I find it odd how people who make up a society will share a tid bit of wisdom, and yet many times will not think about the ramifications beyond a very specific boundary. In modern America the wisdom is that you should be concerned about children who torture animals. Children who pull the wings off butterflies and shoot cats should be watched to see what monsters they will become as they age. Fear the child who torments the defenseless. (To be clear this sounds like sound advice to my ears…)
But I ponder this wisdom as a wander the DC Zoo. If we should fear the children that torment animals for what they will be capable of doing to their fellow man as adults, what does it say that we TEACH our children to lock creatures up?
Zoos are odd places for me. I have had the fortune to see elephants and rhino’s in the wild. I’ve witnessed so many beasts run and live in reserves and orphanages. Stood far too close for safety to bison in US National Parks. And in the morning I wake up to fox, deer and herrings on my property. To be fair all of these circumstances have animals captured within a world created by humans. The elk in Yellowstone lived in a veritable utopia until the wildlife managers decided it was time to bring back the wolves. Wolves may do the killing, but they were reintroduced by us. It is dishonest to imagine that wildlife is not now dependent on the ever changing vagaries of mankind, but zoos… I think zoos show us something much deeper about our current phycological state.
In zoos we take creatures that once would roam for tens, hundreds, or thousands of miles in their lives and confine them to enclosures that are in total smaller than our own houses. (A simple squirrel can have a territory of up to 24 acres in the wild). We then parade our children in front of these cages and tell them that is is not just right, but a good thing. These creatures will be prisoners for life; to protect the species, to provide us education, to provide research, because they would die in the wild, etc. We should be congratulated for our largesse and kindness to these beings.
And what does this teach us? That being chained is not just something that may be necessary, but is generally something that should be lauded.
At this point some readers will roll their eyes at the thought of this being a PETA screed, but that’s not where I’m going. If children who learn to torture creatures when they are young become monsters when they grow old. What happens to children specifically TAUGHT to lock up creatures as part of their education?
Let me ask you a question…. why is corporeal punishment in the US considered barbaric, but locking away a person for a year seen as light punishment? I don’t disavow the horror of being caned, but is minutes of punishment really worse than stripping away all freedom for years?
When we lock away our old in nursing homes that even the poorest good bodied younger adult would find horrific why is this “good”. We save their lives so that they can whither to nothingness and lose the humanity they once had?
We lock away our best and brightest in the hollowed shells of academia for years past what is reasonable so that people who barely have a place in the economic society we live in will “teach” those people how to survive?
Our politicians and the unions scream for the return of “good” jobs, with benefits and pensions. The idea being that working tirelessly at the same task for 30 years is something to be lauded. You get a roof over your head, food in your belly, vaccinations, and a trip to the local farm when it’s done all simply for the small price of your freedom.
Folks that are part of the “Social Justice” movement bandy about words such as “the institutionalization of…”. The curious thing about wandering the DC Zoo is that folks of all stripes are there. Men and woman, blacks and white, local and foreigners. We all mill about taking a moment to stare as the tiger roars it’s pathetic cry. As the cry resonates there is no moment for reflection before the children start roaring back in fun. The adults chime in. The cry of the tiger is returned in jest. What does this beast have to complain about? Does it even bother to be thankful for what we’ve done???
Is there a single space for a breath to wonder… what are we doing to ourselves…?