Thursday, July 24. 2014
Depuis 37 ans, la municipalité de Sainte-Perpétue accueille sur son territoire ce qui est devenu un des plus grands festivals d'été du Québec. Bien qu'il soit présenté et perçu comme un divertissement familial inoffensif et amusant, ses organisateurs, ses participants et ses spectateurs célèbrent en réalité, chaque année, trois journées consécutives d'abus cruels envers les animaux :
Le traitement des animaux à ce festival vient d’être condamné par la SPCA de Montréal.
« Ce Festival ne respecte pas les 5 libertés fondamentales des animaux de l'Ordre des Médecins Vétérinaires du Québec » écrit Jean-Jacques Kona Boun, DMV.
Les cochons, truies, porcelets, verrats, sangliers sont forcés de supporter la terreur et le supplice. Ils sont parqués, effrayés, dans un enclos et pourchassés par des humains qui sautent sur eux, les tirent, les poussent, les battent et les blessent sans souci ni pour la panique qui est la leur ni pour leurs douleurs.
Les images et vidéos des festivals passés montrent des créatures terrifiées, couinant désespérément, maintenues de force dans la boue aqueuse, incapables de respirer, attaquées par l’arrière, traînées. Elles sont larguées sans ménagement dans un tonneau par des individus deux fois leur taille, totalement indifférents à leur détresse et à leurs blessures, certains portant un casque pour se protéger, mais ne s’inquiétant aucunement pour la protection de leurs victimes.
Ces animaux innocents ne comprennent pas pourquoi ils sont soudainement poursuivis, terrorisés et brutalisés par une horde d’êtres humains violents et accablés par une foule de spectateurs hurlant.
Célébrer la domination d’animaux sans défense ne peut que traumatiser les enfants les plus sensibles, encourager un comportement abusif chez les enfants les plus agressifs et mener à la violence et à la criminalité à l’âge adulte. Les recherches en psychologie et en criminologie démontrent que les personnes qui commettent des actes de cruauté à l’encontre des animaux sont également susceptibles de maltraiter leurs semblables humains.*
Cette brutalité aveugle couvre le Québec de honte, sans compter la souffrance indicible qu’elle inflige à des créatures sans défense. Une brutalité qui ne nous viendrait jamais à l’esprit de tolérer envers nos animaux de compagnie ou nos semblables humains.*Ascione FR & Arkow P (Eds) (1999) Child abuse, domestic violence, and animal abuse: Linking the circles of compassion for prevention and intervention Purdue U Press
Le Manifeste québécois, déjà signé par plus de 46 000 Québécois, demande la reconnaissance juridique d’un statut d’êtres sensibles aux animaux afin de pouvoir prévenir des tels abus.
Une pétition qui exhorte les artistes de ne pas prêter leur nom et leur art à ce spectacle a déjà plus de 1 500 signatures et une autre pétition priant le maire de Sainte-Perpétue de ne plus supporter ce sadisme a déjà plus de 18 000 signatures.
Les médias, les animateurs et les commanditaires sont priés de faire pression pour la réforme de cet événement : à la place de ce spectacle sans-cœur et sadique, proposez un divertissement familial non-violent et non-abusif, propre à inspirer la bienveillance et la compassion chez les générations futures.
Jusqu’à ce qu’il soit amendé par l’élimination de toute souffrance animale, les médias et le grand public sont priés de répondre à l’appel de Georges Laraque à boycotter ce festival faisandé.
For 37 years now, the town of Ste-Perpétue has been conducting what has become one of Quebec’s biggest summer festivals. But although it is portrayed and perceived as harmless family fun and entertainment, the organizers, participants and spectators have in reality been celebrating 3 consecutive days of cruel animal abuse.
The treatment of the animals at this festival has just been condemned by the SPCA of Montreal.
“This Festival,” writes Jean-Jacques Kona Boun, DMV, “fails to respect the 5 fundamental rights of animals specified by the Ordre des Médecins Vétérinaires du Québec” [translation: original texts in French].
Pigs, piglets, hogs, sows and boars are forced to endure terror and torment. Frightened animals are penned in, chased, jumped on, pulled, pushed, battered and bruised by humans without a thought for their panic or pain.
Videos from past Festivals show terrified, desperately squealing creatures being dragged and dropped into containers with no concern for trauma or injury, forcibly held down in watery mud where they cannot breath, attacked from behind and pounced on from heights by people twice their size, some of the humans wearing helmets to protect themselves, with no thought of protection or mercy for their victims.
These innocent animals have no idea why they are suddenly being pursued and terrorized and brutalized by screaming crowds of violent human beings.
Celebrating dominance over helpless animals can only traumatize the more sensitive children and encourage abusive behaviors in the more aggressive children, which can in turn lead to violence and criminality in adult life. Research in psychology and criminology has repeatedly found that people who commit acts of cruelty against animals are likely to hurt their fellow humans too.*
This wanton brutality only brings shame upon Quebec, along with untold suffering for defenseless creatures suffering of a kind that we would never dream of allowing to be inflicted on our pets, nor on any human being.*Ascione FR & Arkow P (Eds) (1999) Child abuse, domestic violence, and animal abuse: Linking the circles of compassion for prevention and intervention Purdue U Press
The Quebec Manifesto, already signed by more than 46,000 Québécois, call for according animals the legal status of sentient beings instead of property, as now, in order to prevent animal abuses and suffering.
A petition calling on artists not to lend their names or their art to this Festival already has over 1,500 signatures and another petition asking the mayor of Sainte-Perpétue to stop supporting this animal abuse already has more than 18,000 signatures.
Media, presenters and sponsors of this event are asked to transform it into nonviolent, nonabusive family entertainment, inspiring kindness and compassion in our future generations.
Until and unless the Ste Perpétue Festival is reformed to eliminate all animal abuse, all media and the general public are asked to heed the call of Georges Laraque to boycott this event.
Sunday, July 20. 2014
Sunday, July 13. 2014
I confess that all my life I had believed that my mother’s unrelenting rancor toward Hungary and Hungarians was “just” a symptom of post-Holocaust trauma.
Only lately have I come to realize that she was not exaggerating in the least: in fact, she was under-estimating the degree of self-deception, denial, distortion, dissimulation and downright lying.
I owe the opening of my eyes to Viktor Orban. His shameless efforts to recruit and stoke -- only some, but enough -- Hungarians’ discontent, self-pity and eternal scale-goatism in the service of his own sociopathic megalomania — so far stunningly successfully — have given me (and the world) a clear, contempory sample of what it was like then, and now.
But we are living in the age of Internet and transparency, whether you like it or not.
And all of Orban’s (and Schmidt’s, and little Szakaly’s) malign machinations and mendacity are being publicly monitored and documented, abundantly (and in no small part by Professor Balogh herself!).
This open, cumulating, unsuppressable record will stand ready to unmask them and set the shameful record straight as soon as the population’s immune system recovers enough to rout this retrovirus at long last.
