The modern man who hunts for enjoyment (a woman who does it must be even more warped so I’d rather not think about it) has so little function in the empathy centres of his brain that he must surely qualify as an undiagnosed sociopath — a psychopath in less polite language. The fact that he stacks the deck so far in his own favor against his quarry — arming himself to the teeth with the latest technology, and cheating by the fact that he hasn’t made his weapon himself — means that he doesn’t trust his own wits to be able to outfox a ‘dumb’ animal. Typical of humanity’s total lack of insight into itself, this definition of ‘sport’ is symptomatic of the win-at-all costs mentality prevailing today, and could just be the very definition of crass stupidity.
When I was young and saw hunting on nature study tv I felt sorry for men living in primitive circumstances who were still forced to do this in the mid 20th Century to survive — there being precious little protein in what scant vegetation there often is in marginal environments to sustain human habitation. When I reached an enquiring age, say early adolescence, I realised there must be something fundamentally disconnected about people who still employ hunting as a meaningless rite of passage for males, and acutely antisocial about those who do it for fun. To date I have managed to steer clear of them for fear of contamination. And I’m sure I thought that one day hunting would be banned by thinking people, maybe phased out so that those addicted to their own bloodlust might be helped by diversion programs. Instead, some forty years later in the year of Our Lord (you know, the one who said Thou Shalt Not Kill, and he might have added especially not for the Hell of it) 2008 it seems to be a PR imperative for anyone wishing to be President of the United States, supposedly the most advanced culture on earth, to conduct themselves for a media event as an unthinking, wanton destroyer of lives.
One of my uncles, who had suffered serious brain damage as an infant, had somewhat limited social skills and was reviled by sensitive people who witnessed his habitual callousness to tiny creatures — squashing bugs on table tops and the like. He was also an avid killer of larger game by shooting them in the forest at will. That is, until he shot a fawn and then saw her young tagging along, now motherless. The penny dropped, and it wasn’t so much fun anymore.
It was probably not so much a change on principle as one of crass sentimentality in the American-Hollywood tradition, this episode recalling a scene from ‘Bambi’. I don’t believe that the truly calloused can be truly rehabilitated. Something rudimentary is missing from their systems that simply can’t be manufactured or restored. I believe it has been proven, though, that mindless killers can be created. Comprehensive case studies have been examined longitudinally to show that men who engage in dehumanising work such as on the slaughter chain at an abattoir (such an elegant word for what it is) are more likely to kill supposedly more intelligent animals like humans. So desensitised, these are unfortunately precisely the kind of men women craving excitement in their love lives go for, and find themselves on the receiving end of a lot more excitement than they bargained for. Even otherwise intelligent women tend to right off these shortcomings in their men as something unfathomably ‘manly’ and fail to connect the dots. “Yes, he likes to go out and kill things randomly, but what’s that got to do with him being a poor communicator? I just want him to get in touch with his feelings…” No, you don’t lady. There’s a good reason why sensitive men who don’t make good soldiers, simply clam up or break down mentally after serving in a war. Men who start off killing humans, like soldiers and ‘security guards’ in Iraq, are much readier to one day run amok and commit mindless mass killings. Everyone from the president up knows this, yet politicians try to justify the thousands of lives needlessly lost in Iraq as “the price of freedom” while mass murders at home are characterised in contrast as “terrible tragedies”. The great American myth of the macho rugged individualist marches on, unexamined, through the generations. Unchecked, on a massive scale, it results in ‘preemptive’ wars.
Today, hunting is wrong on so many levels — including the simple urge to protect what might be the last wild examples of any given species — that to view a hunter objectively in modern society is to see an unreformed Neanderthal; as the common form of opprobrium — a genuine Neanderthal probably saw killing as a very regrettable necessity, one he had to apologize to the gods for. How far is this from the back-slapping, mutually congratulatory ‘fun’ atmosphere of a hunting party in Western ‘civilization’? Probably the only upside of such a ‘party’ is that occasionally the humans bump each other off — by accident, it is insisted — leaving at least one less psychopath to bother the world. Ironically, the hunting prowess of the current U.S Vice President might have saved the administration from unavoidable impeachment. Imagine the implications for the current US administration had Cheney’s aim been one centimetre worse than it is…
P.S. A week ago (October 2010) in a small New Zealand town a delightful 25-year-old female teacher at a tiny rural school, with so much to give so many kids, was shot down at a holiday camp while brushing her teeth at an outdoor faucet — mistaken for a deer by a 25-year-old hunter shooting from the road in his vehicle at night with aid of a flashlight. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision for him to hunting. He had been told there were deer in the area that evening, and assumed that the eyes shining at him from out of the dark must be…<p>
This perpetrator was freed recently, having served 10 months of a two year sentence. This proves to my mind that there is not even any thought of deterrence in sentencing these days. “Oh well, what’s done is done. If you were punished for taking a human life while committing a crime wit would only be revenge… And we’re above that.” Of course, there’s no justice either, and what is to prevent similar crims from doing the same?