Sunday, January 23, 2011

Is Cruelty Still Funny?

Empathy  Identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives
Gerry and I interact with thousands of school children annually, and I think almost as many adults.  Gerry travels from place to place with his oxen at great expense to us, because that is his passion, to mix children with large animals.  I don't own the oxen, but I care for them when we are traveling together.  I also own horses, and in truth, the shar-peis are more mine than his.  We own chickens now, and a pig since last September.  We are delighted with the different personalities and affection our animals exhibit.  Honestly, I think they own us more that we own them.
But I digress, as usual.  What I started to say was we have noticed a truly disturbing trend in our dealings with the dear little school children (3rd grade through college).  They are getting mean.
Will he charge me if I hurt him?  Can I use the whip?  What happens if you use the whip on him?  Pull on his nose ring.  Will he kick me if I hit him?  How hard do you have to hit him so that it hurts? Variations of these questions now often take up the entire question and answer period.  Trust me, it is not a sometime thing, and it is on the increase.
Then there are the times that we deal with actual physical violence toward them, not just the interest in pulling the oxen's nose rings, I have seen them actually do it.  They duck past the ropes that are meant to keep public out of the resting areas, and swarm the resting animals. pull on nose ropes, poke fingers in eyes. hit my horses with sticks.  They have even hit the animals when they are working, dashing out of the crowd to strike a blow and disappear again.
And the adults, I hate to admit, are almost as bad, No, worse, when you take into account they really should know better.
Anyway, we note the increased interest in cruelty, and the decreased interest in considerating the feelings of others.  Every Spring is worse than the last Autumn.  Every Autumn is worse than the last Spring.
Why?  We are not even talking about people who get into a rage and strike out at an animal, child, or wife, or...
No, these people seem to have a fixation on harming just for the sake of causing harm, or do they even realize that nerve endings work the same in any being?  I don't know which is the scarier scenario.
Now, I know that wanting to harm, or not caring about harm, may seem a little far from my subject title today, but I think it is all connected.  Back in "the old days" boys would tie cans to a dog's tail, so it would be afraid and run.  All thought it was funny.  Or they would tie a bone with meat on it to incite other dogs to give chase, attack and kill the unfortunate pooch forced to provide the entertainment (all of you know that dogs amost have to give chase when something runs, right?) The humans found this shriekingly funny, something to take minds off of worries, stresses, boredoms, drudgeries.  Meanwhile, the dog is terrified, or torn to pieces after being terrified.
Consider the following story:
                                    Works For Me.....
A firefighter was working on the engine outside the Station, when he noticed
a little girl nearby in a little red wagon with little ladders hung off the sides and
a garden hose tightly coiled in the middle.

The girl was wearing a firefighter’s helmet.

The wagon was being pulled by her dog and her cat.

The firefighter walked over to take a closer look.

'That sure is a nice fire truck,' the firefighter said with admiration.

'Thanks,' the girl replied.
The firefighter looked a little closer.  The girl had
tied the wagon to her dog's collar and to the cat's testicles.

'Little partner,' the firefighter said, 'I don't want to tell you how to run your

rig, but if you were to tie that rope around the cat's collar, I think you could go

The little girl replied thoughtfully, 'You're probably right, but

then I wouldn't have a siren.'

2 friends (separately) sent me the above forward today. It is meant to be funny, and I am sure my friends meant well, but it did not seem funny to me.  It struck me as an excuse to express cruelty rather than something truly humourous.  And we are all culpable, not just the ones who make up the joke, but also the ones who forward it, and me to, for posting it as an example.

Empathy   Identification with and understanding of another's situation, feelings, and motives

I'd just like us to stop and think for a moment.  If you found it funny, ask yourself why?  If you did not, will you be more aware of other influences in your world.  If you found it neither funny, nor unfunny, or just don't give a shit at all, well, Have A Nice Day!

