Thursday, February 25, 2010
We can all dream--right?
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Sunday, February 21, 2010
In every discussion that I’ve read I find myself returning to the same principle I offered in January:
Ethics = Skill U Nature.
In so many of our discussions we seem to be focusing our questions on the actions of the hunter and I think we’re in agreement that the hunter needs to employ skill, which includes restraint and effort in the hunt. Isn't calling or camouflage part of effort or is effort only the more physical, as in deep woods hunting?
Nature is insuring that the game has every opportunity to employ their natural defenses to avoid the hunter. Suppose we take that concept farther along and deal with what is included in Skill and Nature. Here’s a start:
Skill = Marksmanship, stealth skills, calling skills – what else?
Nature = Sight, hearing, camouflage, speed, stamina – what else?
Friday, February 19, 2010
Sorry to have been absent the past few days but between weather, feeling like crap a couple of times and trying to get The Pines Review into publication/print I've been out of it. However, the review is published and for those of you who have requested it the free PDF version has been Emailed. But, if you would like to order a print copy, here's the address.
If you enjoy outdoor writing, or you are an outdoor writer who cares about your work I think you'll get something out of this issue. I would also love to hear your comments. I can only improve it if you tell me what is good and bad so I can make the changes where needed.
Now, off for a couple of "honey do's" and I'll be back later to finish a "thinking" post.
PS I want to thank all of you for sticking with me on this Blog. YOU have given me mountains of stuff to think about! glg
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Okay, I'm back, although I had to use the snow thrower again today. The city plow drivers thought it would be fun to bury my walkway that goes from the sidewalk to the street. Anyway, now I'll try and answer some questions. J
Tovar asked me to clarify my statement regarding my problems with "the integration of Native American spiritualism into the psychic of the American hunter as a cure-all for what ails hunting to provide "the" answer to why we hunt."
The problem is this: Hunting, as we all know, is under constant attack and hunters are being asked to explain the "why" of their desire (or need) to hunt. The majority of hunters, when asked this question stumble about for an explanation. Why should they produce an answer other than one I heard from Peter Capstick when asked about why he did something: "because it pleases me." But, that answer is then redefined as being selfish, blah, blah. In other words most answers can be turned against the hunter. A strong moral explanation for many hunters is provided through spiritual connections. A foundation for this explanation can be found in the commonly shared experience (among hunters) that they do experience a spiritual connection with nature when hunting. Some hunters take this explanation a step further and acknowledge a spiritual connection with the animals they hunt. It is easy to take this perfectly legitimate relationship between the hunter and nature and combine it with Native American spiritualism. This combination, some believe, provides an iron clad explanation for hunters. It doesn't. To the best of my knowledge there is absolutely no connection between North American Native Spiritualism as it relates to hunting and hunters, and the evolution of Western Civilization and hunting. In fact, as early as the time of Herodotus there were rumblings against sport hunting by non-hunting, urbanized Greeks. But hunting remained a significant part of the social landscape and has persisted for all these millennium—so why? I believe hunting exists within our genetic makeup, whether we live in the city or on a farm. It exists because we came from predators (the "scavenger/gather" theory has long been put to rest). Even our closest living relatives in the genetic forest hunt and kill when it suits them (and they will also periodically practice cannibalism, just a side note). Simply put, I maintain we hunt because of who we are. If humans had been denied that predator's gene what odds for survival would you have given the human race? As for suppression of the need to answer that predator's gene, I'm sure therapists have field days trying to unscramble that mess!
My principle of being responsible for animals is quite simple. It began with a long term project for Soldier of Fortune magazine. In the mid-80s I wrote a series of articles on the animal rights movement. As a result of my research (which spanned several years) I found myself trying to position myself on the question of animal rights. What I finally settled on was the principle that "animals do not have rights—people have responsibilities." A deep analysis of my statement produces a wide range of supporting statements, all of which end with the premise that we are responsible for the survival and welfare of animals, domestic and wild. As an example consider the black rhino. In 1993 I had the opportunity to spend several days with Peter Hitchins (founder of the SA Save the Rhino and Elephant Trust) and he pointed out why losing the rhino would be catastrophic—more than 600 symbiotic species of bugs, beetles, etc. would also become extinct. Hitchins pointed out that we alone are responsible for the near extinction of the rhino, in part from over hunting and in large part because we insist on altering the habitat. No other species on this planet now, nor at any time in history, has had the capability to change, and has changed, the entire eco system of earth. We, as a species, have chosen to use this ability to make these changes. That makes us responsible for every other living thing on this planet. Thus, we do not maintain a species to hunt them; we maintain the species because it is our responsibility. We hunt because it is who we are, not because it is who we want to be. That is why we feel that spiritual connection between ourselves and nature when we hunt—we are of nature.
