Our Symbols, Ourselves
Joe Rogan and Douglas Murray, just this past week, in a free-form conversation of about two and a half hours.
They were not at their best. The word that comes to mind is "smug." They congratulated each other, repeatedly, as fellow travelers, on a superior cast of character and a superior cast of conversation. Because they are fellow travelers, to congratulate the other was to congratulate oneself.
Something in the free-form called to mind for Douglas an English country fair that he had attended. According to him, these are time-honored and conventional community gatherings, which is not to say that they are not very much enjoyed by young and old alike. There is ice cream and face painting for the young ones; there may be a little "antiques roadshow" for their parents and grandparents. And various and sundry other entertainments are sprinkled in.
At this one in particular, there was a Raptor Man and a large bird of prey. And when the hood came off and the bird was lifted off of the man's gauntlet, he (the bird that is) went off script, circled and picked up and proceeded to eat a small dog, in front of its owner and the children.
Both Joe and Douglas found this scene to be very funny. But it's worth asking what makes it funny, if indeed it is funny. It must be that, as in a Monty Python sketch, a wrecking ball has been taken to precious British sensibility.
In Austria, Germany, Lichtenstein, Poland, Romania and Russia, as in the United States, an eagle is a symbol of the state. Here, in the US, the symbolism may carry over from that of the serpent that preceded the eagle -- "Don't Tread On Me!" He is the fiercest of birds; he is fearless; he is not to be trifled with; he will withstand all attacks. And likewise, roughly, in all of those other imperial places. The eagle was not chosen as a symbol because it is known to feast on carrion like its brother, the vulture.
But the majestic, eagle-eyed fearlessness that we so admire cannot be disentangled from the cruelty, the heartlessness, the absence of mercy that was on display at and disrupted the English country fair.