Harambe and Human Elitism

I’m not here to argue a side. I have chosen a side, but I will not explicitly share my views. By the end, you’ll probably be able to figure out how I feel about the Harambe controversy, but that is not my goal. Instead, I would like to discuss some of the thoughts being shared on this topic that are somewhat concerning to me. I was not planning on writing on this topic at all, but I came across an article that was so disturbing to me, that I needed to write on it, if only for my own peace of mind.

While innocently scrolling through my facebook feed this morning, knowing that I’d see something on the topic, I came across an article that claimed to “reveal what else happened while gorilla held child captive.” I’d like to point out that this is a troubling headline, not only because it is misleading as to the information that it contained, but also because the gorilla did not hold the child captive. The child entered the enclosure out of his own curiosity. Anyway, I clicked on the link, not checking the website title, or thinking at all, really. I was hoping to find some more information on what actually happened. In retrospect, I should have known from the skewed title, that I would be disappointed. Instead, what I found was an article about an article. I don’t like those, so I clicked through to the original article. What I found was absolutely disgusting.

Now that you’re caught up, I’d like to address some problematic points made in this article. If you’d like to read the article first, do so HERE. If not, I’ll be quoting and explaining the best that I can.

The article starts off briefly explaining the incident, basically, a young child climbed into the gorilla habitat, and the gorilla was shot for fear of injuring the child. From what I can tell there isn’t much certainty as to how the child got in the enclosure, or what the gorilla actually did to the child. The only certains right now seem to be that the gorilla is dead and the child was, overall, unharmed1.

The first point of concern from this article is that Walsh, the author, concludes that the story has a happy ending.

“The animal died quickly. The boy was rushed to a hospital where he was treated for non-life threatening injuries. A happy ending to what could have been a terrible, tragic story.”

I would argue that this is no Disney ending. It was a quite tragic ending. A life was lost. We’re all, of course, glad that the child was okay, but a life was lost. Not exactly the ending I’d like to see. For me, a happy ending is “… And they all lived happily ever after.” But that’s not how it happened.

Walsh tried to redeem himself by saying that he is not happy that the ape died, which I’m not so sure about, but we’ll get to that.

He then goes on to say “when a human life is threatened by an animal, the only thing I care about is saving the human.” On the surface, this seems reasonable. It should be a natural response to want to save a child facing a gorilla. But underneath, there is a major problem: human elitism. This statement shows little regard for other types of life. Walsh is saying that he values human life more than gorilla life. #gorillalivesmatter? We’ll move on.

Keeping with the order of the original article, for those of you reading along, I’m going to move away from Harambe for a moment. In the very next paragraph, Walsh states,

“We are living in the days of neo-paganism, where legions of depraved souls seem only capable of mustering compassion for wild beasts. As for human beings, they feel only contempt and indifference.”

Here, Walsh demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of pagan beliefs. If he had fact checked, or had any idea what he was talking about, he would know that Paganism preaches the value of all life, no matter how big or small, or what the impact of that life is on the world. Most pagans, being human themselves, probably don’t feel contempt toward humans. They are likely not indifferent either. This only shows that Walsh is spouting uneducated opinions on matters he knows little about.

He goes on more about pagans, saying

“Heartbroken citizens planned a candlelight vigil. Others left flowers at a statue of the beast, borrowing a page from the pagan animal worshipers of ancient times.”

But here he fails to realize that we also hold candle light vigils for humans who have met an untimely death. Do we not also place flowers on the graves of our loved ones? While these traditions may or may not be rooted in the “pagan animal worshippers of ancient times”, they are things that we still do today, for humans. But let’s get back to Harambe.

Walsh then goes on a rant about the people on twitter, and the things that they have said about the matter.

“Some have blamed the child, saying he entered the gorilla’s space “wrongfully,” and perhaps should have been left to face the consequences. Another popular opinion is that the enormous beast was “only trying to protect the child,” which is a conclusion invented out of thin air based on nothing but Disney movies.”