And it will.
Because generalizations about Hungarians are as false as generalizations about Germans, Russians, Muslims, Jews and Roma.
Monday, July 7. 2014
Koubeissi, M. Z., Bartolomei, F., Beltagy, A., & Picard, F. (2014). Electrical stimulation of a small brain area reversibly disrupts consciousness. Epilepsy & Behavior, 37, 32-35.This center cuts off awakeness, not (just) consciousness. Inactivating the claustrum seems to put the subject into an immobile trance that is not sleep (which is an active dynamical state) but a kind of “suspended animation."
But consciousness means feeling — feeling anything at all. It is not (just) awakeness.
If something could "cut off" feeling while leaving “doing” intact (moving, talking, etc.), then it would make us into the Zombies that we would have been if we were not conscious. (Now that would be a real “on-off” switch!)
But there is no such center, or switch. Because consciousness is much more fundamental and pervasive than mere awakeness.
And for some reason that no one can understand or explain, there (probably) cannot be Zombies — at least not with human-scale (or probably even any biological-scale) doing-capacity. To be able to explain how and why that is the case would require solving the mind/body problem (the “hard” problem).
By the way, like claustrum inhibition, general anaesthesia too cuts of awakeness but it also induces a lot of other accompanying changes in state along with it. (Maybe, if it is not harmful, claustrum inhibition could be used for surgery instead of pharmacologically inducing sleep or coma?)
And local anaesthesia merely cuts off sensation (which also happens to be felt): It makes the stimulation of the anesthesized location unfelt (but of course it leaves all other feeling intact).
Wednesday, July 2. 2014
As was brilliantly done recently to free a dog locked in a car in the heat by mobilizing a large number of people in the area via a cellular and Facebook, a global network of animal-lovers should be set up to alert people in any area immediately of any abuse witnessed: mistreatment, abandonment, dog-fights, etc.
Comme on vient de faire de façon géniale pour libérer un chien qui était découvert vérrouillé dans une voiture durant la chaleur --qu’on à sauvé par une mobilisation d’un grand nombre de personnes à travers Facebook -- les amis des animaux devraient créer des réseaux globaux Facebook pour avertir par cellulaire instantanément tous ceux qui sont près lorsqu’on voit un abus, quoi que ça soit: abandon, maltraitement, combat de chien pitbull etc.
Wednesday, June 25. 2014
The Internet, instead of helping to democratize and integrate has furnished extremist sects with an unprecedentedly powerful weapon for recruitment, segregation and destruction.
“animals that provide us with healthy, life-giving food deserve not to be subject to torment and agony and immeasurable misery”Agreed.
So too do animals who do not provide us with healthy, life-giving food deserve not to be subject to torment and agony and immeasurable misery.
No living, feeling creature deserves to be subject to torment and agony and immeasurable misery -- perhaps not even those who have subjected others to torment and agony and immeasurable misery.
But neither does any animal deserve to have its life taken to feed humans if it is not necessary for the survival and health of humans.
And it isn’t.
Nor is it possible to deprive a living, feeling creature of its life humanely, any more than it is possible to rape someone humanely.
Euthanasia is a way to end a life of torment and agony and immeasurable misery humanely.
But the needless slaughter of healthy, helpless animals is not euthanasia — nor should it be called humane.
At best some slaughter can be called "less-inhumane" than slaughter that causes torment and agony and immeasurable misery — just as rape without strangulation can be called "less-inhumane" than rape with strangulation.
But unnecessary life-taking is not and cannot be humane.
Craig, W. J., & Mangels, A. R. (2009). Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(7), 1266-1282.
Eisnitz, G. A. (2009). Slaughterhouse: The shocking story of greed, neglect, and inhumane treatment inside the US meat industry. Prometheus Books.
Rollin, B. E. (2009). Ethics and euthanasia. The Canadian Veterinary Journal, 50(10), 1081.
Monday, June 23. 2014
[Note: The following comments are based solely on the two 3-minute video segments linked below. Professor Chomsky has since replied that he has written a lot more on the subject of animal rights; that he does consider that animals have rights (though not the same ones as humans), and that he has supported animal rights movements for years. He considers species-destruction to be the most severe attack on animal rights by far, and one in which we are all complicit in our daily habits and decisions (travel, heating, etc.); it is accordingly one of his highest priorities. Professor Chomsky also points out that some animals are afforded some legal protection (e.g. in animal experimentation). But the animal slaughter that concerns Professor Chomsky most appears to be natural environment destruction rather than the suffering and slaughter of animals bred for that purpose. Though not a vegan, Professor Chomsky is opposed to factory farming.]
Noam Chomsky is a scholar and an ethical thinker for whom I (and countless others) have boundless admiration and respect. He is in many respects the moral conscience of our planet and our age.
Although Professor Chomsky has sympathy for the cause of animal suffering, it is not his highest priority (and he stresses that we are constantly having to make decisions about moral priorities throughout our lives).
Perhaps because he assigns them a lower priority or urgency, however, some of the details of Professor Chomsky's views on the animal question do not seem to have undergone as deep and rigorous an analysis as his views on the ethical questions to which he assigns a higher priority:
"Rights" & Responsibilities. Professor Chomsky states (as have others), that in order to have certain "rights," an individual must also have responsibilities -- and animals do not have responsibilities.
It is certainly true that animals do not (and cannot) have responsibilities. Not even a trained seeing-eye dog can be literally said to have responsibilities.
It is not clear, however, whether what we mean by having "rights" -- either in law or in ordinary language -- necessarily entails anything about having (or being capable of having) responsibilities (although in practice the two are often linked).
Professor Chomsky himself gives an example: human infants. (Professor Chomsky admits -- without further comment -- that according rights to human infants even though they have no responsibilities is "speciesist." The same point could be made about the rights of the severely handicapped.)
Harming Animals. But this semiological concern need not deter us. It is not substantive. We can refrain from using the word "rights" at all here, and speak only of the responsibilities (obligations) of humans:
We can agree to make it illegal for a human to harm another sentient (feeling) being intentionally except if it is necessary for the survival or health of a human.(This would be much the same as making it illegal to kill someone, exculpable only if it was necessary for defence.) For animals, this would not yet be ideal, but it would be a night-to-day improvement over their lot today.
This also covers the (trivial) case of insects (which many others, too, have invoked as a kind of reductio ad absurdum of the notion of animal rights): It's alright to kill mosquitos or flies to protect people from bites or health hazards. Yet harming even insects wantonly or for pleasure can and should be unlawful too, and there is nothing absurd or ridiculous about that.
"Personhood". Professor Chomsky does not discuss this topic in these 2 videos, but similar semiological points have been raised about attempts to accord animals the status of "persons" under the law. Yes, describing animals as persons is at odds with what we mean by "person" in ordinary language. But the law often uses words differently; for example, a corporation is a "person" (with rights and responsibilities) under the law.
