Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Birdz Brainz

Right. So. In order to maintain my slightly improved rate of posting, I'm going to fall back on another comment that Attytood's compuders rejected. This one isn't bad, probably better than the last one, which was nitpickery, pure and simple. In fact, this one is making making me think that viewing the entire US experience through the eyes of an English country gentleman might be the key to enlightenment, or at the very least a rather tenuous book deal. I mean, no-one's tried that one before.

Thus, by way of an appetizer, it would certainly be easier to respond to one of those interminable discussions on the Park Slope message boards that cover the desirability of controlling one's children in public by just declaiming "would it not be easier to send them away somewhere cold and bracing to be educated, and let them return once they have learned to appreciate the benefits of adult company!" It would also, mind you, get one banned, or at the very least turned into a lazy blog post, down the line.

Still, the best example I can provide of the benefits of an upper-class English twit's perspective comes in the discussion of Dick Cheney's fondness for canned hunts. These hunts tend to involve pen-reared animals released into a confined area and slaughtered willy-nilly and quickly by top Republican donors with guns. The comments at Attytood, which alerted me to Cheney's hobby, unfortunately missed the point. "Real hunters don't join canned hunts," many noted, a sort of combination of roots authenticity sentiment and a stab at manliness from liberal opponents of the vice-president.

What they don't realise is that Cheney doesn't have a choice. I mean, he HAS to kill his animals in this way, a fashion in which there is absolutely no possibility for the "prey" to emerge from the process alive. I came to this realisation at a holiday party in rural England.

We were chatting about the mechanics of shooting in the 21st Century, as distinct from those of hunting, which in England tends to conjure up images of tosspots in red coats chasing after little red-coloured cat-dog hybrids on horseback (the hunters, not the foxes, that is, doing the riding). And by shooting, I mean raising game birds (pheasants, partridges, grouse), releasing them into a limited area to fatten up, and then beating them towards guns, where they will quite probably be shot.

How charming you think this pastime is will likely depend on your belief in the capacity of such animals to feel pain. I will not dwell on this in detail, except to note that pheasants are amongst the stupidest of animals granted a continued existence on god's earth, and that it is almost in our interest to ensure that they are killed in one convenient place rather than serving as an ever-present menace to the blameless motorists of surrounding areas.

My conversational partners and I were discussing the relative intellectual merits of French and British pheasants. Which is rather like comparing the relative contributions to urban architecture of Bruce Ratner and Adolf Hitler's Luftwaffe, but we were a little tipsy.

It transpires, and I cannot vouch completely for the accuracy of this assertion, that French shooters are wont to take pot shots at the stragglers of a group of pheasants forced into the air, while the noble British hunter will take on the fastest and most noble beasts to emerge from their cover. The result, my patriotic correspondents informed me, was that natural selection had bred in pheasants reared in England a tendency towards slowness. French pheasants, on the other hand, had everything to gain from shaking a tailfeather now and then, and their bloodlines and as a result shown a steady improvement. Unfortunately, since I have not spent much time on the roads of rural France, I must take this hearsay on trust.

But what we are observing here is natural selection, the bedrock of evolutionary theory, at work. And if there's one thing that top Republicans hate (well, apart from taxes, poor people, peace in the middle east, atheists, privacy, ethnicities, taxes and Keith Olberman), it's evolution. This is why their hunts must be conducted in such a way that escape is utterly impossible. The idea of going out for a gentle afternoon's kill-frenzy and being confronted with a very plausible test of a scientific theory that is anathema to their base is a truly horrifying prospect. And if there's one thing conservatives price themselves on, it's intellectual rigor.

Next week, we apply the principles of droit de seigneur to getting some damn respect at the corner bodega. I think the phrase "yegads, I will make free with your daughters, your fencibles be damned," will make an appearance.


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