Swans Commentary » swans.com June 16, 2008  



Wolves And Us


by Martin Murie



Pic: 'Mexican Wolf in Saratoga Springs' - drawing by Martin Murie, 2008 - Size: 9k
Mexican Wolf in Saratoga Springs
Drawing by Martin Murie, 2008



(Swans - June 16, 2008)   Mexican Wolves, again. The interagency Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Team, going against Governor Bill Richardson's request as well as recommendations of scientists, made a modest change in SOP 13, the three strikes rule: "Intentional attraction or repeated knowing attraction of wolves contributed or likely contributed to causing a confirmed wolf depredation then the wolves will not be penalized for that depredation." (1)

Deliberate attraction of wolves to livestock is almost impossible to prove. A recent attraction, exposed by a High Country News reporter, at a huge ranch owned by a rich Mexican, is probably the incident noticed by the Reintroduction Team. It might save that wolf pack, but it will be interesting to see if the case is ever brought into court. "This clarification is lipstick on a pig," said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the 17 conservation and animal protection organizations that responded with a letter requesting a cessation of governmental wolf removal. The American Society of Mammalogists and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums have also called for suspension of SOP 13.

At the latest estimate, there are now 52 wolves and only three breeding pairs in all of the release areas in the border mountains of New Mexico and Arizona. That's perilously close to a drastic reduction of genetic diversity. Removal of wolves also breaks up internal understandings inside wolf packs.

Wolves are communal. Big animals, they require big prey -- elk, moose, deer -- though they will also condescend to take rabbits and other small animals. This requires teamwork, but it is dangerous work. The wolves have fun too, training pups in the ways of the chase, and the pups and adults practice wrassling and gentle biting, keeping fit, razor sharp. The wolf pack is a cooperative society, though sometimes overt violence occurs. Survival requires teamwork among the members of the pack.

We might consider some degree of cooperation among ourselves. I am not recommending that we imitate wolf society. Wolf packs are not democracies. Each individual has his/her own place in the hierarchy. It's the working together that I find compelling. And that kind of work is lacking in our nation. We are afraid. If we could grit our teeth and admit this it would open the way to go for broke, stop the wars and, in the words I have heard so often, "get things fixed in our own country." It is amazing that at this late date in the destruction of peoples and animals and Earth, we are afraid of communalism, afraid of that dread S word: Socialism, afraid of the C word: Communism.

Today there is no common good. We've been taught that government is bad. We've been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan for five years and we've barely noticed it at home.

[. . .]

We're isolated, each in our own nuclear family, in our own private homes with our own entertainment centers and our own gyms and our own offices. Or we're out driving in our big cars, again alone. Or we're exhausted working two jobs to keep a roof over our head. (2)

In 1945 Tito, Marshall of Yugoslavia, leader, with his big dog, in the guerilla war against the Nazis, wrote a short eulogy to the Yugoslav people, praising their courage and welcoming the coming period of peace and democracy. He used the word "democracy" more than once. We happened to travel through the provinces of the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia at a time when nearly all citizens we came in contact with were enthused about their reuniting with Europe, their athletes once again competing with the best that Europe could offer. A spirit of optimism pervaded the lands, with the possible exception of Slovenia where prosperity was evident and a sort of toned-down spirit prevailed.

Our intelligent, English-speaking landlady in Split told us that when Tito died things would fall apart. Her two sons were more optimistic. Well, she was right. I wonder if anyone actually visualized the terror that lay ahead. I've written about Yugoslavia before. This time I simply want to contrast the years of opposition to fascism with the shameless complacency of so many Americans.

Consider this: According to Tito, one in ten Yugoslav citizens lost their life in that struggle. It was fierce. Guerilla war is no picnic. Nazi soldiers routinely rounded up "hostages," shot them dead in retaliation for attacks on their own troops.

Every tenth Yugoslav has perished in this struggle in which we were forced to wrest armaments from our enemies, to freeze without clothing, and to die without medication. (3)

Here at home we are under a continuous barrage of opinions that do not in any way reflect the dangers our nation faces.

"Only a catastrophe like the A-bomb in Japan will wake up the American public."

Or: "When we actually run out of oil then we will wake up and maybe, maybe not, do something about it."

Or: "We can defeat climate change when each of us takes care of his/her own 'carbon footprint.'"

