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.
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.