Now, for your enjoyment, a substantial deviation from routine:
This is an open letter to a friend – a dispatch from heart, if I might be so trite – precipitated by my revulsion at the breathing (is that breathing?) distillation of animal suffering you’ve been keeping in your house.
Allow me to explain.
Look at your pug’s hideous face. Search its bulging eyes. Listen to its labored breathing. This creature is a twisted abomination, a Frankenstein’s monster sculpted to the perverse and decadent tastes of ancient Chinese autocrats, spared from the gaping maw of extinction by dissipated European aristocrats. It’s an obsolete status symbol with a heartbeat, an avatar of depravity.
Consider your love for this malformed beast in light of your lofty social concerns. You are suspicious of genetically modified organisms. Strains of corn tweaked to persevere through droughts or resist pestilence strike fear in the very marrow of your bones. Balking at the moral effrontery of rapacious shareholders and their geneticist lackeys – who dare turn a profit by splicing the genes of innocuous soil bacteria into the sacred genome of corn – you recoil and plead for the intervention of some higher power, be it goddess or government. No one’s been able to point to any demonstrable harm caused by this unholy union of microbes and maize, but it sounds dangerous. Meddling with nature to satisfy human impulses ought to be forbidden.
Yet cradled in the folds of that miniaturized cable-knit sweater is a brachiocephalic horror, wheezing and coughing at the slightest excitement. It can’t thermoregulate properly and its eyes pop too easily from their sockets – inevitable consequences of living with the skull of a spontaneously aborted sheep fetus. Supplement these ills with massively elevated rates of hip dysplasia and parasitic infection, garnish with an erection that slips desperately from its sheath like wilted lipstick at the slimmest hint of affection, and you’ve a recipe for a pug.
These awful afflictions are side effects of a brutal and macabre regimen of selective breeding, primitive genetic engineering tuned to the cruel indulgence of men whose numerous character flaws included an inability to bear the grave absent a coterie of dead slaves. Your pug – a seething hive of malady – is what happens when dangerous recessive genes are deliberately teased from the shadows, carefully cultivated to sate a sadistic predilection toward extravagant showmanship.
And the emperor spoke: “Behold what I have wrought and tremble!”
“Yes, yes,” you say. “The pug is a crystallization of degenerate animal dependency, brought low from its proud canine roots and shackled to the yoke of humanity. But it exists and someone must care for it. I shall take up that mantle.”
Yes, yes indeed. But the pug doesn’t have to exist. Stifle your gasps! I’m not advocating some kind of cold animal genocide – I’m not a monster. I’ve a more subtle suggestion in mind. Think of your distrust of markets, your wise suspicion of those spurious capitalist mantras about the efficiency of free enterprise and the righteousness of the profit motive. Your pinko sympathies are onto something here.
Many a poisonous edifice has been erected and maintained in tribute to the all-mighty dollar. The military-industrial complex, for instance. Or your pug. A chimera of physiological dysfunction, cobbled together from the evolutionary scrap heap, your pug exists because deranged aficionados of arbitrary biological agony have consistently demanded it, beckoning it forth from the depths of history every time a breeder is paid upwards of $900 to extract a new pug from a stagnant, festering puddle of genetic information. You want that wheezing, choking, structurally misshapen parasite magnet and the market – ever indiscriminate – is happy to oblige. Absent the incessant tinkering of the invisible hand, that vacant-eyed monstrosity waddling across your kitchen floor wouldn’t exist.
In summary, allow me to be blunt: your compassion for an animal painstakingly crafted to stimulate revulsion in healthier minds inadvertently increases the quotient of suffering in an already indifferent world. It is the callow human thirst for gratification given form, a ghastly marionette, precariously perched on the perpetual brink of death as a demonstration of human dominion over nature. An emblem of conspicuous consumption with a metabolism
Take a moment to compose yourself. I’m sure this has been tough to read. Few people are likely to be cheered by learning that they bear such a frightening affinity with foregone warlords and the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. Does that make you basically the same as these vicious tyrants and puerile elites? Who’s to say? But don’t despair. Love your current pug, if you must. Sadly, I fear, you’ve little other choice.
Hold fast and look to the future, friend. Endure the shame exacted by the eyes of strangers as you tow that diminutive eyesore about the streets. You’re not beyond hope, for you can erase the sins of your history of dissolute self-indulgence by changing your ways.
Here’s how: One day, that designer mutant’s tortured existence will come to an end. When it’s time comes, exercise a bit of self control and don’t replace it with another vile fugitive of Hades. Instead, let the pug join the towering heap of failed forms, forever consigned to the vague reaches of history and the fossil record.
Of course, you’ll still have to satisfy the warped tastes that led you to the pug in the first place. So, the next time you’ve a hankering for the company of some hellish excrescence, charitably bestow your affections on something more humane. Perhaps a naked mole rat or a giant isopod. Maybe even something as pedestrian as a lobster. Think about it – you can satisfy your feral hunger for something hideous with the added assurance that your new friend’s unsavory appearance has been sculpted by the cruel dance of natural selection into a healthy, functional animal. Instead of the product of any ancient despot’s depraved whims, you’ll be steward to a product of good old fashioned biological evolution.
And when it comes to knitting sweaters for naked mole rats, you’ll save a bundle on yarn.