A Culture of Make Believe


Gods, I’m talkative today. Abraxas’ fault.

Here are two scenarios which actually happened, on Monday and Tuesday this week:

1) 5:30 am and the road is quiet – just a big white bakkie coming the other way, and us on the road. A few metres after passing the bakkie, we see a limp mass in the road. A cat has been knocked over.

Stopping, I see it is a half-grown kitten. Somebody’s family, judging by the pink-and-white collar with a bell around hir neck.

The cat is trying to get up, but can’t – hir injuries must be extensive. She looks at me out of huge hazel eyes and breathes slowly. Warren gets a sign board and we move hir onto it. In the next few moments, bubbles of blood form at mouth and nose, and all hir sphincters let go.

S/he’s passed, and I whisper a little encouragement to hir spirit.
We move cat and board onto the side of the road, so that when the family comes looking, they won’t find an unidentifiable heap of guts and fur.

At least their family member didn’t die alone on the road.

But please don’t tell me that driver of the white bakkie didn’t know he’d hit an animal – I don’t believe it.

2)From the Osiris smokers’ balcony we look down across the first-floor smokers’ balcony, which is planted with Petunias and Agapanthus along the edge, as well as 3 small Cape Ash trees.

Why Cape Ash, I don’t know-these trees can grow fairly big, and then there will either be a ripping and tearing of cement, or more likely the trees will be tossed.

For some unknown godsdamned reason, the company who ‘owns’ these trees (I’m looking at you, Brandhouse) wants them pruned into shapes resembling giant lollipops. The garden service comes along and obliges, showering the courtyard below with twigs, leaves – and an inhabited Sparrows’ nest.

These two Sparrows are a regular feature of our mornings at work. Having been born inside our company offices a couple of years ago, they’ve nested in the immediate area long enough to raise two families of chicks.

Now here comes these giant shears swooping in from nowhere, demolishing their carefully-wrought home.

OK, I know what a Sparrow’s nest looks like – no work of art to you or me, but it’s their functional, living home, by all that’s holy.

These gardening-service-folks are lambasted by myself and The Moffie, but all they do is grin while admitting they’ve thrown the nest over the railing.

Now, I don’t mean to imply that the white bakkie driver or the gardening service employees are arch villains whose actions will bring an end to the natural world all by themselves.By no means. They’re just ordinary Joes, going about their business daily.

What these two incidents do illustrate very, very clearly is the principle of hierarchical violence.

It may only legitimately flow in one direction, you see – down the pyramid. Anyone lower in the order who attempts to commit violence up the slope will find themselves dead pretty damn quickly. And their voices silenced.

Imagine those two Sparrows attacking the gardeners successfully. It’s not going to happen, and if it did, those’d be two stone dead Sparrows, I guarantee you.

Violence from ‘higher’ to ‘lower’ in the hierarchy is, on the other hand, frequently invisible and never retaliated against. Try petrol bombing a bank sometime.

This is the culture we live in. The Culture of Make Believe, where nonhuman animals are not considered to be life, but resources, and disposable ones at that.

The continuation of this mindset, this hierarchy, this civilisation is what is destroying our Mother and leaving ourselves and our children, and all the nonhuman life within Her, without a landbase. Or with a landbase so virulently poisoned that it is totally nonviable.

It’s got to stop. It’s got to stop now.

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8 responses to “A Culture of Make Believe

  1. Very well described.It’s breaking a lot of our human hearts, too, this inattentive, unthinking violence and cruelty. This is why Paganism and other ways to hold these things sacred are so vitally important at this time in our history (and always).

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  2. Sorry, but it’s not going to stop. Remember the story of the scorpian and the turtle? It’s just in our nature to dominate/kill/re-arrange/destroy.Must be the price of “intelligence” I suppose……..

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  3. Inanna,Yes, I don’t discount the human suffering – women and children and indigenous peopple have always been down the hierarchy, and suffer badly. It’s just the invisibility of nonhumans which has got me, this time.The Michael,I know. This society will not voluntarily transform itself. That’s part of the horror.I’m advocating violent resistance, if necessary, as the only language the power wielders will understand.Yes, we can use the master’s tools to dismantle his house.Love,Terri in Joburg

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  4. Desecration of a Cape Ash. Related to the mahogany and one of the most beautiful spreading trees of southern Africa. Birds such as the Knysna and purple-crested louries, barbets, bulbuls, mousebirds and hornbills eat the fruits.Everything you say resonates with me …

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  5. No, I didn’t think you were discounting human suffering. And I was thinking not of direct human suffering at the hands of the patriarchy (to use a shorthand), but the ways in which we suffer because non-human animals and the earth suffer. I feel despair at my fellow humans when I see the way we treat the rest of Being. Yet even so, I disagree with The Michael. It is far too cynical and also far too easy to say that it’s human nature that we violate and destroy. The implication is that those activities are somehow more fundamental to our nature than cooperation, nurturing, and sustaining, but I don’t see any good reason to believe that.

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  6. Your post brought to mind a Daoist parable I read recently:Mr. T’ien of Ch’i was holding an ancestral banquet in his hall, to which a thousand guests were invited, some of whom came forward with presents of fish and geese. Eyeing then, Mr T’ien exclaimed “How generous is heaven to man! It causes the five kinds of grains to grow, and creates fish and birds. Especially for our use.” …The twelve year old son of a Mr Pao, who, regardless of seniority, came forward and said” It is not as you say, my load. All creatures in Heaven and Earth have been created in the same category as ourselves, and one is no greater intrinsic value than another. It is only by reason of size, knowledge or strength that some one gains the mastery, or that one preys upon another. None are produced to serve the needs of others. Man catches and eats those foods those that are fit for food, yet can it be said that Heaven creates these expressly for man’s use? Mosquitoes and gnats, moreover, bite his skin, and tigers and wolves devour his flesh, yet can it be said that Heaven creates man expressly for the benefit of mosquitoes and gnats, or to provide flesh for tigers and wolves.

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  7. This kind of thing just chaps my ass. And yeah, I know the folks who hit the animals or throw them over balconies know that they are doing it and like your smiling tree mutilators, they seem to get a kick out of the act and the reaction.I’ve seen people actually go out of their way to hit an animal in the road.Some days I just hate humans.

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  8. And yeah, I tend to disagree with The Michael too. Sorry TM. I don’t think it is inherent in our beings as humans. If that were so, we’d all do it and we don’t. I have never had to fight off some kind urge that incites me to kill and maim, and certainly not to do so for pleasure.I think it is learned behavior for some and psychopathic behavior for the others. It is an aberration, a soul sickness. There is too much of it, I’ll agree with that, but it isn’t something people do simply because they are humans.

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