Some months ago I was remarkably shocked by the vision of a television program which documented the enormous organisational, financial and human resource struggle made to save tens of thousands of penguins threatened by the umpteenth environmental catastrophe caused by the sinking of the oil tanker of the day (sooner or later we will end up drowning in petroleum!).
Thousands of environmentalists were spending their human and financial resources, and their time, working themselves into the ground, to save these cute marine birds.
It is certainly pleonastic to underline that even I, as many others, love animals: together with my family we live with two wonderful cats, Elvis and Pepe, with whom I have an intense affectionate relationship.
So I deeply appreciated the unselfish efforts made by those generous people. The fact is that, at the end of the same newscast, almost as if it were a distraction, a short report was proposed in which thousands of african children could be seen massed in a refugee camp slowly dying of hunger and thirst: there, there was no large presence of volunteers.
Apart from the efforts of the international organisations with their staff and a few religious and civil volunteers, hundreds of thousands, probably millions of children and adults of the human species are left to die every year in the indifference of the other individuals of the same species.
“Something is wrong”, I said to myself: and I tried to understand why.
I verified that, first of all, a necessary requirement to accomplish an act of love is establishing a process of identification (it is difficult to feel pity and compassion for a block of granite which is hammered to destruction since it is very difficult to identify oneself with it; and whilst the vast majority of us do not suffer much when killing a bee or a mosquito that molests us, we feel great difficulty in killing a dog, a cat, not to mention a chimpanzee).
Then the reading of a wonderful article by Nicola Peluffo of the title “Stranger or Autochthonous?” aided me.
In that article the prof. Peluffo posed himself a question similar to mine: “…for what reason should a human being feel like a brother to a dolphin to the point of not eating tinned tuna for the fear that it might contain dolphin meat, and at the same time not occupy himself minimally of the millions of human children who are exterminated daily through the voluntary abortions and of whose meat we do not know the destiny?
Of course not because the dolphin is a mammal: also too are the cows, rabbits, sheep, etc.
It is probable that the dolphin, fantastically, I should say oneirically, for many people is less extraneous, less Foreigner, than one’s own child who contains a part of the own genetic patrimony.
With a trivial expression I would say “so much for” biology and genetics, the psyche traces paradoxical paths which make us close the door, not only on an immigrant, but even on a bothersome relative“.
Peluffo suggests that the criteria of “brotherhood” and of “diversity” are notably influenced by the processes of identification and projection.
Only this can explain, I add, how a man of pale skin who lives in the industrialised West identifies himself more easily with a penguin than with an individual of his own species with dark skin, who speaks another language.
We must therefore find the significant similarities between what we are, or what we have been, and a penguin. If we reflect attentively we should not have great difficulty in ascertaining how each one of us has been a penguin: a clumsy bundle with only a hint of limbs which lives in an aquatic environment (the uterus), often exposed to environmental catastrophes (much more frequent than one thinks! The pregnancies which arrive “at term” are the minority in respect to those which are interrupted either for natural causes or traumatic ones).
The intrauterine traumas leave a well defined trace in the psyche which is being formed. To such increases of tension the foetus responds with the only means it has available: trying to move away from the traumatic stimuli.
Nevertheless, the tensional surplus which will not have been possible to dispose of through this elementary defence activity (foetal movements) will structure traces of memory.
When the uterine vicissitude has been overcome, the baby will progressively produce dreams that are always more structured and perhaps will dream a penguin in difficulty, dying, which the oneiric protagonist is trying to save.
There is nothing more powerful than an infantile desire which has not been achieved: such a force to push an adult to sail the ocean to bring help to a brother of another species in difficulty in the gelid Antarctic sea.
Written by: Quirino Zangrilli © Copyright
Translated by Linda De Nardo