Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Sleepy Isle

I went swimming yesterday at St Leu. More to the point, I went snorkelling and the lagoon here is one of my preferred places. There are plenty of fish and the coral isn't too damaged by the onslaught of progress - yet. Always the big Yet, all the monsters of fact and fable could be summed up by the big Yet. Yet is the final outcome of the human races' folly; a monster of our own creation. It would seem to be a thing, a terrible final ecological solution, that we have created in our sleep whilst dreaming of profit and progress.

Sleep, not the tender embrace of Morpheus (him before the matrix) but the blind atrophy of the conscious mind and a refusal to see the repurcussions of oursomnabulant rape of this planet.

If all this is beginning to sound like a morning rant fueled by a hangover, I'll offer an example...

Two days ago a large cargo vessel collided with the island.


Now, the island is a big rock reaching up some two miles above the Indian Ocean, it does not move - unless one is talking on a geological timescale - it has been sitting here for some three million years and so qualifies in my books as an unmoveable object. The force that hit it was not unstoppable and so the shiup stopped not far from the "capital" of St Denis. No loss of life, no one hurt and not much damage done. This all happened because the crew were asleep. You can see the analogy coming...

The press were up in arms and it even pushed puppies off the front page. Why the concern? The press are concerned that the island is not properly protected against terrorism. If the crew of the ship were sleeping, what were the coast guard et al doing? There seems to be an uncanny and incomprehensible desire on the island to prove that it partakes of all that is bad in the world out there beyong the sea.

It seems that we cannot be content to be an island with its own identity, but must prove ourselves to be "whiter than white". This is seen in the culture of being French. There are many creoloe of my acquaintance who yearn to be more French than French. It is as if being creole is not enough and the terrible process of assimilation throughout all the Frecnh colonies has worked by alienating a people from their own and true culture and making them aspire to the unattainable.

The point of all this is that Réunion seems to want to have all the problems of the world in order to prove that it is a modern "progressive" island. In doing so it is blind to the real potential and needs of this little Eden, that was.

Last year, a large fishing vessel run aground at St Leu in similar circumstance to the one of two days ago. At St Denis, there is no coral barrier but at St Leu there is. Last year the vessel tore through the barrier and landed itself high and dry upon the coral destroying a large amount in the process. There was much weeping and a wailing because of the damage caused to...

...the ship. The destruction of the coral was all but ignored, the ship was pulled off, damaging even more coral. Coral grows, given the chance, at some 3mm per year, we can build a boat in a couple of months - are we still sleeping?

To have the opportunity to swim amongst the coral, to glimpse the fish that dance there is something which I am grateful. I would also like it to be there still in generations to come.

When the ship surfed onto the pebbles at St Denis, it was three youths returning from a music festival who raised the alarm. Whilst us smug adults are dreaming of where next to make a profit maybe we should wake up and listen to those that are younger than us, more idalistic, less cynical and probably a lot more aware as to just what is going on in this great ship of sleeping humanity.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

A dog's life

There was a great hue and cry last week - front page of the "Journal" ( no less, because a puppy had been found all prepped and ready for a mission. The mission? Oh well that was to go big game fishing - more precisly, shark fishing. Now, I have never seen a dog fishing and a puppy of several months is certainly too young for such sport. Let's face it dogs don't want to go fishing they would much prefer getting on with their lives. Certain offshoots of the human race have other ideas and decide that the best way to catch sharks is to take a live puppy stick hooks through its jaw and paws and throw it in the sea attached to a long line. This may seem barabric to you, it is.

Dogs have a strange life here. Everyone seems to have one. It is an obligation if one is to protect oneself from criminals, display ones machismo, generally feel secure if you haven't got or don't want a machismo. But wanting a dog is not the same as looking after a dog. Most of the dogs one comes across here fall into three categories.

There are the pampered pooches of the nouveau riche, functionaires and ex-pats. Now, we shouldn't really call them ex-pats because they are French and this is France, right. OK, take a look at the atlas that you bought from Reader's Digest last year and see if you can see the geographical link between Réunion and France - yes it is as obscure as that between the UK and the Falklands - I was going to say Diego Garcia, but none of you would know where that was, nor what devious post-colonial trick us Brits played upon the people there. More of all this geo-politicing another day.

The other sort of dog is the stray who just happens to roam around looking all dishevelled, barely animated and begging. These seem to copulate incessantly and produce as fast as the cars on the "quatre voies" can terminate them. I am not sure if this is an offical policy, or if one gets points for keeping the island's dog population down, but there seems a determination on many drivers that borders on an obsession. I have yet to see paw marks chalked up on the doors of cars but the way things are going...

Lastly there is the house dog - much like its French cousin, the hunting dog, it spends most, if not all, its time chained up in some dingy corner or locked up in some dingy cage. My neighbours have dogs like these and they are never to be seen out of the cage, no one is ever to be seen taking any notice of them, accept to occassionally throw some food - maybe the washing up water - at them. The sole "raison d'être" of these dogs is to bark and whine depending on the moon, the wind and their level of malnutrition.

There is a sub-species of dog of the above type which is usually a great phallus headed pitbull, Staff or the like that is taken out in public in order to terrify children and impress the girls. Are girls impressed by men with fierce dogs with big heads. Personally, they scare the shit out of me and although my attempts at attracting the opposite sex are not that successful, I cannot see how having a big throat ripping dog would help. These dogs may be better fed but this is usually on steroids and besides they spend 99% of their lives in a cage.

The one thing that all these dogs have in common is that they bark. Occassionally, they all bark at once. Two things I don't understand is that; 1) why do people keep dogs if they don't like or want them and cannot be bothered to look after them? 2)Why do all those who don't have dogs put up with it?

The second question is perhaps, easiest to answer. We put up with the barking, bleating canines beacause we don't want to offend the neighbours and one day they may get a Rottweiller.

I have a freind who has a neighbour. The neighbour of some good few years had a dog. The dog was kept chained up and generally whined all night long out of lonliness and sheer misery. During the day was diferent, it barked and then slept. My friend asked the neighbour if the dog disturbed her, to which she replied yes but what could she do as she needed the dog to protect her against burglars. At this point, I should explain that the dog in question is a non-definable fluffy thing about as aggressive as pink fluffy underpants. My friend explained to her neighbour that the dog was not a detterent if it whinged all night long and besides one needed to sleep. Of course the neighbour replied, but what can I do? My friend said she would take the dog and look after it if the old lady was afraid the dog would be left to raom the streets.

Ah! The dog, who is called Whiskey, is now happy, clean fed and petted and rarely if ever barks. Why, because it is not kept on a chain and is allowed to live. All's well that ends well...

Not quite, the neighbour has a big family who cannot imagine their poor old mum alone without a dog, so they gave her another one, only this time it is bigger and more noisy. Which leads me to the conclusion that the giving of dogs is a susbstitute for caring.

I still don't know why more people don't complain. I have asked many of my friends and they say that, "Yes, it is annoying." but don't do anything. You see, the problem isn't the dog, it is the owner and we are supposed to be all grovelling and apologetic because the owner has not got the intelligence or the respect for others.

I cannot understand the human races ambivilent attitude towards animals and their uncomprehendable lack of respect for them. But, we are not much better when it comes to our own species - how many abused children are there that, may not get used as shark bait, but are physically and emotionally abused and are ignored by society as a whole, and the press in particular, because they are not as cuddly as a puppy.

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