They call him The Butcher of Los Angeles.
Every day truckloads of downy creatures are unloaded onto a platform. White, feathered, squawking furiously, packed tightly into wooden crates, carted from ponds and lakes. When the truck doors open the ducks protest their indignity. When the crates are unlocked they scramble for liberty, only to find themselves trussed upside down on a moving conveyor belt.
Five days a week, eight hours a day, he slaughters them one by one, silently, efficiently, impassively. He is proud. He is paid more than the other workers. They speak of him in hushed tones. What else might he kill with those lethal hands?
How does he describe his job to his children? Is Daddy a professional food processor at Show and Tell time?
What does he see when he looks in the mirror? At his hands? What does his lover feel under the touch of those hands?
The owner of the plant greeted me guardedly, dressed in his alligator (who had slaughtered them, I wondered?) shoes and Gucci suit. Before allowing me inside the plant, he donned a white jacket, symbol of authority, control, specialized knowledge, membership in an elite. My camera and I could remain inside for five or ten minutes only, and only under his supervision.
As the headless but still twitching carcasses swung silently by overhead a drop of blood dared to spatter duck juice on alligators and he fled in terror, leaving me and my camera to roam unfettered through the slaughterhouse. Had he ever visited the source of his wealth before?
I wanted to heave. I asked myself what doctors do in operating rooms when they have to separate person from process? I questioned what my obligation was, and why I was called upon to record these events?
We stayed, camera and I, for almost an hour. By the time I left the owner had retreated to his exclusive white male country club, chasing a tiny white ball over immaculate green lawns, while his workers continued to capture, kill and process downy white birds for the dinner tables of the two-legged elite.
At that time, Charles Schwab and Company were castigated for using the phrase "Let's put some lipstick on this pig" in an advertisement. They were dressing up an unpalatable wall street product to sell to the masses thirty years ago, just as Wall Street is still doing today. From tranches to trenches, now as then, we are smearing the lipstick red/blood red of power and greed, not only to unsuspecting Americans but all over the globe. No need to pat us down at the airport: Wikileaks has already stripped us naked. "Just win", we demand of our politicians, our financiers, our sports heroes, "and don't tell us how." We learned nothing at Guantanamo, at Abu Ghraib. We are still water-boarding the truth, the truth that recognizes you and me as the culpable ones. We choose these leaders. They are us and we are they.
And what do we call the CEO of Sanofi-Aventis, a company that recently laid off 1700 employees via mass email? Did those workers feel like ducks in a shooting gallery, especially in light of the 18 BILLION dollar takeover offer that Sanofi is making for Genzyme Corp? Let's see, isn't that ten million dollars per employee? I'd call them sitting ducks, while the head of Sanofi feathers his nest.
There is an Imperial War Museum in London with a branch in Manchester. They boast of their "traditional wartime artefacts like planes, tanks and weapons". During Science Week you can handle materials "From Firebomb to Shrapnel". And don"t miss the Blitz Experience: "A reconstruction of an air-raid shelter and a blitzed London street in 1940 that evokes the sights, sounds and smells of being caught in an air raid."
Don"t forget to bring your lipstick.
There"s some kind of quackery going on here.
They call him the Butcher of Los Angeles. What will they call us?
c. Corinne Whitaker 2011