Art and Morals (Plus a Debate About Street Dogs I)

with 14 comments

Can anyone do everything in the name of art? Alina is researching this problem. And I think it is a serious one. The „artist” Guillermo Vargas Habacuc starved a dog to death – that was his greatest artwork! Read the news in Romanian here, and in English here and here.

Now I cannot say that an artwork cannot be considered a real work of art unless it complies with general moral principles (generally speaking: unless the artist didn’t do immoral things in order to create the work, and unless the subject treated in an artwork is also morally treated). I cannot say this, and those who do claim such a thing make a great confusion between moral standards and aesthetical standards. You cannot say that an artwork is not aesthetically valuable just because it is morally unacceptable; conversely, you cannot say that an action is morally unacceptable just because it is aesthetically not valuable.

Does this mean that there is no relation between art and morals? Of course not. The artist, as everybody else, is constrained in his artistic and non-artistic actions by moral and legal norms. You are not allowed to make an artwork if, by doing it, you cause pain to a particular being.

Now unfortunatelly, this „artwork” I am talking about here is both immoral and aethetically not valuable. It is only ablut crime and stupidity. The crime of torturing a sentient being just for fun – and the great amount of stupidity of that so-called artist.

Written by Andrei Stavilă

martie 28, 2008 la 5:52 pm

14 răspunsuri

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  1. Sa omori o fiinta in numele artei sau in numele a orice altceva mi se pare un act de o cruditate strigatoare la cer. Omul ala pur si simplu ar trebui jupuit si expus intr-o galerie sa rada toata lumea de el… Nu cred ca exista pedeapsa indeajuns de mare pentru orice om care loveste sau mai rau omoara, o fiinta net inferioara, care era cat se poate de clar ca nu se poate apara. Asta nu e arta e tortura pur si simplu, iar cei care au vazut catelul si nu au facut nimic sunt la fel de vinovati.


    martie 28, 2008 at 6:05 pm

  2. On this criterion, there are thousands of almost-artist in Romania. They are almost-artists because they don’t kill their animals, but almost. As always, art reaches unthought of peaks in rural areas, of course.

    Also, there is lots of collective art in our cities, since at least in Bucharest [NATO-related areas aside] stray dogs are back – dirty, unfed, beaten and [so] eager to have a bite. [By the way, I’m not against a humane ‘final solution’ in this case, since we also have kids on the streets, but we spend more on dogs].

    Conclusion: ars longa, vita brevis – especially if you’re a dog.


    martie 29, 2008 at 12:32 am

  3. @ Raluca: sint total de acord 🙂
    @ George. The comparison between dogs on the streets and children on the streets, plus the idea that the Romanian state is spending more on dogs than on children always makes me crazy – but since now it’s you, I’ll try to explain nicely 🙂
    1) The idea that we spend more on dogs than on children is blatantly false; this idea was born by manipulating numbers, in order to get an extreme emotional response. There are other cases too… [and I am remembering that fucking stupid old woman, pointing her finger towards me, on the street, and screaming: look, he’s raising a dog, he wouldn’t raise a child!]
    2) A humane solution is not necessary „final”. And there are enough money to take the children out of the streets and to take the dogs out too – but the money are getting in some people’s pockets (sadly enough, in this case in the pockets of the people who are supposed to take care of animals, such as those organized in NGOs).
    Let me give you but one example.
    I have two dogs. Now I don’t have the money to give them the highest quality dog food – I only give them medium-quality food. My dogs (medium-sized dogs) eat 20 kilos of this dog food a month. That is, 10 kilos each. In Romania, this costs me 30 Euros a month (so 15 E for each dog in every month) [in Hungary dog food is cheaper, but this is not the point here].
    Now, I saw at TV a representative of a state-owned dog shelter in Bucharest who said that they are spending 10 (TEN) EUROS EACH DAY FOR EACH DOG. Do you realize this? This means that one of their dogs (and I suppose that street dogs are medium-sized, just as my dogs) is eating in one day the food one of my dogs is eating in a month! So there are two alternatives:
    a) they treat the dogs as kings (which I doubt – and I do know the situation in these shelters)
    b) they treat the dogs badly and take the money (which is the simple truth).


    martie 29, 2008 at 7:35 am

  4. But you don’t get paid to take care of your dogs. And your dogs don’t pay rent and whatever minimal utilities you need in a shelter. Etc. So your math is incorrect. And I was comparing costs, not dogs and children – or dog owners and parents.

