The largest animal ever to live on earth, the blue whale

In reading this article about a heated argument between Japanese whalers and the captain of the Sea Shepherd, I was immediately drawn into the emotional drama of an epic good vs. evil battle.

And even though this blog is about storytelling, one of the best storytelling structures is using archetypes. As my friend Sam likes to tell me, “Of course you love hero stories, you’re a bloody American.”

To me, whalers are the vilest bad guys. When I was a kid I was shattered to read about whales being driven to extinction with explosive harpoons – missiles designed to penetrate and shred the soft tissue of the world’s largest animals. It broke my heart then, and it does today. (You won’t be surprised that I feel no sympathy for the “cultural right” argument expressed by the Japanese government, and believe their “scientific research” argument for killing 1,000 whales each year is pure bullsh*t – especially when they have 6,000 tonnes of whale meat on ice  – or enough for 18 months of consumption (not scientific research)).

Here, the bad guy says “we are going to kill 1,000 whales each year” and they lie about their reasons for doing so.

The good guy says (quoted in the article): “Our objective right from the beginning was to sink the Japanese whaling fleet economically, to bankrupt them.”

Is it working?

  • “In February, Japan recalled its Antarctic fleet a month ahead of schedule with only one fifth of its planned catch, citing interference from Sea Shepherd’s vessels.”
  • “Japanese were increasingly shunning whale meat as they accepted ecologists’ arguments to protect the giant mammals”, according to Tokyo University Professor Atsushi Ishii
  • “Frozen stocks of whale meat stand at more than 6,000 tonnes, enough to keep the country in supply at current consumption rates for 18 months, he said

In the end, the guy with the clearest, simplest, most defensible intention is going to win.

The trick is to communicate the intention to the Japanese whale-eating public in such a way that they can get in line with the global sentiment about whales, without losing face. That public then needs to convince the politicians to back down.

Those battles won’t be won on the high seas, but on the page.

~ Christopher Smith