Bearding the lion for naught
Until the lion has his or her own storyteller, the hunter will always have the best part of the story.
–– African proverb.
I mentioned the above African proverb in my column of December 9, 2014, and I could not help thinking about its meaning in the past week as international media reported on the story of a most senseless killing of a lion by an American in Zimbabwe.
It seems that the famous lion Cecil now has hundreds of storytellers, and the hunter is now the hunted. The death of Cecil, a rare black-maned lion killed by Dr Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota and big-game hunter, has unleashed a global storm of indignation and sent the dentist into hiding.
It is reported that Cecil was no ordinary cat. The 13-year-old lion was a star attraction at the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, out of which the hunters lured him, and he wore a collar by which scientists at the University of Oxford had been tracking him since 2008. Dr Palmer reportedly paid more than $50,000 for the hunt.
It is further reported that Cecil suffered a slow and painful death. He was coaxed out of the safe confines of the national park with a piece of meat, then shot in the dark with a bow and arrow.
Bleeding and injured, he outran his hunters for 40 hours, before fatigued, hungry and cornered, he was shot dead by the professional hunter. Cecil was then skinned, and had his head cut off.
This horrible story has rightfully captured the attention of the world and its condemnation. It is another indication of the existence of human beings who have lost all consciousness of right and wrong, and have certainly no moral compass whatsoever to go by.
What would possess a sane, educated human being, apparently of good means, to spend thousands of dollars to kill an animal, which was no threat to anyone, just to have a trophy to boast to his friends? What type of human being would even conceive such an idea?
Such an individual is no different rom the terrorists the media report on every day.
That $50,000 could have been spent to improve the lives of so many impoverished communities around the world and even in the same continent of Africa where the dentist went to slaughter the lion. He would have been a hero to the people, the world and his Creator had he chosen such good deeds over such a horrendous act.
Hunting should be restricted only to seeking meat for food. We should follow our ancestors in this regard. They fully understood the balance of nature and God’s creation. To kill any animal just for fun and pleasure and to be emboldened in so doing by the trophies of their heads and carcasses which are proudly displayed in the hunters’ homes is cruel and inhumane.
This story is sadly not a new one, nor is it the only one. For centuries now the resources of many nations and peoples have been destroyed in this very same way, by the game hunters who exploit
the vulnerabilities of others.
In this Season Of Emancipation commemoration, this story only serves to highlight the historical and continuing acceptance of a mindset that sees might and wealth as a right to exploit others of lesser means. Our nation observes Emancipation every year on August 1 to acknowledge the freedom earned by blood, sweat, tears and lives from a most abhorrent system of slavery known to mankind.
The transatlantic slave trade was, as pointed out before, the most brutal, having far-reaching effects for millions of people. Regrettably, many in our society have moved away from Emancipation observations and instead pay attention to entertainment and partying.
I took the opportunity to attend the Emancipation observation on Saturday morning at the Bussa Statue. While not many were in attendance, those there recognized the importance of the lessons that must be learnt from the struggle of our ancestors in attaining freedom. Also recognized was the fact that while freedom has been won from the physical shackles that bound them to slave labour on the plantations, the shackles of poverty, psychological damage, spiritual destruction and mind bondage still exist for many
of the descendants of the slaves. And so the struggle continues.
It is recorded by several historians that a significant percentage of the slaves brought to the Caribbean and the United States were of the faith I adhere to. They were stripped of all their identities and beliefs when sold into slavery.
However, many, it is reported, did not accept this reality and fought against the oppression. These slaves fought their “jihad” to win freedom for themselves and the other Africans around them. Their martyrdom in the cause of freedom must be documented, and some historians are beginning to do justice to the subject.
The many slave revolts around the Caribbean must be lessons and a history we must teach. We must have our younger generation imbibe that culture of struggle
for truth, justice and intolerance to cruelty and oppression.
If our younger generation is sidetracked into exercises manifested in the varying forms we find today of fetes and parties, we have succeeded in providing a distraction from the real struggles of everyday living, giving momentary anaesthetic injections of joy and pleasure. We have failed to administer the necessary and corresponding doses of a culture that encourages struggle for what is right and moral.
We have a generation of pleasure seekers ultimately creating monsters like Dr Palmer who, with the financial means, sees absolutely nothing wrong in travelling halfway across the globe to kill an innocent lion.
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace, and secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association. Email firstname.lastname@example.org)