Soon the outraged were out raged by those who were outraged at the outraged for choosing the wrong outrage to be outraged about, and that then led to a new outrage that seemed even ragier, and everyone knew that those people were wrong, and all those other people knew they were right.
There was this lion and this dentist, maybe you’ve heard the story already.
Animal stories capture the heart.
Big game hunters beaming proudly next to something beautiful and dead that they have killed with guns and paid assistance stir a nausea in the belly of many.
After the highly publicised death of Cecil, injured by bow and arrow paid for by fillings, caps and whitening treatment, then eventually killed by guns some time later, social media and front pages were busy with condemnation and occasional jokes about Narnia and Wittgenstein.
The dentist was soon in a safe hole, though maybe we could lure him out with some meat on a string, I think that worked on his safari. This meant that within 24 hours, we hear that the real victim here is not the lion, but the dentist. Then, a few people overreact, and animal rights campaigners find themselves having to publicly declare that they are not calling for the assassination of Walter.
Perhaps he will never be seen again, but rumours soon emerge that Morrissey’s trophy room has the dentist’s head mounted above his mantelpiece, just by the wax effigy of Rita Tushingham.
While all this goes on, others feel a little put out that there is so much outpouring for some mammals, while when one of our own species is killed there seems to be less bother or if refugees are painted with the broad brush of innate criminals come to take your daughter, fewer tweeters seem to give a jot.
I am not sure that people are jot-less.
The Cecil story is a simple one, it has no layers, you are either for killing lions for fun or against it. It is safe outrage. It is unlikely that it will be revealed that the lion was wanted for war crimes in Rwanda or has been actively involved involved in making snuff movies or developing eugenicist experiments.
“I am against killing lions for fun, this story is clearly in my remit for being cross”.
Once stories are all about adult humans and the things that may or may not go on in their mind, things get messy. I think people are fearful of offering an opinion or being infuriated in case someone snaps at them, declaring that they clearly don’t know the whole story. The fear of embarrassment gets in the way.
Doubt fogs the judgement.
The cocksure march in and declare you are a liberal or a leftist or a nazi or a duplicitous soothsayer. Whether it is Israel and Palestine, immigration, human rights or someone who told a joke that backfired, there are so many people in spring heels ready to pounce for pleasure and profit, so many ready to tell you you are wrong without explaining why, that you remain perplexed, unenlightened and pointlessly admonished.
I think it is the simplicity of the lion story that has led to it being sprayed across so much of the internet, this does not mean that all humanity has more compassion for a cat than a human.
Well I hope it doesn’t.
Footnotes (of a sort)
All that typed, there still are some people who prefer other animals to human ones. Less apish mammals can have innocence projected onto them. Their lack of a comprehensible language means each lion or leopard or elephant can be a Rorschach test that you project yourself upon.
Also, our empathetic minds mean we can believe we know more of what goes on in other humans’ brains. We can project venality and criminality onto them. We are also in a time where we are lured to believe that people have “made their own bed”, if you are in a precarious or deathly situation, you have probably contributed to it in some way. That bomb that fell in your house, that dictator that murdered your family, that policeman that shot without warning, maybe you brought that on yourself somehow. It’s an unhealthily, sometimes poisonous chain of thought that can be imagined to be a healthy sort of scepticism.
Two more episodes of Monkey Cage on the way and extended versions HERE
I am in a state of semi retirement, though I am doing some Christmas shows with Josie Long & Bridget Christie and some with Brian Cox and secret science guests, as well as appearances in Edinburgh, Folkestone and Stowmarket. Details of all such things HERE
And new Dead Funny anthology too.