Cows — the perfect animals?

I've been reading Dave Eggers's latest book, What is the What. I have really been enjoying it. Enjoying is the wrong word to describe reading an account of a brutal genocide, but I am touched and compelled by the story.

The title of the book comes from the Dinka creation myth. This creation story tells us that after God created man and woman, He offered them one other thing. They could choose between cattle or "the what". The first Dinka man and woman wisely chose the cattle over the unknown. They could tell that "cattle were God's most perfect creation, and that the cattle carried something godlike within themselves."


Yah, I guess I can see it. Beef, milk, healthy birthrate, easy to graze, peaceful, cute. Pretty close to perfect.

As I read this book, I can't help but think about some of the horrific genocides and bloody massacres in recent history. It's depressing. And convicting. Kurt Vonnegut writes in Slaughterhouse-Five that he told his sons that they were in no way to participate in massacres. I've always hoped to instruct my children likewise. But is it possible? I wonder how much money I have contributed in my lifetime to massacres by buying chocolate and coffee, cheap clothes and gasoline. Happily, I own no diamonds. But my two-person household owns three computers with toxic metals that may one day contaminate poor communities in distant parts of the world I'll never see. And then there are the mass murders funded, officially and unofficially, by my tax dollars. How can I tell my children not to participate in injustice and oppression when I have been, to some degree, a happily ignorant participant my whole life?

Well, the first blogpost back is always the gloomiest, right? I take two months off and come back with this ray of sunshine. Nice.

On a lighter note, the cow pictures were taken at the Vermont State Fair this past August while husband and I were on vacation. It was a great day. We saw pig races, sheep shearing, and lots of cows. We ate ice cream and maple syrup and kettle corn and barbecue.


Anonymous brian said...

What's so gloomy about global complicity in endless atrocity?

1:14 PM  
Blogger Johanna and Josh said...

Oh Katie...why do you have this insistent (and annoying) need to think about others? Why don't you pick up Joel Osteen's latest, "Becoming a Better You" and learn how to be a good, narcissistic Christian like the rest of us.

12:55 PM  
Blogger Abbi said...

Maybe Vonnegut was condemning willful participation (and not ignorant participation). I stepped on fifty bugs today by accident and only twelve on purpose.

8:12 AM  

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