Comfortable and Furious

Sharkwater (2006)

Ahh, the Orient, land of mystery, good food, exotic locales, and home to more perversions per square mile than any other part of the globe. It’s not just that they lead the world in kiddie porn and teenage flesh peddling, or that they seem to prefer the scatological to all other methods of arousal, but they are also without peer when it comes to butchering large segments of the animal kingdom for no conceivable reason whatsoever. From Shanghai to Tokyo, Hong Kong to Vietnam, tigers are killed for their penises so that pathologically insecure gentlemen might tap into some mystical power of seduction, or perhaps imbue their abnormally minuscule members with the wisdom (and girth) of the gods.

Cobras are separated from their hearts so that the retreating runts might feel worthy of a vaginas company, and the allure so obviously lacking in their daily lives might confuse dopey females so otherwise used to knife-wielding rape as a courting ritual. The more noble and majestic the creature, the more likely it will serve as some elixir for that portion of the worlds family so immersed in the fables and mythology of the past that were it not for the blinding neon and air pollution that betrays capitalism’s triumphant march, no one could imagine that they had left the latter half of the 16th century.

For all of those who believe it is the United States who threatens to replicate the downfall of Sodom and Gomorrah, remember that it is Asia — where human exploitation all but originated — that uses the power of the purse, via its gangster class, to bribe, humiliate, and threaten other nations to supply its ever-hungry citizenry with potions, pills, soups, and creams that promise greater sexual success and originate in the hides and hair of endangered creatures.

And so, we reach the shark, surely the world’s most misunderstood creature, and arguably the most important to the ecosystem. For without this graceful and noble hunter, the oceans would be water-logged tombs in a matter of months, with human beings — those responsible for the shark’s demise — expiring en-masse soon after. The movies (primarily Jaws, proving that Spielberg’s classic not only ruined cinema, but the world as well) have taught us, along with a hysterical media (Summer of the Shark), to fear and loathe this beautiful animal, largely because it has the audacity to defend its turf from intruding snorkelers and deep-sea divers. Only they don’t defend their turf, as they mostly retreat from human encounters altogether.

Sure, a few people die from shark bites now and again, but from massive blood loss, not after serving as a full meal. Sharks might investigate, take a nibble, and leave, but there simply aren’t any cases on record where they reduced a human being to a few shards of bone and torn flesh. In fact, more people are killed by elephants per year, and if the odds were to be calculated, its more certain that you’d be pierced in the throat by a surfboard. But the ocean, like the political landscape, needs a bogeyman, and sharks have served that purpose for many years. So, while hundreds of species receive protection, support, and celebrity backing, sharks are left to fend for themselves, ignored as stupid, brutal beasts who would just as soon kill an apple-cheeked child as ingest a fish. And because they have been so vilified, the Asian hordes have been left unchecked in their latest assault on good sense and decency.

According to the documentary Sharkwater, starring and narrated by Rob Stewart, sharks have been hunted right onto the endangered list because of the increased demand for shark fins, which are used not only for a pricey and elegant soup (which often costs as much as $80 a bowl) [EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s more like $100-$120 now] but also are believed to cure a host of ailments, including cancer. As one truly reprehensible Japanese man tells us, because sharks are never afflicted with any disease, they must be consumed to ensure human survival.

It’s a curious logic, of course, because no evidence exists to link shark meat or fin to anything restorative. Not only that, the fin itself is tasteless, which denies it the properties of a delicacy. Hunting and killing an endangered animal is twisted for any reason, but it would at least make a bit of sense if it tasted like filet mignon or something. No, the fin is coveted solely because it is believed to make Asian penises that much harder, and their sperm that much more potent.

Why a continent already out-fucking the rest of the globe by a factor of several dozen needs to be even more reproductively powerful defies comprehension, but in a part of the world where a six-year-old girl can be sent, handcuffed and buried to the waist in dog feces, to your penthouse suite within the hour, I’ll believe anything. These people have taken fucking to such an extreme that a normally liberal enclave like Los Angeles appears like an Amish village by comparison. But while many might focus on the rescue of the women and children in this hateful, misogynistic hell on earth, I’m concerned about the sharks. And thankfully, that’s the driving force of Mr. Stewart’s life.

