatures like cattle were actually created by man for the purpose of nevending death. Coetzee is too subtle an author and thinker to let this go by without suggesting that Costello is engaged in some attention-grabbing hyperbole, and later in the narrative of Elizabeth Costello it becomes evident that Costello isn't quite right herself. That she's getting old. That she's not certain where her sympathies lie. That she perhaps feels secretly that she lacks the authority to make the arguments that she makes. That perhaps she's wrong. (Coetzee, meanwhile, is so rigorous a moralist that this same Elizabeth Costello shows up again in the recent Slow Man, to make it a meditation on an author's moral responsiblity to his own fictional creations. And you thought you had a lot on your mind . . .)
In Disgrace, Coetzee's slightly earlier novel set in post-Apartheid South Africa--a grim, despairing, brutal, and beautiful book--one character far out in a rural province makes a living putting dogs to death. There's simply nothing else to be done. And the main character, another kind of doppleganger named David Lurie, eventually joins her in this work, and finds in its awful necessity a kind of grace, such as it is, though never redemption. Coetzee doesn't seem to be a fan of the illusions of the redeemed and redeeming.
I eat meat, but I believe that eating meat should be a conscious and moral decision. I don't think that everyone should set up their own abbatoir in the basement and raise their own hogs out back, but I do believe that anyone who wishes to eat meat ethically should be willing, at least once in his life, to participate in slaughtering an animal. To shy away from the gore seems to me to be wrong. That animal is alive, and it has agency. Whether grass-fed or high-density feedlot raised, the steak on your plate once lived and experienced this world. It felt sensation--perhaps our words like pain, fear, anger, love, pleasure are meaningless in the context of another species, but there can be no denying that animals live in this world and know it through senses as we do. A person who can't wring the neck of a chicken has no right eating McNuggets.
But I admit there's a poverty to such reasoning, because it raises an attendent question: If the bar to morality is participation, aren't all manner of atrocities against other humans open to us as well. I have no clear answer to that question, but I will suggest that as regards abortion, infanticide, and euthenasia--not to mention end-of-life and palliative care for the terminally ill or chronically pained--there are gray territories that many of us shy away from addressing, in part because of past abuses. Yet anyone who says he's seen a severely mentally and physically handicapped person and not at least entertained the idea that it might have been better if that life had not been preserved is a liar.
Then there are the attendant questions raised by our increasingly sophisticated neurological, biological, and behavioral science. The great apes; certain marine mammals; even the octopus--these are animals that have a capacity for cognition. Some of them live in clear, cultured societies with plain behavioral parameters--what we would call ethics, maybe, or rules. Just this weekend, I read an article about rebels in the Congo executing gorillas. I found it terribly painful. Those animals are so nearly human that their killers actually executed them as if they were: lining them up and shooting them in the back of the head. There, I think, is a terrible exemplar of our moral confusion on this issue: that these creatures so remind us of ourselves that we subject them to our atrocities as if they really were human. How absurd! No matter how much Koko loves her kitten; no matter how much sign language you can teach a chimpanzee, neither is human. Still . . .
Here, Sartwell is right on:
What we need to figure out is: do animals count and how, not as dwarfish or four-legged or stupid people, but as real things whose existence is, though connected to ours, profoundly external and different?Ronald Reagan infamously used to muse that if extraterrestrials invaded Earth, the United States and the Soviet Union would join forces through common humanity to resist. It occurs to me that a great impediment to our reckoning with the different lives of animals is the fear that a divide contemplated is a divide already partially bridged.