Sunday, 24 May 2009

Hunting & Politics: The BNP and the Face of Hunting.

On the face of it, this is a hunting blog: I go out into the fields and I try to shoot rabbits for food, I write and take pictures about this and then I post the writing and the pictures here. So it's a hunting blog, yes?

Well, yes and no. If I look round the scene I see that, as well as hunting, we hunter-bloggers are also very much in the business of representation: we are very concerned with how the world sees us and with the face that we choose to show to the world. If this is so, then why are we so concerned about this question of the image? Well, we're concerned about it, I'd say, because we know that - as hunters - we are under siege: we are under siege, these days, because our face does not fit that well.

If you look at the television and at magazines, you'll see pictures of well-dressed people in nicely furnished homes eating food that they've bought from brightly-lit and hygienic supermarkets. You'll see pictures of people at work in front of computer screens, tapping away - laughing and smiling - earning the money to buy all the homes, clothes, cars, furnishings and food that they like. It's a succession of attractive pictures and it's very compelling; this is the way that life ought to look, it's easy to think, this must be the good life.

Hunters, if they fit into this picture at all, fit very, very badly. We kill animals. We track them in the field, observe them at liberty in their natural environment - and then we kill them. We try to do this - at least, if we are not out-and-out sadists - in as painless a way as possible, but we're human, and killing animals in the field is not always an exact and clinical procedure. So we come back from the fields with blood on our hands and blood on our clothes; we gut the animals, we skin them and then we butcher them. None of this is remotely pretty; none of this makes for nice pictures on the television screen.

So hunters - in a society and a culture which mainly understands ethics to be 'conforming to the image of the good citizen' - know themselves to be under threat precisely because we do insist on living beyond the confines that this tidy and attractive series of images allows for us. We do this not because we are sadists or perverts - though these are certainly some of the ways in which our actions are popularly understood - but because we are not content with the half-life that these images offer, we do not want to lose touch with what is real; we do not wish the richness of our challenging and multi-faceted lives to be forced into sterile conformity with an alienating set of pictures.

Like most other hunter-bloggers, then, I am very concerned with this question and I write about it a great deal. So that's why I say that this is not solely a hunting blog - because this matter, the antagonism between life and the image, is, without doubt, a political question. Dealing with it, as I try to, means that if I am blogging about hunting then I am also, and by necessity, blogging about politics as well.

For instance, I've written briefly here in the past about the Greens. If the Green Party got into power in the UK they would - and their manifesto makes this perfectly clear - outlaw the ownership of all guns and firearms and ban hunting entirely. Their picture of what constitutes the ethical conduct of the good citizen would leave no room for us hunters at all - we simply wouldn't fit into the picture. With the Greens in power we could look forward to this part of our lives being utterly 'cleansed' - it would be refused a place in the picture of the country that the Greens had been elected to build and, if we refused to let their image of good conduct rule our lives, then we would automatically become criminals: bad citizens.

Very few hunters, I imagine, will be voting for the Green Party. They won't be doing this because they understand that - at least in this respect - the Greens have lost the plot entirely. They have been seduced by the charms of the image that they wish to propagate and they would - in their zeal - 'encourage' everyone to share their conformity with the picture of the good citizen that is their own ideal. The good citizen - in their eyes - is, of course, mainly vegetarian, certainly has no blood on their hands, is kind to animals, frowns on non-organic food and internal combustion engines, is clean-living, ethical, pure.

Few hunters will vote for the Greens because we know that, for us at least, this image is utterly nonsensical; life - or at least a life worth living - just isn't to be found in this picture. We are not at all seduced by this image and we certainly won't vote to try and live in it.

But will UK hunters be voting for the British National Party in the forthcoming elections instead? The majority of hunters in the UK probably fit into the picture that the BNP has as its idol rather better than they conform to that which is offered for our collective worship by the Greens. Hunters in the UK are mainly pale-skinned creatures; they live in or near the countryside or they have access to it on a regular basis; a cursory flick through any of our hunting magazines will show almost no black faces at all and I've certainly been in gun shops here where it's been thought perfectly normal to bandy the word 'Paki' around with impunity. The BNP has - as one of its manifesto positions - that it would seek to make the UK self-sufficient as regards food production and, over against multi-national Big Farma agriculture, they'd seek a return here to more 'traditional' farming practises. I'm sure that the picture that the BNP wants to paint of their United Kingdom - happy white folks in thatched cottages, double-decker buses, the cheerful white bobby on the beat, trains running on time, honest white folks at work in the fields - would have a very cozy niche set aside for the handsome (white) hunter at home in the rural English countryside. We would, most of us I'm sure, fit the picture rather well; we would fully conform to the prevailing idolatry.

If you go into some supermarkets in the UK you'll see that there's a brand of sausage called The Black Farmer. There are very few black farmers in the UK; this gentleman may not be, literally, the Black Farmer (i.e., the only one) but he is certainly one of only a very few. If the BNP got into power they would set about imposing their image of the good society and, without question, they would therefore attempt to bring it about that there were no black farmers here whatsoever. The gentleman who runs this farm and makes these sausages would, quite simply, no longer be welcome as a citizen and a worker in his own country - and why? Well, it's obvious - his face simply wouldn't fit the picture for the BNP. He's black - and because he's black, he would - as their manifesto clearly promises - be 'firmly encouraged' to 'return to his country of racial and ethnic origin'. The BNP understands that the path to the good life, in their terms, means that you have to expel everything and everyone that doesn't fit the picture. White hunter? No problem. Black farmer? Problem.

