I sometimes tell people what I dedicate my time to, I am an aspiring PhD student studying the social and cultural aspects of Angling. Almost invariably, I get an eye roll or a confused look followed by the inevitable question “Why?” To which I must answer, from my heart, “Because I want to make a change in the world!” Imagine the looks that this response elicits, deeper confusion, more eye rolling and a screwed-up face, from which, usually comes the words “You can’t change the world with a fishing rod!” or some similar dismissive rebut!
Of course, I have no choice to admit that I can’t! I never actually claimed that I could. Well, not me, but we can! I believe that Anglers as a united force have within them the ability to change the world, in fact, I would go as far as to say, we certainly can change the world with a fishing rod, well, maybe not just the one, but thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of fishing rods can change the world to be a better place! And not just fishing rods either, we can change the world with knitting needles, darts, golf clubs. In fact, together, we can change the world using just about anything as a platform. Not only can we do that, but we have a duty to do that and I am convinced that, someday, people will start to believe this as much as I do and, when they do, they will start to make a difference in the world from whatever platform they choose!
Magical other Worlds
When I was a boy, I was taken by the magic that lay beyond that shimmering, mirror-like, surface of the water. It was another world, creatures lived there which were far more fascinating, for me, than any alien that science fiction or fantasy could create. I couldn’t get there myself but, by attaching a hook and some bait to a piece of line, I could reach across this void, into that magical world, and connect with the creatures that lived there. I could CONNECT with another world, and the more I learnt about this other world, the better I could connect with it. The realisation that there existed another world almost, but not quite, within touching distance brought my imagination to life, there are other worlds! Not out there in some endless void, but right here, inches away from me! It changed the way I saw my universe!
Lessons in Tolerance
I began to care about that strange alien place, began to see that the things I do in my world effect the things that happen in it! I began to feel more connected with people in my world too, I realised that there were people that didn’t look like me but who loved this other world also. That led to my realisation that there were people in the world that weren’t like me but who also deserved the respect that I gave to my fellow anglers, I realised… and every day I continue to realise, that, like that myriad of races that co-exist down there in the ‘other’ world, there are other races that co-exist up here in our world! When you see your own world in this way, it takes away the possibility of racism, of hate for others, of fear of others. It reminds you, that we are all here, inhabitants of the same world, trying to survive! The discovery of fishing, for me, changed the way I saw my own place in the universe!
Being part of something, in my case fishing, changes an individual’s worldview. There comes with involvement, a desire to change the world to better suit your personal worldview or the requirements of your interest, to make sure that whatever it is you do can go on forever. If that thing you do requires the production of synthetic and harmful things you will support the production of such things, if it is dependent on the survival and protection of fish, as an example, then you will fight for that survival and protection.
Certain groups and factions within our world would have us stop fishing, they would have us put down our fishing rods and leave the fish alone! Alone for what? To become forgotten in their hidden world? To be choked by the relentless march of humankind, whose expansion would, undoubtedly, destroy the waterways and seas of this world? Humans are selfish creatures, I can promise you that, if no one has a vested interest in protecting the things that we can not see, like the rivers ponds and lakes of this world, then no one will protect it! Some would have us stop eating meat, their argument, “It is possible for humans to live on a non-animal-based diet!” Maybe it is, but what about the animal habitat that we would have to destroy to feed a completely meat-free culture. To do that, we would have to destroy forests and wild places, kill animals, drive some into extinction, and what of the animals that try to survive on the crops that we are growing for ourselves, we would have two options… we could kill them, or we could leave them alone and starve!
My ultimate point is this, human culture is made up of groups, each group has very special roles to play in the world, without anglers, there would be less pressure for conservation of freshwater habitats, without birdwatchers, there would be less pressure to conserve space for wild birds, without knitters, there would be less need for sheep and, without vegans, there would be fewer hilarious clips of people talking crap on Facebook! Groups form among members of humanity and, intentional or not, each serves a purpose. If we try to enforce the views of one group to the detriment of another then we are asking for disaster.
So, yes, I (we) CAN change the world with a fishing rod, Cancer Research CAN change the world with cakes, I’m sure, somehow, it’s even possible to change the world with tofu!! Because we don’t all live in one world, we live in an array of interdependent worlds… That’s what I learnt from fish, the inhabitants of that world which lies just beyond the shimmering service of the water!