First Dog On The Moon mentioned something in one of his latest work that had me thinking about an issue I have been wondering for years: the all-to-common nature documentary where animals are filmed, at length dying, or being killed. I hate these and frankly don’t understand the point of it.
There we are, seeing a lioness with a cub then the music comes in or there’s a cut on a whole gang of hyenas and you know something bad will happen and be closely and passively documented. That’s where I have learnt to change channel or close the Internet page. But it does take a certain amount of seeing the mother getting brutally killed then having to witness the cubs dying of hunger or thirst over the next 30 minutes to know when it will always happen.
Is it really necessary? Why do they feel the need to show us that? Is it part of a the bill of specifications when the budget was discussed? Do they feel a fraud for not automatically showing such things?
The debate has brought up many answers:
1. “Nature is cruel and that’s the reality of life. We are filming a documentary, not a Disney movie so it is our duty to show this.”
To which people, including me, have already answered that it is not. Nature as a cruel jungle is nothing but an erroneous, twisted interpretation of what Darwin and others have been discovering about it. And this interpretation is here to serve the greater purpose of justifying the death of the weakest and poorest in our societies by quoting the so-called “laws of Nature”.
“Nature is cruel, death with it!” So Oliver Twist must die, social inequalities are a fact of Nature, and it is normal for humans, “the most powerful of all creatures”, to burn everything to the ground and bury it under a layer of concrete and gold in the name of the Industrial Revolution that was booming at the time. And ever since in the name of economy growth.
Now that we are starting to wonder if maybe it would a better idea to live within Nature than always trying to fight and destroy it – because it is indeed a meaningless fight that has nothing but backfired – guilt, shame and anxiety are taking over. So how convenient and how comforting to see these documentaries showing that we are not the only one to brutally kill and destroy! How convenient, too, to not mention that the destruction we are indulging ourselves in everyday has little to do with survival, rather increasing comfort.
I am not saying Nature is in fact a Disney movie. I mean, they have been utter shite for the past 20 years so that would be quite insulting to Nature…
Seriously, yes, animals kill to live and sometimes the weakest die but it has also been proven repeatedly and at length that Nature is also full of mechanisms of solidarity where, for instance, trees and ants live together protecting each other; animals gather in entire communities where they help each other. Take songbirds: orphans chicks are often adopted by foster families, without the need for endless paperwork – which is what humans do and is utterly unnatural.
Nature is not just about brutality, it’s also about harmony and showing baby animals getting killed in every single of one’s documentary is an editorial choice, not a reflection of reality. A reality that could show Muscovites loving sparrows and feeding them crumbs during bitter cold winters as the birds dare to venture inside cafés, bars and restaurants in search of heat and sustenance.
And frankly, how many times do we need to see orkas throwing sea lions on rocks until they die? We got it the first time, thank you, we’ll refer to that one, move on.
2. When it comes to saving the dying, we hear the right-minded: “We were here to observe, we must not disrupt the course of Nature.”
So you document at length the slow end of a valuable life you could have saved but you rather have wilfully chosen not to do anything because it would have been “wrong to interfere”. Is it how you treat everything in your life? When you come across a human baby abandoned in the street, you just pass your way in the name of not interfering? Do you always use the not-interfering rule to absolve yourself?
Turning off the camera and picking up a starving cub, kit or chick, feeding him and giving him a chance to survive is not disrupting Nature, it is applying one of the fundamental attributes Nature has given humans: empathy and power which gives us a chance to do good rather than just stand there watching.
One also has to notice that the not-interfering clause does not apply to driving massive 4×4 and leaving your rubbish in the bush or the rainforest. When it comes to making the documentary itself, there never seems to be a problem disrupting the course of Nature…
Bottom line is: not helping and deciding to just point the camera and wait there texting on your brand new I-Phone with a tuna sandwich and cooled Evian water until the baby dies is not natural.
Helping her to have a life, on the other hand, is. The truth is that your editorial choices are driven by the lack of what Nature gave us: the ability to be humane.
As outlandish as it may sound, I have been working on these few pages for months. Translating feelings into thoughts is harder than I imagined. Anyway, I wanted to have a look at the religion behind our current Health Inquisition because, although they appear as one to name, shame and aim for the destruction of the likes of me, they are also akin to all mainstream religions: made of countless little sects, each with its own mind-set regarding how we should all be absolved, find solace and eventually salvation in the form of body-shape uniformity.
