“Wild Dog Dreaming: Love and Extinction” by Deborah Bird Rose

The quote below comes from “Wild Dog Dreaming: Love and Extinction” by Deborah Bird Rose, and addresses the tragedy of the anthropocene in putting ourselves above all others and assuming that we are specially protected and different because of some mythical being in the sky. The book is meant to use as examples the indigenous people of Australia, those most mystical and ancient figures, and their relationship to dingoes.

“The underlying logic of connectivity is important for what it has to say about self-interest. In the lifeworld of connectivity the well-being of one is enmeshed in the well-being of the others. There is no position outside of connection, and therefore what happens to one has effects on the well-being of others. There is immense vulnerability here, as one’s own well-being is dependent on what happens to others, but at the time there is resilience. To care for others is to care for one’s self. There is no way to disentangle self and other and therefore there is no self-interest that concerns only the self. Interests are mutual, and while they are not indistinguishable, they are situated within the larger dance of life which involves life and death, self and other, us and them.”

The book describes a horrifying episode of “dog killing” by authorities while the people who consider the dogs their relatives, their children, are caught since they have no buildings and can only try to hide the animals under blankets or by holding them close. There was no mercy, no exceptions, and, in fact, glee and mockery by the police. It was a vivid illustration that animal killing can be followed by human killing, that genocide is just another version of extinction, or at least its attempt.

Because I was in Browning in the Sixties where “dog killing” was a regular feature of Spring when calving justified the order to the police to kill all dogs not in yards. Some killers ignored yards, which is not hard in a place with few fences, and shot pets before the eyes of children. McGraw, a St. Bernard no one seemed to own, was taken in by Eula Sherburne, matriarch by the near-founding family, until it was safe for him to go out again. I have no doubt that he may have killed calves which meant loss of profit. It was a bloody wicked mess. The lesson that authorities held life-and-death power, all in the name of law and order, went deep. Also, that important people could exempt themselves and what they cared about.

Today in my online “magazines” I received two stories. One, from Psyche, was about the constant question of where human blood-thirstiness came from and addressed the reference back to apes, the idea that killing is an animal feature — not human.

The other was from Delancyplace.com, which delivers excerpts from books. This one was “The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World — and Globalization Began” by Valerie Hansen. The excerpt is about the discovery of raising grain in Europe, called “cerealization”, a way of feeding far more people and of hoarding food, as in the horrifying example of the exploded grain elevator in Beirut, destroying desperately needed food kept in centralized storage.

The explosive power of the hoarded ammonium nitrate meant to be fertilizer is matched by the explosive power of grain dust which has caused abandoned elevators across America to be deliberately blown up as a precaution. You can see video examples on YouTube. In my mind, grain elevators equal explosives, and — yes — I can see one out my window.

The dark biological side of food is that it causes population to expand to its limits which fuels competition and hoarding that inevitably caused war or disease or both to knock the population back. Limited shelter has much the same effect. This is what causes feral populations to grow, like cats in Valier. The government of China met overpopulation head-on by limiting families to one child. Democracies can’t even persuade their citizens to wear masks to protect other people as well as themselves.

One relief is migrating to a better place, but those already in residence may resist, even if there is actually enough space and food. What is remembered deep in the people’s guts is fought hard. If they don’t dare kill the people directly, they can kill what the people value and consider part of themselves, like their dogs, their horses, and — in Valier — their cats and trees. Or destroy their houses, set their businesses on fire. Evict them.

Sometimes those attacked are not immigrants but simply “others”, whether distinguished by skin color or by wealth. Law and order can be deliberately undermined as by Trump et al systematically eliminating all the environmental protections again things like frakking or methane emissions, to say nothing of removing all economic safety nets.

Expansion, domination, control, might be characteristic of all living beings, whether insects or elephants. How to set limits and enforce fairness is not the concern of the environment, though that’s usually what defines limits and occasionally destroys food and shelter through cataclysms like hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires and droughts.

Human thought is a real and present form of environment though it can’t be seen, only shared. Through our understanding and mitigations, our self-restraint and connection to all of life and existence, we can prevent much of the heedlessness that may yet carry us to extinction as a species. Even as mafia-spawn tries to take over the world and esp. America, there are people joining to push back.

Human emotion is as powerful and sometimes MORE powerful than human thought. Logic won’t reach love and hate, but stories can. Future-based tales are teaching us what can happen in a worst case, pulling up the past for examples: not apes or even cereals, but WWII which is still in memory. I’m watching a Netflix series called “Occupied” which reinstates in 2090 that past time when the far north Euro countries were threatened by dictatorial land-hungry Russia. The story is cleverly threaded with a computer war game used by enemies to communicate.

I watch the scenery of these sea-and-snow scenarios with fascination, but this time the extra plus is that the “prime minister” is played by a woman who looks like that “ideal” doll I included some posts back, the one who is unbelievably thin with masses of red curly hair. “Russia” is portrayed as a steely woman, equally thin, with platinum hair close to her head. The men proceed with their political and military moves and counter moves. Most of the killing is bloodlessly portrayed in the cyber-game.

We will continue to “game” our way through the plots of the moneyed minority currently trying to kill the rest of us. This time the People of Color and different Gender are the majority. But the game can wink out painlessly. Life can wink out, but there will be pain.

Born in Portland when all was calm just before WWII. Educated formally at NU and U of Chicago Div School. Clergy for ten years. Always happy on high prairie.

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Mary Strachan Scriver

Born in Portland when all was calm just before WWII. Educated formally at NU and U of Chicago Div School. Clergy for ten years. Always happy on high prairie.