Where The Wild Things Are

I grew up with this book. Did you? Despite Max the hero’s journey to where the wild things are, he ‘is no role model for a wild lawyer’ for he is ‘subdued, chastened, … ready to become a rule-abiding legal subject’ [ewl, 188]. It’s a tough gig being wild when you get hungry. If you had your druthers, like Max, maybe you’d go home to a warm plate, too.

Instead of trying to enact ecocentric laws or giving up, Nicole Rogers recommends a subversive, pragmatic approach (which she calls ‘eco-pragmatism’) to changing existing anthropocentric legislation. Such subversion will require mental toughness. Recognizing that ‘engaging in with our anthropocentric, property-focused existing laws can be dispiriting exercise,… wild lawyers must resist the cynicism and disenchantment…. Wild lawyers must be stubborn and tenacious; they need to focus on “the big picture.” ‘[ewl, 187]

And not just wild lawyers, but any biocentric activist subversively engaged has to be prepared. The other day I saw a beagle at the park, which I learned had been a Rescue Dog. I further learned that sometimes beagles are used for hunting and then abandoned at the hunt’s end in the forest, like a spent shotgun shell. That can only happen if you have an anthropocentric view, lamentable, perhaps, but the anthropocentric view is shared by many, including our prime minister, our head law-maker. It was a cute dog and all, but this was the park, not the woods.  Happy ending, this time. A biocentric activist has to be mentally tough in case the ending is not so happy.

Can our children’s literature be re-interpreted? Sure. Why not? For example, Robert Munsch’s first book, The Paper Bag Princess, re-tells the classic prince-and-princess fable, only this time the prince is carted off by the dragon and she has to rescue him. Roles are reversed in playful re-interpretation. What if we playfully subverted the anthropocentric roles, made, I dunno, the dragon the hero, or wrote a book titled Where The Wild Things Aren’t?

Rogers contrasts the book’s (and thus society’s) wild with actual wild. The wild things in the book (and now the movie) and in our park systems and in our waters are treated like a commodity to be bought and sold, to be consumed, bottled, hiked, mined or drilled. Hunting permits. Fishing licences. Quotas. Bounties. Culls. Game management. People management. Tourism. That wild is ordered, under human control. The real wild is chaotic and beyond our control.

‘The task of the wild lawyer,’ she concludes [ewl, 188], ‘is to constantly interrogate the wild/civilized dichotomy … exemplified in this children’s book.’ The wild is not only ‘remote and pristine’, but is also in our laws and our imagination, which we can refashion through ‘ongoing subversive and playful re-interpretation’.

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