Whale wars

Today I had an interesting conversation with one of my students, a well-off heiress the same age as me, who has devoted most of her adult life to searching for a meaning in life (in lieu of getting an actual job).  She told me that she is planning to go whale-watching in August, and that she is very excited about it.  She also told me a lot of other stuff, such as that she is convinced that dolphins are as intelligent as humans (not that I regard that as any great thing, frankly) and that are capable of communicating their thoughts to us.   Recently many middle-class people in urban Japan seem to hold a similarly reverential attitude towards dolphins and whales, in stark contrast to their rural seaside counterparts who traditionally have depended upon killing them for their very livelihoods, much in the same way as Western farmers depend upon the raising and slaughter of cows, sheep, and pigs to get by … although, to the best of my knowledge there is no such thing as a genetically modified whale.  Yet.

All this makes me think that the dolphin/whale killing issue is far more of a class thing, than a cultural thing.  In other words, only (relatively) wealthy people can afford to be sympathetic to the plight of livestock animals, sympathetic enough to spare their lives, and to carry on as self-righteously smug Birkenstock-wearing vegetarians (a perfect description of the afore-mentioned student) who live in no fear of starving to death. 

What do you think?  And more to the point, what would the dolphins say?


4 comments on “Whale wars

  1. Karen says:

    I agree absolutely. I think I’ve posted something about this before, but Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a recognized as a psychological model of humans. All these things the student is spouting are concerns of the leisure class.

    Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that we must satisfy each need in turn, starting with the first, which deals with the most obvious needs for survival itself.

    Only when the lower order needs of physical and emotional well-being are satisfied are we concerned with the higher order needs of influence and personal development.

    Conversely, if the things that satisfy our lower order needs are swept away, we are no longer concerned about the maintenance of our higher order need.

    Maslow Pyramid

  2. Karen says:

    That sort of Sierra Club Greenpeace concern is strictly a hobby for the leisure class. Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs covers that nicely.


  3. Miko says:

    Well, that makes sense to me. I seem to be stuck at the food stage …

  4. Jeni says:

    Ah, good old Maslow. We are learning about him in just about all my education courses. It is so true about all the levels of well-being needs that have to be met for people to attain higher consciousness. Something those of us with fewer worries need to keep in mind when thinking about others for whom things aren’t so easy.

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