Saturday, December 19, 2015

Why This Vegan Doesn't Watch Nature Programs

I used to love Nature shows as a kid, but the older I get, the less patience I have for them. I boycott them because of those inevitable scenes of death and suffering--what film-makers sometimes spend months hoping to capture to give some "excitement" to their documentary--are just too traumatizing for me. 
Some of the most graphic and unsettling scenes I witnessed as a child I can still recount today. A wildebeest disemboweled by lions as they kick and scream for life; hyenas attacking a lioness, leaving her to die slowly from a broken jaw and thirst in the African heat; a pod of orcas drowning a baby humpback whale for fun after their mother struggles for hours to protect them, etc. Even March of the Penguins, rated G and presumably kid-friendly, was, to me, a deeply upsetting film that spotlighted families separated by predation and the cruel slow deaths from exposure and starvation sentenced to dependent partners and chicks.

When I was younger, I felt the need to toughen up and force myself to watch. After all, "that's how it really is," or so the mantra goes. But now I see it for what it is: the glorification of violence and a desperate attempt to frame nature (a generally peaceful space with coexistence and symbiosis) as a brutish, merciless world. These programs become an ideological justification for the violent society that humans have constructed.
"That's how it really is" encourages us as a society to stifle compassion, peace, and non-violence. I feel the same reaction when war movies come on television and we are expected to sit through graphic scenes of boys killing boys because "that's how it really is." I feel the same when I am exposed to relentless images of violence against women, which appear to be mandated in modern script-writing. But I'm told to sit and take it because, "that's how it really is." I feel the same when exposed to violence against Nonhuman Animals by humans, when the images are plastered across vegan social media spaces because "that's how it really is."
Media is a social construction--there is a particular narrative of violence, hierarchy, and patriarchal dominance that is being shoveled on us day in and day out. It absorbs into our subconscious and poisons our outlook on life.
I don't subject myself to it. I change the channel. I tune out. I don't have to punish myself to adhere to patriarchal norms that expect me to suppress my empathy and be ashamed of finding violence abhorrent. 
I don't find it "cool."
I don't find it "astonishing."
Or "magnificent."
Or even "humbling."
And I definitely don't find it "entertaining."