The funny animal world and its serious exploration (182): The tiger drives many people and their philosophical thoughts before him.
The sociologist of knowledge Bruno Latour postulated in 2008: “We have never been modern.” Because we have never been able to clearly separate object and subject, culture and nature, fact and fetish. The tiger stands for this.
The cat researcher Paul Leyhausen classified tigers as “small cats” because they have stripes and meow instead of roaring like the “big cats”, which sends chills down our spines. However, this did not stop those working in culture from seeing this largest cat of prey as a suitable metaphor for “nature”, which is dangerous but also seductive to humans.
In 1921, the Dadaist Walter Serner dealt with this pre-modern “tension” in his novel about a seductress, whom he called “The Tigress” in the title. In the romantic film “The Tiger of Eschnapur” (1959) by Fritz Lang, a tiger attacks a temple dancer who is saved by a German engineer who kills the tiger.
Some women told the circus historian Werner Philipp about the living tigers: “Tigers smell pleasant, their smell is eroticizing.” The American tamer Mabel Stark, who temporarily worked with 20 tigers, also thought so. “Tigers only like people who have a stronger will than them,” she said in an interview; she believed women had more will than men.
Tiger in the marriage bed
She lived in her trailer with the tiger she raised, “Rajah,” and he also slept in her bed, as did her third husband. In the ring, her most famous act was when she turned her back on the tigers and Rajah suddenly jumped her from behind, threw her to the ground and wrestled with her. Over time, this developed into a mating act for the tiger. Because his semen looked unsightly on her black leather costume, she changed into a white costume, which she wore until the end of her career in 1968.
The “notorious cheater” Robin Williams, according to his first wife, played a “philosophical tiger” on Broadway in the 2010 play “The Bengal Tiger in the Baghdad Zoo” who meets two US marines and an Iraqi gardener in the Iraqi capital. A “philosophical novel” by the Canadian Yann Martel had already been published in 2003: “Shipwreck with Tiger”. Like the “Raft of Medusa,” which became famous as a painting, it was about a shipwreck that only a few animals in a zoo, including a tiger, and the young first-person narrator survive. The tiger gradually eats up all the animals. The boy is able to save himself on a raft that he ties to the wrecked ship. He catches fish and shares the catch with the tiger. The tiger understands that he can swim well, but he can’t fish. And so they both survive. On land, journalists don’t want to believe the first-person narrator’s story. From there it gets “philosophical”.
Mao Tse-tung called the USA a “paper tiger” with its atomic bombs, and Noam Chomsky recently called Russia – albeit with a question mark. For both of them the tiger was a metaphor. While the philosopher Theodor W. Adorno, as a regular visitor to the zoo, reflected on the tigers there (in: “Minima Moralia”, 1951): “The tiger, which endlessly paces up and down in its cage, negatively reflects something of humanity through its madness back, but not the one behind the unbridgeable ditch.”
According to Adorno, such “open spaces” represent humanitarian progress. What is less progressive, however, is the fact that more tigers live in the North American “open spaces” alone than in real freedom. “The tiger’s tooth is pernicious, / However, the most terrible of horrors / This is man in his madness,” said Friedrich Schiller’s “Song of the Bell” in 1799, the year Napoleon declared the revolution over.
The Russian Revolution began again. Leon Trotsky wrote in 1924 in “Literature and Revolution”: “Socialist man wants and will dominate nature by means of the machine. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the entire globe will be lined and divided. There will remain thickets and forests and capercaillies and tigers, but where man has assigned them the place. And he will do this so skillfully that even the tiger will not notice the lifting crane and will not get bored and will live as he lived in prehistoric times. The machine is not the opposite of the earth. The desire to overcome hardship, hunger, and scarcity will be the dominant tendency for a number of years. Later, the opposition between technology and nature will find its solution in a higher synthesis.”
And will this mean justice will be done posthumously for the Tigers? In view of the current “crises”, one can speak, with Walter Benjamin, of a “tiger leap into history”. Insofar as the most obvious thing (climate change, loss of species, poverty, etc.) is not “attacked”, but nationalism and racism are once again entrenched. At the core of “Tiger Leap” for Benjamin in 1940 was a criticism of progress.
Tiger as a strangler
The humanitarian did not go as far as the animal lover Arthur Schopenhauer, who wrote in 1851 in “Parerga and Paralipomena II”: “Man is the only animal that causes pain to others, for no other purpose than this. The other animals never do it other than to satisfy their hunger or in the anger of battle. If the tiger is said to kill more than it eats, then it only chokes everything with the intention of eating it.”
There is an old Chinese saying: “Don’t touch a tiger by the butt.” Today’s Chinese government is even “riding the tiger” (in its Tibet and Taiwan policies), as the philosopher Cajo Kutzbach says. While the philosopher Peter Reiter envisions a “new global economy,” which he calls “Riding the Tiger,” and the philosopher Julius Evola wants to incite a “revolt against the modern world” with his book “Riding the Tiger.”
In all cases, the metaphor comes from Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote in “Truth and Lies in the Non-Moral Sense” in 1873: “Doesn’t nature hide most things from man, even about his body!”
But anyone who looks behind the “room of consciousness” suspects “that man rests on the merciless, the greedy, the insatiable, the murderous, in the indifference of his ignorance, and hanging, as it were, on the back of a tiger in dreams. Where on earth does the drive for truth come from in this constellation!”
The “uni-stuttgart.de” platform says: “Since the advent of the Internet, it has been clear that we are all riding a tiger.” Do the students mean the Apple operating system “Mac OS X Tiger”?
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