Again, however, nothing substantive is at issue. Animals would gain the same legal protection if we agreed to make it illegal for a human to harm another sentient (feeling) being intentionally except if it is necessary for the survival or health of a human. Both "rights" and "personhood" can be left unmentioned if it causes confusion or opposition.
Decisions. As to personal choices: A lion has no choice about being a carnivore. It cannot survive or be healthy without eating other sentient (feeling) beings. Human beings (being omnivores) can. And they can choose not to eat animals, just as they have chosen not to murder, rape, have slaves, or subjugate women -- and have accordingly outlawed it.
In most of the US and Europe today, it is feasible and easy to be a vegan, and not consume animal products. (The "opportunity costs" are small, and vanish once one has been doing it for a while.) Choosing not to eat meat at all is not like choosing to renounce all automated transport in order not to add to one's carbon footprint.
Priorities. Last point: Although individuals can indeed decide their own moral priorities, it is nevertheless a fact that humans are now protected by law from being harmed by humans, but animals are not; only some special kinds of harm to animals under special conditions (such as laboratory experimentation) have some restrictions on them (minimal ones, minimally monitored or enforced).
The number of animals killed by humans every year exceeds the total number of humans killed by humans in all wars since the beginning of humanity. To my mind, that makes the protection of animals the most pressing moral priority of all.
Tuesday, June 17. 2014
J’ai le principe de ne pas remercier les véganes ni pour être végane ni pour faire tout ce qu’ils font à l’aide des animaux et je ne souhaite pas de remerciements moi non plus. C’est un peu par superstition. Mon raisonement est que le seul espoir pour les animaux c’est que la majorité de l’humanité soit de nature disposé à devenir végane, exactement comme nous. Que ça soit normal. Donc il ne faut pas que nous nous traitions d’exceptionnels d'être déjà rendu là, pour ne pas renforcer l’impression que le véganisme est destiné à toujours rester minoritaire.
Pourtant, il faut que je fasse hommage à la créativité, et aux infatigables exertions, dévoument et zèle de Marie-Claude et de Marion sans lesquelles cet événement remarquable n’aurait jamais vu son jour. Moi, j’ai beaucoup jacassé en tant que « porte-parole officiel » (ainsi délégué par M-C & M), mais les vraies héroïnes — je ne dirai pas anges, pour insister qu’elles sont en effet humaines, comme nous tous — ce sont Marion et Marie-Claude.
Ainsi, aux noms des 150+milliards p/a sans nom, sans voix, sans havre, permettez moi de vous transmettre: « morituri vos salutamus » pour avoir été à l’avant garde du sauvetage, sinon de nous-mêmes, alors de nos descendants.
Merci M & M-C
J’avais mes doutes pour l'exhibition des animaux morts avant la marche, mais j’ai fini par être très, très ému en les voyant. Et le discours de Christelle/Emme était très émouvant aussi. Je ne suis plus à l’aise en me balladant dans les rues avec les restos en plein air, sachant à quel horrible prix sont achetés ces plaisirs du palais. C’était si réconfortant d’être entouré de 13h à 15h d’un autre monde qui n’avaient aucune complicité dans ces horreurs. Le seul espoir pour les animaux, c’est que nous ne sommes aucunement différents de la majorité des humains, sauf que nous avons vu, nous avons compris, et nous avons fait ce que tout le monde ferait. On n’a qu’à leur ouvrir les yeux, et ainsi leurs coeurs.
Ne prenez pas au sérieux le témoignage des quantités de gens qui disent « J’peux pas supporter les véganes parce qu’ils se sentent supérieurs aux autres ! » C’est des gens qui commencent à se sentir mal à l’aise, et c’est leur propre végane interne — c’est à dire leur conscience — qui parle… Faut les encourager, en disant : « Pas du tout, nous sommes exactement comme vous ! »
Et surtout, faut pas passer le temps à se disputer avec les gens qui disent « je m’en fous des animaux » . Faut passer à la parole avec d’autres qui ont des coeurs susceptibles à l’ouverture. Il y au moins 150 milliards de victimes innocentes et sans défense chaque année qui dépendent de nous et qui ne seront point protégées par des disputes inutiles avec les sans-coeurs. Nous devons compter sur le fait que la vaste majorité de l’humanité ne consiste pas des psychopathes mais des potentiels véganes.
Monday, June 16. 2014
Brigitte Bourgie m'a posé les questions habituelles, que nous connaissons tous, concernant les abattoirs:
« En tant que scientifique, avez vous des preuves que les cruautés documentées dans les abattoirs sur Youtube ne sont pas des exceptions? Il existe des normes et des reglements humanitaires pour les abattoirs, et les inspecteurs sont là pour assurer qu’ils soient respectés. En plus, les entreprises inistent que c’est à l’avantage de leur production de bien traiter leurs animaux… »J'avais trop peu de temps pour répondre de façon cohérente. Mais si j'avais eu le temps, ma réplique aurait étée que les preuves sur Youtube sont issues des échantillions aléatoires et clandestins qui ne rencontrent que des horreurs qui sont normalement cachées des yeux du grand public. Les « normes et les reglements » sont loins d’être rigoureux, contrôllés ou respectés. Il faudrait au minimum les renforcer puissament et fiablement avec des lois, de la surveillance èlectronique (disponible au grand public), et des punitions sévères.
Mais même à la limite d’optempération, l’abattage humanitaire est impossible, étant auto-contradictoire, exactement comme le viol humanitaire est impossible et auto-contradictoire — c’est honteux même de le proposer.
Peu importe la rigeur des « normes et des reglements » , on ne peut pas « de façon humanitaire » élever les êtres sensibles en captivité et ensuite les abattre contre leur volonté, pour faire plaisir à nos palais (sous le faux prétexte que c’est nécessaire à notre survie et à notre santé). Le viol, même si les victimes ne sont pas étranglées après, est une aggression et une violence abominable.
Ce n’est pas l’euthanasie qu’on pratique aux abattoirs, pour libérer un être souffrant d’une maladie incurable et insupportable. C’est une violence exactement comme le viol. Cette violance ne se fait pas par nécessité de survie et de santé, comme prétendu, mais pour le plaisir du violeur — le violeur étant, dans le cas de l’abattage, autant le consommateur que l’abatteur (un sal métier, qui attire et cultive les sadiques).
Craig, W. J., & Mangels, A. R. (2009). Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 109(7), 1266-1282.
Eisnitz, G. A. (2009). Slaughterhouse: The shocking story of greed, neglect, and inhumane treatment inside the US meat industry. Prometheus Books.
Low, P., Edelman, D., & Koch, C. (2012). The Cambridge declaration on consciousness.
Rollin, B. E. (2009). Ethics and euthanasia. The Canadian Veterinary Journal, 50(10), 1081.
Rowan, A. N. (1999). Cruelty and abuse to animals: A typology. Child abuse, domestic violence, and animal abuse: Linking the circles of compassion for prevention and intervention, ed. FR Ascione & P. Arkow, 328-34.