    Corruption or not, you admit that we spend quite a lot – and without results. Anyway, I might be wrong on this – how much is spent etc. If we can afford it, fine. But do we? And is it a priority? [My answer: no and no.]

    And it’s not just money. Check the papers to see how many people are bitten each day in Bucharest. Sorry, but I don’t believe in animal therapy programs for aggressive dogs. And I don’t want to pay for it.


    martie 31, 2008 at 12:51 am

  5. In an animal shelter, say for 200 dogs, you need 2 workers and a vet (usually, the vet is also the manager). Minimal utilities? Wires, rocks and water. The state doesn’t pay rent, because it is the owner of the land. Yes, we can afford it. So my math is correct. [notice that there are also private funds – the problem is that, because of corruption, they are not used for what they are supposed to be used]
    One particular problem is human responsibility. In the communist era, when the state distroyed all the houses on my street, in order to build apartments, people let their dogs on the streets. The state didn’t care for those dogs either (they didn’t even try to sterilize them). This is why we have so many street dogs today.
    So, my dear friend, you think that the only solution to human responsibility for the past and to our day’s corruption is simply killing the dogs. Maybe my math is not correct – by your morals won’t do either.
    Yes, we have enough money to take the dogs out from the streets. We have enough money to sterilize them. And we have enough money (and solutions) to take the kids out from the streets too.
    Money do not come only from the state – there are private funds too. In what concerns your money, George, I am sorry to tell you – in a democratic state you cannot choose the taxes you would like to pay. Many of us pay some taxes even if they think those taxes are not right (but the state decided they are right).
    However, as I already told you, this particular tax is right. The Romanian state in general (and many of its citizens in particular) is (are) responsible for this problem. So the state must solve it.
    In this way, the problem of people bitten on the streets would be solved (this is why the problem IS a priority).
    Your rhetoric won’t do either: aggresive and old dogs should be euthanized – I have no problem with that.


    martie 31, 2008 at 8:56 am

  6. Fuzzy math, as it were.

    I can vote for policy proposals, mate. There are more than 100.000 dogs on the streets of our capital. Multiply that with 600 RON/month/dog. I’d vote for a mayor that said she/he would NOT spend that amount of money on dogs in a city with lots of more important problems.

    Shelters have to be small and temporary. And dogs should not be in the streets. So it’s either [responsible] adoption or euthanasia.

    Except out laws don’t allow for euthanasia. And since we got those laws, adoptions dropped from around 30% to 1%. At least if the following piece presents accurate data:

    You see, Andrei, it’s so much easier to judge one’s math than one’s morals.

    Is this the year of the dog or what?


    martie 31, 2008 at 2:51 pm

  7. 100.000 dogs? Who said that? Some say there are 30.000. Who’s right?
    600 RON/month/dog? Come on… I spend 100 RON/month/2 dogs, and you’re telling me they spend 600 RON/month/dog? Come on…
    „Shelters have to be small and temporary” – that’s YOUR OPINION.
    Of course you can vote for policy proposals. But others who don’t share your opinions can do this too. This is called democracy. Is it so hard to accept that others have other opinions, and that their opinions might be true nevertheless? 🙂


    martie 31, 2008 at 3:16 pm

  8. George got his numbers from the linked article. Anyway, 30k dogs is not enough for you, Andrei? And does it matter how much they actually spend on those? I suspect it’s a lot less than 50 RON/month/dog, but if you look up their receipts, it will show 600. There are too many strays in all Romanian cities, and they do constitute a threat, and a lousy excuse for some people to mis-spend public money, and an opportunity for the bastards who make some of that money flow into their pockets.

    I really sympathize with the poor dogs, I really do. But I am with George when he says that the foremost concern are the children out there–those living on the streets, or with denaturated parents.


    martie 31, 2008 at 4:25 pm

  9. I didn’t count them – it’s the number given in the article I linked. And you can see in Bucharest that the doggies ‘are back’. [Were – the past tense is because of the NATO summit.]

