Where’s the OUTRAGE?

A city dweller—a true child of concrete—once spent the weekend with a friend in the suburbs. The friend’s cat snared a bird and as cats will do, deposited the corpse as a gift on the doorstep. The city visitor was indignant. “Aren’t you mad at Rudy for killing the pretty bird?” she demanded.

“Why should I be angry at a creature for acting according to its nature?” the friend responded.

Even at the time, I perceived a real wisdom in this answer (that city creature wasn’t me, by the way). But only recently do I see why.

Sorry, I was going to post photos of a couple of these billboards—they sure have great entertainment value—but decided I didn’t want to give those vodka makers any more publicity for than they already have. I hope that’s an example of wise discrimination. Photo by Gary Deibler.

Not long ago a friend showed me a photo of a now infamous Wodka Vodka billboard near the Brooklyn Bridge. On a red background, next to an image of a vodka bottle together with a lamb wearing something resembling a sombrero (don’t ask me!), a headline read “ESCORT QUALITY—HOOKER PRICING.” It was one of a series of so-called shock ads; others included “CHRISTMAS QUALITY—HANUKKAH PRICING” (two dogs, one wearing a yarmulke) and “BLACK RUSSIAN,” showing a muscular black man in a wifebeater and a fur hat in front of an image of the Kremlin. The Jewish/ Christian one had been taken down following a storm of outrage.

My friend had shot the photo with his cell phone while driving on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. He showed it to me in anticipation of feminist outrage. But I didn’t produce any, and I think he was rather disappointed. I thought the billboard was pretty disgusting, but I couldn’t work up any ire over it.

Fact is, I don’t get angry as much as I used to. That’s where the cat story comes in. Creatures (including people) are the way they are, they act according to their nature. And they may or may not be at a place where their nature can become kinder, gentler, wiser, whatever. If what they do is harmful, you try to prevent them from doing it, but more and more, indignation and outrage seem to me like a waste of time and energy—even a form of self-indulgence.


One comment

  1. Ah, Rudy. A grand ginger tom. My neighbor used to call him my “red-headed lover” because he followed me everywhere, who knows to what end? He killed more squirrels than birds – bigger, more meat with less overall energy expended. The predator’s priority. He once left a dead eel by the bedside and I stepped on it in the dark. A transforming moment.

    Yes, I’m the suburbanite in Stephanie’s story, though I don’t remember being so wise when so young. When I got older, I moved to the real sticks (billboards?), 15 miles from the nearest town, 60 miles from what’s called civilization, and am surrounded by creatures living according to their natures. There is, still, something in that to soothe rage, no matter what happens. At least for me.

    An idea occurred to me recently: perhaps the tree is the perfect form of life. It makes its own food, makes its own oxygen, doesn’t argue forcefully with anyone, supports many smaller lives, communicates chemically, and is silent.

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