The Pledge is a good movie that is well made and acted with a number of talented folks in it including Jack Nicholson, Helen Mirren, Vanessa Redgrave, Harry Dean Stanton, Sam Shepard and others. Directed by Sean Penn, the movie is about a retired policeman's focus and near obsession on the identification and pursuit and capture of a human that is killing small blond female human children.
This movie is not, by the way, one of the movies I place in a special category I have (Thelma and Louise for instance). This category for books or movies is made up of those that I can return to repeatedly and each time extract something new or can be reminded of some enduring near or actual universal about life or living or nature or something. Either that or they are comedies that extract humor in some way that is timeless to me. Many of Laurel and Hardy's short comedies are in this latter group. The Pledge doesn't quite make it to this classic category although it is a fairly good movie.
I say each time I can extract something new or be reminded of a truthful thing, this might occur because I notice or understand something that had eluded me before or...something new might be apprehended or understood because I have changed since the last time I read or saw this particular work. Of course something like this can happen with any book or movie or artwork or music that is experienced more than once, but some creations are much more pleasant or interesting or thought or feeling provoking when indulged in repeatedly than others.
What was so powerfully apparent to me as I rewatched The Pledge was how much my perceptions had changed since I last saw this movie. Shortly after the beginning is a scene that almost short-circuited my mind as I watched. In it we see Nicholson looking grim after having notified parents that their young child has been murdered, we also see the parents collapsing in grief and anguish. What is absolutely amazing and astonishing in this terrible scene are the thousands of babies surrounding the human characters.
|The background of the scene is populated by thousands of baby turkeys.|
This scene, to me, exemplifies the profound schizoid, psychotic like, ignoring and dismissing of elements of reality that characterizes aspects of our culture involving other animals. The horrors these human animal parents engage in as a matter of routine are ignored...not mentioned...not even a whisper and the whole focus is on the anguish and grief and discomfort of the human animals in the scene. The thousands of babies, terrified and lost and facing a certain horrible death instigated by these wounded human parents, serve as nothing but an ignored and dismissed noisy backdrop of feathered children crying in anguish for their parents. I simply was stunned as I watched thousands of victims, thousands of small feathered children...fearful and doomed...relegated to invisibility and the death of one child, one human child presented as if it were the only significant loss and tragedy while all around a multitude of small spirits wailed and asked that their existence and anguish be acknowledged and alleviated.
This ongoing invisibling of our animal sisters and brothers is ubiquitous, "normal" and omnipresent. I see and hear instances of it constantly, everyday and in everyway. From the ignored bodies of animals killed by automobiles laying unmourned and unacknowledged beside the roadway to the "humorous" representations of cows in commercials telling us to "eat more chickin". We are awash in this invisibling and diminishing of the importance of the lives of those beings that don't look or act or sound like human animals. We swim in it, we breath it and our animal relatives are being killed by the billions, their deaths facilitated by these incessant cultural sermons about the nothingness of the meaning of their lives.
I remember clearly the consternation and confusion and upset and ridicule that accompanied the protestations and objections to racist portrayals of humans that weren't white Europeans. I remember clearly the same sorts of consternations, confusions, upsets and ridiculing that were evoked by protestations and objections to sexist portrayals of humans that weren't male. This still occurs, the battle goes on...objections continue to be raised....ridiculing and dismissals still happen. No cultural wars are won completely and often need to be fought over and over...ignorance and oppression and exploitation and reality avoidance are mighty foes and they never give up and they never go away. They have to be challenged and resisted again and again...anywhere they occur.
I would like to think that the director of this movie and the author of the novella on which it was based were aware of the irony in the scene depicted, that they were making an astute and subtle observation about the narrowness and limitations of our compassions and awarenesses. Whether they were or not, scenes like these must be noticed, commented on and discussed. The herculean task of facilitating awareness of and care for the lives of all beings requires that this happen...but for it to happen common cultural presentations must be clearly recognized for what they are and consciously acknowledged and challenged.
It is incumbent upon all to be willing to be thought of as a crank, as peculiar, as silly, as 'too sensitive', as 'dumb', as whatever...for objecting...but I think that we must again and again object to and challenge cultural messages that minimize, hide, ignore or glorify the infliction of suffering and death on my brother and sister animals...no matter what those messages are, no matter how silly it might seem to be to protest...protest we must. Again and again and again. The messages of ignoring and of invisibling are multiple and incessant and the objections to the billions of hidden and not so hidden tragedies must also be incessant.
If you aren't living as an ethical vegan...why not?. If you are living as an ethical vegan...time to think about how you are going to expand to others the awareness and compassion you have achieved and after deciding how you want to act...then act. Our sister and brother animals need us and they have been without acknowledgement and recognition and consideration for way too long.
As a for instance, I recently discovered that our local city council keeps track of letters to the editor published in our local newspaper about topics the council is interested in. Writing to your local newspaper is an avenue available to most all and using that venue to promote a change in cultural concepts can help in consciousness raising. Every voice is important, every single one...including yours. Recently I managed (astonishingly enough!) to get a letter published locally pointing out the cruelty of 'dairy' and of the hideous ways cows and their babies are treated. We need to make heard the voices decrying injury to or exploitation of sentient beings...the voices of misery and suffering and death have prevailed for way too long.