    I’d prefer people to be nice and take care of those poor animals, but I don’t think it’s gonna happen, and I’m not so ready to blame them for it. Life’s tough back home, as you know.

    No problem with differences in opinion – as if you didn’t know ;). But if what I say is true, then how could what you say when you contradict me be also true? And what I say is true. You draw the conclusion.

    You didn’t adopt a dog, did you? So back down a bit before having us build permanent shelters for thousands of dogs.


    martie 31, 2008 at 4:31 pm

  10. I am very sorry that a discussion about the relationship between art and morality deviated toward other topics. Anyway.
    Sorry, guys, but you are both so very wrong. I will try to be as clear as possible:
    1) Question: did I ever adopted a dog? Answer: yes
    [Sorry, George, but here you are wrong and you are speaking without knowing the relevant facts. In fact, I adopted TWO dogs. They are well fed now (both are 8 years old, and I’m having them since they were two months old – Oscar, and two years old, respectively – Whiskey), vacccinated, and they are living in my parents’ courtyard (and I contribute to their welfare). So I DO have the moral right to talk about these things]
    2) Question: do I support the idea of letting dogs on the streets? Answer: no.
    [I think the dogs should be taken out of the streets as soon as possible. If you still claim that I think otherwise, you are simply unfair]
    3) Question: do I support the idea of killing the dogs taken out from the street? Answer: No
    [I don’t think these dogs should be killed, except old, ill and/or aggresive dogs]
    4) Question: but do we have money for keeping these dogs? Answer: yes.
    [There are public, as well as private funds for this. Remember that this solution is temporary: such a dog will not live more than 12 years at best. So if you take all the dogs out of the street and sterilize them, the problem will be solved in few years]
    5) Objection: But this means that we use a great amount of money for dogs. We should use this money for those children that are living in the streets. Answer: the most stupid rethoric I ever heard.
    [If this rethoric is true, then we should not plant flowers in public squares with public funds; we should not waste water for public fountains; we should not spend public money in New Years’ Eve with stupid lights and fireworks; we should put our senators to buy with public funds only Romanian cheap cars – by the way, why do they need BMW’s and Mercedes’s? – And many, many other things! Why do you pick up only the example of the public money spend with the dogs? Why don’t you speak in the same manner against planting flowers? I’m still waiting for an answer…]
    6) Question: So do you think that humans are responsible for the situation of street dogs? Answer: yes
    [I already wrote about this before, but it seems that you, George, didn’t bother to answer me – as a matter of fact, I would be very interested to find out why do you think they aren’t]
    7) Question: Suppose that you are right and a) people and the state as such are responsible for this situation; b) the corruption in Romania is the most important obstacle in solving this problem. But why not killing those dogs? It’s a very easy way to solve this problem.
    Answer: I do believe that if someone is responsible for an act or a situation, he or she (and not other defenseless being) should be accountable for his or her action. In this case, the state is accountable, and is morally wrong to kill those dogs, as if they were accountable for this sad situation.
    1. Sorry, George, but I am right and (unless you provide me with strong counter-arguments against one of these points) YOU are the one who’s being wrong. How about that?!
    2. This is all that I have to say about the subject. I’ve tried to be as clear as possible about my ideas. But the reality is that all this discussion really makes me physically sick (it’s not about you, guys, so don’t get mad on me). Unfortunately, this is not the only case when people do something bad, and then other beings (and the environment) suffer because of this. But I guess this is something about our nature: we destroy everything, but we are not guilty – of course. The guilt is somewhere out there – our consciousness is so white, and our hands are so clean. We have children on the streets. But dogs are guilty about that – if it weren’t for dogs, we would have money to offer those children a bright future. So we kill the dogs while still enjoying our flowers in the squares, while still wasting water, while still enjoying our expensive cars for MPs, fireworks, and champagne – all of them bought with public funds, of course (oh, and what about those so many expensive receptions supported with the same public funds?). Yeah, now I see that I am wrong, and you are right: dogs are guilty.
    Don’t worry, George and Stefan: you will be satisfied. I know that there is a matter of time, those dogs will be killed anyway. And I hope – I really do hope! – that afterwards, there will be no Romanian child on the street. But something makes me skeptic. And if, at the end of the day, this will not be the case – then I am really curios to find out against what you will direct your wrath anymore. Doves? Flowers? You choose…


