I have never understood the pleasure a man, almost always a man, takes in shooting animals and birds. I have never understood the emotional sense of fulfillment derived from taking the life of a beautiful creature. Human beings have always dreamed of flight. From Greek mythology to the Wright brothers, the idea of lifting off from the ground and soaring towards the heavens has inspired the human imagination. Then why kill those very creatures who can fly? How is it that humans feel elevated by bringing down winged creatures? What emptiness inside a man is filled by destroying the life of a lovely, harmless creature? The vice presidential hunting fiasco reported in the press earlier this year reveals another peculiar dimension to it all – there are farms which breed birds solely so that some men can have the thrill of blasting them out of the sky.
These events are known as “canned hunts.” That is, you can pay to “hunt” essentially tame animals on private property. Prices range from hundreds to thousands to blast away at animals which are fenced in and “may even lick your hand before they are brutally slain.” The hunters even call this a sport – though I have always thought a sport implied at least some element of competition. But what chance do the creatures have? In order to reduce the possibility of missing the target, these sportsmen use not a single bullet, but a shell with a couple hundred “little bullets” inside – you can hardly miss. This is a sport?
But what is it that provides the pleasure? A sense of control? Power? Substitute sexual prowess – “Look what my phallic substitute can do?” And then, “Look on my wall and see the heads of animals I have killed – a tiger, a deer, an eagle… See how I have taken life and reduced it to an inanimate object, a trophy – see how this makes me important?” I don’t get it.
But I do get that we men have some particular screw loose which fuels our love of combat, of war, of hunting, of violence – all are, I believe, related. From the early years to adult cycles, men seem fascinated, almost obsessed, with making weapons and then using them. The proliferation of nuclear weapons is particularly terrifying because of the male need to fire his weapons. Bernard Baruch, back in the years just after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, expressed over and over his desperate plea for the control, if not the complete abolition, of nuclear weapons – we may not have a chance later, he feared. Well, here it is later, and the guys with their shotguns don’t seem to comprehend the folly and tragedy of neglecting nuclear control and abolition.
Women, perhaps because they create life within their bodies, better understand the preciousness of life than men. They also are baffled, if not disgusted, by the male fascination with weapons and wars. Sadly, women don’t run the world. The guys with shotguns do. Alas, John Kerry thought he had to show he too was a “shotgun “kind-of-guy, by arranging photo ops in his camouflage outfit. I thought it was pathetic and even depressing. “See, I, too, can kill defenseless creatures; I, too, am a real man!”
It starts with the toys and the war games and the video combat games and progresses on to the real thing. I don’t recall ever talking to a woman who got all excited about how this conqueror or that warrior or this army won a battle, or how this ambush was such a smash success or that trap which led to the complete annihilation of this or that army. But we men do get all worked up over such topics. We can cite how many got killed here, how this general outwitted his enemy and killed many more of the other group than his guys. We men love this stuff and often the women look at us with disbelief and mystification. “What’s with these idiots?” I think they secretly wonder.
What it is, I suppose, is our testosterone-driven, id-controlled, capitalist-motivated, male-dominated selves. It has brought us now to the brink of destroying all life on this planet. Unfortunately, I am at a loss to know how to conclude this essay on a hopeful note.