Tuesday, June 10. 2014
On: "The Nazis Were Vegans Too " (Rogel Alpher, Haarerz, June 9 2014)
We are planning a study on Israeli attitudes to animal suffering and Israeli attitudes to Palestinian suffering. Please do not assume that the two are dissociated till the findings are known.
It is a great puzzle why some Nazis were (allegedly) concerned about animal suffering, since most Nazis were sociopaths, who are unmoved by any sort of suffering. And sociopaths are known to be cruel to animals (as well as people).
My guess is that some of the motivation for the Nazi public campaigns in support of animals was ideological and decorative -- something woven into the fabric of Nazi extremism, along with an idealization of motherhood and children.
That does not impugn support for motherhood or children either.
Sunday, June 8. 2014
It has been reported that the Turing Test has been passed, 64 years after it was first proposed by Turing, because 32% of judges mistook a computer programme for a real 13-year old Ukrainian boy called Eugene Goostman in a 5-minute test.
Nothing of the sort. Really passing the Turing Test would require designing a system that has real, lifelong verbal capacity, indistinguishable from a real pen-pal, not just fooling an arbitrary percentage of interrogators in a series of 5-minute exchanges!
At the beginning of his 1950 paper Turing had written:
Turing: “[A] statistical survey such as a Gallup poll [would be] absurd [as a way to define or determine whether a machine can think]” (Turing 1950)Taking a statistical survey like a Gallup Poll — to find out people's opinions of what thinking is — would indeed be a waste of time, as Turing points out. Later in the paper, however, in a throwaway remark that is merely his personal prediction about progress in attempts to pass his Test, he mentions the equivalent of a statistical survey in which 30% of interrogators will be successfully fooled for five minutes:
Turing: "I believe that in about fifty years' time it will be possible, to programme computers... [to] play the imitation game so well that an average interrogator will not have more than 70 per cent chance of making the right identification after five minutes of questioning.” (Turing 1950)No doubt this party-game/Gallup-Poll criterion can be met by today's computer programs -- but that remains as meaningless a demographic fact today as it was when predicted 64 years ago: Like any other science, cognitive science is not the art of fooling some or most of the people for some or most of the time! The candidate must really have the generic performance capacity of a real human being -- capacity that is totally indistinguishable from that of a real human being to any real human being (for a lifetime, if need be!). No tricks: real performance capacity (Harnad 2008).
Turing was not only the co-inventor of the computer and the code-breaker of the Nazis’ Enigma Machine, thereby helping the Allies win World War II, but with what came to be called the “Turing Test” he also set the agenda for what would eventually come to be called “cognitive science”: the science of explaining how the mind works.
Turing’s idea was simple: Stop worrying about what the mind “is” and explain instead what the mind does. If you can design a system that can do everything that a person with a mind can do – and can do it so that people cannot tell it apart from a real person – then that system will have passed the Turing Test, and the explanation of how that system works will be the explanation of how the mind works.
But the lion’s share of the enormous research agenda proposed by Turing for cognitive science is getting the system to be able to do everything a person with a mind can do. Testing whether people can tell the candidate apart from a real person only becomes relevant at the endgame, once the system already has our generic performance capacities. And we are nowhere near having designed a system that can do everything a person with a mind can do. Not even if we restrict the test to everything a mind can do verbally. (The real Turing Test will of course have to be robotic, not just verbal, because what we can do is not just what we can do with our mouths! But lets set aside for another discussion the “symbol grounding problem” of whether computation alone can indeed do everything the mind can do.)
It should be obvious from all this that the Turing Test is not – and never was – about fooling anyone, let alone fooling some people, some of the time. It is about designing – indeed “reverse-engineering” -- a system that is really able to do anything an ordinary person can do, any time, as long as you like, indistinguishably from the way a real person does it. Nothing about 5-minute tests and percentages of judges that think the candidate is or isn’t a real person (although obviously eventual success can only be achieved by degrees).
The Turing Test has captured the imagination of the general public partly because of our interactions with computers that are able to do more and more things that only people with minds had been able to do. Another reason has been the growth in the number of science fiction books and movies about computers and robots that have – or seem to have – minds. But the biggest reason for the fascination is the “other minds problem” itself – the very problem that the Turing Test is meant to resolve:
We are not mind-readers. The only one I can know has a mind is myself; we’ve known that since at least Descartes’ famous “I think therefore I am.” For all bodies other than my own, the only way I can infer whether they indeed have a mind is if they can do what minds can do. I can’t observe other minds, but I can observe what they can do. So Turing’s real insight was that Turing-testing is -- and always has been -- our only means of mind-reading. Hence once we have designed a system that can do anything a person with a mind can do, indistinguishably from a person with a mind, not only will we be in no better or worse a position to know whether that system really has a mind than with any other person, but we will come as close as it is possible to come to having explained how the mind works.
But that’s certainly not where we are when we have a system that can fool 30% of people for 5 minutes. And Turing certainly never said, implied or intended any such thing.
Harnad, S. (1992) The Turing Test Is Not A Trick: Turing Indistinguishability Is A Scientific Criterion. SIGART Bulletin 3(4) (October 1992) pp. 9 - 10.
Harnad, S. (2008) The Annotation Game: On Turing (1950) on Computing, Machinery and Intelligence. In: Epstein, Robert & Peters, Grace (Eds.) Parsing the Turing Test: Philosophical and Methodological Issues in the Quest for the Thinking Computer. Springer
Turing, A. M. (1950). Computing machinery and intelligence. Mind, 433-460.
Saturday, June 7. 2014
There is no suffering that we inflict on animals that we do not inflict on humans.
But the vast difference is that the suffering we inflict on humans is seen as wrong by most decent people worldwide -- and it is also against the law.
Not so for animals. They are not protected by the law and most of us are not only unaware of their agony in slaughterhouses but we are actively sustaining it as consumers.
Most of us believe (1) that meat is obtained humanely, and (2) that it is necessary for our survival and health.
Both of these beliefs are profoundly, tragically and demonstrably wrong.
Reducing and eventually abolishing the gratuitous suffering that humans are inflicting on animals is one of the most urgent moral imperatives of our age.
The worldwide March Against Slaughterhouses on June 14 2014 is intended to open the eyes and hearts of decent people worldwide
-- to the enormity of the agony of innocent, helpless creatures in slaughterhouses
Saturday, May 31. 2014
I was seventeen and on a downtown bus headed for my french horn lesson at the conservatory. It was late afternoon, the bus was crowded, as were the streets, because rush hour was just beginning. My anxiety was increasing with the traffic because I had, characteristically, not allowed enough leeway for this unpredictable time of day, and it looked as if I might arrive late for my lesson. As I peered nervously through the windows to gauge the progress of the traffic to see whether I would be better off walking the last eight blocks, I noticed, in the middle of the major intersection where my bus was waiting for the traffic light to change, a small, skinny white dog, running back and forth in panic in the middle of the opposing traffic, which was moving in the irate and unpredictable spurts characteristic of that uncertain hour, hazardous even for beings capable of understanding traffic lights, crosswalks and rights-of-way.
