Why all the fuss over one lousy lion?
There is a meme running through Facebook, and possibly other social media sites as well asking why people are making such a fuss over the death of a Zimbabwean lion at the hands of an American dentist. People seem to be making more of an issue of that than they do about various other deaths that they think people should be paying more attention to.
I first became aware of this meme when someone posted a link to this article from Facebook
Why aren’t we as universally outraged over Sandra Bland’s death as we are over Cecil the lion?: It is a credit to humanity that we can be unified in outrage at the death of an innocent creature like Cecil the lion, the 13-year-old protected Zimbabwean lion who was illegally poached by wealthy midwestern dentist Walter Palmer last week.
However, one has to wonder why we cannot similarly come together to condemn the deaths of women of color who die in police custody like Sandra Bland.
The loss of a rare and beautiful creature like Cecil has stirred outrage from around the world. The only controversy seems to be which continent gets to prosecute Palmer first.
Since the link was posted by a South African, my response was that the difference was that the USA is daar doerrrr oer die see and Zimbabwe is right next door, and people in the USA are always going on and on and on about their inalienable right to carry deadly weapons and kill each other, but when they cross the sea with their weapons and kill our lions we get pissed off. Their right to bear arms stops at the low tide line of their shining sea.
But we can bring it closer to home too.
why do we make a bigger fuss about Nkandla than about Marikana? Because we think wasting money is a more serious matter than wasting lives?
But it seems that people in the USA have also taken up the meme, and that the publicity often seems to go to relatively minor things, while bigger issues are ignored. The meme is a universal one, and Cecil the lion is only its latest manifestation. So all sorts of people have jumped on the bandwagon, and are asking why people are making more fuss about Cecil the lion than about their favourite cause.
What then emerges is the huge number of causes various people think are more important than the death of one lion, and come people have also asked why we aren’t sorry for all the other animals killed by the lion. After all, lions have to eat, and they eat by killing other animals.
There are, of course, the 35 deaths at Marikana, or the more recent figure of 54 policemen killed by criminals since the beginning of this year, and a similar number of farmers killed by criminals. Why don’t we care about them as much as about one Zimbabwean lion?
A US dentist spent $55 000 to go to another country and kill one lion. How much does US President Obama spend to send his drones to other countries to kill hundreds of people?
Yes, the fuss is disproportionate, and that is partly the fault of the media, which plug one story and sideline another. But, to judge by social media, it seems that a lot of their readers like it this way.
I said the meme is an old one, and I recall that back in the 1960s, about 1968 or 69, a group of demonstrators against the Vietnam War set fire to a dog in their demonstration on the West Coast of the USA. As they predicted, the media and the public made a much bigger fuss about the fate of the dog than they did about the children who were being burnt in Vietnam by napalm dropped from US planes.
Here in South Africa we are feeling the pinch of draconian immigration laws, which are a bureaucratic nightmare. Malusi Gigaba, the Minister of Home Affairs, says these laws are needed to save children from slavery and child trafficking. Even if it saves only a few children, he says, it will be worth it. But what if it saves a few children and causes misery to thousands of others, because of the decline of tourism and the loss of jobs? One of the biggest causes of child trafficking is unemployment, and parents sell their children because they can’t afford to feed them. Gigaba is attacking the symptoms while spreading the disease.
So yes, it is important to keep a sense of proportion, and to say no, the life of one lion is not more important than the lives of 25, or 54, or hundreds of human beings in various places. But at the same time it is surely not wrong to be concerned about the lion and the circumstances of his death.
It is possible to be concerned about more than one issue.