Driving home to let out the dog (caninophiliac that I am) before picking up the kids, and listening to an NPR interview with one of the producers of the recent Planet Earth TV extravaganza ...
The producer was asked why his crew did not intervene when a baby elephant was filmed heading in the wrong direction from his mom, deep into a jungle that could only bring his demise. The producer spoke of a kind of nature filmer's implicit code of non-intervention (but admitted that a baby penguin that toppled into a hole had been retrieved). He also spoke of the scenes that just could not be shown as part of the series: an adult elephant being devoured by thirty lions, its eye watching its own ingestion; a penguin that had been flailed by a sea lion attempting to return to the salty sea. The producer then spoke proudly of a scene that he loved and had labored over: an ant, possessed by a fungus that takes over its entire body, after three weeks suddenly bursts into a fireworks display of spores and shoots.
So, I wonder: why sorrow for the lost or eaten-aware elephants, the lost or brine-stung penguins, while no possibility of empathy for the fungus-infected ant? Does the anthropomorphism of the pachyderm and the cuteness (I guess that's just another word for anthropomorphism) of the pengiun explain it all? These aren't situations of power and domination, like the caninophilia post explicated. Why can we behold the death of the ant as a kind of art?
Why shed a tear for a flailed aquatic bird?