My quick fix on the congestion had told me that things were still moving fast enough to make me better off staying on the bus than trying my luck on foot -- particularly with my bulky instrument in one hand and university books in the other. So my first reaction upon seeing the dog's situation was irritation, perhaps even resentment. Not that she was blocking traffic, for in fact all the drivers, particularly aggressive at this hour, seemed completely oblivious to her plight, and were grabbing whatever territorial opportunities opened to them as if not only she, but the laws of the land, did not exist. No, my resentment was that she had now added a further complication to my prospects for making my lesson in time; I followed her fitful path with as much anxiety for my own welfare as hers: Would she make it to a corner, out of my sight, and hence out of my necessity to continue to be concerned for her? Or would I have to get off the bus and try to guide her out of her jam? I even had time for a self-serving rationalization: Even if I got her to a corner, this was too dangerous an urban location, no place for a dog, and she would soon be in trouble again after I had rushed off to my lesson. In other words, she was doomed, and there was no reason for me to be dragged down with her.
One wonders how many potential humanitarian acts end up still-born because of considerations like these. The thought crossed my mind that if I hadn't been so late, it would have been different; that it was neurotic to be so late; that it was even more neurotic to consider making myself later. I think I even had time to reflect, partly out of self-congratulation, partly out of self-flagellation, that I had been involved in this sort of thing before; that no good had ever come of it, either to the one I was trying to help or to myself; that I had probably (insulated by the very reactions I was then undergoing) turned my back on many more situations like this than the few in which I had prided (and upbraided) myself for having acted; that the world contained infinitely more of them than could be encompassed by my imagination, not to mention my actual experience, or anyone else's. I even -- yes, unrelenting moral memory tells me that even this confession does not exaggerate the momentary resources my mind mobilized to excuse me from action -- I even mentally surveyed my current existential plight, and had time to call up some self-pity to try to exorcise whatever pity the dog might force on my psyche: My horn lessons weren't going well; I wasn't practicing seriously; my academic work was also in a mess; I was miserably lonely.
These moral vacillations, powerful and enterprising as they were, were very fleeting, for they were interrupted by the impatient blast of a car's horn as the lights changed and the dog's immediate source of peril made a sudden 90 degree shift. The horn's blast induced a movement of such human-like despair and terror in that little dog, who disappeared from my line of sight, obscured by the new direction of movement of the traffic, that I moved with reflexive resignation to the exit door, now no longer even inclined to leave it to fate whether the bus, just about to proceed on its course across the intersection, would still honor the bus-stop, which was technically at the corner, and had not yet been reached in the stalled traffic, although several passengers -- the only ones interested in disembarking here -- had already been discharged.
I rang the bell urgently, to make it clear that I was intent on invoking my statutory rights to get off at the official bus stop. The driver looked as if he wasn't going to buy that; the bus hurtled forward, but the traffic didn't give much opportunity for progress. We came to a stop in the middle of the intersection, and at this point I set up such an incessant series of bell-ringings that the driver, not without a curse that drew even more of the unsympathetic and short-tempered passengers' attention to me, released the exit door and I leapt off, rushed in front of the bus, caught sight of the dog, who was close to a panic-freeze between the opposing traffic parallel to the bus, and, by turns, coaxed and chased it toward the corner near which I had disembarked, not without holding up the bus's progress one more time by gesticulating and interposing myself between it and the space that had by now opened up in front of it, until the dog had reached safety. (More curses from the bus-driver, and incensed murmurs from the passengers, no doubt, once they realized the reason for my urgent exit, and my further negative contribution to their advancement.)
My reflexive series of acts had not settled the problem of the sequel. In my mind I was still nervously entertaining the idea of rushing on to my lesson, except that it was apparent that the dog was still in great danger. She was in a kind of daze; she wouldn't let me approach her, and she several times almost ran into the street again. My chasing her back from the street did not increase her inclination to allow me to get nearer, but I had already gotten close enough for a remarkable personal transformation to occur in my attitude toward her.
I don't quite know how to explain this, but I somehow got the kind of feeling you get when you realize that someone you thought or expected to be rather common turns out to give every indication of being from a "good family." I had expected a scruffy stray in this part of town, and not a young one; and, for some reason, I also expected it to be a male. She turned out to be very young (perhaps ten months old), a female, and because she had a collar, perhaps she was not even homeless. On the other hand, she was pitifully thin, and her collar had no license or identification. She was of a medium-sized terrier-like mixed breed, with potentially erect ears and tail, but both of which were (understandably) always down low now. Her hair was longish white and discolored by urban street-life, and -- let the reader laugh, I am still inexpressibly moved twenty years later as I write this -- some sort of infection made her brown, panic- stricken eyes, partly obscured by tufts of her off-white hair, look inescapably as if she were weeping, or, more accurately, as if she had been weeping a great deal, and that its residue had gathered in the corner of her eyes and had moistened and matted the fur along both sides of her muzzle.
I will not dwell on the necessity of such anthropomorphic cues, sometimes illusory, for the elicitation of compassion. A hardened street-wise stray who had adopted an adversarial, exploitative attitude, perhaps a menacing one, toward man, would have been in no less need in this situation than she was, and would perhaps provide the real test of the "goodness" of our hearts. But her human-like startle at the car horn, the tearful look of her eyes, the hint of being (or having been) of a "good family," her emaciated condition, her plight itself, even, I suspect in retrospect, her being a female -- all these conspired to make me incapable, truly incapable, of considering going on to my lesson; and much more than that, for already, I now know, processes had been set in motion -- processes that I did not yet consciously recognize at that time, and that were perhaps not yet irreversible -- that were to intertwine her fate inextricably with mine.
She wouldn't let me approach her. I knew I had to secure her somehow, or else she would be back in the traffic or would disappear in the streets. Although I couldn't get near her, I noticed that she had established some sort of contact with me, because she watched when I spoke to her, and didn't seem about to run off. I tried to get her to follow me at a distance, and I was partially successful, but when I stopped, she stopped, and if I approached her, she would back away. I thought she might approach if I offered her some food, but I was afraid that if I went into a grocery story (which was nearby) she would not be there when I came out. I took the chance, emerging several times during the transaction (I bought a pound of hamburger) to see whether she was still there. She was. I came out with the hamburger, removed it from the cellophane so she could smell it, and tried to get closer to her. She backed away. I threw a piece of hamburger toward her, she jumped back, then approached to smell it, but did not eat it. I tried getting her to follow me at a distance again, slowly, and then, still more slowly, I tried to narrow the distance between us, holding the hamburger in front of me all the while. I had uneasily set down my French horn, whose huge black carrying-case I thought might be frightening her; the rest of my maneuvers were performed with repeated nervous sidelong glances at my instrument, sitting there prominently for any passer-by to grab and run off with. She finally let me approach her, and after a few false starts, during which my objective was to get her to eat the hamburger so I could get hold of her collar -- whereas all she ever did was sniff the hamburger, she never did eat a bite -- I succeeded in securing her collar and gently attached to it the leash of my own dog, Lady, a leash which I always carried in my pocket in those days, even though I rarely used it with Lady.
