Sunday, November 13, 2016

Pack mentality? Or simply humanity?

I was not as enamored with this book as others were.
And, interestingly, I thought I might not be...
Overall, it was simply a bit too brutal for me.
Though as a friend of mine pointed out--
in her opinion it was "human nature." 
Perhaps I'm just too optimistic about "human nature"...
It has garnered the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize and 
Obviously, others liked it much better than I did...
Perhaps I just didn't appreciate what I perceived as a demonstration of the 'basest' of humanity's characteristics and behaviors. 
I much prefer consideration of humanity  
beyond these basest of characteristics/behaviors. 
This distinction applies to the recent U.S. presidential election, too. I much prefer those who think beyond immediate power and control 
to consider guiding philosophies and the long-term consequences and effects 
such policies might have upon others.

I believe I am one of the few people who was never truly enthralled by a system of "gods," be they Greek or Roman or...?? Basing this book upon a bet between two of these gods was a bit off-putting...I despise believing that as humans we have no input or control over our world. I much prefer to believe we are all held accountable for our behaviors and actions as they all contribute to and compose the "Universal flow" of energy, in either a negative or positive way. 
The gods are compelled by rhythm--as is the universe, as are all the creatures in it. (96)
Pretty simple, but it works for me! :) 

So Hermes and Apollo were sitting in a bar drinking: wasn't the alcohol that intoxicated them. It was the worship their presence elicited. (13)
Ah, yes, the worship can be intoxicating to those who are most egocentric among us. (Admittedly, this makes me think of the fact that DT wishes to continue holding "rallies" if he becomes POTUS. Yes, the adulation can become addictive, can it not? Particularly to those who are the most self-absorbed among us.) 
Human intelligence is not a gift. It's an occasionally useful plague. (15)
I leave Apollo's above comment to your interpretation... This bet was based upon even one of these 15 dogs being "happy" at the time of its death...

These dogs...already possessed a common language. It was language stripped to its essence, a language in which what mattered was social standing and physical need. (17)
However, upon being imbued with 'human intelligence' these dogs' world changed drastically...or did it in the end? So many items in their world which had not had any specific meaning, all of a sudden, meant so much. They were able to discern color and describe feelings, and interact on a much more complex level, but what did this 'intelligence' gain for them? One of these first realizations described a phenomenon I have often wondered about: Taking babies from a mother dog. 
[Rosie] then wondered what had happened to the last litter she'd whelped. 
It suddenly seemed grossly unfair that one should go through the trouble 
of having pups only to lose track of them. (15)
This reminded me of a Gary Larson cartoon from many years ago: 
Do we humans ever consider such actions from the animal mother's viewpoint? I think not...
After all, we humans are so much "smarter" than "dumb animals," right?!? :(
Well...we most certainly get the prize for the most arrogant! 

This book demonstrated that most all humans were unable to notice and understand, or chose to ignore, the behaviors of their "pets" once said pet could relate to the humans at their own intelligence level, since virtually all of them were unable to speak English to make themselves easily understood. This group of 12 learned to travel in groups of only 2 or 3 to keep humans from noticing them much. 
It wasn't that humans were inevitably dangerous, but they were unpredictable. (26)
Sounds a bit familiar, doesn't it? ;) 

I admit I loved Prince, the poet, 
...the only one who entirely embraced the change in consciousness. 
It was as if he'd discovered a new way of seeing, 
an angle that made all that he had known strange and wonderful. (27)
I believe it is those among us who can keep this sense of 'discovery' alive in themselves who become our most creative artists, whatever the medium. 

Two of the female dogs were preparing to sleep after a fight had erupted between two of the male dogs in the pack:
--The males fight for any reason.
--It has nothing to do with us... (30)
Oh, really? The older I get the more I believe any negativity makes an impact...and not a good one! As one faction plans to "lose" some of the group, they discuss how their own smaller group will function:
There will be two [rules]... No language but proper dog language, and no ways but dog ways.
We will live like we were meant to...
We will have no masters. Dogs without masters are the only true dogs. (33)
There is a part of me that wonders if our 'domesticated' animals might not feel as if they would be better off 'in the wild.' It was Lawrence Anthony (author of The Elephant Whisperer) who said, "The only good cage is an empty cage." While I have loved all the "pets" I've ever had, and many were never "in the house," I just wonder how they feel at times, or perhaps with each generation they are less and less "wild"? Yes, this is how my thought processes...well...process! I trust our feline companions are "happy" living with us, as well as those who live outside the house. But I can only assume this is true. 

There are those who lead and also murder in order to cull the 'pack' down to those who only wish to live life in the "old way." This seemed all too surreal to me, as a reflection of humanity's basest of behaviors, only allow those who agree with you and also reject the ability to grow beyond their current state of consciousness to live--kill the others. I always think of Hitler as a penultimate example, yet this continues in so many places in today's world, and we have certainly heard similar exclusionary rhetoric during the most recent U.S. presidential campaign. I cannot help but be scared by people who espouse such narrow-mindedness, prejudice, and ultimately, egocentricity. It does require an openness to learn and grow in order to not only accept but appreciate the diversity in our world, particularly among the members our own species. It was these murderous scenes that introduced a level of violence that makes me uncomfortable--just too grisly for me! 

