How can you have a relationship with nature when you are part of nature? Is it like having a relationship with your relations? You’re part of your family and you relate to all the other parts? Or you have a relationship with your knee? It’s part of you?
When you watch the film The Cove, you see the fisher-folk protecting their (profitable) livelihood of capturing and/or slaughtering dolphins and porpoises. And these guys, all with their own families and knees, bark at the observers and activists like guard dogs. They snarl and growl and a chap nicknamed Private Space taunts the camera operator and the guilty dolphin trainer, Ric O’Barry (who stole the original Flippers from their mothers), trying to make those bleeding-heart liberals strike him. Only, it’s his taunting that’s recorded in The Cove, we never see him struck. (Of course, that does not mean it did not happen.)
So how are all us keen film-goers related to these beastly fisher-folk? As we chow down on our steak sandwiches and our lamb chops (the lamb ads repeated in every ad break on SBS-on-demand). You’ve heard of it, I take it? The Cove? This film that sneaks undercover to film the unwatchable? It’s about a town in Japan called Taijii that thrives on its proximity to the annual migration of dolphins. The film is made by Louie Psihoyos, the same director/photographer who made Racing Extinction (coming soon to a screen near you).
The Cove is the big undercover, under-rocks, under the law, covert filming adventure. Dolphins are traded to become performers (Traditional? Boats with engines? Seaworld?) and the rest are killed for meat which no-one likes very much anyway. Which also just happens to have a very high mercury content. So high that bargin-hungry schools are now refusing to feed the tainted meat to children at lunchtime.
The blood in the water and it still continues and it does not seem the world cares very much. Or at least, it seems our human relatives are more concerned with matters closer to home, like their relationships with their own mortgages, careers and genitalia. The USA enthralled by their relationship with their guns and their own personal arms race. Their President sadly expecting to offer condolences to the next grieving families because the beastly Congress has ‘politicised’ (as if it hadn’t already) the industry of arms manufacture and dealing. If we can’t deal with the millions of displaced persons, thousands of gun deaths and desperate refugees left to rot forever in concentration camps because they fled persecution in their own countries how can we deal with a mere 23,000 dolphins and porpoises killed annually in Taijii?
Can’t last, can it. If the dolphins don’t work out that this is a place to be avoided every year and change their own migratory path, they’ll just get wiped out, won’t they? So if we did want to have a relationship with any of them, we couldn’t. They’ll be gone. Is that what we wait for? Problem gone.
As for Blackfish, well, Free Willy it ain’t. There are a few similarities of course. Again, you’d think as a result of watching a story about a particular infamous orca called Tilikum the more vociferous of peeps with those caring activist relationships to nature would have strong-armed Seaworld into giving the kid a break. Recently, there has been movement in preventing Seaworld from breeding orcas, which I suppose means they’ll just go out and catch more from the wild. OH&S say humans can no longer risk their lives going into the same ponds as the potential killers (ie crazed, imprisoned orcas). But Tilikum is still on show. So again, we protect humans and their investments while some of us pathetically dream of lovely sanctuaries for sea creatures driven nuts by solitary confinement in a bath.
Sometimes flashbacks to books I’ve read about slavery – and I didn’t pay much attention at the time – those relationships, those attitudes – those poor dumb brutes – they were people, sentient beings – bought and sold for market, just like orcas, dolphins and racehorses. And cows, of course.
How dare economists say the market will save the environment? How can it, possibly? All the market can save is itself. Some rich bastards, their bank accounts and their property. If the property happens to be alive, so be it. If it be better dead, so be it. If it be in pain, then, so be it. That’s our favourite relationship. Not to nature. Does the fish know it swims in water? No. Our favourite and most assumed relationship is to a fiction. To money. It doesn’t even exist. Can’t eat it. Can’t sleep under it. Can’t even shoot it. But it will buy you a performing dolphin. Or an orca.
Or make a movie.
Watch The Cove trailer here.
Watch Blackfish trailer here.