As I crest middle age and begin to say goodbye to my younger self what really matters in life begins to crystalize. No longer is it a muddy mess of “what the hell am I doing here?” It’s very clear: we are here to make things better for other living things. If you live a decent life, meaning, you don’t have to beg for food, or become a prostitute or are homeless you owe it to the rest of the world to care. Ryan Gosling cares. He’s using his power to help us overcome our ignorance when it comes to pigs. They are so intelligent – there are humane ways to keep, breed and slaughter pigs – but most people, especially annoying overly coddled internet people, want only to wallow in their love for bacon to care. Bacon – think about it. Where does it come from? How were the animals treated before that slab of tasty fat hit your plate? When I see my kid or her friends not even finish their bacon it fills me with silent rage.
A new film is coming out called Blackfish, about our continual ignorance and ongoing mistreatment of orcas. It was probably the most emotionally effective film I’ve seen in a while. I haven’t stopped thinking about the large male, Tilly, who has killed four people. Taken from his mother at an early age, stuffed into a tiny water cage in total darkness for years and years and then sent to the ugly and deplorable Sea World to perform for dumb families with their big gulps and their fantasy-encased children all so that they can smile and look at the cute whale. I was one of those families once. I know how easy it is to believe Sea World’s propaganda that the whales are “fine.” They are most certainly not fine. It is inhumane and morally wrong to keep them, breed them, mistreat them and then wait for them to be used up and to die. We’re too intelligent overall to allow this to continue and yet…
If you drive up Interstate 5 towards Bakersfield you will see dairy farms and cattle “ranches.” These consist of grassless dirt plots that sit in direct sun during temperatures upwards of 110. They sit there waiting to die. All so that Johnny Jr. can roll into a Burger King and wolf down a whopper.
I am not nor will I ever be a militant vegan. While I don’t think anyone NEEDS to eat meat I do not begrudge those with an appetite for it. I know humane meat is too expensive for most. But something has to give. Better treatment of animals maybe? Slaughterhouses are killing the planet, making it warmer and soon we’ll probably all be wiped out by some mutant virus anyway. Maybe none of it means anything at all. But what means something to me is that each of us think about the harm we are doing to other living things. That’s all.
I could spend the next several decades celebrating me. I could make myself better every day, as is the woman’s screed in America. It’s all about ME! My aging skin, my body, my beauty, my success, my marriage, my kids, my purse! My dreams, my fulfillment, my HAPPINESS. And do you know what that would amount to in the end? A feeling of such deep unending emptiness it would be as though one might never have lived at all. That’s the party line sold to us by advertising companies to sell more products. Does it lead, eventually, to happiness? No. It leads to freakish women wandering the city with their skin stretched back over their ears so that they resemble a woman wearing a mask. They don’t know how scary they look either because they’ve bought the party line.
If I get everything – the perfect man, the perfect wedding, the best PURSE! If I lose 40 pounds and remove the lines of my face I will be happy? No. But if I can change the world even a little bit, if I can live to see orcas freed from Sea World? That would make my life worth living.
It extends, of course, beyond animals. In my lifetime the Voting Rights Act was signed and in my lifetime it was overturned. Before I die I’d like to see Citizens United overturned and I’d like to see the Voting Rights Act put back into place.
You see, the point of life isn’t difficult. All it requires you do is reject what advertising has been trying to foist upon you – that personal happiness is all that matters. You don’t matter at all actually. What matters is what you do and how much you care for other people.
And that’s my rant for today.