Living Does Matter

Another day, another council meeting, another big crowd. What brings people out? Occasionally past Newark City Council meetings have drawn some numbers over issues like substandard housing, absence of public transportation, or children’s welfare. What is it about pets that mobilizes such a multitude? True, they are considered children with fur coats by many, just another part of the family. The passion with which people have come together over how their critters are defined, identified, and treated appears to be unrivalled. Analysis wouldn’t anticipate such a response if Council were to consider the diet of Newark’s youth, their living conditions, or what they do after school lets out. These same parents of children in fur coats would not be incensed if their natural born offspring, not covered in fur, were detained for trespassing on a neighbor’s property or were identified as troublemakers for “hanging out” on the street or at the mall. After all, young people are required to learn the rules, respect private property, and know better. It is de rigueur for being an American. But pets – not so much. Analysis shows this passionate response to be one of freedom. Put crassly, “You can tell me what to do but don’t tell my fur clad kid what to do.” It differs markedly from the cold logic of gun ownership that simply concerns itself with what can be owned by a single individual. That thinking is akin to the “rights” of hoarders to accumulate as much stuff as possible. It’s a capitalist “thing”. But with pets it’s different. The pet is a “thing” of nature, not so much a thing but a living creature. A living creature has the capacity to do, uniquely and unpredictably. We’re not talking about pet rocks here. Living creatures engage in spontaneous interactions as well as develop natural relations with other living creatures without regard for the prescriptions, efficiencies, and restrictions of the economy. A natural creature doesn’t “know better”, will never “learn” the rules (of nature or the market), and certainly has no notion of what fences are all about. This freedom gives those with fur clad buddies great pleasure. Could it be that what generates this joy makes up for a lack that is unacknowledged but acquiesced? Maybe there’s something we could learn from all this. Living does matter.

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