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Dogs as Heroes: Nero, the Survivor

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2008, Romania, Tibeni village. The flood destroys everything. Nero, a German Sheperd, fights for his life. He stayed for 4 hours stuck to the wooden fence. Finally, he was saved. Watch the movie here. Read his story in Romanian here.

Reclame

Written by Andrei Stavilă

noiembrie 1, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Rousseau and Bentham on animal rights

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„By this means, an end can also be made to the ancient disputes regarding the participation of animals in the natural law. For it is clear that, lacking intelligence and liberty, they cannot recognize this law; but since they share to some extent in our nature by virtue of the sentient quality with which they are endowed, one will judge that they should also participate in natural right, and that man is subject to sme sort of duties toward them. It seems, in effect, that if I am obliged not to do any harm to my fellow man, it is less because he is a rational being than because he is a sentient being: a quality that, since it is common to both animals and men, sjhould at least give the former the right not to be needlessy mistreated by the latter” [Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), Discourse on the Origin of Inequality]

„Other animals, which, on account of their interests having been neglected by the insensibility of the ancient jurists, stand degraded into the class of things. … The day has been, I grieve it to say in many places it is not yet past, in which the greater part of the species, under the denomination of slaves, have been treated … upon the same footing as … animals are still. The day may come, when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been withholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may come one day to be recognized, that the number of legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum, are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate. What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or perhaps, the faculty for discourse?…the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?… The time will come when humanity will extend its mantle over everything which breathes…” [Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832), Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation]

Va ordon: treceti Dambovita, ucideti ciinii!

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Un eveniment tagic a avut loc la Constanta. O haita de ciini maidanezi a ucis o fetita de sase ani. Ce poti spune in fata unui asemenea eveniment cutremurator? Sa ceri omorirea urgenta a maidanezilor? Sa acuzi parintii de tratament neglijent? Sa injuri autoritatile? Si dupa ce faci toate astea, te simti mai bine?

Acest eveniment nu ar fi avut loc daca toti cinii din Romania ar fi fost adunati de pe strazi, asa cum tot cer eu cel putin de pe vremea cind scriam la „Lumea ieseanului” – adica de prin 2004. Si daca toti ciinii erau castrati, iar cei bolnavi, batrini sau agresivi – eutanasiati. Dar asta nu s-a intimplat.

Din pacate, pentru aceasta greseala administrativa a statului roman (stat roman care este condus de cei pe care romanii i-au votat in mod democratic), cel putin doi prieteni, George si Manu, considera ca singurii vinovati sint ciinii. Si – amindoi – spun ca trebuie sa ne obisnuim cu ideea ca pamintul e al nostru, deci facem ce vrem cu el si cu animalele inferioare noua – punct. Imi pare rau ca nici unul din ei nu au avut timp sa citeasca fragmentul din Milan Kundera pe care l-am postat aici cu doar citeva zile in urma.

Poate ca au dreptate. Ei se pricep mai bine, stiu multe lucruri despre stiinta, respectiv Dumnezeu. Spre deosebire de ei, eu nu prea am adevaruri absolute, iar memoria mea proasta ma face sa uit tot ce citesc. Si stiu ca de cele mai multe ori sint suspus erorii – mai mult, gresesc de-a binelea (asa cum fac acum, pentru ca se prea poate ca prietenii mei sa se supere pe mine, si atunci imi pierd doi oameni dragi din cauza gurii mele bogate). O singura tristete am: nu i-am citit pe prietenii mei reactionind in acelasi fel, si nu l-am auzit pe George spunind ca-i este rusine, si nu i-am auzit pe nici unul aratindu-se indignati despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Sau despre asta. Si as putea sa mai pun o mie de legaturi. Dar ma opresc aici.

Ma intreb de ce prietenii mei (sper sa nu se supere ca ii numesc asa, dar sincer amindoi mi-au devenit dragi, chiar daca pe unul din ei nu l-am intilnit fata in fata), de cind si-au publicat blogurile, nu au postat nimic despre link-urile de mai sus? De ce faptul ca o mama isi omoara copilul, ca un tata isi violeaza fetita, ca o bunica se arunca de la etajul noua al uni bloc legata de nepot nu stirnesc aceeasi indignare? Poate ca avea dreptate Milan Kundera: cu semenii nostri e usor sa ne purtam respectuos, pentru ca avem ceva de cistigat – sau, daca ii vorbim de rau, am avea ceva de pierdut. As vrea sa citesc pe blogurile prietenilor mei ca cer aceeasi pedeapsa pentru criminali, asa cum au cerut si pentru maidanezi.

Dar probabil, pace Kundera, e mai usor sa ne varsam nervii pe porumbei, sau pe ciini. O fetita violata si apoi ucisa intr-un oras mare din Romania e un fapt neinteresant. Un copil aruncat de la etajul doi al blocului de o bona romanca in Italia (pe motiv ca plingea), nu e o stire. Dar o fetita omorita de ciini – in aceeasi saptamina – este o stire. Pentru ca pe ciini ii putem acuza – oricum nu au ce sa ne faca.