Holly, I hope that I've addressed your question about my position on responsibility for animals. I don't see it as patronizing but as accepting our responsibilities (stewards of the earth simplifies it, I suppose). I suppose we could fine tune the statement from "for" and use "to" except when we say "for" aren't we using the prepositional to indicate that our actions are intended to provide for their welfare (survival)? J At least I hope I've managed to explain myself.
My feminist statement does deserve expansion. As I said earlier, we find ourselves faced with two distinct feminist movements—outside and inside hunting. The movement outside hunting, that attacks hunting, insists that hunting is a physical manifestation of male dominance over females. Perhaps nowhere else is this more fully defined than in Brian Luke's essay "Violent Love: Hunting, Heterosexuality, And The Erotics of Men's Predation," published in the 1998 (24.3) Feminists Studies. There have also been a number of excellent essays published in Environmental Ethics over the past few years and hunting is frequently vilified as being a form of male gender domination. These claims are found throughout contemporary culture. My primary field of study has been in literature but I want to emphasize that the attacks against hunting are not new and we should not do history a disservice by implying that the hunting debate is new (last 200 years). These attacks, as I've pointed out previously, extend as far back in history as the concept of sport hunting.
As I read Dr. Smalley's essay "The Modern Diana" I was pleased to see how thoroughly she explores the literature, especially the male voice in it. I am really pleased that we have followed many of the same text trails in our research. I would like to have seen, however, a bit more history on the evolution of outdoor literature's male voice. The later 19th century incorporation of the feminine voice to soften the male writing was a strong retreat from the direction men's writing had been taking. The early 19th century direction was in large part a response to the claims of the softening of the American male after the revolution and it was attempts to boost American masculinity. (Remember, we had performed rather badly in the War of 1812 except for a few Marines, sailors and Andrew Jackson's rabble, a lesson not lost on the press who were criticizing America's manhood.) Americans needed heroes and strong, independent, virile, men who were successful hunters (and could deal with the blood side) were also thought to be good defenders of the nation. That underlying premise has not been abandoned and one of the most obvious studies of this was in 1978's The Deer Hunter. The way I read Dr. Smalley's work is that women's role in hunting has evolved from one of justification of the sport (the feminizing) to a search for equalizing of roles in hunting. This is also the conclusion I have reached in my own work and I'm curious if you agree. Today, as the role of women has changed, women inside hunting have increasingly clashed with the outside feminist movement which is pushed from behind by anti-hunting elements.
How's that long-winded reply? Answer any questions and, I hope, create more that we can discuss?
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Eric, Tovar, Holly and Everyone!
I am going to offer a long answer; I hope you'll stay with me on this and I'll be looking for everyone's response.
I'm in complete agreement on the value of Herman's book. I have made extensive use of his book during both my graduate work and in my professional research and I continue to keep it on my bookshelf. HUNTING & AMERICAN IMAGINATION is an ideal starting point for any deep research into the history of hunting and attached issues if no other reason than because of Herman's well developed bibliography. Herman does make a strong case for "the cult of [Daniel] Boone" and its influence on Roosevelt, Grinnell and others.