This story is not about my own dog, Lady, but I must make two pertinent asides here, concerning her. The first is that I loved her very much, and I recall quite distinctly that at the moment I was putting the leash on the white dog (who, since she never did get a name, I will henceforth call "W.") I felt as if I was somehow being unfaithful. The second thing is that I was very worried that W. might have a disease, which I was afraid of communicating to Lady, so all my maneuvers were performed with a minimum of bodily contact. Although W. was very submissive once I got the leash on her (not, I had occasion to reflect at the time, because she seemed used to being on a leash, but on the contrary, because it seemed to frighten her, and her fear was expressed as a kind of dazed submission), I could not reassure her by petting her, because of this fear of contagion. So it was only with words that I could try to console her in her captivity.
Time was passing; it was getting dark; it was very hard for me to negotiate my instrument, my books, and W.'s leash (especially without unduly frightening her) all at one time; I had jettisoned the hamburger.
I decided to call the SPCA -- not, I hasten to add, because I had any intention of allowing her to meet the usual fate of SPCA strays. But I knew that they had a grace period, during which owners could claim their runaways, and a second grace period in which they could be adopted. I called the SPCA and confirmed that it was possible for me to leave my name and number and to reclaim custody of W. if the two grace periods elapsed without success.
A truck came to pick her up. I gave my name and number, and I watched as she, with fateful resignation, was led off with Lady's leash. I did not, from the time the SPCA truck arrived, attempt to look at her eyes.
When I reached home, I asked that Lady be locked in a room while I put all my clothes in the laundry hamper and bathed, because of the fears I have mentioned. Then I called the branch of the SPCA where W. had been taken, confirmed her arrival as well as my intention to reclaim her if the two grace periods passed unsuccessfully. I called them several times, actually, because I particularly wanted a veterinary report, and to keep them reminded of my intentions.
At this point another round of introspection -- like the one to which I subjected my first few instants of reaction upon first seeing W. from the bus -- is in order. I said, and I meant it, that when I sent W. off to the SPCA I had no intention of abandoning her. I was at that moment under two direct influences: that of W.'s existence and presence, with which, as I mentioned, my life was already unconsciously becoming intertwined, and that of my own dog, whom I was very afraid of making ill (and toward whom, as I mentioned, I felt vaguely but palpably guilty of a kind of infidelity). The scenario I feared most, because it coincided so much with my characteristic caprices, was that W. would prove to have had a fatal illness, and that the only consequence of my heroic gesture would turn out to have been that I had missed my horn lesson and communicated the fatal illness to Lady. In this feared scenario there was no room for concern about W.'s fate: if anything, it revived that feeling of resentment at interference that I had had when I first saw her, and frustration with myself for having gotten involved, putting a loved one at risk. If W. was fatally ill, then plucking her out of the traffic hardly justified the effort, and the risk. I passed a very troubled night, in which W.'s own troubles played no part at all.
The next day, upon inquiry, I was informed by the SPCA that W. had been found to be healthy, though undernourished. At this point, aside from relief (on Lady's behalf), my involvement with W.'s fate became mechanical, confined to the periodic telephone inquiries to the SPCA during her grace periods. It is true that, upon first hearing that she was healthy, and realizing that my own dog was hence safe, I again for a brief time visualized her again, her eyes especially, and I had the feeling that she had had a second reprieve, the first having been from the traffic, the second from a hypothetical illness; and I felt that the second reprieve brought me somehow closer to her. But this soon subsided, and I went through the pro forma telephone calls hoping, I suppose, for her sake and mine, first, that her "good family" would turn up to reclaim her, and when I had been informed that that had failed to happen, hoping that someone would adopt her.
I say that these periodic inquiries had become mechanical: as time elapsed -- I vaguely recall that the first grace period was three days and the second a week, or perhaps vice versa -- my inquiries also became less reliable, so that, when about ten days had passed, I suddenly became alarmed that her deadline may have gone by without my intervention and that she had been killed. I called up in something of a panic and they informed me that her time had indeed elapsed, that it was lucky I had called because there had been no plans to keep her any longer, and that I had better go to get her right away.
As I drove to pick her up my mind kept re-enacting what would have happened if I had dragged it out one more day before calling. I felt horrified with myself and my negligence; as W. had, since the sudden upsurge of apprehension that had precipitated the phone call, suddenly become real to me again, I felt how despicable my slackness had been, and how, although capable of rising to the occasion of going through the motions of certain humanitarian acts, I was no humanitarian at all, just a contemptibly irresponsible and unreliable human being. I was also desperately worried that they might not wait until I got to the shelter to do away with her. I pictured the indifferent bureaucracy that must exist there, as everywhere else, whose main function is dispatching these little creatures as expeditiously as possible to their prescribed fates, and I could not understand how I could have been so complacent as to trust the increasingly lax telephone surveillance I had been exercising to ensure her survival.
She was there, and alive, and this time I had no hesitation about touching her and hugging her and kissing her, and -- hadn't I correctly guessed that she was from a "good family" -- she returned my affection at once. The only thing that worried me was that she was still underweight; but, attributing this to SPCA fare, I felt confident that Mason's Animal Hospital -- my own dog's veterinarians since her earliest days -- where I was taking her to be boarded, would soon bring her weight to normal.
I must explain why there had never been any question of my bringing W. home, even when she proved to be healthy. The first reason was that I felt (and still feel) that it would have been an act of betrayal to Lady, who did not in any case have the happiest of lives. (I cannot elaborate on this; it would be a whole other story.) The second reason was that I was living at home; my father had not been too sympathetic to the acquisition of Lady in the first place, and although he was now reconciled to her presence, another dog would have been out of the question. A third, though superfluous reason, since the first two were decisive, is that it is in general unpredictable whether two unrelated female dogs can co-exist peacefully. So I had known all along that boarding at Mason's would have to be the next step. My plan had been to place an ad in the paper, offering W. for adoption, and to pay for her boarding out of some savings I had from summer work until she was adopted.
During that trip from the SPCA to Mason's I must describe another experience I had, because it begins to become a kind of leitmotif of W.'s story. I mentioned that I was not happy that she was still so underweight. She still had her eye infection too, and I wondered that the SPCA veterinarian had not treated, or even mentioned it in giving her her clean bill of health. In the car, though, that tearful look of hers, which had become much more poignant now that I was seeing her not for the first time, and immediately after having feared the worst, brought home to me that this had in fact been her third reprieve: the first from the streets, the second from the threat of illness, and the third from the SPCA's gas chamber. I was at that moment very conscious of the preciousness of her life; but it would not be long before I would withdraw from her again.
