Dandelions in a meadow outside Thunder Bay, ON

Dandelions in a meadow outside Thunder Bay, ON

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Why Do We Blame the Janitor?

The word "rescue" comes up very often in my line of work. In a broad sense, it refers to what happens at the end of the chain of oversupply. This is of course a very cynical way to talk about living beings, but the phenomenon itself is cynical and deserves a harsh name. What has always bothered me about the crisis of pet overpopulation is that the burden of responsibility, and the burden of weathering emotional storms, is placed on those who do the cleanup: all manner of rescue organizations, shelters, volunteers. It is somehow about them not doing enough, or not doing it properly. By comparison, very little is expected of those who are at the source of the crisis, i.e. intentional or unintentional breeders. Yes, we shake our heads at "backyard" breeders and producers of designer breeds, at careless people whose animals end up with unplanned litters, and some of us feel strongly about breeders of any ilk. But these feelings rarely translate into tangible, enforceable legislation. And no wonder. It would be no small feat to violate the sanctity of private property, even if said property are sentient beings. It is the rescue side of things that ends up in the public eye and is subject to public scrutiny as well as to a set of very strict laws and regulations.

    The purpose of this post is not to gripe about the injustice, but to highlight a phenomenon of which animal rescue is only one example. I don't have a name for this phenomenon except for the one I've reflected in the title, but I suspect such a name exists and is used by psychologists. Here is another example. When in October of last year a tugboat sank in the waters off Heiltsuk First Nation in Northwestern British Columbia, the emphasis in the news was on the inadequacy of the response to the diesel spill (which was all the more alarming given the small size of the vessel, perhaps a foreboding of what could happen if the vessel were ...large). Very little was said about what a tugboat belonging to a foreign (US) company was doing in Canadian waters and what that company's responsibility might be.

   Yet another sad example is the opiate overdose crisis in Canada. (It may not qualify as an epidemic in terms of how many people are affected, but it qualifies as a crisis in terms of how newsworthy it has become.) Again, most of the blame is placed on the inadequacy of the response, i.e. on those at least trying to respond. I admit that I care nothing for users who got hooked in an attempt to "open their mind," and save my sympathy for those in pain whose addiction started with a doctor's prescription--and probably trust in that doctor. Only once during the coverage of this crisis did an MD speak about the questionable power of opiates to relieve neurogenic pain, and the very inadequate education of doctors in pain treatment. Now there's an epidemic that truly deserves the name.

   I am sure you have examples of your own to share. So, why is it that the people cleaning up the shit are the ones who get shit? And, more importantly, why do we tread so lightly around those who are responsible in the first place?

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