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Soundtrack: Sleater-Kinney — One Beat

Okay! The schizophrenic blogging continues. First the Infinity Inc. stuff, and then the PETA stuff (unlike the past couple of posts, I’ve got nothing for Dirk Deppey this time…)

Tonight, The Comic Treadmill rolls up on issue #10 of Roy Thomas’ Earth-2 Jr. series.

So! We made it through the 10-part “Generations Saga”, thank God! In my opinion, the series didn’t really start to surge forward until Roy got this nonsense out of his system… I like the Ordway art, and some of the introductory characterization in these issues, but that’s absolutely it. Well, no–the letters pages are cool, and the epigraphs from old movies (Mildred Pierce, Grand Hotel, and The Palm Beach Story among them!) help, but still… One thing’s for sure, Foucaultian comics critics would have a field day with this stuff–as the above cover illustration demonstrates, Golden Age super-heroes were always just one gulp of “fire-water” away from putting the screws to America. Superman wants to raze Metropolis to the ground, Green Lantern wants to become Big Brother to the planet, and the Atom just wants to pile on the nuclear steroids till his little body scares every last mother’s son of us to death… I freely acknowledge that the super-hero, as a concept, originated as a wish-fulfillment/power-fantasy. However, my dissertation will explore Marvel Comics’ Silver Age move to realign the genre with the scaled-down existential psycho-dramas of Hawthorne–and I don’t really like it when Roy (a major player in that little sixties coup) writes in full Golden-Age mode, as he did here.

Fortunately, with issue #11 (and, more particularly, with the introduction of Helix, a little later), we’ll be moving into the good stuff. But we’ll save that for another time! So, H–I agree that the ending, featuring the outta-nowhere death of the Brainwave, was pretty lame, and that this series, as a whole, got off to a terrible start. In a lettercol, Roy explained that he was thinking of the ten-issue saga as a “novel of sorts”. Gaaak! If this was a novel, it would be by James Clavell or some atrocious hack like that (you know, “a story of greed, lust, and betrayal–and a family that will never be the same again”) and I never would’ve touched it! Actually, if I had to compare the “Generations Saga” to anything outside of the comic book medium, I’d say it most resembles one of those ridiculous eighties TV maxi-series… Come to think of it, Roy probably tried to write some of those!

Enough! The positive stuff starts soon! Also H–I’m glad you’re warming up to Norda, at least a little–personally, I think he’s my favourite character in the book, or, at least, he’s right there with Nuklon and Obsidian…

Okay, onward to the Animals!

Aaron Haspel has an interesting post up in which he likens me to “Professor X” (no, comics fans, not Charlie!). It’s a somewhat tongue-in-cheek tribute to my unwillingness/inability to follow out my Animal rights principles to their “logical” bloodthirsty conclusions…

All I can say about this Aaron is that you seem to have found a very comfortable way to put the kibosh on this question once and for all. Let’s see if I’ve got this straight–either you refuse to acknowledge that animals ought to be treated as ends in themselves, or you must go hog-wild and kill anyone wearing a fur coat? I know, I know–tactics. It’s not smart to kill humans, so we won’t do it. But you want to hear me say that, in a perfect world, anyone wearing a fur coat ought to be killed.

Well I’m sorry, but I’m not going to say it. And it’s not because I’m a “Professor X”. It’s because I’m an Enlightened Romantic.

Aaron does make a very fair request for clarification:

The PETA view is that killing animals is murder. You are of course entitled to dissociate yourself from that view, but you’ve written about animal rights a good deal without having done so.

Well, how’s this? If I killed an animal, I would think of myself as a murderer. However, I don’t think of people who are responsible for the deaths of animals as murderers. For the simple reason that I don’t concern myself with the private moral universes of others. That’s not my job. That’s not anyone’s job. If people break laws, they go to jail. And I don’t have any problem with that–I don’t want to “empty the jails”. The rule of law is a necessary component of a liberal democratic society. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to the day when it will be against the law to use animals for food or sport–but that change won’t come about until/unless most people have a private change of heart. That’s where PETA comes in. They heighten the contradictions, and for every outraged Dave-In-Texas, there are a goodly number of (very quiet) people who think, “jeez, there’s something pretty awful about doing that to an animal, when there are so many other food/clothing options these days”. Most of these people won’t take the plunge, of course, but these conversions happen over generations, and some day (who knows when?), it just won’t be “cool” to disregard the rights of animals any longer…

Now, PETA is full of vindictive bastards who seethe with anger toward their fellow man, and are more interested in the fight than the result that I look for. However, the same could probably be said about William Lloyd Garrison, and maybe even Charles Sumner, and I still say these men did a lot of good. I don’t agree with the vast majority of PETA’s actions/pronouncements. Nevertheless, they serve a useful function. Maybe you think I sound smug. Personally, I just think I sound like someone with an academic background in history, and the perspective that grows out of that kind of work.

I am insanely tired, but there’s one more point I must touch on. Aaron also makes very efficient use of that old millstone ’round the neck of the Animal Rights position–the desire to prove that animals are “moral agents”. It’s tempting of course, because if this could be proven, then this stuff could be defended on Kantian grounds. Personally, I don’t think of animals this way–and I don’t think we have to anthropomorphize them to give them their due. Animals are sentient. If you look into their eyes–you see something there! Or, at least, I do! And if you do, does it really matter whether they can make rational decisions? Before you answer–I beg you to consider the matter carefully. There are human beings who, for whatever reason–birth defects, injuries to the brain, etc–are not, and can never be, “moral agents”. Do we, in our society, cease to treat them as beings with the right to be treated as ends-in-themselves? No. We don’t. And if we can make that leap, we can also make the one that I’m proposing…

Good night friends!
Dave

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2 comments

  1. “Sentient” derives from the Latin verb “to feel,” so at the root you are right; however in ordinary use this word has stronger connotations that probably don’t apply, at least not to birds or lower mammals.

  2. The person above obviously never had a pet as a best friend. Cats and dogs (most of them) are sentient. They can think and respond to all sorts of commands and situations. You are perfectly free to believe they are not thinking, feeling beings. After all, it’s what makes it easy for people to eat them when they get big enough. You can’t eat your friends. Even so, I am not vegetarian. BUT, if I had to kill my own meat, I would be! Does that make me a moral degenerate? Or am I just selfish?

    Alexandra

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