Several media channels and newspapers in Spain and elsewhere rushed to celebrate the ‘glorious comeback’ of the matador Juan Jose Padilla to bullfighting after losing an eye in a horrible goring by a bull last October, that also left him with a partial facial paralysis. The accident was one of the most morbid sights imaginable, as the bull’s horn penetrated Padilla’s neck right under the jaw and exited through his eye socket.
Yesterday, the 38-year-old matador returned with an eye-patch to a ring packed with over 5,000 euphoric spectators to fight bulls again, claiming that he needed “to win, to triumph, to be a better man.” Padilla killed two bulls, and left the ring carried on the shoulders of his fellows like a Caesar, to the jubilant applause of everyone in the ring. His ‘catch of the day’ was two ears, an ear for each of the two bulls that he had slain.
Just like there is a culture of peace and tolerance, a culture of beauty and refinement, there is a culture of hate and violence, a culture of cruelty and dominance, and it is legal! The fans and ‘practitioners’ of bullfighting refuse to apply a moral lens to the obnoxious cruelty dealt to animals on the basis of ‘respecting an old cultural tradition’. When cornered, they hold that others do worse things to animals (referring to ritual slaughter practiced by followers of certain religions). Surprisingly, this terrible ‘game’ had among its fans intellectuals like Ernst Hemingway, who once said:
“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.”
Now, I’m glad I live in a part of Spain where this madness has been prohibited (Catalonia, be it for cultural or political reasons), but I wonder what kind of world we would be living in if every man would think –like Padilla- that killing an animal would make him ‘a better man’.
The way the whole thing makes me feel can be best expressed in the verses of Pablo Neruda:
It so happens I am sick of being a man.
And it happens that I walk into tailor shops and movie houses
dried up, waterproof, like a swan made of felt
steering my way in a water of wombs and ashes.”