Movies and things

Attended a Donna Haraway lecture a few weeks back entitled “We have never been human – companion species in naturecultures.” Being totally out of the academic circuit I had never heard of Dr. Haraway before but apparently she is a very popular academic thinker. I can certainly understand that she’s a popular speaker, being droll and animated. In her presentation she followed up some links in human/canine relationships across time, geography and politics establishing that we are connected through our dogs to everything that our dogs are connected to, and that our dogs are connected to us through their integral roles in our histories and ways of constructing ourselves.

Later in question period she pointed out that you could do the same thing with a mass-produced commercial object. So it wasn’t clear that the deliberate cultivation of webby thinking the way she illustrated it would necessarily lead to a commitment to the ethical treatment of animals; she just chose to present it that way. Which was confusing, because she initially seemed to be saying something specific about the relationships between dogs and people, but when she explained what she was saying it was no, she was saying something about people, that when you look at our connections in a webby way we have more in common than we might like to think.

Which seems to be a very old notion. One that has more to do with adulthood and becoming one’s parents and looking fondly at people who are young and leaving their parents than it does with dogs or cyborgs or naturecultures.

But given that I don’t know what a natureculture is, is not for me to say.

What disappointed me was her reply to someone asking how to apply her philosophy in such a way as to convince evil profit-centred capitalists of the necessity for veganism. She said that thinking of meat-eaters as concerned with profit did them a disservice, and that while it might be unfortunate that the entire planet wasn’t vegan at least there were active movements to improve the treatment of domestic animals, such as cage-free rearing of chickens and that we should think about these and be optimistic.

When sharing a planet with six to seven billion other people who are continuing to multiply, when many of them are simultaneously going to increase their abilities to consume, when the vision of the future is an increase in people increasingly competing for increasingly limited resources, when what we know of true poverty is that it breeds a philosophy of “life sucks and then you die,” what the **** does the niceness of cage-free rearing of chickens have to do with anything?

But I get the impression that I might simply not have understood any of the lecture at all. Like my mother says: “Sometimes you can’t tell whether you don’t get the joke or whether you get it but you just don’t care.”

Anyway. Went to something presented with much smaller words on Thursday, and even illustrated. With moving pictures. I’m pretty sure I understood it. Turtles Can Fly, a fictional movie about children in wartime in Kurdistan acted by war-injured children. I almost walked out in the middle of it. The experience recalled visiting television-owning friends in 1985 at the height of famine in Ethiopia. They would be watching the news and I would be desperately ordering them to Turn that thing off! “Why? What’s the problem? Aren’t you interested in international news?” That’s not the point! Maybe you can invite starving children into your living room to die in front of you while you don’t lift a finger to help them. Maybe you think that’s interesting. But I can’t do it and I don’t want to know how you can. Turn that thing off!

Am still a little shaken.

Hugs to all, dogs and children especially but chickens and academics too.

Leave a Reply