Dr. Dawg

Feeling the Berd

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As a student of anthropology, I’ve long been fascinated by our relations, real and more often imagined, with the animal kingdom. I’ve moved on from the Levi-Straussian nature/culture divide, but I still think that our odd fascination with animals speaks to our steady retreat from the unconstructed environment (or “untamed world” for those wanting dominion over everything), an ecosystem in which we once lived with humility, respect and awe. John Berger has really said most of what needs to be said on the subject.

The Bernie Sanders clip repays our attention. The crowd is first to notice the bird. Such a small occurrence, a mere appearance near the podium, to produce such a strong and joyful reaction. When Bernie takes note, his attention drawn by his audience, his visceral, spontaneous response is to smile broadly. When the bird flies up to the podium itself, the emotional intensity rises.

If we step back a bit, it all seems inexplicably over the top. Yet we too are stirred.

Then Bernie speaks. There is something “symbolic” about this, he says. Certainly we can understand the rich symbolic potential of such occurrences, as we seek meaningful connection with the receding non-human world, but he ploughs on, with a cringeworthy reference to the dove of peace and an anti-war theme. What has just happened, however, cannot be so easily transformed into a campaign gracenote. The crowd applauds—but the ineffable moment is lost.

Had he only had the wisdom and the will to be silent. But politics, even in such capable hands, is not about silence.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on March 28, 2016 2:57 AM.

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