Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Circuses Without Animals

Originally posted on August 24, 2017

Reading the July/August 2017 Smithsonian, it has an article about changes in circuses: A century or so ago,  through to when I was a lad in the 1940s, circuses exploited captured animals—bareback riders, lion- and tiger-tamers, tricks with elephants , but in the early 21st Century acts that featured animals were phased out. Acts that featured daring and skill were kept, and small circuses multiplied! Acrobatic feats became starring attractions. Clowning too. Not freaks. Political correctness met animal rights and they teamed up.

There has been a discernable emergence of sensitivity over the years. We no longer throw Christians to the lions, no do we enjoy gladiatorial combat. We don’t bait bears! Seriously, what counts as acceptable fun is subject to cultural changes, what seems to be increases in sensitivity. What to some is “just good clean fun” became demeaning and playing to people’s sadistic streak. There is a collision of degrees of sensitivity here, perhaps degrees of consciousness, though nobody dare be so undemocratic to say so. It’s wonderful to watch humanity speed up in its evolution, even if we realize that we too enjoyed sexist and racist jokes and the attitudes that went with them, not knowing any better.

I barely remember—maybe I was told about—a time when I was three or four and I made some comment about negroes—something like “we like you better than those colored folks” to a light-skinned negro maid. I’m still embarrassed to admit it, but at that age I was a product of my environment, my time and place, which was even around1940 in Los Angeles changing. (I think the maid quit angrily. I don’t know, though—memory is touchy.) The point is that I’ve lived through changing times!

2 Responses to “Circuses Without Animals”

  • Phil says:

    What effect does humor have on insensitivity especially if appears to be truthful?

  • felicia meyers says:

    I can relate. It feels like we are at a turning point in our history. While we may not feel evolved now, our current struggles and conflicts have sparked increase participation and awareness. Like Swami Beyondananda said “the creator is watching the comedy channel and we are what’s on”. It appears we are skimming the surface of evolutionary steps towards recognition that our past, less then Christian or humane history, is being illuminated in way that we must look, acknowledge, and deal with painful past. What was once accepted social practices must be revisited in a more healing way. Addressing holding on to embarrassing icons out of unenlightened unevolved ingnorance is part of our cultural and community progress. It feels like the media, Facebook, and twitter battles are full of baiting and verbal combat of gladiator proportions. We are all living through changing times.

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