Animals in Conflict: Diesel, Dobrynya and Sentimental Security

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Binoy Campmark writes at CounterPunch:

When it was realised that a police Belgian Shepherd by the name of Diesel had perished at the end of a last act of defiance in St. Denis by suspected ISIS militants, social media, allied to the sentimental industrial complex, took over. Extensive coverage scrolled across the screens, powered by such hashtags as #JeSuisChien. According to Jean-Michel Fauvergue, who led the assault, there was “little doubt that she saved the lives of police officers.”

The political chance to exploit this death was too good to miss, and canine solidarity was met in kind by a Russian gesture from the Interior Ministry to provide a puppy in turn. Dobrynya was duly described as the dog that melted French hearts.

Such animals duly suffered the indignity of anthropomorphic depiction. “Diesel,” it is noted, “had a distinguished career with the police and had been decorated with service medals.” Headlines featured the rather cynical suggestion that dogs “around the world” were paying their “own tribute to hero police canine killed in siege.”

Various dog owners, without a second thought, posted pictures on various media platforms featuring dogs on hind legs, sporting a French flag. One beagle was given to chewing on a sheet with Diesel’s name written on it, covered in tricolour love hearts. Other “dogs of war,” also made their photographic, and photogenic appearance across the media. They, it is suggested, must have known what this was all about.

Such behaviour sent sparks of rage through areas of the world where the focus on such animal feats was seen as less important as human fates. Boko Haram had been heavily involved in a campaign, replete with suicide attacks, on civilian targets. As the fate of Diesel was reaching Twitter pitch, Nigeria was still recovering from attacks which left some 2000 dead were registering a relative murmur.

Some critics saw this as a disturbing revelation. Regular RT pundit Catherine Shakdam suggested that, “Much can be said about a society when it cries over a police dog more than its own on account of geography and ethnicity.” Ben Norton, writing in a similar vein for Salon, felt that the appreciation for a French police dog’s life said more about a pressing loss of humanity than anything else.

Empathy and proportionate grief are never equally distributed. Horrors are a matter of unequal parcelling out, and reflection. The human conscience is never capable of focusing on more than a few matters at a time, and such a focus is culturally and contextually limited. Your neighbour’s fate is probably more relevant than a suffering African child, though an illusion is often given that African lives matter. As suffering victims, perhaps; as full human beings, less so.

In canine friendly societies, dog lives count. The domestication of the animal eventually saw it becoming unquestioning companion and servant. In literature and art, the dog would come to represent steadfast fidelity to often brutish masters.

Former President of France, Charles de Gaulle, would remark that, as he got to know men better, the more he found himself loving dogs. Sigmund Freud, bringing his sometimes skewed psycho-analytic eyes to bear upon the issue, saw dogs as unconditional in love to friends while biting enemies, “quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate.”

Read more here.