The documentary is a call-to-arms, but more than that, it celebrates the shark for being the opposite of what we have been led to believe. Sure, I’d like to save them so that we might live another day, but I’m happy with seeing them survive and thrive for their own sake. As they have been in existence for 400 million years — largely unchanged and utterly dominant — I would rather they live on after we’re gone, instead of mankind hanging around to witness their disappearance. That they are being wiped from the sea for Far Eastern phallus grates that much more. Fortunately, Stewart is on the case, and he films his adventures, which include dangerous rides with members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a radical group akin to Greenpeace that rams boats to prevent illegal hunting.

The most dramatic event of the film occurs when a mission takes the crew to Costa Rica, where sharks are being slaughtered by the thousands, despite an official declaration banning the practice. Trouble is, Costa Rica’s government has been bought and paid for by the Taiwanese mafia, and rather than support the Sea Shepherds efforts, they have the activists arrested and threatened with jail.

The battle at sea was thrilling to be sure, and after a few minutes of watching these cocksuckers lift up the lifeless corpses of sharks, slice off their fins, and dump them back into the water, I was ready to sign up myself. Never have I wanted more to see a boat sink beneath the waves, taking its gutless crew with it, but unfortunately, this lot lived to see another day. It was also interesting to learn that much of Costa Rica’s development has been financed by shark fin blood, a reality that belies its status as one of Latin Americas more progressive nations. That it is beholden to Asian gangsters in the erection trade is that much more disturbing. So much for the travel brochures.

Stewart even takes us to the Galapagos Islands, arguably the most important region of the world for scientific advancement. It was here, after all, where Charles Darwin gleaned the necessary information to establish evolution and natural selection as the world’s most unshakable truths, and even now, it remains bustling with unparalleled biological diversity. Due to its history and legacy as a secure, sacred environment, protection against line traps and poaching have been enforced, but after riots by some of the savage locals, such bans were lifted. As a result, one of the few areas left for the world’s shark populations to live unencumbered was under attack.

Again, if this were simply about the ethics of fishing, it would be another story altogether, but this is about a practice frowned upon by the civilized world, as well as the destruction of one of the world’s most essential creatures. It never seems to come up that man alone is the one being the world could actually live without, but as we are, in the words of one of the films many impassioned scientists, little more than primates gone completely out of control, our egos continuously jockey with our insatiable need to put our cocks into the nearest warm hole. If the world burns for one or both, well figure it all out later. It’s almost as if, like children, we can’t stand to have anything exist that reduces our petty ramblings to the pointless trivia it always appears to be. If it proves our lack of worth, or exposes our collective insecurity, it must be killed.

Between the graphic imagery and glorious underwater photography, there is the side story of Stewart’s encounter with flesh-eating bacteria, which nearly forces him to lose a leg. Though he escapes the situation intact, he was more than willing to sacrifice the limb if it meant being of service to his beloved sharks. But unlike so many who become activists for the non-human (think Timothy Treadwell or Dian Fossey), Stewart does not lose his marbles, or anthropomorphize the object of his fascination.

He makes his case on its merits, not because well want to hug the creatures, or turn them into stuffed animals. Sharks are not cute and cuddly, of course, and that’s likely why humans don’t give a shit about them, but because they do live beyond the stereotype, they deserve a thorough reassessment. But above all, Stewart, through clear, simple logic — and the occasional radical act — simply wants to show how sharks are dying, for what, and who is behind the bloodbath. That he spares no nation or leader is part of the films power, and we can see that for all of the West’s idiocy both then and now, it appears that at the very least, most of the activism stems from this much-hated part of the world (Stewart is from Canada).

Still, it seems impossible to stop the shark fin trade, given its overwhelming demand, and with so many dangerous elements involved, governments are unlikely to put decency above quick profits. One hopes Sharkwater will start a dialogue and turn world opinion against the Orient, but its billions line too many pockets to keep optimism afloat. Though the shark keeps the ocean in a state of balance, thereby ensuring a steady flow of oxygen, it seems that when push comes to shove, it’s more important that a Japanese banker feel strong like bull as he shags his third whore of the evening while looking upon the illusion of civilization from the Hyatt-Regency. I suppose I always knew the end would come, but here? Because of this? Quickly, somebody let loose the dogs of total war, and do this thing right. Let’s get our dignity back at least.



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