Monthly Archives: June 2016

Parsing Orlando

Orlando.

There are so many threads to this tragedy, which I’ll leave to cooler and wiser heads than mine to unpick. My heart breaks for the victims, their families, the injured and everyone whose life has been affected by this. I thought Obama put it just right when he described it as an act of terror but also an act of hate but that hasn’t stopped the “All Lives Matter” crowd from trying to whitewash it.

So far, Gary Younge’s reflection is the best I’ve read:

“The truth is it is, most likely, about lots of things. And the bolder the claim that it is about any one thing, the more vulnerable it will be to contradiction and qualification. While the act of killing so many so quickly is crude, the underlying factors are complex.” -Gary Younge

And Owen Jones’ riposte and reaction on Sky News Paper Review that exposes the callousness of the All Lives Matter brigade.

 

 

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Seagulls, Monkeys and Brexit

Ok, so let’s get the little stuff out the way. Sarah Woollaston MP’s defection from Vote Leave to the Remain camp – mainly on two issues: the NHS lies being peddled by Leave about pumping millions into the service if we leave, and the anti-immigration rhetoric which she says is “indistinguishable from UKIP”.

I think it’s great that a politician can think again and change their mind. I applaud her honesty. I do wonder what party she thinks she joined up to, though, as those “Go Home” vans pushed out by the Tories in the coalition were indistinguishable from the National Front and even gave Farage pause at the time.

But onto the big stuff.

The funniest article I’ve read this year, about a seagull that fell into a vat of chicken curry (it survived, but the write-up is hilarious):

“Vets said they felt sorry for him but he made them feel hungry at the same time”

“When he came in you wanted to feel sorry and concerned but he was making everyone’s belly rumble,” Lucy said.

“It was the weirdest thing we have dealt with here.”

And the monkey that caused a national power blackout in Kenya:

The monkey lost its purchase on the roof of the plant, and it tumbled down to land atop a transformer. What happened next played out like a catastrophic game of transformer dominoes: With a monkey on its back, the first transformer shut off its electrical flow, causing other transformers at the station to trip as well. KenGen said in its statement that “a loss of more than 180 megawatts” at the power station “triggered a national power blackout.”

 

 

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The Greatest

“We should cherish the memory of Ali as a warrior…a gleaming symbol of defiance against an unjust social order…”- Robert Lipsyte, New York Times

The New York Times obituary on Muhammad Ali is my favourite so far for striving to present a balanced picture of a legend. In particular for attempting to memorialise his activism and radical politics. Ali was so much more than a sportsman, as one of NPR’s blogs collecting anecdotes and memories by black journalists shows, dwelling not only on his activism but also his faith.

 

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Aliens before Africans

So I was happily reading on the BBC site about the latest finds from King Tutenkhamun’s tomb (closet archaelogy fan) – with new X-ray technology they are going over artifacts and discovering all sorts of new details about ancient people and their way of life – when I got to this line:

The researchers say the presence of iron – along with levels of nickel and cobalt – “strongly suggests an extraterrestrial origin”.

I’m sorry – what?

For starters, I was a little peeved that the story was filed in the Middle East section and not Africa, but this isn’t really on the BBC. The authors of the report into the artifact actually wrote that, in all seriousness.

We would sooner believe that aliens – ALIENS – which we have no proof for yet (though I’m not ruling it out, the universe is massive) made this fancy knife from meteor rock before we believe that AFRICANS (just erase all those Liz Taylor-as-Cleopatra-style movies from your mind) could possibly have made it?

Couldn’t they have found the rock and made it? Given all that we don’t know about the Ancient World, could it not be that people did it? Why is that so unbelievable?

A lot of the conventional history on Egypt (that Egyptians were somehow European, set apart from the rest of Africa) has been debunked in the excellent history book by Malian academic Cheikh Anta Diop – The African Origin of Civilisation, which changed my whole perspective as an 18-year old history student.

Amid all the talk for the decolonisation of economics and other subjects in academia, it’s clear that archaeology could do with a shake-up too and is still mired in a particular context.

At the time that the Easter Island statues and pyramids were discovered, people of colour were barely considered human. Early explorers couldn’t believe that they could do it. Since then we’ve had all sorts of finds that show that explorers who were not European went all around the world. That people who were not European made stuff.

Stuff that wasn’t “discovered” and countries that didn’t “exist” until Europeans found them.

 

And they wrote the history books.

They still do.

