Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"You're either an activist or an inactivist."

I am not usually at a loss of words when it comes to a film. The Cove, 2009 Academy Award winner for Best Documentary, has me at a loss for words. What follows is an attempt - I suggest getting the film and watching it. It's on Netflix...

I was going to watch the film for a second time before writing, but I really didn't want to. It's a powerful document of dolphin slaughter and I was rather emotional by the very end. Anything I write has a hard time competing with the film itself. James Hillman suggests, "Stick with the image." Since watching the film, an image has stuck, unfortunately. It is an aerial shot of the title cove, in Taiji, Japan, really a rather small landform. The water is bright red - the blood of slaughtered dolphins.

Other than the slaughter itself, what lingers in my disbelieving mind is how the town promotes itself with cute dolphin, whale and turtle signs, statues, billboards, etc. The veneer of the cute animal as tourism advertisement, when the underlying economic engine is to actually slaughter these same animals. And then the fishermen and authorities, who work so hard to try and prevent foreign visitors from understanding what goes on. When someone works so hard to keep others out, they know somewhere inside themselves that they are hiding something that is wrong at best.

There are, of course, politics involved. I have never understood the International Whaling Commission and how it allows any whaling to take place at all. Well, we see here there is no power behind the organization. But it's blatantly ineffectual. Japan buys the votes of Caribbean islands to get away with their "scientific" whaling. Whale meat still ends up in certain Japanese grocery stores, and as the film shows, sometimes that whale meat is mercury-soaked dolphin meat. I would think it would be relatively simple for like-minded governments to apply some pressure to end these practices, but I can only assume by sifting through the news of the day that most people are rather ignorant of anything other than their own selves.

I actually understand, without condoning, the Japanese fishermen hanging on to this barbarism as an act of defiance against Westernization. I have strong belief, though, that as the Japanese people learn of the actions in this film, they will bring a halt to it. I eagerly await a Miyazaki film about it. Please?

But I have a hard time understanding how anyone could actually do this - who could stick a harpoon in a dolphin? Or hunt down any animals really? I am never impressed. As I wrote about Ghost Bird, humans assuming privilege is messed up, and becomes more messed up every day human population grows. Anyone defending families with eighteen kids - or eight - or even three at this point - are simply not paying attention to the world they live in. In reading about the demise of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, it seems the main cause of extinction was the complete obliteration of the forests they lived in. The wood was sold off during Reconstruction to fuel the continued industrial growth of America. It's an endless cycle of precise connections - foul one up, others follow quickly.

"What are the chances of the world changing?" Well, as Ric O'Barry says in The Cove, if we can't stop the dolphin killing in the cove, one little cove in Taiji, Japan, we have no chance at changing the rest of the world.

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