Or: Vote for Obama. He's for change.

How serious are such pronouncements, heard daily on blogs, list-serves, Web sites? Are they actually thinking of death of fellow Americans, devastation of Earth so that life is no longer possible? Do they see their own lives ending? My theory is that the institutional structures, now worldwide, look so formidable that the temptation to draw into ourselves, close the hatches, is nearly irresistible. This is not a policy of neutrality. It is a policy of extreme individualism and defeat. Keep this up much longer and the rulers win. Do we want that? I suppose some of us do, so that individual effort is not necessary. Individualism? Hah! Individualism drawn out to that extreme is killing us.

Many, way too many, commentators are not down-on-the-ground serious. They are reveling in abstractions, showing off their "sophistication." If they were serious they would see the cliff edge and be working on ways of resisting the drive.

In a former piece for Swans I asked why we intellectuals could not be ambidextrous, meaning truth-truffles-searchers as well as activists of one sort or another. I ask that question again, because the society we live in is in danger, physical and mental. We all know the list of dangers, at our gates, some of them already through the gates. Many of us see these as Trojan horses, inevitable, but we don't take the trouble to look inside.

I just got off the phone with Jim Stiles, editor/publisher of the Zephyr, out of Moab, Utah. A real investigative reporter, Jim related some of the huge salaries and perks environmental directors are pulling down, and the thousands upon thousands of dollars taken in from foundations. I had realized only abstractly the dependence on money. Specifics are a wake-up medicine. I'm waking up. No wonder the varmental outfits, large and small, are so timid. They can't even step onto the fringes at the edge of mainstream ideology, let along take one blessed step over the razor wire guarding business as usual. Nearly all subscribe to Al Gore's fatuous remark that corporations can be truly green and make profits too. That is not true, unless you accept each corporation devoting funds to lower their energy costs (insulation (lower costs) carbon footprint foolishness, lower costs; somewhat improved mileage on vehicles, slight lowering of costs). There won't be a truly green economy led by corporations, unless a revolution inside corporate American occurs. Can you imagine that? I can't.

I come from the remote Pleistocene, early thirties, remembering a cowboy telling my dad of the Red Menace. This man was a patriot, a member of the American Legion, then and now a super-patriot outfit. I assume it was a Legion's publication or article to which he was referring. Whether that is true or not, I don't have to know. What I do know is that the rulers of our republic laid down proper citizenship rules a very long time ago, and they've been making sure these rules are in our blood ever since. The twenties, for example, raids on immigrants by Attorney General Palmer. Many immigrants were hustled onto boats and sent back to their homelands. It was in response to the 1917 Russian Revolution, of course. We even went so far as to join the European efforts to kill the revolution. We sent troops to Siberia to battle the Red Army. Later, J. Edgar Hoover, in charge of a division in the Justice Dept. launched his famous warfare against organized crime and then, whiffing which way the winds were blowing, got into the red scare business.

At the end of the War Against Fascism, aka WWII here at home, President Truman began to back away from alliance with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Our elite classes kept it up, hammering away at Godless communists, secret agents inside our government and at large in our country. Immigrants were still suspect. These moves are only a sample of the ways generations of Americans have been subjected to fear of communal action. True democracy is in fact contrary to the free market economy's philosophy, and we are reminded of this again and again: Senator Joseph McCarthy's witch hunts, caused many a person to be fired for membership in a list of organizations drawn up by the Attorney General. It wasn't McCarthy alone; both the Congress and the Senate had their own witch-hunting committees. Nearly all of the media went along with the hunt, bugles blaring, following the hounds. Now, in the new century, doesn't all that sound familiar?



1.  Press Release by Center For Biological Diversity. For Immediate Release, May 16, 2008: Wolf Managers Turn Down Governor and Scientists on Wolf Rule, 17 Conservation Groups Write to Oppose Anti-Wolf Policy.  (back)

2.  "Crumbcatchers," by Joyce Marcel, Progresssive Populist, June 1, 2008.  (back)

3.  J. B. Tito. Belgrade, February 4, 1945.  (back)


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Internal Resources

Wolf - Martin Murie, May 5, 2008

Activism under the Radar Screen


Patterns which Connect

America the 'beautiful'


About the Author

Martin Murie on Swans (with bio).



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Published June 16, 2008