I went to the web site of Sea Shepherd, the anti-whaling activism group, this morning in hopes of finding a good story about the continuing efforts of the organization’s boat, the Steve Irwin, to interfere with illegal whaling operations.
Instead, I found that Paul Watson, the Captain of the vessel, has turned into a Captain Ahab of our times. He may not be hunting whales, but he’s hunting whalers with the same kind of self-destructive zeal.
Yesterday, Watson wrote a screed that includes the following sort of language:
“It feels good to fight on the side of the angels and I am feeling very good indeed after a day of battling whaling ships in the deadly pack ice of the Ross Sea… There is no disputing the fact that we fight for life and our enemies the whalers fight for death. There are two sides to this conflict, the right side and the wrong side, the good side and the evil side… This ship that we chase, the Nisshin Maru is a floating cesspool of evil. Tens of thousands of gentle whales have been hauled tail first up its anus like slipway onto its deck to be torn apart by savage men with long knives… today when I look at the Nisshin Maru my heart is filled with joy because this vicious pitiless vessel that I call the Cetacean Death Star is fleeing from us once again.
When a movement’s leaders start proclaiming themselves on “the side of the angels”, calling their opponents “the evil side”, that’s when I walk away from that movement.
No matter how terrible the acts of one’s opponents are, a conflict is never as simple as to be a battle between good and evil. In fact, it’s the belief in such an absolute and easy division between good and evil that usually justifies terrible acts.
I don’t like seeing whales slaughtered, but whales aren’t going to achieve lasting protection through the actions of a self-obsessed captain charging around in a gas-guzzling boat writing about his campaign against the “evil side” and its “Cetacean Death Star”.
Paul Watson has traveled so far that he’s finally found that place where the oceans pour over the edge of the world.