Ma gindesc la fetita ucisa de ciini. Si la maidanezul de pe strada mea, batrin de abia mai putea misca, pe care insa toti copii de la blocurile din jur il hraneau de cind se stiau si ei, il ingrijeau – si care a fost ucis de un hingher cu o piatra in cap, sub vazul copiilor iesiti la joaca. Si copiii, si ciinii, sint vitime nevinovate ale noastre – ale maturilor care, – nu-i asa, George? – stapinim planeta. Ale maturilor care – nu-i asa, Manu? – sint ticalosi atunci cind folosesc darwinismul pentru a comite un genocid, dar nu sint ticalosi atunci cind folosesc aceeasi justificare pentru cruzimea fata de animale, sau pentru uciderea lor fara scop.

Ce pot sa spun? Sper sa nu se supere prietenii mei pe mine. Si asa sint al naibii de trist. La un moment dat, acum citeva zile, i-am zis Romaniei sa se duca dracului. Acum as spune asta omenirii intregi. Da, chiar meritam sa ne ducem dracului. Apropo, cititi cartea laureatului premiului Nobel pentru MEDICINA si FIZIOLOGIE, Konrad Lorenz. Se numeste „Cele opt pacate capitale ale omenirii civilizate”. E tradusa si in romana (si v-as mai ruga sa cititi, de acelasi autor, „Asa a descoperit omul ciinele” – e tradusa la Polirom). Astia sintem noi, George – specia care stapinim pamintul, fie ca vrem fie ca nu, si ca atare purtem face „ce vrea muschiul nostru” cu el. Din fericire, n-o sa mai facem asta prea mult. Lorenz m-a convins.

Pina atunci, va ordon: ucideti ciinii! Si vom trai in sfirsit adevaratul Rai pe pamint.

Written by Andrei Stavilă

aprilie 15, 2008 at 12:39 am

Milan Kundera, animal love, and humanity’s fundamental debacle

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Milan Kundera is one of my dearest writers. Because in the last days I had a debate with two of my friends about the street dogs in Romania, I want to end the debate with an extensive quote taken from „The Unbearable Lightness of Being”. Please do read this. The quote is taken from here, and you can find it on pp. 289-290

The first years following the Russian invasion could not yet be char­acterized as a reign of terror. Because practically no one in the entire nation agreed with the occupation regime, the Russians had to ferret out the few exceptions and push them into power. But where could they look? All faith in Communism and love for Russia was dead. So they sought people who wished to get back at life for something, people with revenge on the brain. Then they had to focus, cultivate, and maintain those people’s aggressiveness, give them a temporary substitute to practice on. The substitute they lit upon was animals.

All at once the papers started coming out with cycles of features and organized letters-to-the-editor campaigns demand­ing, for example, the extermination of all pigeons within city limits. And the pigeons would be exterminated. But the major drive was directed against dogs. People were still disconsolate over the catastrophe of the occupation, but radio, television, and the press went on and on about dogs: how they soil our streets and parks, endanger our children’s health, fulfill no use­ful function, yet must be fed. They whipped up such a psychotic fever that Tereza had been afraid that the crazed mob would do harm to Karenin. Only after a year did the accumulated malice (which until then had been vented, for the sake of training, on animals) find its true goal: people. People started being re­moved from their jobs, arrested, put on trial. At last the animals could breathe freely.

Tereza kept stroking Karenin’s head, which was quietly resting in her lap, while something like the following ran through her mind: There’s no particular merit in being nice to one’s fellow man. She had to treat the other villagers decently, because otherwise she couldn’t live there. Even with Tomas, she was obliged to behave lovingly because she needed him. We can never establish with certainty what part of our relations with others is the result of our emotions—love, antipathy, char­ity, or malice—and what part is predetermined by the constant power play among individuals.

True human goodness, in all its purity and freedom, can come to the fore only when its recipient has no power. Man­kind’s true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it.

One of the heifers had made friends with Tereza. The heifer would stop and stare at her with her big brown eyes. Tereza knew her. She called her Marketa. She would have been happy to give all her heifers names, but she was unable to. There were too many of them. Not so long before, forty years or so, all the cows in the village had names. (And if having a name is a sign of having a soul, I can say that they had souls despite Descartes.) But then the villages were turned into a large collective factory, and the cows began spending all their lives in the five square feet set aside for them in their cow sheds. From that time on, they have had no names and become mere machinae animatae. The world has proved Descartes cor­rect.

Tereza keeps appearing before my eyes. I see her sitting on the stump petting Karenin’s head and ruminating on mankind’s debacles. Another image also comes to mind: Nietzsche leaving his hotel in Turin. Seeing a horse and a coachman beating it with a whip, Nietzsche went up to the horse and, before the coachman’s very eyes, put his arms around the horse’s neck and burst into tears.

That took place in 1889, when Nietzsche, too, had re­moved himself from the world of people. In other words, it was at the time when his mental illness had just erupted. But for that very reason I feel his gesture has broad implications:

Nietzsche was trying to apologize to the horse for Descartes. His lunacy (that is, his final break with mankind) began at the very moment he burst into tears over the horse.

And that is the Nietzsche I love, just as I love Tereza with the mortally ill dog resting his head in her lap. I see them one next to the other: both stepping down from the road along which mankind, „the master and proprietor of nature,” marches onward.”

Written by Andrei Stavilă

aprilie 7, 2008 at 12:32 pm

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

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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 at 5:52 pm