I've only reviewed a handful of books in my life, and my reviews -- invariably positive -- are written mostly as favors for friends. One book, however, inspired me to post a scathing, one- star review on Amazon. The offending volume is a reprint of an early twentieth century travelogue, UNKNOWN TRIBES, UNCHARTED SEAS, penned by "Lady Richmond Brown, F.L.S., F. R.G.S., F.Z.S., F.R.A.I." The narrative is an account of a sailing excursion along both of the coasts of Panama (and through the canal) that the author undertook accompanied by her lover "Midge." The publication of the book created the hoped-for scandal in Edwardian England and the author supported herself on her reputation for the rest of her days. After her death, the book was mercifully forgotten, that is until it was recently reprinted.
My argument was not with the book's literary merits (or lack thereof), it was with content: the lady might have been adventurous but she was also a bold-faced racist. I don't think that the views she espoused were all that uncommon in England at the time, but in the one hundred years since the book's publication we have -- fortunately -- progressed beyond the opinions voiced in the book. My review cites numerous examples of her ignorance but one that I found particularly offensive was this: "It is doubtful whether these primitive people (the indigenous Kunas of Panama) have the ability to experience any of the higher human emotions."
Throughout history, groups of humans have justified brutality against other groups of humans by asserting that the others are "less than human" and are incapable of feeling emotions, or making decisions, or merely living without a paternalist ruler. The statement that the oppressed victims are "little more than animals" is quoted with alarming frequency in accounts of atrocities.
What makes that statement so ridiculous is that it assumes that any creature that is not human is similarly handicapped: incapable of higher emotions, self-regulation, or even basic survival.
In the three months since my dog Otter died, her lifelong companion Trooper has lost twenty pounds. While he was slightly overweight at the start of the summer, now he is skeletal, with washboard ribs and the knobs of his spine protruding along the crest of his back. He just can't eat. He seems hungry but any food offered to him seems to repulse him: he turns his head away with disgust.
Although Trooper's reaction is extreme,, literature is full of anecdotal evidence that dogs suffer from grief. A viral video on YouTube showed a healthy dog loyally guarding an injured one during the chaos of Japan's tsunami. Heartbreaking stories appear regularly about dogs who refuse to abandon their master's gravesite. When I took Trooper and Otter for their yearly physical last April and expressed my opinion that Otter wasn't long for this life, my vet with her disarming lack of tack remarked, "The other one will go right after. I see it all the time."
Troop is still a happy guy -- his nature refuses to be governed by anything other than joy -- but he just can't find it in his soul to eat. His grief is still too raw, too strong. Unlike people, in dogs emotions have little logic, reason, or thought to temper them. Dogs are creatures of pure emotion: love, joy, grief. Trooper wears his heart on his collar for all the world to see.
And how Trooper's big, wonderful, loving heart has been broken, and I doubt that it will ever be whole again.
Causes Louise Young Supports
articulation of indigenous rights (organization: Cultural Survival)
sustainable, renewable, and independent energy sources