Let’s look at the different sects within the Food Religion, shall we?
Normality – Needs to be converted!
Atkins diet – Next, please.
Low calorie diet – What’s a calorie? Can I grow them myself?
Low fat diet – Sounds good but the pasta is pretty bland.
Low salt diet – Fish pee in sea water!
Low carb diet – My brain can’t concentrate for more than 10 minutes at once.
Low fibre diet – Hello, bowel cancer.
South Beach diet – Getting ready for Spring Break.
Gluten-free diet – I feel like gasworks.
Vegetarian diet – Are cakes alright? There’s butter and eggs in there…
Vegan diet – Look at my Instagram! I look great naked!
Organic diet – Is “fair trade” the same?
Locavore diet – It’s all about tending to my neighbour’s wallet.
Palaeolithic diet – Because life was so good back then, tape worm especially.
Juices cleanse – Eating is for weaklings!
Just cleanse – Let the settlers invade you and kill everything. Very popular in the US and Australia.
What do preachers, or “food experts”, say?
Fat is bad for you – I knew that.
Sugar is bad for you – Don’t care!
Chocolate is bad for you – F*** you!
Bread is bad for you – What about toasts?
Milk is bad for you – Can I milk rice?
Water is bad for you – But…aren’t we made 75% of it?!
Alcohol is bad for you – Yeah…My mum said the same about my boyfriend.
Fruits are bad for you – My doctor said that about apples.
Meat is bad for you – Even?…you know…
Fish is bad for you – Sharks don’t even eat them.
Vegetables are bad for you – What’s in guacamole?
Cooked food is bad for you – Too expensive to heat up nowadays anyway.
Raw food is bad for you – No mini sushis?! How not 2015!
Vitamins supplements are bad for you – Vegans are gonna die?
Proteins are bad for you – So I can’t swallow?
Products without the “fair trade” label are bad for you – That’s what Glamour says.
Products with the “fair trade” label are bad for you – That’s what the Guardian says.
Products without the “organic” label are bad for you – That’s what my local farmer says.
Products with the “organic” label are bad for you – That’s what his neighbour says.
What are the pillars of these sects? – Super Foods, with a big F…for fudge!
Superfruits – Scomiche! 😀
Supervegetables – Mister Peanuts for the win.
Superfat – Rude!
Supernuts – Starring Rocco Siffredi.
Supervitamins – Always buy one get one free.
Supermen – If only!…
Seriously, does anyone actually know what they are talking about?
Because frankly, it seems to me that we are living a world, the Western World, where we have completely lost touch with the reality of what food and eating is. Is it our living in endlessly-sprawling urban spaces where the only wild nature visible is in cages and the rest is constantly unrooted to make place for the neatly trimmed and the visually pleasant? Have we grown so far away from a field that we don’t even know what’s what and are left to the mercy of some experts with credentials they created for themselves as a mean to find health salvation?
When I hear urban people talking about food, it does seem like it. American Youtubers are the best, I have to say. They will believe absolutely anything and preach it the next day.
Every month, newspapers are filled with statements and counter-statements based on some research, all about the same things. Every month, there is a new food dogma we should all embrace for it will save our lives, or at the least add a couple of decades to our life-expectancy in our quest to immortality. We are buzzing: a new diet, a new way of life, always “better”, always “healthier” than the previous one, always calling the anathema on the heresy we had been happily following for the past 30 days. Until the next month, when yet another research shows we had all been fooled and heretics: this time, THIS is the real food dogma.
How have we become like this? How have we become so lost that even reasonable people are ready to believe that milk and bread are the sources of all our diet problems when that’s what humanity has been surviving on for the best part of dozens of millennia?
