Wednesday, 20 November 2013
REJOICING IN THE DESTRUCTION OF LIFE
I am not normally given to ranting, but perhaps readers will indulge me on this occasion.
I felt disturbed and nauseated the other evening when I saw a photograph on my wife's Facebook page of a foraging elephant which had been assassinated by a hunter. Posing next to the fallen elephant was a picture of the hunter,a woman and three children whom I took to be his family. All were grinning from ear to ear and looking quite pleased with themselves. Then along comes the sickening image of Melissa Bachman crouched and beaming superciliously next to an African lion she has murdered.
I find every cell in my body filled with revulsion and judgement. The comments of others on the elephant photograph echoed my dismay and condemnation. A whole Facebook page has been created and devoted to putting a stop to the likes of Melissa Bachman.
There is a part of me that would happily populate this post with my words of abuse, condemnation and judgment, but my sense is that that simply has the effect of stirring up other people’s outrage without canvassing the real issues. Let me see if I can rather distill out some of the issues.
My initial outrage is about someone – presumably a foreigner with no sense of African heritage – coming to my continent and paying money to slay the mightiest of God’s creatures. My fury is founded in a sense of ownership that I and so many Africans have in our wildlife and our bush heritage. It doesn't matter that I don’t physically own the elephant or the lion: I believe that it is my right, and the right of my children and their children to see, connect with and honour what remains of our planet in its natural state. Unless you have spent time in Africa, you cannot begin to understand the depth of feeling and reverence which Africans have toward their wildlife. Not all Africans, granted, but for the most part, it is difficult for the bush not to get right into your bones.
No one asked me whether it was OK for foreigners (or indeed anyone) to come and destroy some of my heritage. No one asked for permission to destroy the rights of yet to be born grandchildren to connect with the earth. Of course, elephants, rhinos and lions evoke more emotion and attract more attention than 'lesser' animals, but the principle remains the same: this is our African heritage. If Americans, Europeans, Japanese and whoever else don’t care about the planet, let them mess up their own piece of the planet, but it is not OK to mess up mine.
And as for the hunter and his family? And Melissa Bachman? Well, I don’t know what those supercilious smiles are all about - pride? courage? self-importance? achievement? What I do know, however, is that it is the easiest thing in the world to get close to an elephant. The target is the biggest one in the world. Provided you have the right weapon, you will bring the beast down. Canned lion hunting is even more cowardly. With those facts, where is the sport, where is the achievement and for what possible reason can you feel proud about the destruction of such majestic creatures?
Although I promised at the beginning of this post not to start bandying labels around, I am left with no other judgement but that these are acts of pure self-indulgence which amount to nothing more than the hunter's way of proving his or her own self-worth.
If the destruction of life is the hunter’s way of proving self-worth to the world, it seems to me that he or she has many lifetimes to go.