Mental Mush: The Cecil Conundrum

Humans are essentially the most successful virus in our planet’s long history. We infiltrate every part of her rich crust, leaving behind a wake of destruction that in some cases takes centuries to repair. Every.single.day. Why? Convenience, purely and simply. We have become so inured to convenience that we disregard its effect on the rest of world.

“Yes, let’s just get ‘paper’ plates. Who wants to do dishes?”

“What do you mean you’re not open on Sundays?”

“That hurts my feelings. You need to make that stop.”

We are a virus. We have forgotten that we are not the only inhabitants of the planet, and we are so focused on our ‘i’gendas that we no longer look around at the world and SEE it. Until…

…Cecil.

Why did a lion garner more vitriol, more concentrated ire than almost all other issues percolating this week?

Convenience. That’s why. It is convenient to be angry about a single man’s deplorable hobby than it is an entire geographic region of unimaginable cruelty.

There have been several events, most notably the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, from which I have shielded my young son. It’s not because I don’t want him to know the world. He will, when it’s time. But I want him to flourish and find strength and confidence in himself so that he is capable of facing the world’s tragedies and perhaps even contribute to solutions so great that they benefit all of humanity. To learn compassion, he must know that it is an individual mandate. But it is a behavior that begins with something small, something manageable. I give him the space to flourish by ensuring that what he fears is appropriate for his age.

At five, like any normal child, he feared the monsters he imagined lived in his room.
“There are no monsters living in your room,” I said, thinking to myself, no, the monsters live outside these walls.
“Why, mommy?” He said, relieved.
“Because son, before you were born, I had a chat with them. I explained that you were coming and they were no longer welcome in my house, that I would not tolerate them. I told them to leave.”
“And they left?” He asked, smiling.
“Yes, baby, they left. Do you understand why?”
“No.”
“Because mommies protecting their babies are far more terrifying than any monster you can possibly imagine. They knew they had no chance. They left in fear.”
He never feared monsters, again. “Mommy power” was something he could assimilate. Something his little five-year-old brain could identify because it had healed all his boo boos and made him magic grilled cheese sandwiches when he was hungry. It wasn’t until later, when his mind was developed enough to understand, that he knew that monsters in his room wasn’t reality. It was at that point that we started to discuss the real monsters in the world.

You see, “Cecil” represents something that people saw the same way we see children. He needed our protection and a monster killed him. Cecil is an easily assimilated idea. We can all understand the tragedy of losing his majesty because it was lofty and a world away. We cared, so we were good humans. Now, it is convenient rage. I was not shocked at the concentrated ire toward the man that shot the big cat. I wasn’t shocked that people were calling for his death. Convenient rage.

The one thing that the opposition forgot, while they were admonishing people for vociferously attacking the hunter, is that it is almost impossible for the human mind to process the volume of negativity that is produced by all of the big issues we are currently facing.  

    Righteous indignation appears to be inversely commensurate with the size of the problem. In our defense, humans – hell, all of biology, actually – don’t function well when we are immersed in negativity. If you don’t believe me, compare children who are neglected as babies to children who have considerable, positive interaction with adults.  We need to escape from the enormous, insurmountable problems we currently face. We are immersed because we are quite actually flooded with negative information all day, every day via social media. Cecil and his pride represented human success because the world watched his pride flourish through conservation. “We did that,” we thought, because we protected him.

    Even more interesting is HitchBot. An experiment in human kindness, having had success in several other countries, comes to an abrupt halt in the City of Brotherly Love. Someone actually tore apart a symbol of goodwill. What does that say about us? People enjoyed the positivity, the camaraderie it represented. Most could assimilate the idea of HitchBot, but obviously, some could not. Someone with a stunted ego destroyed him. And now, we feel convenient sadness.

    For all you people that want to criticize the world for feeling rage over Cecil (and HitchBot), remember that no one of us can solve the world’s current ills. But together, we can create, transform, innovate. That requires that we understand, which we cannot do whole-hog. If one really wants to understand what creates a [insert extremist group du jour here] then one has to examine its roots. The same process that creates a destructive movement, will also create a constructive one. You strengthen a tree first by treating its roots. Cecil began as an idea, and an egomaniac hunter killed it. He didn’t just kill the cat. He killed a convenience.

    3 thoughts on “Mental Mush: The Cecil Conundrum

    1. I think you are on to something with this. We use selected outrage on convenient big ticket items like Cecil the Lion because it’s so easy to do. I was disgusted by his murder but I thought the backlash against the doctor was way over the line, especially when some were calling for him to be put to death as well. I like how you tie in creating positive movements using the same process but flipped for negative ones. Interesting stuff. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

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