Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The View from my Bicycle [COLUMN]

People often ask me how to take photos, and I answer the same thing. It's simple, just change your perspective. Of course, for some that isn't always easy - by Nick van der Leek

One way to change your perspective is to break out of a rut, do something that is not part of a regular routine. Reach out or speak to people or animals that aren't in your comfort zone.

That's how I met Ellen, a rough-faced old timer who routinely feeds the seagulls every morning on a patch of lawn in Summerstrand.  I thought she was feeding them Pronutro [now that would be expensive], but it's actually dogfood soaked in some water.

Her bakkie, behind me, identifies itself as Domestic Animal Control.  She tells me that scores of household pets are being put down [euthanized] every day.  She says the problem is that people are selfish and greedy, and simply don't want to give up the cash it takes for upkeep.  She refers to squatters who bring their cattle or goats into their homes to make sure they're not stolen.

At one point she asked me if I was a big supporter of the World Cup.  I was surprised at the question, but said while I was enthusiastic, I thought the country was in dire need for those funds to be applied in the many instances where they are desperately needed.

The tournament at its core is really an exercise in greed, and all the marketing campaigns turn people into sheep.  That said, this doesn't mean one can't enjoy the beautiful game. Ellen resonated on this point, citing her daily experience, the shocking animal abuses she comes across.
I wonder how many people chose between feeding their pets, or even looking after their pets, and buying a ticket to the game.

Ironically I am told later that same day about a cat that somone's daughter, tragically, had to put down.  I first suspect that it's another case of conveniently getting rid of an animal, because I know this person intends to move and pets are a problem, but apparently the cat was diagnosed with cancer.

 Our attitude to animals says a lot about people.  Our attitude to creatures that don't influence our paycheck basically provide an accurate gauge for how considerate we are as human beings.  You may think animals are a luxury we can't afford.  I'm talking about a different kind of consideration.  Do you notice nature around you?  Do you see the seagull with fishing line tangled in its beak?  Do you worry when you see cormorants fishing in the same waters as a few poor fishermen that they might get hooks stuck in their throats?  Do you care enough to voice these remarks to the fishermen?

In a more general sense of course, nature takes care of us.  We get our drinking water from nature.  We get our meat and vegetables from a farm somewhere.  If the conditions on those farms are good, then the food we eat nourishes us.  If the conditions aren't good, we slowly poison ourselves.  So what happens to nature touches us directly.

When your mindset is based on money, it is easy to see past this simple reality, this simple truth.  And it's true, money can postpone the reality of a spoiled planet, because it can buy separation and comfort from the degradations of nature.  Air conditioners, fancy cars, fancy homes, fancy hotels, all of these provide insulation for a world we may not want to touch, or may not want it to touch us.  Of course, such a world is an empty one.

I read a review of Sex and the City recently and was pleasantly surprised to hear the reviewer, a woman, complaining that the movie lacked substance.  Even though the characters indulge themselves, the reviewer was disturbed that the flick was so shallow.

It's no coincidence that the latest poster showing the four Sex and the City girls is so Photoshopped it looks like the skin on their faces has been stolen from the butt of a newborn...In fact, the Botox is getting so out of control the foursome look like drag queens out of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert rather than real women.

Other franchises, like Twilight, echo widespread societal narcissism, and denialism. Twilight is directly at a female audience, and the male hero, Edward, is a vampire, but a good one, his addiction to human blood is apparently under control because he is a vegetarian.  His love for Bella, a schoolgirl [and he is apparently hundreds of years old] is close to an obsession.  He compares her to heroin.  As a vampire he is handsome, and possesses some incredible powers of speed, and of course, wealth.  Of course in the real world Edward would be considered pathetic, a loser.  But in this context he is held aloft as the poster child for MY IDEAL BOYFRIEND.

Really?  Is the ideal man so hopelessly in love with you that he acts like a stalker but since one has affectionate feelings to said stalker, those behaviours [obsessions, addictions, compulsions] become somehow acceptable, even attractive.

What we're really seeing are perversions of nature.  Appetites such as greed and lust and personal selfishness that are far, far out of control.  One of the reasons for this is our disconnect with nature.  The Gulf Spill will possibly awaken deep seated resentments - against The Company.  Against the Company as enslaver.  Many give BP and Obama equal blame, and it is not difficult to see why.

But the blame game is also an easy way out, when the real answer begins with each of us.  We have to change our attitude to materialism, to one another, from consumption to conserving, from social media to listening, from taking and using to giving and caring.  The change has to start with us and that change begins with a change in perspective.

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