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‘I’m sorry, cows and oxen’The crisis in the Earth’s eco-system is the result of repressed guilt, excessive consumption
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승인 2011.02.24  17:10:19
페이스북 트위터
Song Sang-Il
The following is a translation from Halla Ilbo columnist Song Sang Il — Ed.

A farmer died. The farmer was a cattle breeder. He was notified that his cattle were infected with foot-and-mouth disease. The breeder went out and killed himself. When we hear this, we know, ‘to cherish like life,’ is not just a metaphor for that farmer. Losing the cattle was a loss as big as throwing away his own life.

Cows and oxen are domesticated animals and generally classified as cattle or livestock. These are all value-neutral terms. But breeders think of them as family, too. The human species cannot treat one’s own family as value-neutral. If someone can do that, that person must possess a cold heart.

The same cow or ox that is sometimes is considered a family member is at other times, a food product.

I once saw a TV scene depicting Tibetans slaughtering cattle. It was a very peculiar way of butchering. A cow was brought down to the ground and people poured oil into its nose until the cow choked to death. And that was the moment I saw the cow’s big wet eyeballs.

The cow cast a sidelong glance, with panicked and frightened eyes, at the people who threw him to the ground, at me, and at the ones who were watching the scene. Because of the sad eyeballs that kept coming back to me, I was not able to eat beef for a long time. But being oblivious is indeed a very convenient apparatus. I now eat beef again. .

The cow that choked my throat with tears was a big, living animal, crying and begging for life. But as it goes down to my stomach, giving sweet caresses to my uvula, it has in no time become food. Nonetheless, a cow is a cow. This cow and that cow are no different. They are the same cow. Human beings lead a contradictory existence. Life is living through an enduring contradiction. Living as a human being, contradictory conditions, are inevitable.

The American Indians introduced in Joseph Campbell’s work, “The Power of Myth,” were well aware of this contradiction, derived from original sin. They gave a sacred rite for buffalos before they left for the hunt. It was an expiatory ritual. “We have to kill you to live. Thus, we pray for your forgiveness.”

Let us not just dismiss it as the superstition of savages. The crisis in the Earth’s eco-system is the result of repressed guilt and subsequent and excessive consumption.

(Translation by Suh Eunsook)
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