Recently, there has been a lot of press surrounding the killing by American Walter James Palmer of a lion in Zimbabwe. Palmer, a Minnesota dentist, paid $55,000 to go on a big game safari. Pictures of the dentist’s office and home show that protestors have taken aim at the dentist to shame him after his illegal and unsavory but very visible slaying of a protected animal.
We all know the story by now: rich American doctor goes on safari in Africa. The guides cannot find a suitable animal to kill so they lure one that is declared off limits from the grounds of a national preserve. After being wounded, the lion escaped only to be tracked by the hunters for the next two days before it was finally killed. Photos of the decapitated and skinned lion were broadcast all over the internet to an increasingly outraged global public.
On the surface, this was just another day in Safari Land. People have been hunting big game animals since the beginning of time. So what has changed? Why are people so upset over this particular lion, at this particular time?
With the pervasiveness of the Internet, anonymity is a thing of the past. As with many of today’s hot button subjects, the plight of endangered animals is blasted across society almost every day. Conservationists use the electronic media as a billboard to make people aware of disappearing habitats, and the extinctions of rare species. Bloggers are endlessly informing the public of the general havoc mankind is causing to native species in all corners of the world.
People, for the most part, do not care if an endangered snail is about to be wiped out in Borneo or a particular monkey species is down to two mating pairs in Madagascar. If it doesn’t necessarily and immediately affect their daily lives, they may or may not take the time to read about the problem which, to them, is just another minor distraction in life.
But now, all of a sudden, over the slaying of a single lion in Africa, we are experiencing a major negative reaction from people around the world. Why the fuss? What caused such a huge backlash that the dentist’s office and home have been targeted for graffiti, he and his family subjected to death threats, and his personal and professional life turned upside down?
As expected, the inevitable backlash to the backlash has also emerged. People are questioning why there is so much anger over one dead lion when we have other, more important problems to address such as poverty, homeless vets, racism, lobbyists, and an infrastructure that is rapidly falling apart.
The basic reason for all the outspoken attention is actually quite simple: the arrogance of the wealthy.
For the most part, the 1% of people in the world who are very wealthy view themselves as being different from the rest of us folks. Most of them feel they should not be burdened by the same rules under which everyone else lives. They can afford to buy big homes, luxury cars, priceless artworks, and pretty much anything else in the world they decide they want. They can afford to buy politicians. Why should they have to live within the same rules as mere mortals who, in many cases, can barely afford to survive? And, as a result, why should they care what we mere mortals think about them and their sometimes iniquitous and odious lifestyle? The bottom line is they don’t care. They don’t give a second thought to what the other 99% of the population thinks.
Recently there has been an enormous upswing in resentment toward the worlds’ wealthiest, especially in the US. Most of what is left of the middle class is tired of seeing a government that has been bought, paid for, and crippled by wealthy contributors dumping huge amounts of money on their politicians du jour. The 99% are still furious that the criminal bankers, whose self-serving illegal actions should have put them in jail, just sit back and become richer while the victims of their profiteering still struggle. We watch the uber-wealthy like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson buy favorable legislation to squelch laws that promote clean alternative fuels, mass transit, equal opportunity, and a livable minimum wage; laws that would tremendously aid the non-wealthy and the world in general. These ultra-wealthy oligarchs will block anything that could potentially stand in the way of them making a profit no matter how beneficial it is for the rest of the world.
The 99% watch a compassion deficient 1%’er like Donald Trump stand up on the world’s stage during a Presidential debate and describe how he has bought politicians for decades because he can. The media infects our airwaves with Tales of the Wealthy Kardashian Klan, who couldn’t care less about the poor or about homeless veterans. They don’t want to know about the single mother who has three children and cannot afford to feed, house, or medically insure them because she makes $7.15 an hour. But that’s ok because it was blasted all over the media that the youngest Kardashian predator, Kylie, just received a $300,000 Ferrari for her 18th birthday. Nothing like setting unobtainable standards for envious young 99%’ers.
It’s one thing to display wealthy arrogance through material things like owning mansions in five different countries, shrugging after crashing half million dollar cars, and jet-setting around the globe in one’s own plane. But, to shoot a defenseless animal, especially one that has been singled out for protection, is enough to infuriate even the most conservative of libertarians; except perhaps for Ted Nugent.
Although I have to admit that I’ve always done my hunting and fishing at the supermarket, I have never really been opposed to hunting in general. Unless the intention is to eat the hunted animals for food, I do not understand the fascination of killing an animal purely for sport. Killing animals, wild or exotic or whatever, just for the sake of killing, is wrong in my mind. If a species needs to be culled due to overpopulation, hunting is justified. Subsistence hunters who rely on their prey for food is another exception. To put down a rabid wild animal is always a good cause. Killing for the thrill of killing is not.
The actions of Walter James Palmer or of Trumps’ sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, are no different than those of Mike Huckabee’s son who hung a cat from a tree, cut its throat and stoned it to death. The levels of cruelty may vary, but the end result does not. An animal needlessly slaughtered because of an abhorrent innate streak in man that leads us to believe we can kill other species with impunity just for the hell of it.
We do have major problems in this country that are far more important than the killing of a lion in Zimbabwe. And there has been a huge outcry from media pundits, movie stars, and conservationists: anyone who has a pulpit and wants to jump on the bandwagon. But, it’s the virulently negative reaction from the general public that is most telling. Cecil the Lion just demonstrates once again that as in politics, the media, Wall Street, and Washington, the perception is that the wealthy set their own rules and public opinion be damned.
Not every wealthy person is heartless, compassionless, or uncaring regarding the rest of the world. But too many are and the backlash they are causing among 99% of the world’s population could well be to their own detriment. The wealthiest 1% may control two thirds of the world’s wealth today, but they need to wake up and understand that they will be held accountable. They need to stop demonstrating their arrogance before the other 99% takes that wealth away from them.