Monday, August 10, 2009

Word Play

Today was a cold, blustery public holiday. We took our children on an outing to the Aquarium. The awe I feel at seeing extraordinary, beautiful creatures so easily, so close-up like this is always tarnished by a greater sadness at the beholden's aimless captive existence.

It reminded me that not so long ago, humans too were displayed for the interest and 'education' of people who would pay.

Once, the rights we afforded to business enabled and fostered hundreds of years of the mass death, trade and enslavery of other people. Still, the rights we afford to business enable and foster the ongoing mass death, trade and life-long servitude of other living species.

What helps us justify this ruthless exploitation is the words we use - we don't call them "species", we don't refer to them as "living", we certainly turn away from calling them "beings". We call the tigers and trees, the whales and wetlands, and every other life form we want to make money from - "resources".

It's an old trick playing out again and again. Our forefathers didn't call slaves "human beings" or "people". Today we call people who work in sweat shops "labour" or "the poor".

Words are important.

It's not just about some words, it's also about the ways we put lots of words together - the philosophies people find in their religions. This is why there are factions in every major religion, who in the face of the Earth crisis, are now scouring their texts to mitigate against old proclamations that humans have an unfettered, short term profitable dominion over all other life forms and landscapes.

I looked a great turtle in the eye today. I said: "I'm sorry."

But it's not good enough. I need to take my child out into the world and show her these creatures where they live - in what's left of the wilderness. That's a thrill I have known, and it shaped me every time so that I lack the structure to enjoy an aquarium. I think that's a good thing.

There's something truly obscene about regarding other living beings as "resources". They are not. They are Caspian Tiger, Green Turtle, African Lion, Common Octopus, Emperor Moth, Outeniqua Yellowwood, Streletzia Nicolai, Blue Crane, Honey Bee, Black Oak, Bumphead Parrotfish, Pel's Fishing Owl, White-lipped Peccary, Sockeye Salmon, Quinine Tree, Crested Quetzal, Purple Bacteria, British Otter, Clivia miniata, Oyster Mushroom, Cape Vulture, California Condor, Bald Eagle, Koala Bear, Mountain Gorilla, Bactrian Camel, Pink Star, Indian Elephant, Evening Primrose, White-tailed Tropic Bird...

We love these creatures and plants. They are our companions and our connections in this wondrous web of Life.

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