We need to keep in mind; however, that Boone's character was more manufactured by the necessities of the post-colonial period rather than from reality. What was needed in that time frame was a national return to the ideals that Boone and similar characters represented. This need, in large part, emerged because of the period's domination by what some believed was a "dandy" or clerk persona that lacked American traditions of strong masculinity and individualism. When we review the literature of the period, and the preceding 18th century, we can easily see that hunting, and of course hunters, were spoken of despairingly from the American (and English) pulpit and unfairly compared to the privileged aristocracy that we'd separated ourselves from. The relationship between colonial culture and Native Americans was not cooperative but combative and the Native American's hunting skills and traditions were treated as barbaric and their relationship to nature proof that their conversion to Christianity was essential because their conversion not only saved their souls but went hand-in-hand with the clearing of wilderness by the Christian pioneers. With this sort of pressure on the majority of young men, notably through the period following the revolution and War of 1812, it is no wonder that as the Jacksonian era emerged with its emphasis on the developing middle and mercantile class, America's forward thinking leaders turned to the Boone legacy as the rightful image for the American male. This is also the time when Henry Herbert (aka Frank Forrester, the father of modern outdoor writing) began his writing career and his writing played on this need for the Boone model. Herman points out, however, that these re-emerging American ideals of individualism and self-sufficiency repeatedly clashed with a majority of the Christian leadership that was still clinging to Colonialism's Puritan principles. In large part this clash was fueled by the continued push for the complete assimilation of Native American culture and all that it stood for. (This push, in various forms, continued right into the 1950s and even the early sixties and it included the elimination of native languages.)
Post Civil War society brought with it a growth of class divisions and with those class divisions, most notably in the later two decades of the 19th century (the Gilded Age), there was a very strong movement in this country to set hunting apart as a "privilege" much as it had become in Europe. I believe that one of the greatest gifts Theodore Roosevelt gave the nation was his Badlands Epiphany (took place sometime on one of his last hunting trips from his ranch in the badlands) in which he suddenly recognized that hunting plays a fundamental role in a democracy and because hunting promotes the individualism and self-sufficiency that are cornerstones of American thought hunting was (and remains) essential to maintaining our freedom and is a right of each person regardless of wealth or social position.
As I see it, hunting and the nation grew pretty much on parallel tracks and even World War II failed to significantly impact it but in the early Sixties there was a series of events that threw hunting into a tailspin: JFK's assassination, Hemingway's suicide, the growth of the Vietnam War and the emergence of a strong feminist movement. The JFK problem brought about a plethora of gun control movements and laws, Hemingway's suicide signaled a questioning of the validity of male gender values that had been central to many of the male-driven and associated principles of the 20th century, and this was coincidental to the growth of a strong feminist movement that directly challenged many of those male values and principles. (Many of these challenges were rightly so.) Finally, before there was any resolution of these issues our nation was deeply embroiled in the Vietnam War and all that it entailed. The feminist movements, with so many of its roots in World War II, truly flourished during the Vietnam era. The Vietnam and post Vietnam eras are also clearly distinguished as the time frame when many Americans began to substitute Native American concepts of spiritual relationships for what had been the independence and self-sufficiency that had dominated the image of the American hunter and coincidently the American male. This is when hunting truly began to flounder. Certainly the migration to urban areas, especially following the Korean War period and the influence of the Cold War, contributed to this separation from nature (there are some good books on this issue, the separation from nature, which I am reading even as I think about and write this). If you take the high points of each of these "issues" and enter them into the changing paradigm of the mental state of the nation you will see that Native American Spiritualism was becoming increasingly popular across the culture as America floundered.
That said, I am having problems with this integration of Native American spiritualism into the psychic of the American hunter as a cure-all for what ails hunting and to provide "the" answer to why we hunt. I do not deny the spiritual relationship that exists between man and animal and correspondingly between the hunter and the animal and thus by simple extension into the psychic of the hunter. We see this spiritual connection every day between our pets (I hate that word) and people. There are so many examples they could fill volumes of books. And yes, I have made eye contact with game, everything from deer to geese and many times with game in Africa. There have been times when I pulled the trigger and times when I did not. But, all that said, my foundational principle is that we are responsible for all animals. I try to let that principle guide me through everything that I do in nature. That responsibility extends to recognizing that when I do kill an animal I must not waste that animal's life.
Looking forward to your responses to this post, I think these are great opportunities to explore the depths of critical issues and even our own belief systems.
Friday, February 5, 2010
Tough subject to think about isn't it?
I am really curious to hear how other view the spiritual movement within hunting.