Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Blood Thirst

When my father was very much younger, he fancied fighting cocks and like many of his fellow cockfighting afficionados , he raised and even tried to breed them as a hobby. He cared for and pampered them then trained and conditioned them like prized athletes, and in many ways they were exactly that.

They had only one purpose. To fight gloriously then win and live to fight again or die miserably on the hard packed dirt of the town cockpit already stained by the blood of their fellow fowls while a howling mob of human spectators clapped their hands, thumped their feet and screamed for blood and death.

I never did develop the same fascination or "addiction" to cockfighting but during the times when I did accompany my father to the cockfights and even later on when I did watch them out of curiosity, I also felt emotionally drawn, despite my reservations, in no small degree into this violent, bloody yet viscerally exciting sport, if we can call it that.

It's not just the betting that got to me (although to many spectators that is what it is all about) but something more. Perhaps it was the fact that something approaching ultimate dénouement, a climactic resolution of a drama of life and death was unfolding before me. Nothing really brings out the worst...... or the best in man than the illusion of his control over life and death over creatures he considers lesser than himself.

In many ways the cockpit is a modern version of the Roman Colosseum where death matches between gladiators were public spectacles. Only we are more civilized and more enlightened, thus we let animals do the fighting and the dying for us.

But it is the same bloodlust that filled the Colosseum to the rafters with spectators that drives us to the cockfights, the same addiction to the spectacle of violence and imminent death. The betting, even victory or defeat (despite what affictionados say) becomes incidental and often irrelevant. It is always the bloody spectacle that appeals most to the savage within us all.

In his later years my father gradually gave up his gamecocks and his visits to the town cockpit became fewer and fewer then finally ceased all together. He said that the whole thing was becoming more costly that he could afford.

I would like to think that he had developed a gradual aversion to the idea of cockfighting itself. Perhaps it was the soul of the healer and physician that was so strong in him that made him change his mind.

In the years that followed, all traces of his cockfighting past eventually disappeared. The cock pens and cages were dismantled and recycled for other uses. The gaffs, their bindings and all the other numerous bits and pieces of equipment that no self respecting cockfighting enthusiast can do without were all given away.

I wondered then if he had harbored any regrets for doing what he did. If he did he gave no sign of it.

In my case, I was glad he gave it all up. The cockfights were were too bloody and barbaric for my taste. I prefer to indulge my inner savage nature by watching boxing matches and other contact sports on the television screen. The more contact and the more violent, the better.

That, in my view, is the more modern and civilized thing to do.

1 comment:

  1. Benjie,
    As the Philippines races headlong into the future, I believe the attitude that you have against bloodlust will be taken up by most of your fellow countrymen. I am continually reminded of how closely linked in attitudes the Philippines is to America, although slightly out of sync in time. Years ago, cockfights and other bloodlust sports were big in America, even bigger than here in the Philippines, but over time Americas grew tired of the adrenaline rush that these blood sports produced. It has come to my mind recently how even my own attitudes have changed over time. When I was a child and teenager, farming in a rural community, I thought nothing of going to the barnyard to fetch some chickens to kill for supper. I would watch with fascination as my grandfather would sharpen his cleaver to sever the heads of our next meal, but age and time has changed my acceptance of that. I remember last year when my father in law was killing a hog for a party we were to have, I got physically sick from knowing that the life of the hog was ebbing as the blood was drained from its body.
    As I think of my change of attitudes in regard to animal slaughter I have to wonder what other changes I’ve not noticed, or are there some things that I’ve remained constant in my believe system. You know the discussion about the evacuees has been on my mind, even before you first wrote so eloquently about them and their plight. I am basically a pacifist and always have been, although some find that strange with my military background. Most people here don’t seem to understand when I tell them I was in the United States Coast Guard; it means that it was my job to save lives. In the 8 years I was in the military, 99.9% of the time I was unarmed. Only during basic training was I required to show that I was capable of handling a weapon.
    I have never believed that violence was a means to any end, nor is it capable of solving any of the deep seated problems in our world today. Violence produces on effect, it is self promoting. Violence is a never ending entity that takes strong people, with spirit and determination to end. It takes much more courage to end violence than to begin it, and more moral fortitude to object when witnessing violence of any kind. Humans even for their enjoyment of blood sports are basically a peace loving species. We have climbed the ladder of the animal kingdom to a point where we can and do show compassion. I’m calling on everyone in this area to show our compassion in the latest outbreak of violence here in our community. I want to see the evacuees home, well before Christmas and a permanent end to the fighting and violence.
    I admit that I know little about the NPA or their dispute with the government here in the Philippines, but I do know that they are doomed to lose with the world against them. They are being portrayed as terrorists, and that’s enough to condemn them in the eyes of every right thinking person in the world. It doesn’t matter if their message is important, nor if it’s correct, they are terrorists and the world are against them. There are many ways to fight against injustice. “Before the throne of the Almighty, man will be judged not by his acts but by his intentions. For God alone reads our hearts.” Mohandas Gandhi
    We pray for peace during this sacred holiday season, and wish all our friends and neighbors peace and happiness in their lives. Advance Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.
    Mark and Merejen