    martie 31, 2008 at 6:08 pm

  11. Andrei, I’m with you on all questions, except for #5. I really think that we spend the public money on lots of crap, instead on spending it back on the people, starting with those who need it the most – children on the street. I never meant to blame the stray dogs, and I guess George didn’t either. I really wish they could spend the rest of their lives in a nice shelter; only I wish it more so for the children – by which I don’t wish to imply that you don’t; only that I wasn’t trying to use rhetoric on you. If anyone’s to blame, it’s us, after all.


    martie 31, 2008 at 7:49 pm

  12. Sorry about the adoption thing. Maybe it – a mistake, surely – made you disregard what I’m saying – and what Stefan is saying. This is the last thing I’m gonna say here, no worries.

    The only thing you show is that we have fucked up public priorities. Kids – and human welfare generally [health, education, basic needs/utilities] – come before flowers, fountains, luxury cars – and dogs; and whatever in fact. I let you evaluate your own rhetoric – since you were kind enough with mine already.

    You seem to think the responsibility question has a clear cut answer: people. Who exactly has to pay? The former owners? Their dogs are dead, they themselves might be dead. The guys that ordered the destruction of our cities? Their children? Humanity?
    You say the state.

    Why? I suppose it somehow immediately follows this is a case of collective responsibility. Well, I don’t think so. On the same logic, we all collaborated with the communist political police. We’re all Felix-es.

    We, as a society, have to support costs we’re not responsible for [catastrophies, even historical stuff]. But in such cases what we do is to minimize costs. We dedicate/plan funds for ‘risks and crises’ – but they are limited. Dogs are not e.g. an endangered species. There’s so much stuff to do that they just don’t qualify. Or so I think. They do not have the overiding status a person has. They make good pets, but many other animals have a more complex psychology [and this matters, unlike being-a-nice-pet]. There’s no justification for having large shelters for 5, 10 or 12 years. But it might make sense to try promoting and supporting adoption. For a while. No one in her or his right mind would ask for a ‘search and destroy’ policy.

    To be clearer: why only be concerned with dogs? Because we happen to like them more than other animals? Our narcisistic preferences can be easily disguised as taking responsibility for our deeds. Why not care for the species we eat systematically – the continous massacre of cattle or pigs say? The fact that we don’t like dog meat – at least in this culture – gives us some moral upper hand supposedly. I don’t think so. I think we’re a pretty nasty species.

    Three other things:

    – I don’t think that dogs are guilty or responsible for anything – they couldn’t be, they’re just dogs. We don’t euthanize aggressive dogs because they were found guilty, but because they’re dangerous. They don’t get a lawyer, nor should they.
    – I happen to like dogs too. Can you take a look at my initial comment to this post? Perhaps I have to explain: I was deploring cruelty. In the grey Bucharest it’s sometimes soothing to stop somewhere, and share your junk food with a dog. And pet him: two lost creatures in a concrete jungle. But if your kid was mutilated by the same dog, you might feel otherwise [the same dog might behave differently at night in a pack].
    – In my previous comment I was making a joke about being right. You know how you always like to relativize truth – that was the background.

    I do water the flowers we have at home sometime. I caught Stefan doing it too.


    martie 31, 2008 at 8:10 pm

  13. Just for clarification: George, when I said that the rhetoric [comparing the situation of children and that of street dogs] is the most stupid I ever heard (and i still maintain this), this was not meant as an attack against you: fortunately for me, you’re not its author.
    By the way: remember me to tell you sometimes why do I (and Konrad Lorenz, as a matter of fact) think that the relation between man and dog is so very very special 🙂


    martie 31, 2008 at 8:49 pm

  14. […] Am avut o dezbatere cu George si Stefan aici. Ei sustin ca Romania cheltuie prea mult pe ciinii vagabonzi, si daca am macelarii toti vagabonzii […]

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