Monday, August 23, 2010


I love inventing new words, the kind you won't find in the dictionary.
You won't find this one in the dictionary.
But... YOU TOO, dear anonymous (and not so anonymous) reader, can understand this word, if you dig up your memory of etymology, for example.
"Pisci". Like the astrological sign. Like pisciculture, for example.
And "cide", like... homicide, genocide, liberticide, etc etc.
There, you know what the word means now, don't you ?
Kinda zarbi as we say here, isn't it, dear reader, that we have the word "genocide", for example, BUT WE DON'T HAVE THE WORD "piscicide" ?
On Edwardo's blog, there is a link to a story where locals in the Gulf of Mexico area have observed large congregations of marine life near the coastal waters, at the surface of the ocean.
A LITTLE SCIENTIFIC DEDUCTION (or induction) leads the observers to conclude that the marine life does not have enough oxygen in deeper water TO BREATHE, so that it is congregating in the only areas where limited oxygen still exists.
(Now, THAT'S what I call INTELLIGENT use of observation and the scientific method and REASON....)
JUST LIKE WE CAN'T UNDERSTAND babies who are suffering (up until relatively recently we operated on "infans" (he who does not speak) WITHOUT anesthetic...YOU think about the implications of that one), we can't understand the language of the marine life which is suffering either.
We can't hear it scream. "It" (!!!!) can't tell us that it is suffocating with words, or cries that we can hear.
But... THAT SCIENTIFIC METHOD should be able to tell us that it is suffocating IF WE BOTHER TO PAY ATTENTION, that is.
And once the scientific method has enabled us to understand that it is suffocating, well, what then ??
THAT is when our empathy SHOULD kick in, my friends. Like, it takes only a little imagination in order to conjure up the sensation of what it would be like to go outside and not be able to breathe, to suffocate outdoors. To not be able to go ANYWHERE to be able to breathe...
When I told my daughter this story at lunch, she became extremely upset, and picked a fight with me over an insignificant matter immediately afterwards.
Like so many of us, she feels that empathy for the living animals, AS ANOTHER LIVING ANIMAL. She suffers FOR and WITH the fish, like me. And she feels powerless to do anything about it, like, I suspect, many of us out there.
SOME PEOPLE, if I talk this way, will immediately retort... "well, what about all the starving children in Ethiopia ? Don't you feel upset about them ?"
Yes, I do. But... and this may shock you, perhaps not quite in the same way as the fish in the Gulf of Mexico.
Life isn't fair, is it ? Those children in Ethiopia are "innocent", but human. I feel deeply sad at their plight, and feel horror at the idea of being a mother watching her child die of starvation.
The fish in the Gulf of Mexico ? They are innocent and NOT human...
They are "infans". They are outside our language, and our symbolic systems. They will NEVER participate in our symbolic systems either, unlike our children.
That makes them... CONSUMMATELY INNOCENT, dear reader.
(And besides, you can tell anybody who formulates this problem in terms of having to choose between the fish and the children to PISS OFF, because this is not an either/or problem, this is a both/and one.)
So... what can YOU do ?
What I'm trying to do to the best of my ability, and besides. Whatever strikes your imagination. Be inventive. (And remember that GUILT in any and all forms is counterproductive.)
You can... REDUCE YOUR CONSUMPTION OF HYDROCARBONS IN ALL AREAS OF YOUR LIFE, and encourage your family and friends to do the same.
Oh ? And you can tell them about the fish, too... can use my word, or any other word that you want to invent.
That helps, too.


Toby said...

Well said. Speaking for myself though I haven't drawn a distinction between types of innocence, nor do I think it necessary for sympathy to be aroused by the innocent. I feel sorry for the 'guilty' too, or if not can imagine sympathy a possible response when exposed to the reasons and pathways that lead to decisions that lead to unnecessary suffering. That said, I have a hard time feeling sorry for those incapable of sorrow, though even here the abstract sympathy that a human being is forced through a colourless life due to limited feeling capacity is not beyond me either. But enough of that.

Yes, drive less and switch your energy supplier to companies providing only renewable energy. There's one in Germany called Lichtblick, one in the UK whose name I forget, and there are bound to be some in other European countries, maybe in the US too. The more of us demanding their services the better. Right now about our only power is our purchasing power. That and the Internet.

Piscicide! I got it straight away, by the way. But then I'm not an anonymous reader!

Edwardo said...

I'm with Toby on this issue. Even though he didn't put it this way, I think innocence, however one defines it, is beside the point. I did appreciate the nature at which you arrived at the innocence of the creatures in question. Suffice it to say I am rather down on mankind. We are, in fact, a menace to pretty much every living thing, including ourselves, that inhabits the planet.

The idea that someday we humans might be able to take our sorry act beyond the solar system is anything but comforting.

Rupert said...

I've pondered the 2 disasters only recently, Pakistan and the GOM, and King Canute springs to mind. Could our compassion ever be considered as interfering? Chris Packham, vice president of The Wildlife Trust, was attacked for suggesting that the giant panda should be 'left to go extinct'. I don't need to explain the deep interest he has in the well being and preservation of our beloved ecology, his CV should speak for itself. I remember a heart breaking nature show following a flock of flightless new born birds as they marched across a salt flat, I forget where. As they trudged along the feet became heavy with 'boots of salt'. The camera crew looked on helplessly as more and more of the birds struggled and died. They were under strict instruction from the producers to 'not to interfere with the course of nature'.
It is not often possible to draw a distinction between a 'natural disaster and a 'man made' one. Clearly the spill in the GOM is man made and we should hang our heads in shame at this wound we have inflicted on the world. But the floods in Pakistan and Niger, if global warming could be proved beyond media doubt, can also be described as man made. Ultimately, who will be the victims? Should our anger be leveled at anyone who drives a car? When will we, in the west get our medicine? When will the guilty be punished and the innocent set free?

Toby said...

Good thoughts Rupert.

The nature/nurture divide is an illusion born of our ability to know we know. But this 'knowing we know' has indeed distanced us from the rest of nature, and yielded, among many other things, a sense of ourselves as above nature looking down on it, free to 'improve' it as we see fit. As we meddle our way 'forwards,' we sow seeds for all kinds of harvests, some of which are very destructive. In the end the destructive consequences of what we do are as natural as a meteor strike (as are the beneficial), or other extinction events, only we know we know we might have done better.

We can grade ourselves on our performance, whereas other extinction events were not brought about by a conscious beast. And most often I would imagine a failing grade for homo sapiens, despite the wonders we have accomplished. Hopefully we are learning how to be collectively wise, and to appreciate helping each other instead of looking out exclusively for number 1. Time will tell.

Debra said...

You know, Rupert, I am suspicious of our attitudes of not interfering to help our fellow creatures out of a desire for ? what, in sum ? Objectivity ? Maybe... GETTING EMOTIONALLY INVOLVED ?
I once watched a documentary where naturalist photographers followed a pride of lions when a lioness received a thorn in her paw, and was condemned to a long, slow death, or attack by a group of waiting hyenas.
As it turns out, the lions killed their own, rather than abandoning her, and letting the hyenas do the work.
But I have never forgiven the "chiantifiques", as I call them, for getting settled comfortably behind that camera and not interfering when they COULD have done something to save that lion.
The incident reminded me of one that happened even longer ago, when a journalist filmed a child in Africa who slowly submerged in mud in a war zone, with the attitude that information came first, and that "the world should know".
Freedom of the press is NOT SACRED for me, Rupert.
Even God... It's hard, you know...

Debra said...

Correct above : NOT getting emotionally involved.