We arrived at Dr. Mason's and his son, the young Dr. Mason examined her as I related her story, her three reprieves, and my intention to board her until she was adopted. He did not look very enthusiastic. I told him that there was no problem, I had the money to board her for a month or more, if necessary, and that I was sure that it would be easy to find her a home. He said that that wasn't the problem; the fact was that she was not well; that, in fact, she had "hardpad." The name did not sound ominous, since I knew that the three chief illnesses to worry about with dogs were rabies, hepatitis, and distemper. I thought it might have been something that she had gotten from being on the streets too long; but he shook his head and said that it was another expression for an advanced form of distemper, that it was highly contagious, and that it was almost certainly fatal; he advised me to have her destroyed at once.
My spirit colluded at once. I withdrew my hand and stopped looking at her directly. It was as if her fate was already sealed.
"But what about Lady?" My voice was hollow: "Is she going to catch it through me?"
"Very unlikely. It's mainly a disease of very young dogs."
"Is there no treatment?"
"No. It's viral. All we can do, if we keep her alive at all, is to give her the usual antibiotics against secondary infections and see whether she can somehow pull through. But I don't advise it. She has a cough, which will get worse, and she's going to suffer. She hasn't had an easy life either, in the streets. Even with home-raised dogs we advise against maintaining them if they contract this. They have to be kept in quarantine, and, as I mentioned, they hardly ever make it."
My desertion of her was complete. It was as if she had already died.
"Are you sure there's no danger to Lady?"
"She gets her shots every year. She's three years old. Bring her for another booster if it'll settle your mind, but it's not really necessary. Just wash your hands before you leave in case you run into any puppies, and don't worry about it."
"Do I have to decide -- about her -- right now?"
"No, we can put her in quarantine and you can let us know by telephone tomorrow what you want done."
I didn't look at her directly as the attendant came to lead her away, still wearing Lady's leash.
Despite Dr. Mason's reassurances, I went through the same laundry and bath ritual when I got home as I had done ten days earlier, and returned immediately afterward for Lady's booster shot. But that troubled night I didn't think about Lady, because W. came back to me, and this time for good. I saw her, as clearly as I see her now, scurrying distractedly back and forth in the intersection, cowering, crouching low, looking over her shoulder, ears down, panic in her eyes, then the horn blast, and that all too human movement of despair; then the chasing and coaxing until I could put the leash on her, keeping her always at arm's length; her departure, morally alone, for the SPCA, my sudden upsurge of anxiety, only that same day, for her neglected fate; then the reunion, and bodily contact at last, only to be abruptly withdrawn soon after, for her second departure, morally alone again.
But most of all, I recalled her face, her sad, moist eyes: Why hadn't I asked about her eye infection? Because, if she was doomed, what difference does it make? Well it does make a difference. I want it treated. Even if she dies, I want her eye infection treated, because I want to see her face again without tears. I want her to feel what it's like to be without tears, even for a little while.
The next day, I phoned Dr. Mason Jr. to tell him that I wanted her to be kept alive and treated. I asked about the eye infection. He said the antibiotics would help clear that up. I said that I would be responsible for her expenses and that I would be inquiring regularly about her condition, and I just wanted to be told if she deteriorated to a point that they felt she was suffering too much to justify keeping her alive.
She got steadily worse. The cough, which I had not even noticed, with each of my visits grew stronger. Her temperature was high. She was losing her hair, and she seemed to be getting even thinner. Her eyes were not improving. The veterinarians were remote and unencouraging. They seemed to be treating it as a pig-headed layman's disregard of sound professional judgment. Only the quarantine attendants seemed to have taken some interest in her fate. It seems the tearful, coughing, emaciated little creature had somehow won them over, despite the many others in their charge, and despite the inevitable hardening of the attitude toward individual cases that such work brings. I think it was a combination of her brave little fight against her increasingly powerful adversary and the manifestations of that personality that had made me so quickly conclude that she came from a good family. I cannot say much about this personality, alas, because I was never to know W. as well as they got to know her then. But gradually -- laugh again, reader, but I cannot call it anything other than what it was -- her courage and character even began winning over the veterinarians, one in particular, who used to spend a lot of time with her, and eventually became the one I always asked for when I called in for a report. He spoke, though not optimistically, as if it was not entirely absurd of me to be pursuing this option.
And then the day came when they thought she might have a chance of pulling through. Her cough, though still very persistent, had lost that alarming, cavernous quality. It seemed dryer and more superficial. She gained some weight. Her temperature went down. Her hair stopped falling out and began to show some lustre. Her eye infection seemed to improve too, but here the effect was the slightest. Her eyes seemed to be there to remind you that there was still something very wrong. Then the day came when they announced that, in their judgment, she had passed the critical phase, and had a good chance of making it. She was no longer contagious. She was taken out of quarantine. I was allowed to hold her again. She was the pride of the animal hospital. Even the most hardened of the vets admired her for her victory.
The search for an adoptive home was less successful. As soon as I was informed that she had rallied, I placed the ad, but no one responded. I wish I could remember the text. It must have been something like "Good-natured young white female dog available for good family."
I say that after that first night at Mason's I never abandoned her again. But perhaps that's not entirely true. Who knows whether greater personal efforts on my part might not have succeeded in finding her a home? I had no intention of letting anything happen to her, but perhaps I was a little too complacent with the optimistic outcome of her illness and the secure (while my money lasted) boarding conditions at Mason's. At any rate, I do recall that there was a friend of my mother's who was expressing some interest in W. at that time, and may even have gone to see her; but nothing had come of it.
Meanwhile, I was having problems at home. That too would be another story. Let me say only that I have a tendency to be overvoluble, verbally, about both my adventures and my avatarres. My summer money was beginning to run out, and that worried me. The adoption search was not turning out to be an easy matter either. The family as a whole was having financial problems. My father, as I had mentioned, was not too well-disposed toward dogs, or what he viewed as senseless expenditures; there were difficulties between my parents, and I was at that age, and my father of the sort of difficult nature, that combine to make father/son conflicts very likely. The actual precipitating agent was a loose word from me to my grandmother (my mother knew about my protegee, my father did not), a word repeated by her, with no evil intent, to my father on a day (a Friday) when he experienced some particularly alarming business losses, a word to the effect that I had been supporting for some time, a stray dog. It was my mother who called me to tell me that my father was angry and had called Mason's. She didn't seem to know the details, and she seemed to have delayed somewhat in telling me, because my father had warned her not to interfere, and he seemed in general to be very upset.
My memory becomes somewhat confused about when, precisely, I acted that day. I know I was furious with my mother for not having told me at once. But I could not swear that I myself acted instantly when I got the information; there is something of the aura of my delay with the SPCA that also surrounds this event. Besides, I wasn't sure, precisely, what my father had said to Mason's. As I thought about it, though, I know that my apprehensions grew. And I clearly recall that when I did pick up the phone to call Mason's it was with immense agitation and a sense of great urgency. And yet I felt some confidence -- or, if not confidence, a sense of defiant expectation -- that even if the worst had happened, even if my father had ordered them to destroy W., they would not have done it, at least not yet, because of the wide support system I knew she had there.