 

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Gorillas and Kindness – being human

I am the last person who should write about parenting *waves at unused ovaries, ponders whether I’ll ever get to use them* but two posts about the Cincinatti Zoo incident – in which a little boy fell into the gorilla enclosure and the gorilla was shot dead – pierced through all the bluster, noise and self-righteousness about this.

They were compassionate. For the parents, the child and the gorilla and his keepers at the zoo.

So much of the internet debate has been blaming the mother like the father didn’t exist, or blaming the father for being a convicted felon (hello, Daily Mail) or declaring that the kid should have been shot instead of the gorilla (oh, you crazy environmentalists). Some suggested that the zoo over reacted and that the gorilla was protecting the child. Then there’s the racial aspect of the black parents. As another poster on facebook wisely pointed out, accidents happen – a la the (White) McCanns – they (eventually) got a lot of sympathy for their daughter’s disappearance but I don’t know if this family will.

So. Much. Noise.

If there is one thing that’s supposed to set us apart from other animals it’s meant to be our consciousness, the way that we think, the complexity of us. And yet so often we want to boil things down to the essentials and then jump up on the high ground we’ve claimed for ourselves.

So here’s what I think: it was a tragic accident. I am not a parent but you don’t need much of an imagination to conceive how the parents must have felt to see their baby in the gorilla enclosure. I feel sorry for the gorilla, an endangered species and a wild animal, who, given that he is still a wild animal, is unpredictable and so I think the zoo made the right call. I feel sorry for the person who had to make that call though and for the person who had to pull the trigger – no doubt someone who worked closely with that beautiful animal.

The most beautiful post I read was this by Constance Hall:

“..what I really wanted to say to you is not that “I understand”, not that “we have all been there”, not that “it actually could have happened to anyone” because it could have… But what I really want to say to you is… Are you ok? Because I saw the video footage yesterday and I must say, I have barely recovered and that isn’t even my child.” – Constance Hall

The simplest, kindest question we can ever ask another human being (and really, really listen for the answer): Are you ok?

And then there was this thoughtful post from an ex-gorilla keeper, Amanda O’Donoughue, who called the whole sorry saga “a tragedy all round”

“I have watched this video over again, and with the silverback’s postering [sic], and tight lips, it’s pretty much the stuff of any keeper’s nightmares, and I have had MANY while working with them. This job is not for the complacent. Gorillas are kind, curious, and sometimes silly, but they are also very large, very strong animals. I always brought my OCD to work with me. checking and rechecking locks to make sure my animals and I remained separated before entering to clean.

I keep hearing that the Gorilla was trying to protect the boy. I do not find this to be true. Harambe reaches for the boys hands and arms, but only to position the child better for his own displaying purposes. Males do very elaborate displays when highly agitated, slamming and dragging things about. Typically they would drag large branches, barrels and heavy weighted balls around to make as much noise as possible. Not in an effort to hurt anyone or anything (usually) but just to intimidate. It was clear to me that he was reacting to the screams coming from the gathering crowd.

Harambe was most likely not going to separate himself from that child without seriously hurting him first (again due to mere size and strength, not malicious intent) Why didn’t they use treats? well, they attempted to call them off exhibit (which animals hate), the females in the group came in, but Harambe did not. What better treat for a captive animal than a real live kid!

They didn’t use Tranquilizers for a few reasons, A. Harambe would’ve taken too long to become immobilized, and could have really injured the child in the process as the drugs used may not work quickly enough depending on the stress of the situation and the dose B. Harambe would’ve have drowned in the moat if immobilized in the water, and possibly fallen on the boy trapping him and drowning him as well.

Many zoos have the protocol to call on their expertly trained dart team in the event of an animal escape or in the event that a human is trapped with a dangerous animal. They will evaluate the scene as quickly and as safely as possible, and will make the most informed decision as how they will handle the animal.

I can’t point fingers at anyone in this situation, but we need to really evaluate the safety of the animal enclosures from the visitor side. Not impeding that view is a tough one, but there should be no way that someone can find themselves inside of an animal’s exhibit.

I know one thing for sure, those keepers lost a beautiful, and I mean gorgeous silverback and friend. I feel their loss with them this week. As educators and conservators of endangered species, all we can do is shine a light on the beauty and majesty of these animals in hopes to spark a love and a need to keep them from vanishing from our planet. Child killers, they are not. It’s unfortunate for the conservation of the species, and the loss of revenue a beautiful zoo such as Cinci will lose. tragedy all around.” – Amanda O’Donoughue

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