There is, first and foremost, the lack of education and our desperate need to fit in our society’s very tight jeans, bikinis and zero-size clothes. Desperation in the face of the everyday bullying and finger-pointing we enjoy so much will bring people to do anything: from genuinely believing that we can milk almonds to popping dieting pills that will burn your body to death. We have not become but remain completely gullible in the face of someone or something that promises the never-ending of social acceptance and who wants to be an ostracised heretic? So we go to the gym like our ancestors went to church and read dieting books like they read the Bible in latin. We don’t understand a word of it but it’s the only key to happiness. Apparently…
But then again, who to believe? All these scientists, doctors and researches, isn’t it their job to advise you, to guide us? Why should have we believed anyone critical of his findings when the name Atkins came with the title “Doctor”? It did not matter he was fat and obviously a clear case of “Do what I say but don’t do what I do’, all because stars were raving about the weight loss. And we all know that’s the key to making Earth an present paradise. The true believers don’t go to church anymore, they can fit in Victoria Beckham’s clothes.
We know now, Atkins was just another con artist who surfed on the wave of low self-esteem and desperation millions of us suffer from. You’d think we’d listen to those who have been telling us to stop with this fanatic nonsense and just be sensible. No, we just moved on to another diet coming from the findings of yet another research, another doctor, another scientist who, if you look closely, mostly turn out to be have been sponsored generously and selflessly, of course, by the food industry.
That’s my issue with these research papers. We do have genuinely independent research published by various institutions and they pretty much say all the same thing: Mutatis mutandis. Everything is poison, nothing is poison, the dose is poison. You can eat everything as long as you remain sensible about it. Get your 3 liters of water, whichever, your 5 to 7 fruits and veg every day, whichever, 20 to 30 minutes of exercises, even walking the dog in the park, avoid processed meals, and prepare your own food. Even burgers, as long as you don’t go to McDonalds to buy them, don’t eat them everyday and prepare them yourself, you’ll be fine.
Why isn’t it enough then? Why don’t we do just that and go on with our easily accessible and sound healthy living? Because this is not religion, this is sensible advice and that’s how it is advertised. No sensationalism, no celebrity so where’s the dream, the impossible? The fast weight loss? The promise of a better sex life?
So we turn to “the research from an American university” published with a parade in every newspapers and all languages. The issue is that most of these various research papers are not independent: they serve a purpose. A company or someone trying to cash in on our needs for a quick solution and the avoidance of having to take responsibility for our own problems. If it doesn’t work, we’ll hang them by the feet in the main square anyway.
Look carefully and you’ll find out that behind an American research on how bad fat is for you often lays the money of a soft-drinks and sweets company. And vice versa with a research on the terrible effect of sugar sponsored generously, and selflessly, by a butter-producing giant. It’s not just our naivety or wilful ignorance that’s the reason, it’s also that food is now a battlefield on the constant wars of neo-capitalism. Everyone is riding the wave on its own boat trying to shoot everybody in sight with pseudo-science for it’s the first who can land on the shores to preach to the hurdled masses.
You think we were desperate to fit in, not as desperate as the food industry to cash in on whatever and whoever we decide to believe is good for us. Food giants will to any length to make us believe that they are the healthy option. I mean Nutella is advertised as a healthy option for breakfast for the kids and no one sees a problem in that!
The issue is the food industry and everything that comes with it. First, the language: we blame the food rather than everything they are allowed to put in or on it to make it grow faster, stronger, better. “Bread is bad” but it’s not bread that is bad or gluten, it’s the pesticides we spread the wheat with that are the real problem. And the alternative? To genetically modify it. What a treat! So yes, bread and gluten seem bad, and for some people they are, because we can’t process it anymore.
It’s the same with the milk, the eggs and the meat. They have been the base of our eating habits and have allowed us to develop our brain, make our bodies stronger and more resilient, to expend our life expectancy. The food itself isn’t bad. Unlike all the chemicals the food industry has been lobbying to make legal so we can feed the animals we keep in terrible conditions in the modern farms at the lowest costs.
Then we are back to us, who are now consuming food like we consume everything: the more the better but in a world where everything costs, we want meat for nothing and, cheap meat will make you sick or/and fat.
I understand the fact that we are blaming some foods while calling other “superfoods” which no one actually fathoms. I understand that we have to start somewhere when it comes to changing our habits and unfortunately, we are born and bred in this fundamentally Manichean society built on monotheism where there is no time for sensibility, only knee-jerking preaching. The debate has become solely about pitting something against something else, about dogma against heresy. Fat vs sugar. Meat vs fish. Fruits vs vegetables. Cooked vs raw. Milk vs vitamin supplements.
