Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dogs and imagination, or the lack thereof--an even more personal reflection

Is a dog's life more valuable than a human life? No, I don't advocate cruelty to animals. Nor do I wish to take away anyone's pet. On the contrary, there is the story of how the USA stole the island of Diego Garcia from its original inhabitants. The first step was the murder of the pets belonging to the original inhabitants. (You can learn the full story form the Australian journalist John Pilger.
The cruel impersonality of the imperial USA war machine is not something I wish to imitate.

However, I write these words with a fresh memory of a phone conversation I overheard yesterday. My eighty-five year old mother was talking to my older sister, and my mother had turned on the speaker phone.

My sister was engaged in a lengthy account of the recent amputation of a leg of one of her pets. Of course, it is interesting, and touching to hear the story.

However, my sister is telling this to my eighty-five year old mother, a woman who has numerous health problems. Somehow, it seems to me that there is a lack of perspective here.

My sister is lavishing her love on a pet. And because of her pets my sister is unwilling to help my mother in my mother's home. In fact, that is a standing policy articulated by my older sister in the past.

I could understand if my sister had young children who needed her care. But it seems as though her dogs are functioning in my sister's psychology exactly as if they were children. However, they are not.

And, the consequence for me is that I have lost my life. (In 2009 I was living in Europe, where I had friends and a job, and a place of my own to live---not to mention real weekends free from work, and even vacation time free from work.) My life has been taken from me. Here, living with my parents, unemployed, in a hostile environment, I feel that I am the victim of my sister's affection for her pets. My sister won't come here because she doesn't want to abandon her pets. I must admit that her behavior seems self-indulgent, even childish or selfish, even pathological. However, what makes me angry is the thought that the disadvantages of my current situation, the unpleasantness of it as well as the very real damage that has been done to me, are all invisible to my sister. There, too, I believe a very infantile thought lies behind the blindness (of both sisters, in fact): why shouldn't Mark be happy to live at home with mom and dad? Why not? My sisters would be happy to return to a childish past. So, it is incomprehensible to them that their brother would prefer to live a fuller, more independent, more adult life. It is incomprehensible to them because their own lives are in so many ways stilted and not fully adult or independent. And, that, too is very sad. My sisters have, to varying degrees, conformed to a rigid stereotype of "a woman's place", and have abandoned any attempt at true freedom. Sartre would call it bad faith. And in the process, their imaginations have become warped and stunted. They can't imagine why I complain.

John Pilger's homepage:

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