I tried to get the veterinarian I usually talked to about her progress, but I got Dr. Mason Jr. instead.
"Did my father call you today?"
"What did he say?"
"He said that he was your father, that you were a minor, that he had just learned that you had been supporting a dog here for some time, that you were not in a financial position to do so, that he would send a check for the expenses to date but that, as of today, financial support would be discontinued."
"And what did you do?"
"We had the dog destroyed."
(I was no longer speaking with the voice of a seventeen-year old near adult, but with that of a dismayed, breathless child, fighting back his tears.) "When?"
"At once, as soon as we had received your father's call."
I can remember some very distracted attempts at recrimination, and Dr. Mason's attempting to soothe me as one would a child, but against a background attitude that I clearly felt to be a primary allegiance to bureaucracy, authority, business. I think I asked to speak to the other veterinarian, the one that had shown the special interest. I don't remember whether they said he was off that day or whether he actually came to the phone and told me he was sorry, but there was nothing he could do. I hope it was the first. I know that next day I wrote a letter to Dr. Mason Jr. with a very melodramatic title, something like "To the murderers of. . .," in which I, aside from expressing recriminations, enclosed a signed, blank check for W.'s expenses to date and requested that they return to my father any money he had sent them. They returned my check to me.
My relationship with my father was never again the same. I more-or-less "ran away from home" for a day, if one can speak of doing such things at the advanced age of seventeen. I was at that time mixed up with a Yoga Center (something which very much distressed my father), and spent the night there, after walking to its downtown location on foot. I remember that I mentally composed what I thought was a remarkably good poem during that three hour walk, but I cannot remember its contents at all. I know that, although it did not originate then, a general tendency I had toward suspicion and lack of confidence in the written word was consolidated at that time by somehow becoming infused with the strong sense of betrayal that was in the air; and I have not written any poetry, before or since. I told some garbled version of the whole affair to the Swami, who, in retrospect, was probably only humoring me in pretending to take it at all seriously. I must have sensed this, because I did not stay at the Yoga center, but returned home the next day. I wrote my father a letter -- a very bitter letter, to the effect that what he had done was an unfeeling mockery of the scruples underlying my vegetarianism (then of six months' standing, now of twenty years') and that, if there had been any object lesson about financial responsibility intended, it had had the opposite effect, for, whatever my prior tendencies, I would now never, never, hold money to be a greater consideration than the welfare of an innocent creature, that our relationship was irreparably damaged, etc., etc. -- and did not speak to him again for a long time, which, I know, hurt him very much, for he was not to live that many more years himself, and somehow the breach was never mended.
I could not, for a long time, assimilate the fact that she was dead, and especially that they had let her die. I obsessed over the fact that she had had five reprieves (the fourth was from the initial veterinary verdict to destroy her and the fifth was from the distemper itself) in order to be killed by my father and her doctors. But far greater than my desire to lay blame and make reproaches was an unfathomable sorrow that I felt that she was gone; that I, and life, had had nothing more to offer her than that; that she had never even had the chance to gain the freedom to romp and play, far away from traffic; that people never got a chance to reward her for her wonderful little personality or her brave little spirit; that she never had the chance to return to the "good family" where she belonged; that never, in her short life, did her tearful little eyes have the chance to dry.
My love for W. was added to my love for Lady, whom I already loved very much. Indeed, it often happened that when I saw scenes of animals, children, indeed any feeling organism helplessly suffering, in life or in films such as Mondo Cane, Lady, and her own expressive eyes, would touch me as the silent, all-comprehending witness and representative of this collective martyrdom, and I would feel all the closer to her. Strangely enough, however, it was not until Lady's death many years later that I ceased to experience any trace of the occasional pangs of "infidelity" of which I spoke earlier. And I never "replaced" Lady. I think I understand all this better now, but it too is part of another story, Lady's story.
When Lady died, and I requested her veterinary records from Mason's Animal Hospital (to which I had stopped taking her for several years after W.'s death, but to which I eventually returned) it was the critical dates in Lady's life that I primarily wanted to see and relive through the clinical chronology for which I had no counterpart but my own memories. And yet, even then, in formally requesting Lady's records, I know that I must have alluded to W.'s case, too, for here is Dr. Mason Jr.'s brief reply, and some extracts from the records themselves:
(1975 August 22):
1959, Dec. 22, "Lady," terrier-like mixed breed, female, two months, thin, warned re. distemper...
In 1975, I added, alongside the entry for November 27, 1962, in Hungarian, "Anyam, csak nem te voltal az?" ("Mother, surely you weren't the one?"), but I now realize that it makes little difference whether she had been intimidated into doing it herself, or my father had simply used the conventional idiom "My wife feels..." The fact is that many more sad events had followed in the wake of this one, among them the deaths of most of the individuals involved. Laying blame restores nothing, and it is only toward the future that one can turn to make reparations. I for my part have taken refuge in my vegetarianism, which is, at best, a quietistic and futile gesture, I know, parodied these days on all sides by look-alikes motivated by food-faddism, health obsessions, ennui in ecological guise, pseudomorality, or just plain cultishness, practiced by self-obsessed individuals freely commuting -- on what I have informally reckoned to be about a nine-monthly basis -- from one superficial preoccupation to another. I even have the sinking feeling that the only ones who will profess any "empathy" with this tale are the enthusiasts of those revolting "Meow-meow-meow" cat-food commercials. That doesn't matter either. I had here something to evoke and expiate, and if it is only for myself that it resonates with those universal features of the irremediable suffering of sentient creatures and our own impotent inertia in its face, then that will be resonance enough.
These last words are for you, little W. Toward whatever "literary" ends I may turn your story, you are unable to object, but even if you could, I know you would not, because it is not in your nature. And yet I apologize to you, because I cannot deny the sense of pose and imposture that pervades what I have attempted to chronicle here. Perhaps that feeling is none other than the sense of the "unfaithfulness" -- to reality, to life -- of all art. And is there not already an element of artifice, of breach of faith, once one seeks to express any impression whatever, be it in speech, writing, painting or any other expressive medium? Perhaps not even the impression itself -- the point in time and space when the outside world, especially in the form of another being, touches us -- is unadulterated, as we appropriate it, assimilate it to other impressions, and to ourselves. We are not, after all, the blank slates some philosophers thought us, but diverse constellations, all, against which life's cumulating imprints are merely juxtaposed, not faithfully recorded. The outcome is no more likely to be in conformity with reality than with our own wills. And yet, as futile as it seems to aspire to fix anything in this experiential flux, let words at least do their formal duty and close this tale by devolving again upon the nameless little creature that has inspired them: You have found a safe haven, in my heart, for as long as I shall live; and perhaps, after all, this story will grant your memory a few more reprieves, in the hearts of others, dear little W.
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