Animal Person Minute(s): On Culture
This is Mary Martin with the Animal Person Way-Longer-Than-a-Minute. Our photo today is of Violet Rays, my 7 1/2 year old greyhound who won someone tons of money, probably due to the fact that she was injected with steroids which eventually shut her pancreas down. As soon as she became diabetic, she was "discarded," as they say, and would be dead today if a couple of compassionate people hadn’t intervened on her behalf. She has the trifecta of eye problems, cataracts, which we removed and replaced with synthetic lenses, retinal detachment after the successful cataract surgery, and she’s back to being blind in one eye because of that, and glaucoma in both eyes. She was the offspring of a hall of famer. Only one dog each year is chosen for the hall of fame, and if there isn’t one good enough, no one gets chosen. She herself was a champion. Yet she was easily discarded by the people in North Carolina who bred and trained her because after over two years of servitude and winning, she stopped making them money. Charles, on the other hand, was the fastest dog his trainers had ever seen, yet when brought to the track, he refused to race for the man, and that’s one of the reasons we love him so much.
Believe it or not, today’s post has nothing to do with greyhounds. If you’ve read Animal Person with any kind of frequency, you might have notice that I’m obsessed with the C-Word and I talk about it often. Culture. Culture is what we give as the reason to do things that are otherwise absurd to do. I return to Sam Harris, whom I’ve written about before, and his THE END OF FAITH, which should be required reading by all religious people, particularly those who pride themselves on being religious moderates. Near the end of page 24 he writes, "The point is that most of what we currently hold sacred is not sacred for any reason other than it was thought sacred yesterday." I love that man.
I had a heated debate with a friend who not only has a Ph.D. in sociology, but who is also an attorney, and she was supporting, legally and otherwise, the right of some followers of some ancient religion, I can’t be too specific, but, to continue their rituals involving basically the dismemberment of animals. Like, while they’re alive. They lost their legal battle, but she was trying to get them to use already-slaughtered animals for their rituals. She wanted to preserve their culture. Naturally, I was nearly speechless, because I’m never actually speechless, and I asked her what makes the ritual sacrifice –in any form– worth protecting. Why is the right to torture so precious and worthy of safeguarding? Because it will cause good fortune to spread among the community? Because it will boost fertility? Why do we insist on preserving beliefs that are irrational and lack evidence of their validity? Why do we insist on continuing to do things just because we used to do them in the past?