The Orientals of Modernity: Animals

(Medeniyet Çağının Maskaraları – Ömer İzgeç, bianet, Aralık 2013)
Translated by: Mehmet Atıf Ergun

Monkeys were thrown peanuts at, lamas were taken photos of, children petted enslaved animals in circuses, all the while tired horses were taking lovers on promenades. The modern human had forgotten about its[1] animalcompanions. The orientals[2] of modern humans were the four legged people[3].

Everything started with the invention of the wheel. …[4] Humans domesticated its animal companions and used them increasingly in everyday jobs. With time, without even noticing it, the arrogant human had started to perceive animals as objects…

It built prisons and filled them to capacity with animals; prisons with ticket offices in front of them. Mothers and fathers held their children’ hands and took them to these prisons of human education and entertainment. Monkeys were thrown peanuts, lamas were taken photos of, children petted, elephants were interesting but the shackles on their feet were ignored. Children loved the enslaved, sad, confused dog doing somersaults.

Exhausted and wretchedly miserable[5] horses were pulling around lovers in romantic promenades and humans were writing novels on love. Yet, they had forgotten their animal companions. The orientals of the modernity were the four legged people.

Indeed, circuses and zoos were extremely educative for children and the young minds learned it quickly: Human was that which dominated its others, other living beings, and this was legitimate.

While ordering and disciplining a living being with a leash and expecting obedience, while we were trying to show to the lion stuck behind “live” wires who was more powerful, humans divided amongst themselves too. In short, the ideology of human supremacy[6] poisoned humans’ offspring in the bloody road to fascism.

And finally, the invention of the wheel met the wheel of hamster the Mesocricetus Auratus. … When the mother could not resist her daughter’s desire and ended up buying the hamster, I did not say anything. I thought about how to explain to a nine year old that buying animals with money and perceiving them as objects was a bad thing. I didn’t mention everything I knew since my mind was full of the knowledge of the darkness[7].

How could I tell her that animal stores were part of and the front to a corrupt industry, of a commerce of blood in other countries, and that my country was following in the same path.

For instance, in the United States, a yearly average of one and a half million (1.500.000) animals are abandoned in shelters after being bought from these stores for one reason or another and are murdered[8] shortly after.

Would it be appropriate if I were to introduce the topic by saying: “How would you feel if someone you love, someone who helped you, someone whom you felt loved you a lot were to abandon you for no apparent reason and then you were put in a cold cage?”

Without even mentioning death yet…. In the United States, these shelters receive so many animals that they run out of space, the system finds the solution in murder.

Did she know that these shelters have monday, tuesday, wednesday rooms? That is, rooms for animals to be killed on mondays, on tuesdays, and on wednesdays.

A cat, who was bought from an animal store when s/he was one month old, gets abandoned two months later to a shelter (a house of death) and will be killed because s/he could not find a new owner/master. How could I explain that?

Maybe it was too early for that and I know little of pedagogy. On top of that, what kind of pedagogical education is needed to be able to tell a little girl about puppy mills?

Animals, stuffed in cages so small they cannot turn their heads, forced to reproduce and do so often, having only a few moments to care for their young who are born to dirty rooms, having to witness their children being taken away from them. When was I to tell her about the neglected mother dogs who are abused and beaten up?

And am I to tell her about how the cats brought from these stores are mutilated with their nails ripped off of them (and, along with it, part of their fingers[9]) as a freebie so that they won’t damage the furniture?

And I should tell her then: “The fact that these people have stickers on their cars claiming them to be animal lovers, “I love my pet – I love my domesticated animal,” that these people scream their love for animals at every opportunity is a statement, full of pain, towards the hypocrisy, the cruelty, and the misconceptions that this world is.”

It would be too early, I did not say anything. If she were a little older, I could talk about the spay/neuter logic of people who are against abortions. They say life is important, sacred, and ending even a single life is a sin. Yet they feed the animal abuse industry, they believe they can buy a life with money, they are mesmerized by methodologies of obedience. Those preachers who talk against abortion in the house of god will not mention a single word about this ugly business. After all, there is money in it, there is a system that produces its own authority, there is this ancient hypocrisy. And this, this would be a second painful insight to offer to her.

As I said, it was too early, I did not say anything.

The words that were unspoken are freed on paper. This text was written with the hope that, perhaps one day, someone who looked eye to eye with the melancholy of the cat in the monday room and remembers the despair they saw will have that this discussion with their children.

I know that there will be writings on peace wherever this text is published. Yet, as long as a child is taken on a weekend trip to a zoo, as long as these animal stores are populating our cities more and more, we will be left to our hypocrisy as we talk about peace and justice.

[1] In an attempt of strategic mimicry, I translated the text in a way that objectifies humans.

[2] In the Turkish version: “maskara,” i.e. “masquerader” or “entertainment material.” Alternatively, this could be translated as “spectacle.”

[3] In the Turkish version: “… dört ayaklılardı,” i.e. “… were the four legged ones.” Edited because that version subtlely discards the view that animals are persons.

[4] Parts of the text where the author defends a “return to the nature” are not translated. For reasons, please see the postcolonial literature on the production and romanticization of an imagined origin.

[5] The author may be making a reference to Fanon’s “The Wretched of The Earth,” a work on colonial imagination and violence.

[6] Both the author and the animal rights literature uses “speciesist” in regards to human hegemony. However, as bell hooks states elsewhere, “speciesist” denotes a perspective: the author here is examining a form of social structure.

[7] In the Turkish version: “katran bilgi,” i.e. “tar knowledge.” I kept and emphasized the racial element in the analogy (“black=bad”) because I believe the author constructed a subtle strategic mimicry, where those negativities claimed to belong to the “other” turn out to be the characteristics of the oppressor / self.

[8] In the Turkish version: “uyutuluyor,” i.e. “put to sleep.” I see no reason to maintain one form of self-legitimating imagery in a text that attempts to dismantle the others.

[9] Not in the Turkish version. See “Declawing Cats: Far Worse Than A Manicure, April 12, 2013, accessed April 1, 2014.

Source: İzgeç, Ömer. (2013) Medeniyet Çağının Maskaraları. Bianet. December 13. Accessed April 1, 2014. Trans. Ergun, Mehmet Atif.