The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Monday, February 21, 2005

CRUSTACEAN BLUES: Lobsters feel no pain, a recent study suggests, because their brains are too small for them to realize that they should feel pain. This hypothesis is based, however, on the idea that a creature must have a brain in order to feel pain, a concept disproved almost daily by large numbers of my relatives, who tend towards the klutzlike in their dealings with the mechanical world. If there is a thumb anywhere among that lot that has gone unbroken in the quest to drive a nail into a two by four I am unaware of it, and any and all home repairs performed by this crew of ursine non-engineers must factor in the cost of the medical care required to put them back together again after the typically sanguinary and almost always avoidable interaction of tool, board, and unprotected body part.

I should also point out that while these relatives may be incompetent, they are not stoics; the diligent searcher would have to go to the Julliard School or some other acting school to find a larger collection of hams and drama queens. Each and every unintentional confrontation with tools both sharp and blunt comes accompanied by shrieks, wails, imprecations, anathemas, and enough volume to rouse the comatose from their slumbers, and then, having gotten themselves patched together again at the local emergency room, this mob of dullards go a-trudging back to the very same situation that landed them in the hospital in the first place, thereby disproving most of Pavlov’s and Skinner’s conclusions on the role of pain and pleasure in experimental animals. Dogs and mice, it appears, are that much more smarter than the unruly mob of my relatives, who never cease in their attempts to find new situations in which to harm themselves.

I suspect that these findings about the cranial incapacity of crustaceans are simply salve for the burdened consciences of seafood lovers who want to enjoy their lobster without dealing with thinking about the violent and horrific death their meal just suffered, although one wonders why they should feel guilty about it. If they had some nice fresh salmon instead, wouldn’t the salmon have just as much claim on their consciences, given the slow, choking death by suffocation the salmon suffered? Or are we simply projecting our own fear of this sort of violent death onto the lobster? Most of us will never find out how the lobster feels; even missionaries no longer have to worry about winding up in the cannibal’s pot, not with the USDA warning most of the planet’s indigenous tribes of savage cannibalistic headhunters that eating a diet rich in preservative laden, presweetened American missionaries causes cavities and stomach cancer in laboratory rats; but we dislike having to think about it at the same time. If we can tell ourselves that the lobsters don’t feel any pain then we can go right on dunking them into vats of boiling water, although this doesn’t explain why the lobster turns red when dunked. Somehow or other, I don’t think it’s because it wants to look good on a bed of white rice, but that’s just my opinion.


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