Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Deeper Why

There was a story in the news today about someone near Fresno, California, who won a fat lottery payout 10 years ago, setting him up for life (enough to set any ordinary person up for life, I'd guess.) So this winner went out and bought himself a ranch, like you do. He had 11 horses there. Yesterday eight of the horses, starving, were removed from the property. The other three will be removed today. Stories like this one are common, of course, regular as a kind of busted clockwork; just when you think it's stopped, the thing starts ticking again. Every story like this that I come across causes heart cringe in me, an unmistakable impulse of compassion, anger and sorrow. When you're wired that way, there's nothing that can be done to avoid the feeling.

Fresno Bee Photograph

But just once, I wish the reporters would investigate the deeper why. What is an animal to someone who isn't instinctively drawn to them? What is an animal to someone who is indifferent to them? How can they be less than living, be forgotten like an unwanted object? How does one disregard that they are there? These seem like silly, naive questions because the answers seem reflexively obvious, but the real answers aren't obvious to me at all.

I have a long commute to work. In the evening, driving back, I pass through a huge freeway interchange before exiting home. This mild winter I've seen two cats hunting on the high shoulder near my exit, inside the chain-link fence meant to keep them out. They're hardscrabble cats who seem wise to the traffic. I look for them with every drive. Sometimes I see them, sometimes not. When I don't see them, I look for them dead in the lanes. They're junk cats, abandoned strays or maybe urban ferals who've never known human contact. Still, I think about ways to catch them, can't help it. They're never not living to me. I have to take note of their welfare.

I want to understand what it's like to look at animals in need and feel nothing, not hate, not indifference, just nothing. I wonder what it is to see them from that perspective. What do such people know about themselves? How do they experience their sense of self? It's not the shocked How could they that I want to hear, it's the deeper Why do they. I want a reporter to explore that so I can check my judgment, because it is harsh and unforgiving.

10 comments:

Grey Horse Matters said...

I would tend to guess the 'why do they' is a mixture of ignorance and disassociation. Some people feel animals can take care of themselves and so they don't bother to care. I've also got a harsh and unforgiving judgement of these jerks.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Isn't lack of empathy generally a sign of (much) deeper psychological issues?

Sandra said...

I don't even think that people like that think in terms of that animals can take care of themselves, I think they are lacking something fundamental in their personalities and that animals just don't matter to them.
Just as it is true that you can judge a society by the way animals are treated, you can also judge a person by the way they treat animals. I also have nothing but a harsh and unforgiving judgement of these creeps.

redhorse said...

I love your writing. I never read your blog before today, but it really touched me. I'll be back, but right now I have to go out and let my horses out for the day, and take myself to yoga so I'll be in shape to ride when spring comes.

smazourek said...

I don't want to know, I imagine it would only make me detest them more.

Wolfie said...

I think it is a combination of stupidity, lacking in empathy and truly believing that animals are self-sufficient. I can't tell you the number of times I have said to people that you can't leave your dogs or cats outside when it's -30C. The usual response is "but they are animals, they have a fur coat!" Drives me nuts. Being a wildlife advocate, I read/see lack of caring for wild animals regularly.

Every time I am at the point that the top of my head is going to blow off, something nice happens. I watched some city workers trimming trees near the hydro wires. There was a squirrel nest in the tree and the squirrel was running around our parking lot in a panic. I was just about to put my coat and boots on to speak with the guys, but then I noticed they were carefully trimming around the nest. I am pretty sure that it is not city policy to protect squirrels, but someone in the group made a decision to save a life. If they had cut down the nest, the squirrel would have perished due to lack of food and protection from our freezing weather.

Deanna said...

As someone who has spied a rabid cat deep in some woods next to a road my husband & I traveled down and convinced hubby that we needed to "save" it because every animal deserves to at least pass away warm and cared for - and stopped traffic to save small birds that have been hit by cars and left to die - etc. etc. and I'm sure you and many of your Readers have similar stories . . . all I can say is - I don't get it. I simply don't "get" how?/why? could anyone let those poor horses get to that condition? I too have spent time trying to TO figure it out . . . and bottom line: I don't know.

June said...

It's a form of blasphemy, really. They're saying, "God doesn't care about these creatures." Which is ultimately a way of saying God doesn't care about anything at all.

Bif said...

Wonderful post. I've often wondered these same things, but never managed to articulate it nearly as well.

GAiA ViNCENZi said...

Hi from Italy =)
I'm a show jumping rider
really nice blog!

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