04 August, 2015

Cecil the Lion: the depth of the depravity

I've been heartened by the backlash trophy hunters have received in the wake of what happened to Cecil the lion. Voicing disgust at such things is a tremendous step towards a more moral society, and as such, I feel an obligation to throw my voice into the crowd.

Let's look at this crazy video:

Ah, yes. Hobbies... You know what, that's so dumb, and easy to argue with, I'm going to leave it pretty much alone and move onto a more nuanced issue. In brief, hers is quite possibly the dumbest explanation for anything I've ever heard, let alone as a justification for murder. "Oh, there's a connection, and I have some personal issues which I feel are best dealt with by killing animals. And also it could hurt me in a fair fight, which surely justifies how I get my kicks out of killing it from a distance."  Yeah... well said.

The thing is, I understand the idea of a connection. I'm a fighter. I'm not saying I'm a UFC champion or an SAS officer or anything even close to that, but I've dedicated a lot of time and energy to the warrior arts, and I feel very connected to them. More importantly, I like fighting.

I'd enjoy a fight with Chuck Liddell, especially to gentlemen's rules (the ability to tap out, and stopping when somebody... well, me really... goes limp). Yeah, he'd kick my ass, but I'd treat it as a learning experience. Some of the best martial training you can ever receive comes in the form of an ass kicking, and I'd love every second of it.

And I'm certain he'd agree that there is a powerful connection felt with a person you face in HONOURABLE, AGREED UPON combat.

What this imbecile is suggesting is that I can feel that same connection with Chuck Liddell by stalking him through the streets and shooting him from a distance with a high powered rifle when he's not even looking. In fact, if he doesn't even KNOW he's being hunted, as far as these crazy bastards are concerned, I've done a terrific job. As far as Chuck is concerned, someone just turned the lights out. As far as I'm concerned, I just murdered someone who could have really hurt me up close, and that means I'm supposed to feel empowered? And I should feel a personal connection to him? An adrenaline rush? And that justifies my actions?

No. I'd just be a murderer, and a coward.  Frankly, it's serial killer talk.

I understand the rush. I'd feel a connection with a lion up close and personal, and I'd feel adrenaline like I'd never felt before, but I wouldn't do it. Know why? Threefold:

1) The lion would almost definitely kill me. The best form of self defense is avoidance, and one should pick their battles better than starting fist fights with lions..

2) The lion never agreed to fight. Should I by some miracle kill the lion, I would be guilty of assault and murder.

3) Lions are endangered. Now, I must note that killing an endangered species should not be considered too much worse than killing any other animal. That's a slippery moral slope in which one might eventually conclude that sport hunting animals who are not endangered is basically okay. However, when you kill an endangered animal, in my view, you're killing part of the world. Regardless, all murder is, on a moral and philosophical level at least, equally wrong, for the exact same reason killing animals is no less morally wrong than killing a human: all lives must be treated equally. And that brings me to the final point.

Who am I to decide what life is more valuable than another? What gives me, simply for being a human being, the right to determine which creatures are more or less sentient? I am not a vegetarian. I am an omnivore, and I don't disparage carnivores for killing their food. However, killing for fun is an entirely different morality. Humans often justify this by claiming themselves to be somehow ordained as the most important species, but that is either religious doctrine stating that we have a superior soul (which in my view disparages animals for their innocence, and thus their beauty) or it is modernist doctrine, stating that we, as the creatures who can influence the world, are more important. By that logic, the lives of people of social and/or economic influence matter more than, say, children starving in Africa. I find that ideology disgusting.

And while you're considering the prevalence of that, remember that hunting endangered, and indeed dangerous game as sport has long been predominantly the pastime of the wealthy and cossetted.

In conclusion, the people who are capable of murdering Cecil the lion, or any other creature just for a trophy's sake, are guilty of more than murder. They are guilty of an ideology of superiority that is everything wrong with civilisation as we know it. This ideology is why nature is being destroyed. It is why religious wars and holocausts happen. It is why we have a ruling class. It is why too many American cops think it's alright to vilify black people. It is nothing less than the ability for one life to spit upon another.

Evils connect, because they boil down to a lack of empathy. And nothing points to a lack of empathy more than a lack of fundamental respect for life.

I've heard it said that we shouldn't focus too much on this, that it's wrong we're giving so much attention to a lion rather than all the people who die everyday, but that's quite a callous argument, and flawed. We shouldn't have public outcries because there are things to have public outcries about? When you see a moral outrage, don't turn your nose up at it. Raise your fist and shout. When you see the moral outrages you deem to be more important, raise your fist and shout. Simple. And that's just the argument's logical flaw. The moral one is that Cecil the lion deserves to be remembered regardless of what else is going on, and there deserves to be an outcry. The sociological one is that outcries are good. One encourages the other, and outcry at a lack of fundamental respect for life surely leads to more outcries about, indeed, lack of fundamental respect for life.

Nothing could truly make this right, but if we acknowledge the depth and severity of the problem, perhaps we can take a few steps towards ensuring such things do not happen again. It is everyone's responsibility to remind our fellow humans that such actions, and such ideologies, are despicable. If enough of us agree, and are vocal enough, we might just overcome the evils that infect us.