Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Is "Safety" What We're Even Looking For?

Some degree of safety is necessary, of course. The thing is, what are we protecting? Our lives are what we are protecting. Too much safety means that we don't live our lives. We lose what we try to save.

You can't build positives from negatives. Anything that is worth having is made of something that has some intrinsic positive value. Anything that is worth doing is made of positive actions that result in added value or pleasure. Rules that say "don't do this or that or you will be hurt" obscure the positive and may even successfully conceal it. They create fear just by warning people of dangers.

When people tell me about rules for handling or encountering animals, all too often it's like that. All too rarely it's "do these things and you will do well." It's like telling people how to bake a cake by saying "don't cook it too long" or "don't use too many eggs" without telling people the correct cooking temperature or number of eggs. Maybe some people seem like morons because they're used to being treated as if they can't retain the simplest of instructions.

There are events and circumstances that get people killed, like rides at carnivals, air shows, auto races, and rodeos. They don't get bad reputations because of this. Also, in spite of or maybe even because of the number of deaths and injuries involving various animals, they are still very very popular. I think that the public is just fine with the danger but we submit to the use of the danger as an excuse when a public official wants to make a name for himself. This is something that people of good faith have no control of because bad situations can be made to order or even completely faked, any day that the activists want. Even if we were actually losing ground because of incidents like the chimpanzee attack, and exotic animal owners could stop all such incidents from happening within their ranks, animal rights activists would produce one if need be.

People really aren't looking for the "safe" experience, though. Thrill-seeking is a very positive side of human nature. So is the quest for pleasure. We're seeking experiences that we will enjoy or achieve some kind of fulfillment from. Sometimes we seek to be scared half to death. We also seek reality in its rawest forms. There are people who regularly tour active volcanoes, so many that some places have regular tours that skirt molten rock. These are the things that we do to live. Safety in those cases is like "most likely we'll survive the experience."

Maybe the malaise against ownership is because of the "safety first" attitude. People who own big cats act like they're doing something dangerous with little redeeming quality. They even try to conceal the redeeming features for fear that other people will want to do the same thing, get hurt, hurt their reputations, and so on. Don't they hurt their own reputations by doing this, though? One of the treatments for fear is an emotional reward. Too much "safety first" creates the fear and denies the reward. Fear-based thinking is self-destructive and doesn't even make the fearful ones any safer. By the formula that I just described it puts animal owners in more danger of being voted off the island.

Sadly, one of the verbal weapons that animal owners and animal lovers use is the "I wouldn't let you near my animals." It's the nuclear option in arguments. I can't think of anything at the moment that is more likely to dampen someone's positive attitude. A fear-based attitude makes it easy for someone to say that about someone who expresses too positive an attitude towards animals and the idea of contact with them. Take seriously the idea that the fear-based attitude could be directed towards someone who is trusting of horses or dogs. I've seen some of that on occasion. The idea that someone who loves and trusts animals should never go near said animals is one of the most frustrating, depression-inducing ideas that ever came down the wires. Animal owners should be striving to create positive feelings and when people feel them, they get slapped in the face with a cold wet towel. Owners who do this may want to rethink their positions.

Like I said, people aren't looking for ultimate safety anyway. They desire a thrill, or a pleasant encounter with an animal, or even for an ego boost. These are the desires that we need to respect. Guidelines should become conduits for people to achieve the experiences that they want, not obstacles to trip people up.


I liked this quote so I added it. It sums up my feelings about some people's views of "safety":

"In our country are evangelists and zealots of many different political,
economic and religious persuasions whose fanatical conviction is that all
thought is divinely classified into two kinds -- that which is their own and that which is false and

-- Justice Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954), U. S. Supreme Court Justice

1 comment:

  1. I'm not even sure that animal owners actually have a bad name because of injuries and deaths. We're just the recipients of curses from unintelligent, childish vandals and having a bad name with them is not like actually having a bad name for any just cause. It's just the same mantras repeated over and over again.

    The real picture may be that the public loves big cats, wants to be with them, and isn't particularly afraid of them. Maybe the fear-mongering isn't actually working and it just emboldens the usual cranks.