It was Majnoun's relationship with Nira that proved the most fascinating to me. It is through their interactions that investigation of the underlying philosophies and foundations of 'government,' 'religion,' and 'love' are stated and discussed. 
The more Nira spoke of these things, the more difficult it was for Majnoun to believe that any group of masters--especially human ones--could act in concert, whatever the purpose or end. 
So that both 'government' and 'religion' began to seem like very bad ideas. (49)
Oh boy...again I was reminded of this presidential election cycle... The concept of 'love' was totally beyond Majnoun, particularly when Nira mentioned the feeling he had toward his mother. Again, as noted above, the familial relationship for 'domesticated' animals is virtually meaningless as family members are typically separated from each other very soon after birth. 

Majnoun does reconnect with Benjy, one member of the original group that attacked him. Benjy related another viscious attack upon one of their own, though the other dog had died, as Majnoun had not, since he was rescued by Nira and Miguel and nursed back to health from the brink of death. Benjy is quite the self-serving liar, and although he 
...was as solemn as could be, as if relating an injustice...The truth was, though, 
that he had felt admiration for the conspirators. Some part of him admired the four dogs still. 
They had been swift and clear, and one had to admit that clarity, however terrifying it might be, 
was at least admirable. It was perhaps even beautiful. He could only aspire to it. 
It was an ideal that, realistically speaking, a dog of his size and stature could never attain,
clarity being an expression of power. (61)
This reminded me of the fact that power has historically been granted to the stronger and more aggressive amongst us. And then to note that "clarity" can also be used to gain and maintain power and control. Again, I was reminded of Hitler and his 'power of clarity,' which honestly leads me directly to DT and his seemingly 'powerful rhetoric' during this last US presidential election. Though Hitler did at least have valid economic plans and did revive Germany's economy which at it's lowest point suffered from an inflation rate of 1023!! Yes, you read that correctly! Ten to the 23rd zeroeth power!! Unbelievable. Those people had nothing and no hope of anything until a leader came along who took control...they just had no idea how much control and manipulation he would exert. And this is my fear of DT who espouses meaningless fear-mongering rhetoric in hopes of...what? It is his unpredictability that scares me most. As cited above. Blend with that his obvious lack of respect for anyone but himself and his 'hate speech' and I cannot help but be scared...and I'm "white"! Benjy believes that the leader, Atticus's, unpredictability is "a danger to them all."
It remained to be seen, however, what good would come from Atticus's reign. (62)
And that is exactly how I feel about DT. I cannot begin to imagine any "good" to be had from his "reign" over the US, particularly given how autocratic and despotic his rhetoric has been...

Zeus, the father to both Hermes and Apollo is appalled when he discovers this bet between his sons and in their discussion, Hermes laughs as Apollo questions their father:
You're not suggesting humans are brutes, are you?
The only thing certain about humans is their brutishness...You two are worse than humans. (92)
Although my initial reaction is to take offense, these past few weeks have shown that perhaps Zeus is correct... :( 

A sense of conscience, guilt, and shame does change the old hierarchy of the pack, or at least causes "doubt" amongst at least some of its members. Even Atticus, arguably the most brutal and dictatorial, and leader, of the pack suffers from these emotions somewhat. Even following the old social structures still can get out of control on occasion with no forethought of the future long-term consequences. 

The most deceitful and scheming of all the dogs, Benjy, eventually comes to his own gruesome and long drawn out death.
Benjy's greatest wish was for a place where the echelon 
was clear to all, where the powerful cared for the weak 
and the weak gave their respect without being coerced.
He longed for balance, order, right and pleasure. 
It was this place that Benjy glimpsed as he died, and the glimpse brought him solace. 
Were it meaningful to speak of death as a state of being, 
one could say that Benjy died into hope itself. (117)
This led to quite a discussion between Hermes and Apollo regarding Benjy's "happiness" at the time of his death. As Apollo said, "Hope has nothing to do with happiness..."
Hope was a dimension of the mortal, nothing more. (118)

Although, as Hermes considered further,
The problem was death itself. No immortal could think of death without yearning for it. 
That yearning was, no doubt, what had led Hermes to imagine a happy death without being sufficiently clear as to the nature of the happiness.
-- I think, he said to his brother, that we should broaden the definition of happiness. 
It would be generous of you to include hope or ...
Apollo cut him off.
-- Are we suddenly human that we need to argue about words?
Hiding his thoughts, Hermes said 
-- No
but for the first time in all this business he experienced 
something surprisingly like resentment. (118)
Aha! So the gods are forced to begin thinking a bit more philosophically as well... surprised Majnoun to discover that works of art--Tokyo Story, Mansfield Park,
Mahler's Fourth Symphony, and so on--were not understandable in the way people were. 
These works were, it seemed, created to evade understanding while inviting it. (131)
I can't imagine a better definition of "art." And it was the poetic dog, Prince, who did manage to die happily...imagining himself reunited with Kim, his original master...the boy of his youth.
Having had several different dogs in my "family" as a child, 
I found this ending to be especially poignant...
hoping that I had made my own four-legged companions as happy as Kim had made Prince.

While this was not one of my favorite reads, it was thought-provoking.
And yet, one of my close friends who does not enjoy symbolism, etc., 
liked reading this book more than I did...
And that is what I love about reading--so many interpretations unique to each individual!

Have you read any thought-provoking books lately?

Happy Reading

No comments:

Post a Comment