To Remember Animals
A Work in Progress
A rabbit starts the discussion off.
“The problem” he says “is that there is no place, except for a vanishing place, for animals in these modern times.”
“Animals—for those of you gathered here and not in the know—is a term that describes a loosely amalgamated group of multi-celled organisms that are lumped together, merely because they aren’t human, although humans are animals too. This contradiction does not seem to bother them over much. So humans can have it both ways: they can be human and they can be animals but we can only be animals, and as such, we are disappearing. That is except for, of course, the animals humans don’t like. such as myself and my fellow rabbits, Mr. Crow’s family to my right, all you Canadian geese –pardon my forwardness and don’t shoot the messenger.”
All the animals in attendance wince at “shoot me”—a tactless choice of cliché.
The Crow responds:
“No offence taken on behalf of my species. I understand humans dislike us most of all the animals. A distinction my murder and I are especially proud of. You know, it’s our tool usage. It just doesn’t fit in their well-ordered order of things.”
“Humans, I am told, are in a state of melancholia about our absence—or least the absence of the animals that they like.”
”I feel I must interrupt and remind the other animals present that my species has been hunted to extinction—or near enough to it—and the reason we are vanishing is that humans did not like us much to begin with. So it seems a contradiction to say the animals humans like are vanishing, or more specifically to say that only the animals humans like are vanishing.”
“I can answer that. You have to contextualize things here. We are speaking of modernity being distinguished by a nostalgia for the absence of animals. I think this is where the rabbit was going with his melancholia—a Freudian interpretation of incomplete mourning.” He pauses, looks to the rabbit who confirms this conclusion with a twitch of his whiskers. “Now of course, prior to the advent of modernity, humans were pretty busy making sure that they would feel a sense of loss by killing as many of us as they could. Now the species that are disappearing, are the ones the humans are in a incomplete state of mourning for.”
A rousing chorus of “Hear. Hear.”
“Thanks ever so much Mr. Crow. You can really see how your species has managed to avoid the fate some of the others have been hard pressed to avoid, by that I mean the fate of vanishing.”
The Canadian Goose:
“Before we go any further, I would like to discuss the Aristotle’s view that animals are sentimental communities and that we can only express pleasure or pain amongst ourselves, and because we cannot form speech to express our pain or pleasure, we are incapable of exacting justice outside of our intimate communities.”
The Crow (again):
“So what he is saying is that, pardon me Mr. Rabbit, if a rabbit cries out after a particularly grueling make-up experiment, then his pain is essentially meaningless, because he can’t say to the scientist, ‘Fuck. That hurts like a son of bitch’ for instance. Excuse the choice of language here.”
“Well, really it is all about the choice of language: the choice to use language isn’t it?”
”Well, I think it is particularly stupid of the human not to realize that when they staple my eyelid open and stick a wad of mascara in it that that’s gotta hurt like a son of a gun.”
Another loud chorus of “Hear. Hear.”
The Rabbit continues:
“Sorry. I try to keep this discussion on an intellectual level but every now and then…well you know I am only rabbit.”
The Media Theorist finally arrives:
”Wow. I am sorry I came into this discussion late. You know what with modernity, it is hard to be everyplace at once. Not unless you’re omniscient and, of course, I am not. And as we have discovered, nothing is.”
The human looks around, licks her lips a little nervous at speaking to the animals in attendance. She didn’t need to go to toastmasters, although she had, to recognize a hostile audience. A tiger walks a little too close to her and she jumps. Then catching herself, smiles politely and sidles over to the cuddly bunny with the fucked-up eyes who seems to be running the event.
”Okay, to the main event. Before I introduce our speaker, I would just like to quickly acknowledge our sponsors. This event was sponsored in partnership with the Government of this country who none of us recognize, as well we were very fortunate to secure funding from Apple, Adobe, we also have Canon, Nikon, the Nature Channel…” and the rabbit goes on to list all of the sponsors which is of an impressive length. The rabbit is proud, preening over all the hard work his burrow put in to make this conference a success, which was better than last year’s conference run by some misguided cheetahs.
“And now to our speaker, who is a media theorist. Her work has been seen here and there, she has taught a some prestigious institutions. Lets hear a round of “Hear. Hearing.”
The media theorist.
“Thank you.” First I would like to say thank you to our hosts. The accommodations are lovely. Also, I would like to express my deep gratitude for all that animals have done for humans.”
The theorist must pause, because there is a bit of a row going on, the snakes are hissing—intentionally and the badgers are trying to kill the snakes, because they are badgers and can’t stand rudeness and snakes and when snakes are rude ….
Things are sorted, The badgers are separated from the snakes. The snakes are threatened with eviction—not quite the same as their first big eviction but….
“I would also like to remark that I am sorry that most of you animals,” she catches the crows eye but disdainfully turns her head away. “Anyway, I just wanted to say I am sorry you are disappearing. It’s really what I came here to say is that I am sorry, we are all sorry that you are disappearing.” The speaker, then proceeds to sing Joni Mitchell’s song, “Big Yellow Taxi.”
“Don’t it always seem to go…”
At this point in the proceedings a tiger eats the media theorist.
Sighs. Thinks to himself, “this is definitely the last conference I am organizing.” He wonders why he thought that this year the tiger would not eat the keynote speaker. He really thought it would turn-out different
Seizes the opportunity to make a metaphor out of the occasion. He begins to talk about the problem of media theory. “It’s the abstraction you see. Media theorists must turn everything into media. And then of course it is only an image of the thing it was meant to represent.”
”What I mean to say is that consumption of the media theorist wasn’t real, because she was just an image of a media theorist. Kind of like putting saccharine in your coffee. “
”Oh yeah. In other words, she’ll leave a bad taste in my mouth with zero calories.”
Another rousing chorus of “Hear. Hear.”
Break for dinner at the conference to Remember Animals
The tiger glances hopefully around the dinner hall, looking for some more speakers. The rabbit is run ragged, as there are all sorts of other logistical difficulties with the dietary arrangements. The carnivores don’t see why they can’t eat the vegetarians and so it goes.
Billeting has always been difficult at the conference. There usually being one or two roommate incompatibility problems. This year is no exception, as the rabbit discovers. He spends the night sleeping with one eye open (courtesy of Max Factor) while the aptly named Hyena sleeps in the bed next to him.