Thursday, July 30, 2015

Much ado about Cecil.


Unlike the shooting of the rhino in Namibia, the shooting of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe does not have redeeming qualities for conservation, and though there may be a role for even trophy hunting in Zimbabwe, the current process is complicated and corrupt. So it makes sense to be unhappy with how this lion was killed, but I'm not sure it warrants the mass and often obviously clueless outrage the Internet has produced.

Individually, people mean well. But the mob's moral compass isn't doing its job. How many have posted a meme or retweeted a quote but won't take the time to read a Zimbabwean's take on Cecil? Getting upset on behalf of Zimbabweans about this isn't just not enough, it's totally out of touch. There are more problems facing Zimbabwe than just poaching. We shouldn't only pay attention when an American dentist gets involved. If you're going to get upset on behalf of Zimbabweans, make sure you're listening to them about where they need support. From the article linked above:
The country is going through serious economic challenges, and quite understandably, most people have pressing needs on their minds, such as food, shelter, and jobs. Thousands have been laid off work sine a recent Supreme judgment a couple of weeks ago. An activist called Itai Dzamara has been missing for more than four months and some worry that the story of this human being has not received as much international attention. So forgive them, if their attention is not as much focused on Cecil's sad demise. It's not that they don't get it, or that they don't care for animals, no. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Frighteningly modest proposals

Consider the following proposals:

  • Our nation has goals that society should support, regardless of the problems and goals of other nations or peoples;
  • It should be the job of our economy and of society to achieve those goals, rather than (or at least before) we worry about our own selfish plans;
  • We should be able to support our national goals without having to rely on other countries for trade or support;
  • It would be best if we could stop politicians from wasting time arguing, set their goals, and make them implement them; and 
  • People who do not share commitment to our national societal goals are antisocial and should be made to contribute to the plan. 

This doesn't seem wildly out of line with what many mainstream voters believe. Or perhaps they believe that it's impossible, but a nice idea. Playing up this sort of thinking has been key to the early success of the campaigns of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Unfortunately, given how unremarkable this proposal seems, it constitutes the building blocks for fascism*, a set of political beliefs that, despite its fall to the level of pejorative insult, was a popular idea for Western governments following on the heels of the Progressive Era.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Canada and Independence Days

Canada Day and Independence Day falling so close to one another makes me reflect on what makes each of them worth celebrating. I spent a lazy (though later rowdy) Canada Day on Prince Edward Island, being reminded how diverse the Canadian experience is. I'd spent a long weekend in New England leading up to that, spending the heady day following the Obergefell decision in Boston, with rainbows decorating windows across the city.

I thought of the phrase, "There once was a dream that was America," though I can't remember where it comes from. And I thought of all that Canada and the United States are and were supposed to be. When they were at their best, they were crucibles for building and directing one's own life, for being the author of our own stories. They were where anyone could come to find a place to make something great. They were the very best kinds of sanctuary. Though that's faded with our concerns about both economic and physical security, it's what we can strive to make them again.