Over the last few decades, technology has in one fell swoop, both simplified and complicated our lives. We have become more enlightened about the cultures of others while simultaneously witnessing the impact of a burgeoning, intertwined human population and it's affect on life all around it.
Nearly 30 years ago, many of us old enough to remember, were first introduced to the travesties of whale and seal hunting among others abuses of animals by humans. We were made aware that many whales had been hunted to near extinction - maybe some were. At the same time, we saw the tragedy of seal pups being bludgeoned to death while their blood tainted the innocence that the snow and ice seemed to represent. Multitudes of people demanded and fought to have atrocities such as these halted and many improvements were made. However, to the surprise of many of us, It was not ended.
Already this year we have witnessed Japanese whalers, who have continued their whaling under the cover of 'scientific research', expand their self-declared quotas while claiming a cultural right to whale. They are even trying to re-create culture by serving whale meat to children in schools that have never before tasted it.
This year's barbarous seal hunt in Canada will be starting again very shortly - perhaps it already has by the time you are reading this. Beneath the disputed scientific claims and market incentives - whether for products made of the seals, or claims of attempts to protect fish stocks, there is also a demand that the cultural rights of indigenous peoples be honored.
Many of us are sincerely aware of and sensitive to the similar barbarous and unfair treatment of indigenous people throughout the world, but especially throughout the Americas that were over-run by Europeans. Before the Europeans arrived, many Native Americans lived much more harmonious lives - fully recognizing their reliance upon nature. They gave thanks for what they had and lived a much closer life to mother earth than the invading Europeans had known for centuries. There is no repayment that can ever be made to justify historic wrong-doings by people of one culture to another. There will always be an echo of guilt in my heart when I read of the tragedies that are a part of all of our histories as humans.
Later this year, Norway will also commence it's annual whale season. As a red herring, Norway has suggested that they should not face any repercussions from the international community because they have a long tradition of whaling. It is a cultural issue for them.
The Makah tribe of the Northwestern US resumed whaling in 1999 with a lot of visibility. They had not hunted whales in decades but now claimed it was their cultural and contractual right. Since so much was stolen from native Americans, there are huge mounds of guilt to be shoveled out here, but in the interim, the Makah tribe is actively working to expand their whaling efforts and within the next week, could make it more difficult to contest their efforts. *
Culture is important and there are likely some cultures that are superior to others though you would always find someone to contest which might be best. Who could pick one of likely millions of cultures to say which is better and what are the marks we use to make these decisions? Must we respect all cultures purely for historical reasons? Do we really need a cannibalistic culture flourishing in today's world or one that is willing to destroy a human life because of the sex of the child? There are likely wonderful things about all cultures but I doubt everything about any particular culture is what we all value.
The reality is that we are all living on one, interconnected planet. Canadian seals are not being killed by Inuits with spears, knives or rocks. Traditional Japanese and Norwegian whalers did not go to sea in mammoth, sail-less ships to perform on-board processing and then ship the diced and packaged bodies of the whales they killed - while continuing their hunt. Traditional native Americans, including Inuit did not hunt in motorized boats with explosive warheads, did not leave huge amounts of the dead whale to trash or sell trinkets of whale bone in gift shops.
Traditional, cultural hunting of these animals implies that the very life of these people depends upon the skills passed down to them by their ancestors. This is very seldom the case.
It is unfortunate that the world and all of it's creatures have been pressured to evolve as it has, that some species thrive and flourish while others struggle and eventually die, but it has. Certainly, some would say that nature has always worked that way but we have disrupted that balance. Humans of today are putting so much pressure on the planet that there is no room for 'cultural' or 'traditional' killing of it's inhabitants - especially when what is happening in reality, is organized, industrial raping and profiteering of what is beautiful in exchange for profit and the desire of a few to 'feel good'.
Culture can be beautiful and ugly. The beautiful things belong in our hearts, our memories, our photographs and stories to our grandchildren. The ugly things should not be thrown away but learned from.
Reality is both beautiful and ugly also. The beautiful things belong in our hearts, our memories, our photographs and stories to our grandchildren. The ugly things should not be thrown away but learned from. They are not different but in fact are the same. They merely coexist at different levels.
We may use culture to try and guide us though the whims and choices of everyday life but in the end it is reality that always wins and we are all but one.
May our great spirit
forgive us all
and let our hearts
become one as people
our mother earth
all my relations
unity, unity, unity
Let us not be dead to hear the cries
- Wayra (Great Eagle Flying in the Wind, 2000)
* Fisheries Service broadens study on Makah request to resume whalingThe National Marine Fisheries Service will broaden its study of the Makah request to resume whaling by including the tribe's proposed whale quotas under the Whaling Convention Act..
Makah Tribal Councilman Micah McCarty said this move would ``strengthen the study against scrutiny by the opposition.''
As for the expanded environmental study, interested parties may make written or electronic comments untill March 29.
Comments can be mailed to:
NMFS Northwest Region,
Building 1, 7600 Sand Point Way N.E.,
Seattle Wa. 98115.
--- Fax: 206-526-6426 Attention: Makah Whale Hunt EIS.
or emailed to: MakahEIS.firstname.lastname@example.org
Some groups with links and support to help stop the madness...
Whale Call Cafe
Concering the impending seal hunt
Kucinski Marine Association
Animal Wildlife Protection