As the language of food is now akin to the one of all religions, one needs to consider its countless holy scripts with a pinch of salt, or sugar if you prefer. Except for actual poisons, there is no bad or good, black or white, healthy and unhealthy because even the healthiest can become dangerous when consumed without moderation. It’s called orthorexia and like all orthodoxies, it does more harm than good in the long term.
Orthorexia divides, creates new boxes, new barriers, new prejudices as we are working toward brining all the others down. Right now, the divide between “healthy” and “unhealthy” seems to be for the greater good, but all divides and categorisations were until we realise they are helping no one except a tiny minority, the ones who benefits from the apartheid: “the ones on the right side”.
Humans are like fire.
We settle somewhere and eat everything our insatiable appetite can reach. Earth, fauna, flora and air will burn, water will boil to oblivion until there is nothing left for us to feed on.
Human are like fire.
When we have left nothing but scorched earth and cinders, we will die out, slowly. The most resistant of us gasping, gripping into the little bits we still did not manage to completely annihilate.
Humans are like fire.
And we are wrong because we have not understood yet: it’s not the planet we are destroying but our own habitat, the environment that allows us to live. It’s not the planet we are killing, it’s ourselves. Earth will always remain. We won’t.
Humans are like fire, burning bright, untameable in their own pride until we starve ourselves to death.
The planet saw worse than a couple of fires and a few billion tiny individuals whose own greed has convinced their survival depends on the exhaustion of the life it bears. The truth is that we are nothing but tiny animals on a tiny planet. We are not that important.
Humans are like fire.
Earth was here before us and will remain after: wounded and changed but it will carry on. New life will appear, like it has before and new beginnings will occur after Nature has managed to eradicate the fire she mistakenly ignited.
It’s not dystopia, just a matter of time.
Two weeks ago, I was at work and a colleague was telling us about her grandchildren. They were a “disgrace”, this “new generation” because the weather was beautiful and they could not even be bothered to go outside and envoy it. They would rather stay in all day playing some video games of some sort. Her problem: it was sunny and the children would not go out – like she would, presumably.
Then, a couple of day ago, the weather had changed into rainy days, right when the holidays started and she had her grandchildren staying with her. I saw her again and this time she was telling us about the weather and her “poor grandchildren” who could not even go out. I played dumb and asked her why.
“Because it’s raining!”, she said. I knew that was coming and I couldn’t stop myself, I had to be an annoying bitch.
“So?”, I asked gingerly.
“Well, I can’t let them go outside when it’s raining. They’ll get wet.” I told her she could let them go out.
“They are not made of sugar, they are not going to melt, you know. And maybe they don’t go out when it’s sunny because someone ‘s told them it was bad for their skin…”
She was outraged but I made my point about this endless complaining about the weather which is never good enough and mainly about the conflicting messages we are giving to children regarding what they can and cannot do when it comes to the outdoors.
That woman, born in the 1950s, would just not let her grand-children out because it was raining and they might wet and catch a cold. So the kids were doomed to stay inside and find a way to entertain themselves which turned out to be hours in their phones. And she hates this. She wants them to connect with her although her childhood is probably filled with endless rainy afternoons at her own grand-parents when she had wished she was allowed to just get away from them, whichever the weather was.
I could have pointed out to her that as a child, she would not minded the rain if it meant having fun, but what got me the most was that same, endless chorus of “that new generation these days, really…Never wanting to go out. In my days…”. This business is seriously getting on my nerves, mainly because I hate the fact that the kids are being blamed for basically trying to adapt to all the scaremongering their parents have been subjecting them for generations when it comes to being outside. Your children are like this because of the education you gave them, because of the role models you were to them and your relationship with the outdoors will determine their willingness to experience it and feel at ease within it.
I am 31 now and for a long time, I have been this “new generation” but it turns out that I am not anymore. I am old enough to be the old “new generation”, judging by the ridiculously nostalgia-filled, fact-free, oblivious and conservative Facebook posts of a number of my 30-something friends. They are all describing a childhood in the 1980/1990s: free of videogames and Internet which allowed us to run free in the fields, hunt for frogs at dusk and play football outside until our kitchen-living, marriage-tamed mothers would call us for dinner. We would then beg for more time because there was nothing like spending time outdoors with our friends and nothing, not even the darkest night, would stop us. We were free. We were Laura Ingalls in the Little House in the Prairie, the wild nature was our playing field.
