Thursday, July 29, 2010

Culture is not unchanging

The Catalogne region of Spain has just voted to ban bullfighting. Opponents of the ban are outraged at the threat to a tradition that helps define their culture.

My personal experience of the corrida is limited. At the tender age of nine I was taken on a tour of Spain, which included a visit to a wax museum. A bullfight was on display there in all it’s ... what? Gore? Glory? In vivid colors anyway. I don’t know if the bull came before or after the lengthy display of torture instruments of the Inquisition period, complete with examples of how to use them, and the sad results, but I quickly had to find the bathroom to heave up my lunch, and breakfast, and anything lingering from dinner.

My other corrida experience involves not actually going to the fights, but being parked with relatives of acquaintances of my grandfather while he went off to yell and whistle and drink beer without young children in tow. My experience there was only of being left for a day, perhaps just two hours, in a shack made of debris (mostly cardboard and random sheets of plastic and wood), and surrounded by more debris (mostly bits of metal and broken glass and discarded beer cans) somewhere in Tijuana. With people I did not know and could not communicate with. This was the first time in my life I agreed that ‘hygiene’ might be a good word after all. I doubt my mom was aware of this plan beforehand.
So my experience of the corrida was rather secondhand. I just knew it involved an awful lot of excitement on the part of the men, honking, traffic jams, smashing beer bottles on the ground, smoking, yelling, betting, swearing, and bad smells (all more than usual for Tijuana). It’s a thing that brings out the best in people. Sure.

This corrida-banning thing has just got me remembering all that. What I meant to point out was that the pro-bullfighting contingent’s main argument rests on tradition. They should keep bullfighting because they have always had it; it’s part of their culture, and they like it.
To rephrase: We did this in the past, therefore it’s good and right to continue. Where is the logic in that? As an argument this is nonsense.
Slavery was traditional for many people - did that make it good?
Allowing only men to vote was the culture, and still is in some parts of the world - does that make it laudable?
Torturing an animal to death is okay, as long as it’s not a new thing?

And the other part: they like it. They say that if I don’t like it, I can just stay away. I don’t have to participate. This might in fact be the practical death of bullfighting: as fewer and fewer people enjoy it, it may eventually fade away.
But if I see a dog or a horse being beaten, should I just keep walking and do nothing? If my neighbor stabs his cat to death, should I be fine with that? Mistreating animals is a crime, and rightly so. You can’t dress it up with a fancy hat and a cape and call it fun.


Niamh B said...

good news that the change is afoot.

Argent said...

Mt thoughts exactly!