Saturday, October 1, 2016

rhino horn and fantasy writing

I recently wrote  a discussion of "Why do I write fiction?" It was the 'fiction' at the end that I had trouble justifying.  I enjoy reading - and writing - fiction and I most love fantasy, which is the most disconnected from reality of them all.
Let me interrupt myself, to imagine a reader's outburst here, "But, but, but, there are real themes, issues of objective value, that are discussed in fantasy novels: Morals and morales, gender and bigotry issues, the value of bravery, honesty, and even connections to historic beliefs and understanding!"
To which I would reply, "An exclamation mark? Really? And 'morales'? Did you think the message behind a fable was spelled that way?" I am, after all, very perceptive. Anyway, yes to all those points. I just have trouble justifying devoting a life to such writing - even as I try to create that life for myself.

The reason I bring up this background is an apparently unrelated article I read on a friend's Facebook page. My friend linked to a National Geographic article (Warning: autoplay video) describing a rhinoceros farm:
John Hume is the owner of the world’s largest rhino farm; he owns 5 percent of the world’s rhinos. He and others would like to see the end of the South African and international bans on the rhino horn trade so he can profit from his current stockpile of rhino horn, which could be worth about $45 million.
He argues that sawing off a rhino’s horn does not hurt the animal, and he claims that a legal trade can help conserve rhinos.But many conservationists reject this claim about legal trade. They fear that legalizing the trade will only create more demand and, therefore, more poaching—and that illegal horn will inevitably be mixed in with legal horn.The world has already lost much of its rhino population: There are about 29,500 rhinos left on Earth today. Before the 1800s there were several hundred thousand in Africa alone. The outcome of the debate over legalization of the horn trade will impact the future of the rhino.
My response was
I would have some sympathy for Hume if there were some value - medicinal or otherwise- to rhinoceros horn.
I wasn't thinking about my ambivalence regarding fiction writing at the time, but after I read what I had written, the connection was pretty obvious - and problematic for me.

A rhino horn can be ground down and shaped and used where molded plastic is used today. I think it can, anyway. In traditional terms, I think rhino horn could be used to make the grip on a knife. ...Yes, Google tells me I wasn't imagining things. Don't bother trying to embiggen the image: go here to hunt for it and see it full size.

The problem is the Asian use of the horn for its supposed medicinal properties.

If I feel writing fiction is an acceptable profession, I think I have to accept rhino horn farming as an acceptable one, too.  I am no political leader and have no aspirations to be one so I don't imagine myself to be in a position to permit or deny Hume his farm. But I do have trouble with it nonetheless.

That's it. No conclusion other than, "I am troubled and confused". Perhaps you should consider that the final sentence to every post here.

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