The problem with this vision is that it’s not what happened, it’s what most of us inspired to when we were kids. I am not even talking about our teenage years when the Internet did arrive and we were the first generation to spent hours on consoles. I was lucky enough to be able to live this kind of running in the fields fantasy but most of us did not because something or someone would grab us by the collar and shout “Stop running!” as we were heading out.
A friend of mine, mother of a toddler boy, loves posting these nostalgic views. According to her, and many others of my still young age, the younger people today are wasting their life away by staying in, stuck on their phones, laptops and videogames. “They will never experience the joy of real life as we did”, she said. “Even with their friends, they’d prefer going to each other’s place and stay in rather than going out”.
Then I went to see her, we had lunch and a walk in the park but I discovered with shock that she was that kind of parents who is constantly warning their children about the danger of everything. In her eyes, and now the eyes of her son, the whole world is a minefield and death is lurking behind every daffodil.
It was sunny so he had to wear a hat and sun cream (in March!), every plant he touched she would snatch away from him and clean his hand with a sanitised wipe. We sat down on the grass and she took out two blankets that she put on top of each other (“sometimes germs get through the first one anyway”) and that was the only space where he could play. Any toy trespassing was swiftly taken away and put in a bag for thorough washing later at home and eventually, because he kept trying to explore his world, like every toddler, she put him on a dog leash so he just stayed there nibbling on his fingers until she gave him her Ipad with an “educational game” to play. Everything he did that meant reaching the outside world was stopped with a warning of danger even when it could have been an oppportunity to experience and learn. Instead, he went to the park and played with an Ipad. He’s 3 years old.
From a person who keeps on reminiscing on her childhood free of all constraint, she was quick to keep her own child was in a cage everytime he steps in the outdoors. I won’t be surprised if that child never wants to go out later and would prefer staying in. I won’t be surprised if he can’t tell a robin from a blackbird or a rose from lilac. I won’t be surprised if he gets grumpy when it rains and only wants to see the sun but never be exposed to it. Tanning booth and St Tropez tan, please.
And why? Because I suddenly realised that he will be exactly like his mother. She can’t tell a robin from a black bird, she fake-tans before sunbathing because she was told it was safer and the only reason why she agreed to have lunch in the park and not in a café is because I insisted and told her I had not driving for two hours to sit behind a bloody window. I was paler than it was safe to know about and I wanted to be outside. She did put a scarf on because “the air was frisky”. It was 24° in Paris that day.
I can tell the difference between a robin and a blackbird just by listening to them. I know the names the trees and I like all kind of weather expect one (the unified light grey layered sky). I like the sun, I love the rain, the wind, hail, snow and thunderstorms. I like to go and run outside when the rain is lashing down during the summer supercell’s thunderstorms. The water is warm, the wind is strong and you let yourself drown by the power of Nature. I realised I hadn’t done it for years, going out in the middle of thunderstorms, so last year I did and no one but me was in the streets. Cars passing by looked at me like I was an alien standing in the river that the road had become.
Why me and not her? She looked horrified when I told her this. “You should never go out under a thunderstorm or you’ll get stroke by lightning!”.
Me and not her because all her childhood she heard all the following:
Don’t go out in the rain, you’ll get wet and you’ll get sick!
Don’t go out in the wind, you’ll catch a cold!
Don’t go out in the snow for too long or you’ll get too cold and you’ll get sick!
Don’t stay out in the sun for too long because you’ll get sun burned!
Don’t stay out in the heat because you’ll a fever!
Don’t go out in the sun between noon and 4pm because it is too bright and dangerous!
Don’t go out, it’s foggy and you will get run over by a car!
Don’t go swim for three hours after you ate something because of a phenomenon that no medical record has ever proved to exist!
Don’t touch this leaf! I don’t know what it is so you might get poisoned!
Don’t get go anywhere near a hedgehog, it’s full of fleas, it’s dangerous!