You tell me, Is cruelty to another still funny?  Can there be any connection here in the type of story we decide to send as an email, or the type of story we choose to watch on TV, the type of joke we tell to the men or women at the office......and cruelty in people?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I am appalled at the Tucson shooting.  I do not want to be hypocritical, there has been a great deal of violence in my life, but can't we Americans outgrow our primitive predilection for mayhem.  I hate to see greater governmental regulation and control, but this endless string of gun violence is going to bring it about.  There is no way for us to control every mentally deranged person in the country.  But, we create the climate of violence.  We glorify the "Second Amendment solution".  Our entertainment is filled with acts of crime and bloodshed.  The language of our leaders is filled with it.  We create this climate.  As a result, we have a homicide rate among the highest on the planet.  Our crime rate is similarly high.  One quarter of the world's prison population is in this country.  We have the highest number of police per capita in the world (this is counting police of all sorts, FBI, ATF, TSB, State, Local, Park Police, private security police, etc.) 

I think part of the reason why I drive oxen is that whoever heard of a "War Ox".

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


No one is interested in the issues of climate change and environmental destruction any more. Hard to blame them. We are talking about something that has taken centuries to catch up with us and after all, it may be at least a couple more generations before it actually touches us individually. It takes imagination and intelligence to face a problem now that is not going to come home to roost for another fifty years. It is going to kill my great grandchildren, not me.

Our problem is getting the point across to the public. There is no thought, we are wrapped up in our sitcoms and football games. I know the argument that environmental action/controls will hurt existing industry, jobs, and the economy. I actually think he big political issue is that the corporations that run this country see it as an obstacle to their astronomical profits. We do not look around. I go deep into the woods at times on these historical adventures of ours. In the most inaccessible of places, there will be a plastic Wal-Mart bag. Drive any interstate highway, look at the brown in the leaves of the trees alongside you. Our powerline right-of-ways show die-back from the defoliants that are supposedly inert and completely safe in minutes or hours after they are sprayed. I could go on with this forever, and I have not even mentioned the biggie, violent climate change that cannot be denied.

How do we make an oblivious public (and their leaders, elected officials, politicians, etc.) wake up? What do we do to create a sense of urgency? How do we make it real?

I know this is just a rant. Better minds than mine are working on this problem. But, I live in the state that just elected Rand Paul to the Senate. We have a Neandertal electorate that just put a person in office that seems to be totally incapable of even the most basic logic. I know we humans are contributing to the disaster, but logic says that even if it is totally out of our control, we have to start taking steps to face the crisis. There are enough examples around to show that things are changing.

When do we become mature, thinking people?


Animals add so much to my life.  We have owned a greeat many, oxen, horses, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, and even dogs and cats.  Somehow we have kept most of them gentle.  It is hard not to have your heart touched by a yearling horse that has to come up for a butt scratching first thing in the morning or seeing the pig come running to greet her special firend the Shar Pei dog.  We feed birds.  There is a Nuthatch here that has us all figured out.  He uses me to give him room and peace to eat.  The bigger, more agressive birds like the Cardinals, Jays and Towhees stay away from me and he (or she) gets a free shot at the seed.  He is often inches from me and yesterday he actually touched me.  Bright little critter.  The oxen are wonderful friends.  We moved bales again yesterday.  While I was getting the sledge and chains ready, all four collected.  There is a requisite head and jaw scratching, but they are ready to work and seem to enjoy it.  I think we must deliberately collect animals with a sense of humor.  Charlie knows wrecking fences gets me mad.  He will push a fence post over and stand there to watch my reaction.  The pig, now named Isabella, throws her food dish at the dog.  One horse we had for years pulled a glove off me and went running around the pasture with it in his mouth flapping it from side to side.  (Of course he also ate french fries and stole soft drinks which Butch taught him to drink out of the bottle).  They are a delight.  The picture is of Yang grooming (licking) the side of Isabella's face.