The Deer Hunter

Tomorrow is the start of deer gun hunting here in Ohio. Killing deer by other means has been taking place for some time.

Pussy Panic versus Liking Animals: Tracking Gender in Animal Studies, an essay by Susan Fraiman, appears in the recent Critical Inquiry (Vol. 39, no. 1). In addition to an introduction to a history of ecofeminism, she ranges part of the spectrum of what makes for knowing- both the cerebral (theoretical) as well as the tactile (emotional) depictions. Within this history, there is another spectrum that ranges between the contributions of Carol Adams and Donna Haraway.  Adams’ “I do not value animals because women are somehow ‘closer’ to them, but because we experience interdependent oppressions.” (pg. 111) results in her commitment to veganism. Haraway’s approach differs, as Fraiman puts it: “All of which is to say that, while for Adams, no one should be considered meat, one lesson to be drawn from Haraway’s story is that we are all somebody’s meat – even before we are food for worms.” On a totally different spectrum we find Bill Moyers’ guest from the Nov. 23 airing. Karl Malantes is the author of What It’s Like to Go to War. He speaks of our culture and how we are taught the golden rule not to kill others from an early age but some of us are then trained to do exactly that as soldiers. He also talked about killing. What he spoke of was not pretty, and yet he was quite clear that we are all implicated in it, only the soldier pulls the trigger at the end. For doing what his country asked, being a soldier, being the one who pulled the trigger for the rest of us, Karl bears some pretty heavy scars. In another part of the same Critical Inquiry appears an essay entitled The Audio Unconscious: Media and Trauma in the Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies by Amit Pinchevski. Pinchevski links today’s “trauma” (whatever meaning is ascribed to that word) with the development of technology which could only make such an understanding possible. A video documentation performs an event as opposed to a written literary narrative that relies on a timeline structure (this comes before that). A video can be replayed incessantly (at different speeds, stop action or even in reverse) while the literary narrative always lapses into the same structure when repeated. One outcome is our ability to sling the word “trauma” around relying on meanings more described by video than represented by the written word. Malantes is haunted by trauma (PTSD), though other generations of combat survivors suffered it under different descriptions. He confirms Pinchevski by mentioning the devastating effects of second generation trauma (like second hand smoke) on those absent from the initial events. Fraiman states that both Adams and Haraway were initially incentivized in their studies by early “traumas” involving animals. Marlantes even goes on by saying that making the opposition (the enemy) out to be animals, a sub species, anaesthetizes the activity of killing others, makes it doable by those brought up to consider it an abomination. In this he parallels the ecofeminist affinity with animals on the basis of their relegation to a (sub) species that allows for interaction unacceptable within the patriarchal Law (but deemed appropriate in relation to an “other”). All these cerebral savants enter into a discourse founded on the unseen shadow aspect of being human (as described by Marlantes), of killing (and eating). One wonders what psychic scenario crosses their mind as they go grocery shopping. Adams must close her eyes as she passes the repugnant fast food eateries hawking burgers, steak fajitas and roast beef sandwiches on her way to the whole food grocery store. Haraway probably muses over the Eat More Chikin commercials as she drives down the strip. Pinchevski (like Derrida) finds shame creeping in as he drives by; unable to forget what he “knows” goes on behind the façade (by being required to remember). Zizek links fundamentalism with an unshakeable belief in what one knows through revelation but this is a knowledge based totally on required memory (“You must remember this: a kiss is just a kiss…”). Why else would the Yale University Libraries Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies be in existence if not to always repeat the performance of memory? And Marlantes? Maybe he stops in for a bite. And once at the grocery, with its long aisles of displayed meats, frozen meats, processed meats, etc. well, I’ll leave that to the reader’s imagining.

This week’s deer hunt is not a ritual, nor some religious ceremony. It certainly isn’t about putting meat on the table (the BS a lot of hunters will spread as if justifying themselves in court). No, it is about something undefinable, whether by archive video, Michael Moore film, cell phone digital imaging or literary narrative; something foundational to us all that must remain discrete if we are to function socially. Lacan says the Real always returns to the same place. Maybe, just maybe, the return of the yearly deer hunt creates discomfort by annually informing us about the nature of “trauma” and utopias (including the utopia of nature) more than anything we’d care to know in a cerebral or tactile manner.

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