Sunday, January 3, 2010

Castrating tradition: The pending doom of the bullfight.

The werewolf has never attended a bullfight. It's actually never really appealed to him and he's sure his attendance would be a one-time experience. Based on this parliamentary vote from Catalonia, Spain, he's beginning to think he best get to one. Pronto, Tonto! Before it, too, is banished to the dustbin of history and the no-fun crowd can claim another scalp of western tradition.

Based purely on what I've read over the years, I think Hemingway stated it best when he wrote "Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter's honor." I would imagine a bull fight to be a devastatingly brutal and nerve-wrecking exercise. That's the perverse fascination of the whole arrangement. A bullfighting pit is one of the few arenas where man, for all his mastery of technology and progress, elects to face a larger, meaner, faster, and determined opponent that can very easily kill him. I can't think of another sport where the cost of losing is death or severe physical maiming. In essence, everything is on the line. Additionally, beyond the notion of trying to live through the ordeal, the matador must be graceful and elegant in dispatching the ferocious bull. Should the matador dispatch the bull in a manner deemed dishonorable, his reputation is tainted, and perhaps death was the better option in the pit. That is the inherent appeal of bullfighting. It connects honor, tradition, courage, to the risk of death. These are all things that the mandarins in the no-fun crowd are rapidly trying to eliminate.

Tradition isn't always pretty or fully understandable. But it reminds us of the past and from where we came. It keeps us grounded and provides a perspective. Progress comes as a price, and certain traditions, like slavery, are ugly and need to be purged. But the sign of enlightened progress is how tolerant it can be of certain traditions that connect more directly to notions and concepts of yore. I'd like to think that a tolerant and enlightened progress would recognize that bullfighting may have a shrinking audience, and understand that saving a few bulls and matadors annually, doesn't outweigh disconnecting your population and denying them the right to explore their heritage on their terms. If bullfighting is meant to die, let old age and irrelevance claim it.

I may be typing beyond my weight-class here, but I can't help thinking that something deeply important is lost when traditions are snuffed out to indulge the whims of those who lack the tolerance or perspective to appreciate them.

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