Don’t go look at that swan, it will get angry and break your arm!
Millions of children heard, are hearing and will hear this nonsense. Millions of children who then grow weary, scare or outright uninterested in the outdoors they see as a danger when not a complete bore or a nuisance that needs to be destroyed. No wonder, they always stay in!
I never heard any of these from my mother. Or anyone from my family as a matter of fact and everyone else looked at us weirdly. It’s not new. My grand-mother, born in 1936, and her siblings were already seen as bad seeds and daredevils by some of their classmates for they like the outdoors too much. It looks uncivilised. So at home, in a long family tradition, my mother always ridiculed my uneducated and scare-prone father and did not care for which weather we were playing under.
Maybe because we come from an enlightened family where I-heared-thats, such as cold-water drowning, have never had a place, for some of us were scientists and doctors, but all I know is that she never stopped us from going outside whichever the weather was. When it is sunny, my mother was the first to take us out and lounge with a book for hours while we were playing, all under the bright sun. She was getting looks at the time already and it was the 1980s.
So as usual, when the sun finally showed up a month ago, I went out and told a friend of mine that I was sunbathing. She said “Oh God, you shouldn’t! The first rays are always the most dangerous”. That doesn’t even mean anything! She had been complaining about the bad weather for weeks and now that the sun was there, she was already weary of it, looking at it from the inside. “What a beautiful weather! But I am not going out, yet. It’s too dangerous”. And she is 35. How much do you bet her children will belong to this new “new generation who never goes out when it’s sunny”? Her parents were born in the early 1950 and already, they filled the heads of their children with ideas that the weather and the outdoors was full of dangers and need to be avoided.
My mother taught us to love the rain. It’s good for the garden and birds can find insects to feed their young. She would take us out to collect snails we would keep for a few days and feed herbs before realising them. Or crab that come when it rains on the beaches of Normandy. I was surprised to discover that none of my friends’ parents ever did that with them. And comes to think of it, my brother and I were almost the only ones to be out when it was raining. I remember friends of mine were forbidden from jumping in puddles of water or go near the river. We could do whatever we wanted, come back home soaking wet and covered in mud, my mother would just wash the clothes and get us in a bath. No word of having been an “irresponsible child who will deserve to catch a cold.
When it snows, she would take us out. It was not a question of yes or no from us. We would have to turn the Sega off, whatever level we were about to reach with Sonic, and go out to play with her. We did not have a sledge so we would take bin liners or kitchen trays but we had to beg to go out and it was fun. I regretted Sonic until the first sliding down.
When we don’t know a leaf, we would look at it carefully and look it up at home. She taught us that a hedgehog’s fleas are not interested in us and that every garden should have a family of hedgehogs because they are cute and they eat slugs which otherwise eat the leaves of our favourite plants.
My childhood now sounds like the ones of these Facebook posts but it has nothing to do with living in the 1980s, the 1990s or the 2010s. My family has always suffered some finger-pointing by people who would raise their children afraid and weary of all weather, all animals except for pets, all outdoor situations. Everything is a danger, everything is a risk, and everything is something their children will have to stay away from. And this has not started with the “new generation”.
You want your child to go out? Stop making them fear the outside! Let them play in the mud, the water, run in the rain. Make them love the outdoors and stop blaming everyone but yourself. It’s not your children’s fault if they can’t see the point of being outside, it’s because you never make them want to be there to begin with. My mother taught me the love of Nature and I regularly stop playing games or get off the Internet for hours just to sit still in her garden under a drizzling rain to watch sparrow, starlings, tits, blackbirds and robins feed and fight over some peanuts or bad apples we had put there for them. It took me six hours to write this piece because the sun showed its ray after four days of uninterrupted rain and I went to have a thorough tour of my mother’s garden.
Teach your child the love of the outdoors and they would gladly take their bike to ride for hours rather than sitting down at a computer. It takes nothing but to start with believing that Nature is here for us to admire and to appreciate whether it’s sunny or rainy.
t to have a thorough tour of my mother’s garden. Teach your child the love of the outdoors and they would gladly take their bike to ride for hours rather than sitting down at a computer. It takes nothing but to start with believing that Nature is here for us to admire and to appreciate whether it’s sunny or rainy.