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...a sweatshop of moxie

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Online Hunting

As I was driving yesterday, I happened to tune into NPR'S All Things Considered programme.

I listen to NPR the same way I still read the NYT online -- because at the end of the day, their cultural notes programming is second-to-none in their respective media.

Now, I'm used to NPR being very eclectic in their choices of stories, always skewed to their particular world vision, but none more so than highlighting a quadraplegic who wanted to go hunting...but since he can't do so physically, he was going online instead.

Yes, in case you haven't heard, there are now online sites where you can pay to hunt, and more importantly, to shoot animals in controlled situations.

With a mouse, you click when you want a shot fired, and the person holding the shotgun on the other "side", receives a signal to fire at that precise time. Until then, you use your monitor to stalk the animal, and as in real-life hunting, you are not assured you will have any prey that day. Like all hunters, you have to wait and see.

I cannot IMAGINE the amount of controversy this online gaming will garner. Already there are initiatives in place state-by-state to outlaw the practise, and indeed, in some States it is already illegal.

But the issue is more complex than a cut-and-dried PETA'ish knee-jerk reaction.

How do you say to people like Dale Hagberg, that quadraplegic, that the activity he used to love, and which he thought he could never again participate in, that it's yet again been taken away from him? In fact, his mother said as much, when she conjectured if people knew quads like her son, they wouldn't be so dismissive of the idea, at least out-of-hand.

When I was a little girl, coming as I do from a countryside family in Oxfordshire, I was taught to handle a pair of Purdey's like some kids are taught to ride bicycles. I'm not a crack shot, but I can hold my own. I'm certainly not scared of blood, and have a philosophical/practical attitude to hunting. In the back of my mind, should ever the occasion arise to have to kill for sustenance, I know I could.

Nevertheless, this online gaming doesn't appeal, possibly because it's not a particular hobby of mine -- unlike tennis.

(So when will online tennis be available? With a mouse click handling a return of serve or a smash -- that's what I'd like to know. Sign me up!)

The correct question then is not to ask why hunting, and but why not, so far, other sports?

Presumably this includes:

1) Price of activity -- where hunting sites can definitely charge more than other gaming sites, simply because of the decreased time and places it's legal to do so. The internet is driven by either porn or gambling, which are credit card activities, and online hunting is a logical extension.

2) Availability -- to use my tennis analogy again, if The Tennis Channel is still not available on cable, how can we expect them to be on the ball (pun intended) with online practise sites?

3) Mindset or Cultural attitudes -- a certain gaming generation that has grown up more readily able to point-and-shoot. Also, huntin' and shootin' in the UK, for example, is traditionally an upper-class activity, in a country which romanticises the country. In the US, it thought to be a rural and blue-collar activity, in a country which romanticises the city. Unlike the UK, there is not a class impasse where one section feels alienated from the other because of possible rejection of "getting above one's station". This, as much as anti-cruelty to animals, was the driving force behind the ban on foxhunting. In the US, the leveller is money, and if you have it, even on credit, you're in.

4) Communal activity -- the lone hunter is not as prevalent as group hunters, as any shooting party can tell you, albeit stalking usually is. It seems to me that this is the one sport where you can marry older and younger generations in one mouse, and neither will feel out of their elements.

5) Male-centric activity -- it could well be an activity where fathers and sons will especially feel happy to have now. To take that away will seem as yet another intrusion or even obliteration of what Western society does not feel comfortable with anymore: male predominance in any aspect of life. *

*Bill Maher, in his Victory HBO show, acts as if he is the only person who says the truth, especially about modern American society being more "feminised" -- this I find yet another symptom of his decreasing powers of perspicacity. People, men and women both, have been observing this trend ever since the 1980s, when the politically correct movement gained ground.

6) Psychological Remove of the Internet -- to people who are Luddites, or just uncomfortable with the internet in general (which includes even those who use it frequently), this must be the ultimate Yahtzee! topic. Combining lack of gun control with teenagers, males, possibly a primarily white-only activity, killing on command via a denatured monitor in front of them.

7) Consequences -- If Fritz Lang were alive, he would have portrayed teen robots with guns, being made to kill on command with emotional detachment by a merciless and money-driven society. The exploited becoming exploiters is the worst nightmare which certain people fetishise beyond belief. Online hunting might be a clarion call for these people.

Therefore, given these points above, I cannot WAIT for the arguments to start, Michael Moore documentaries to film, and ad-hoc protest marches to convene. You watch them fall neatly into place, just as I have delineated them above.

I can read NPR like a book.


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