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?


  1. I think the callous treatment of animals has always been there. There have been bullfights, bear baiting, and various forms of torture throughout recorded history. The problem is that instead of becoming more civilized and outgrowing this, we seem to be drifting the other direction, thoughtlessly. Technology has given us the ability to see violence as entertainment in greater and greater quantities. We can systematically crowd millions of animals (chickens, hogs, cattle) into factory farms and slaughter them on an assembly line. All the while our delicate sensibilities are insulated from the horror. So jerking a calf off its feet and hurling it to the ground is good entertainment. So is torturing a bull by putting a strap across his penis then putting a rider on his back and turning him out to buck. Of course, so is cruelty to people. Many, possibly even most, of our most popular electronic gaming is based on mayhem and this is a part of our dealings with people or the world in general. Civilization seems a long way off.

  2. I agree on all your points Gerry. I just wanted people to ask themselves if what some of what we call humour, really is humourous, or is it just an excuse. Excellent point about the cruelty toward other humans. Every atrocity that humans have ever perpetuated against other humans has only happened because they were able to dehumanize the victims. In other words, by calling them animals they were able to treat them as animals. But it is all of us who tacitly allow cruelty in any form, animals or not, who allow the dehumanization of humans. You can't truly value human life, without also valuing the lives upon which human life depends.

    As Alice told the Vicar in the television series, The Vicar of Dibley, "So it couldn't have been a joke, 'cause I didn't laugh."