Images are re-assuring; I love the few minutes after a successful hunt when I'm walking home along a busy road with a gun over my shoulder and a rabbit hanging at my side; I take a great pleasure in being able to glory at these times in having the image of a hunter.

But I'm not 'a hunter'. I have no idea what I am. The truth is that I'm half-a-dozen things at once and I'm none of them in any very convincing fashion. The pleasure of the 'hunter' image, for me, is the joy of being able to forget this troubling indeterminacy for a little while; the image acts as something like a cooling salve on the raw and unanswerable question of who and what I actually am; for a few minutes, I know who I am - I am this image of a hunter - and it feels good.

So it's not true, but it is a most enjoyable and reassuring falsehood.

Compelling political imagery functions in just the same way as personal-identity images like this one; they offer a reassuring, orthopaedic support and a solace against being disturbed by the truth that's hidden - often very well hidden - within the reality of ordinary, complex and sometimes difficult human social relations. They offer the solace of simplicity. They are a lie, certainly, but they are a most enjoyable and reassuring lie.

Times are hard, we're told, and it's understandable that we should seek consoling fictions with which to reassure ourselves. There is, however, a vast and bloody human price to be paid if we do attempt to seek solace in the particular images that the BNP offers to us of the 'good life' in their 'United' Kingdom. The BNP do not fulminate - publicly, at any rate - against Jews. Their manifesto contains hearty denials that they are in any way comparable to the Nazi's or to any other historical fascist group. On the face of it, the object of their fear and hatred is different to that of the Nazi's. But there can be absolutely no doubt that, were they to gain power, the 'firm encouragement' to 'relocate' that they would offer to the Black Farmer - and to all those millions of others here who would share his 'difficulty' with fitting into their picture - would be structurally identical to the 'firm encouragement' with which the Nazi's offered 'relocation' to the European Jews in the 1940's. Relocation first to the ghetto and then - after 1941 when affairs on the Russian front declined to fit the Nazi picture - relocation via railway cattle-truck to destinations which were - then, at least - unknown.

We know, now, where those rail tracks lead to. So shouldn't we also know where the - for some - seductive images that the BNP offer of a peaceful, prosperous, mono-cultural United Kingdom will lead us, too? Hunters know what it's like not to fit into the pretty picture; we know that a political 'solution' that's based on conformity to an image is no solution at all. The seduction of the image is the problem, in fact, never the solution.

The Rabbit Stew Blog says: Don't Vote BNP on June 4th.
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7 comments:

  1. HH
    Another excellent post, and a position I wholeheartedly indorse.

    Mr Griffin and pals have such a poor grasp history, and therefore of what made (and makes) blighty great that the very idea that they should call themselves patriots is laughable.

    After all the disgrace that our current administration has heaped on us, I was once again thinking of leaving, but on the same day I met a guy from Yugoslavia who less than twenty years ago was dragged from his bed, he, his wife, and child were given ten minuets to pack before being taken to a camp where they rotted until Britain gave them sanctuary. I had to thank him, I'd forgotten what makes us as great as we are.

    SBW

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  2. Interesting, as on our side of the pond there are quite a few colored farmers and hunters, most especially in the "old south". I was on a job in Michigan once talking with a colored fellow that I was working with as we watched dozens of squirrels running around in a public park.

    He said "I sho can tell I ain't in Mississippi anymore, them all would be in someone's pot cookin!" Sharecroppers didn't make much at all for money so any supplement to their diet was always welcome. Shame that their younger generation seems to want to blot out the hunting and self-sufficiency along with genuine bad memories from the pre-civil rights era. They most all became urban supermarket shoppers, it seems. But there's still a few families that didn't go that way. Just because you went to college or are now allowed in trades and places that you didn't used to be allowed is no reason to give up hunting and fishing, is it?

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  3. Forgot to add:

    Martin Luther King preached non-violence, but it was the black hunters and former soldiers who WERE armed that made the "civil rights revolution" happen, more than once at force of arms, though this is downplayed in the history books.

    If you can't go to the government, because they're against you and you've been disarmed, who are you going to call? Unfortunately, the dumber of your lot on the UK islands voted away their safety valve from people of the BNP and worse, if they were to get elected in numbers, by allowing the actions of a few loonies and the IRA to allow the government to effectively disarm the people in the false name of "safety".

    Now your liberty, such as you have in CCTVland, is by government whim. Mine is not "guaranteed" by ballot boxes nor Constitution. Mine IS guaranteed by cartridge boxes, no matter how much some wish to change that.

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  4. Hubert Hubert, even though I can't vote in this election, I enjoyed every word of this post. Great stuff - I really apreciate your thoughtfulness.

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  5. Oh, but who to vote for? The BNP get votes by pushing he 'good stuff' like more self sufficiency but gloss over the more nazi sounding parts of their manifesto just as you have outlined, but are the others any better? Many labour voters feel let down by the parties failure to do what they promised; the tories seem to have lost their identity, running about like a labrador trying to please everyone ith promises they likely can't keep (do you really believe they can or will repeal the hunting ban?). I shall vote, too many people have died for this basic right for me not to make my mark....but I feel it is an increasingly pointless exercise. My wishes will not be heard no matter how loud I shout.

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  6. My there is a lot of consider in this post. Obviously, I can't vote in your election, and I'm ashamed to say I don't know as much about politics "across the pond" as I probably should. So, you've certainly given me somme food for thought there.

    Your description of the plight of hunters and why we have the problems we do is spot on, in my opinion. You make a very eloquent argument for why hunters don't always fit, and why trying to make everyone fit is such a danger.

    Very well done.

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