My place. Friday, 7.10am
It’s a vicious world.
No, that’s not the right word. Viciousness implies a deliberate cruelty. Raining bombs down on people who have nowhere to run is vicious, but this snake eating a bat is not. It’s, um, dinner.
Now if the snake was killing heaps of bats, more than it could eat, that would be vicious. That would be murderous. It would be pretty unrealistic too, unless the snake had acquired a squad of F-35 Bat Fighters to carpet bomb my mango tree. But why would it want to? It’s a snake, not some genocidal animal from a depraved species that has the long-term global foresight of a coal mine.
I tell you, if this snake, with whom I have a pretty intimate acquaintance, were to start some sort of holy war on bats, I would unfriend it immediately. It could find another roof to live in; other mice to feed on.
My house is a holy house of peace where the only violence is what is necessary for dinner. (Except for my toad war, of course.) No freakin’ thugs with forked tongues allowed here.
The snake has dislocated its jaws and worked its mouth over the head and one wing of the bat. The bat’s visible leg jerks as its head hits the snake’s digestive juices. Dinner is a slow process for the snake. And pretty gruesome.
It’s a gruesome world.
No, that’s not the right word. Gruesome implies a repulsion. A Peter Dutton speech is repulsive, but this snake eating a bat is not. Neither is the world. It’s violent, sure. It’s not how the Jehovahs envision a perfect future world in The Watchtower, where vegetarian lions lay with rabbits, and men with ties part their hair in God’s clear light.
It’s been a long night for the snake. It stalked the bat which had rested in the mango tree, having a break in its nightly food scrounge. The bat was tired and thought, ‘Hell, I might put my feet up for a bit.’ (Had to say that.)
The snake has snuck (as snakes do) along the branch and attacked the bat. A brawl ensued, and the snake, bat in mouth, has fallen to the ground. It wasn’t badly hurt but it didn’t exactly land on its feet. (Yeah, I had to say that, too.) The fall has slowed the dinner process. Dinner has become breakfast and, by the looks of it, will become lunch.
Yep, it’s a violent world.
That is the right word. The very nature of existence is life and death. It took a giant star’s death to create every atom in us. To have dinner it’s necessary for some animals to kill others. (It would be a brave Jehovah’s Witness who knocks on the lion’s door and talks to it about the benefits of vegetarianism.) The natural world is violent. But it’s not vicious. The snake never claimed sovereignty of the mango tree (mango nullius) and stole the bat children from their parents.
Vicious and gruesome are the adjectives of humans. Most often this viciousness is generated by people who don’t accept death as the finality it is. These religious types have created elaborate death denial structures which give them a paradise (or another go) after death – thus avoiding the mortal truth.
Only by accepting our own mortality can we empathise with all things. That way, we share a common fate. Denial of that reality creates cruelty: we turn away those who need help; we bomb people in their homes; we condemn other species to extinction and our own future generations to difficult times.
We hurt, maim and kill – and we don’t even eat them for dinner.