The Joy of Killing
It must be true that knowledge accrues.
There is no other explanation for the human world. We’ve gone from levees to plumbing to hydro-electric dams, flint to matches to lanterns to electricity to televisions to 4K phones, mud to thatch to concrete to rebar to joists to skyscrapers to The International Space Station. That could never happen if knowledge weren’t added up and passed along.
What was once a six-month camel ride to bring pepper one direction and gold the other has become an afternoon plane ride. Foundations of knowledge that took 500 years to spread over territorial boundaries and cultural moors can now be accessed in a nano-second across the entire globe.
If this is true for mechanical knowledge, the making of computers and freeways and nuclear reactors, shouldn’t it also be true of our philosophical knowledge, our spiritual knowledge, our metaphysical knowledge?
Wouldn’t it be odd if this knowledge languished thousands of years behind our practical knowledge? Wouldn’t it be dangerously out of sync if our cosmological concepts were imbedded in the dark ages while every other part of our life and being moved with the tide of time?
Indeed, we ought to live atop a mountain of collective metaphysical and philosophical knowledge, at the height of understanding how we relate to the world and fit in it.
But we do not.
Because we have failed to address our single most blatant retardation. We have failed to improve upon, even by a millimeter, the most dumbfoundingly obvious misconception from our past. A stagnation beyond compare, as if electricity were still 4,000 years in the future.
Specifically, the precept that a human being is so separate from nature, so disassociated from the processes which births and feeds it, that the only way to interact with nature is to dominate and destroy it.
The corollary of which is, if we deem another person as not human but animal (of nature), we may dominate and destroy them.
All of our ecological problems and most of our economic problems spring from this fallacy. All of our racism and sexism and fascism come from this single source as well. It has made violence the blood of our societal vascular system, using force and threat even upon allies and partners, our spouses and schoolmates, our fellow citizens and the environment which feeds and sustains us. Because we are violent toward nature, we are violent toward ourselves.
To view nature as something to dominate, rather than as our symbiotic host, is both the epitome of stupid and an egregious misalignment with our technological knowledge. A dissonance causing devastation to our world and culture.
Building a modern society upon this arcane mantra is a catastrophe that will happen. We see it now every day, bubbling up and boiling over, tearing at the seams of our country.
Though it is as stunted as believing street excrement and public health are unrelated, as backward as burning a person alive to change a belief system, as grotesque as mutilating a woman to alter her sexual impulses, it is still a driving force behind our culture.
To address this malady, we must confront its symptoms wherever they arise.
There are now bills before the Montana legislature designed to increase the killing of wolves, solely for the joy of killing them. For the lunacy of a man with a 21st-century laser-sighted weapon acting out the fear of a 14th century Transylvanian. These laws are not merely a matter of wildlife management, they are a bobber indicating whether we will continue to be pulled under by our Great Flaw.
They are a symbol of whether we take a new path, or regress into darkness. Whether we engorge our culture with violence, or finally balk in terrified awe at what we are doing.
Let me make a clear distinction: the difference between hunting and joy killing is as stark and total as the difference between scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef and snorkeling in a septic tank.
Hunting for food, killing an animal to eat, is woven into the history of this land as long as humans have been here. So too it is woven into the mythology and founding of the modern western culture here now.
Hunting, I would also argue, is an essential pillar of a free society. Regardless of whether one chooses to do it or not. In a world growing more systemic, more mechanized, more mass produced, the ability to feed oneself from the land is a sacrosanct freedom.
It is the freedom to opt out of grocery store chains and antibiotic laced food supplies and hormone pumped protein, freedom from food handled and packaged and stored and frozen and left out for days. It is freedom from the savage disconnect between the animal’s life force and the steak on your barbeque; it is the freedom to choose volition and responsibility and participation in the life cycle and act as the hand that delivers the fatal blow. It is the freedom to know the sinew and guts and hide of the animal, to smell it and feel it and have its death as part of your life experience, not some invisible, ignorable abstraction.
I think the hunter and the vegan are closer than they realize. Both understand the danger of a mass-produced food supply, of having one’s hands too far away from the source of one’s sustenance. So too I think the true hunter understands the lack of honor in killing a rare animal simply for the sake of doing so.
When it comes to our more exotic and endangered large mammals like the wolf, their bounty is not their meat. It is the lustful satisfaction of the barbarian dressed up as a photo op. It is men on private planes using guides and drones, pulling a trigger like a video game so they can brag to other men on private planes that they are special. It is the ratification of adolescent cowardice as backbone when there is no spine to be found.
We now have cameras the size of our fingers and tents the weight of a grapefruit and river rafts and airplanes and telephoto lenses and repelling ropes and stoves that light themselves and sleeping bags that can withstand the arctic cold. There is no limit to the depth or intimacy with which one can experience nature, with which one can encounter wolves. We are light years beyond needing a trigger to find our intersection with them.
Our technological, practical world is so far ahead of this arcane metaphysical relic that we will kill ourselves if we don’t course correct. The guiding principles of medieval times will not suit us in the times ahead. Wolves are no longer the threat, we are.
We have new problems coming with our new age, and we will fail to address them if our leaders insist on making violence a virtue.
The violence within our culture is now boundless, spilling into our most sacred spaces - churches and schools. It is rampant in our domestic affairs, and now in our politics. Every town that thinks themselves immune is on the clock toward the inevitable.
Growth happens from the ground up. If we want to grow a less violent society, we begin by how we treat the ground itself. Nature itself. We begin by allowing the accrued knowledge of thousands of years to guide us, to acknowledge that we are in the garden that makes us and must tend to it as such.
To treat nature as an intruder, to kill her most rare flowers simply to prove we can, to suffocate to extinction her multitudes, is to violate the divine order which makes us. We will be reaped for what we have sown.
Instead, why not become what all of our knowledge leads us to be. A people made whole. A people who mastered technology, then used it to rebuild what we have destroyed. A people who slaughtered all that were other, finally come to realize we are one. A people who know it is never too late to pay respect.
Montana can be such a place. It is less calcified than much of the western world, it is still newer on the scene than most places. It is still fertile, still open, still full of promise of what it can be. Why not make it a place apart, a citadel instead of a stampede?
Why not build upon the knowledge which has come to us from all places and times, as if we live in 2021, not a dank gloomy castle in 500 CE. Why not make it a symbol of how the modern world and nature can thrive together, a Shangri-la of nature and humans existing as the interdependent ecosystem they are, rather than a brothel for the depraved and demented.
Why not find leaders who value the splendor of Montana, defending it as one of nature’s grandest cathedrals, rather than squashing it under their boot. Leaders who see guarding rarity as a strength and have the humility to listen to those people who lived here long before us, who might instruct our stewardship of this sacred place.
Why not protect what makes Montana special, instead of making it a refugee for the rich and stunted. In a world overrun with hardened cultures, Montana is still malleable enough to become a symbol, not a shard. Where what we now know of being human might create the First Best Place, a land where we serve as benefactors to nature so that we may revel in it all the more. A land whose ancestors and present population might find commune in becoming something new altogether; where western civilization finally tills the soil of its unending violence, acknowledging that fatal flaw and in atonement discovers the greatest gift of all. Nature renews.
Why not make Montana a place made best by our best, not a festival parking lot for the spiritually degraded and psychically regressed.