They say that everybody’s a critic. It’s a showbizz saying that goes on to explain the fact that, credible or not, people are quick to pass judgement. In my experience, it’s always been a “shoot first, aim after” ordeal in that, often times, people are talking, just to well….talk. For example, I bet you didn’t realize how many Gorilla behaviorists, zoo architects, and child protective service agents you knew until scrolling through your Facebook this week.
Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve heard about what happened at the Cincinnati Zoo this past week. While I don’t aim to be your news source, here’s the break down. A 4 year old boy found himself in the Gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. After about 8 minutes of shrieks and shouts from zoo goers, Harambe, a 17 year old, 400lb Gorilla was shot dead, an act Zoo Keepers deemed necessary to save the childs life from a creature who could’ve killed the child with the flick of his wrist, benevolent or malicious all the same.
It’s a tragedy, there’s no two ways about that and honestly, that’s about all the general public can agree on in this situation. Now we are reaffirmed in that everyone truly is a critic. We have organizations like PETA and activists alike demanding Harambe be avenged, taking to the Twittersphere to plea #justiceforHarambe. Others take it even further and have issued violent threats to the family of the boy, believing parental negligence to be the murder weapon. Other’s still blame the zoo for making barricades minimal enough for a toddler to penetrate. Well listen up folks, you’re all right and you’re all wrong! Unfortunately, I think the public has been pointing their fingers in the wrong directions and boasting questions that simply don’t find a solution. Justice for Harambe could be the Democratic Parties campaign slogan, the topic is so hot. Harambe is no martyr though, he died a slave to the system. He died according to his position on the food chain. He died as a result of zoo contingency plans. He died because, well, plain and simple…he was less valuable.
Lately I’ve been hauntingly surrounded by animal deaths. I pin rolled a chipmunk and a bird with my car within 3 days of each other. A good friend of mine lost a dog and the other day at the beach, I kid you not I saw a rabid Deer make a beeline for the Ocean, swimming about a mile out, before beach goers realized “shit, that things not making it back.” If the 4 year old had died in the cage, the news stories would run to the year 3,000, memorializing a national travesty. Page 1 stuff. My dear animal friends who found their fate on Jericho Turnpike due to my vehicles 4 wheel drive, well, those guys will hardly even get an obituary.
So here’s my thinking (sorry bear with me). Why must someone bear the blame for Harambe’s death? It was an instance, an extremely rare one at that. Kids don’t fall into Gorilla pits all the time…that’s the shit you see Steven Spielberg scripting out for his next blockbuster! Seriously, this is not the issue that deserves all of the attention it’s getting. If you live long enough, you’ll have time to see it all.
I think it’s more or less a question of value. Moreover, how much value people attach to things, and in this case, the value we attach to life. Bare bones, the decision made in Cincinnati the other day was that “this child is our priority because we value his life more than our Gorillas.” Honestly dude, that’s where I cry foul but it makes complete sense. A human being will be chosen over a Gorilla. Every. Single. Time. Whether we chalk that up to biological tendencies in the food chain or psychological attachments to our own species….with one bullet in the clip, the human walks out of the cage. Every. Single. Time.
That’s not where it stops! The spider gets swatted for being in your cupboard. The horse gets put down when it breaks it leg. The chipmunk gets ran over if it’s in your way. Bump, bump, over the little rodent you go and if I were a betting man (Golden State in 6) I’d put the house on the fact that you didn’t turn around to “say a few last words.” After all, it wasn’t a human so who the fuck cares right!?
Harambe still can be a martyr. He won’t pioneer the path for better zoo security or institute a new statute in the child protective bylaws for ‘perpetual hand holding in the presence of wild animals’, that would be a microcosm of the potential the Ape has. Harambe should be used as a catalyst for new questions. Don’t find blame, that’s just retroactive problem solving. Instead, let’s get to the root of why this thing happened. Why is anything we view as inferior to our own self not worth the consideration anymore? What are the factors that make a life actually valuable? Why are cops shooting unarmed people? Oh, you think I’m stretching now? Well it’s one in the same. It’s a person’s contingency theory set forth by their superiors on how to act in a given situation. In the extreme case we’re dealing with today, it’s the answer as to why we’re literally pulling the trigger. If the question is framed properly, well then perhaps we find the answer on coexistence. Between man and beast and jews and muslims and democrats and republicans. Life is the equalizer, perhaps the one and only thing we ALL have. Who are you to take that?
Harambe was one of only a few thousand Gorillas left in the world. His species is critically endangered, perhaps giving him an advantage over the daily roadkill victim. I guess the fact that he is one of only few really hit a sore spot with the world. Regardless, the future for the Gorillas is far from bright. Habitat destruction, deforestation, and 4 year old fence climbers will swallow the species into extinction in the future. With numbers dwindling so low, people now actually start to give a shit. Tonight I went to my little sisters very last dance recital, an extra curricular she has been doing since she was in diapers. 14 years ago, when she bought her first tutu and the opportunities to see her dance seemed infinite, I took ANY excuse to get out of going to go see her. A stubbed toe was grounds for hospitalization when it was recital szn. Well on this night, knowing that today was her last, I sat and captured every moment I could of the evening. Yes, the proud big bro may have even shed a tear when they called her name one last time. Well like my sisters dance recitals, the number of gorillas is numbered and both warrant the notion of “shit this could be my last time ever seeing one of these things.” Let’s not let scarcity be the only thing that makes us feel engaged and involved. If it takes the idea of extinction to make you care about gorillas and retirement to make you care about your siblings dance team, well then it’s already too late my friend. Get on the ball when the future still seems infinite…do that and maybe we won’t be having this conversation.