There are two parts here, and I’d like to go one at a time. First, the habitat belongs to Harambe. Think of it as his home. Now, gorillas can be quite territorial, if I’m not mistaken, but I would argue that humans can be the same way. If the enclosure was his home, then the child was an intruder in his home. Harambe only investigated. He could have violently approached the child, and killed him within seconds, but he didn’t. If an intruder entered your home, how would you react? You’d grab a gun, or maybe a bat; any hard object that’s near you. You’d then approach the intruder, and swing, wouldn’t you? It’s assumed that if an uninvited person enters your home, they mean you harm, right? Swing first, ask questions later, right? I wouldn’t blame Harambe if that was what happened. But that’s not even what happened. Harambe investigated. There is some controversy over the claims that Harambe violently flung the kid around. I don’t know what happened, but I would claim self-defense on Harambe’s part if that were true. It’s kind of hard to ask what a gorilla is thinking.

The second part of this, that conclusions are being made based on Disney movies, rather than fact, is of concern. It has actually been observed that primates, with whom we share a common ancestor, will care for the young of another species. It is not unlikely that Harambe was actually protecting (or, at least not trying to harm) the child. Think about what you would do if you opened your front door and saw a stray cat. Would you kill it? Or would you bring it inside and try to find an owner? If not that, then at least put a bowl of milk out for it. Humans and gorillas come from the same family. We are both primates. We both have a nurturing instinct. Well, most of us do anyway. It is possible that Harambe, like Walsh, had little concern for the life of another species, but I think that’s unlikely as Harambe was raised by humans.

Let’s move on! Next, Walsh talks about the mother of the child.

“Nearly everyone seems to agree that the child’s mother is a worthless scumbag who should be locked in prison on ape-manslaughter (apeslaughter?) charges. It may be true that the mother acted negligently.”

I’ll stick my head out there and say that had she been watching her child, he wouldn’t have been able to climb the fence. Zoos don’t make it easy to climb into the gorilla enclosure. I think the zoo actually said that it would have taken some effort for that child to climb the fence. So, he didn’t just fall in. How long was the mother’s back to the child? What was she doing that she wasn’t watching him? No one seems to know. I wouldn’t go as far as negligence, but parents, please keep an eye on your children.

“But any parent knows that kids can create enormous, life-endangering trouble for themselves in the blink of an eye… We have all looked away from our kids for a second and turned back just in time to stop them from doing something potentially fatal.”

Yes, I am a “naïve, presumptuous, childless” person, who’s “never been responsible for anything but their pet goldfish.” And yes, I understand that you can turn your back for a second, and your child may stick a fork in the outlet. But isn’t that more reason to keep a very close eye on small children, especially around a gorilla enclosure?

Walsh then goes back to how terrible it is that people are upset that a gorilla was killed to save a child. How dare you feel compassion for something that is not a human, you barbarian!

“Only a very sick, very troubled person would have difficulty deciding whose life should be prioritized when an ape and a human child clash.”

I think this is something that most people would disagree with. Not many people believe that humans are somehow more valuable. I would argue that only a very sick, very troubled person would be able to easily choose when two lives are at stake. Any taking of life, no matter who that life belongs to, should not be taken lightly. It shouldn’t be an easy decision to kill someone. If it is, I would recommend a mental health checkup.

I’m concerned about Walsh. Get some help, buddy. Let’s leave that dark place, please.

The next several paragraphs are a rant on abortion. I’m thinking Walsh feels pretty passionately about abortion, and was looking for a way to throw some more of his views at us. Whatever his intentions, I’ll address a few problematic statements, then we’ll get back to Harambe.

I think his main purpose was to belittle the news that people find important, especially considering the title of his article is “While You Were Crying Over A Dead Ape, 125,000 Babies Were Just Murdered.” Not only is this patronizing, it’s also not true. Abortions kill fetuses, embryos, zygotes, etc. The word baby is not assigned until birth. No one went around slaughtering babies in their cribs, as the title is meant to trick you into believing. But I digress. Walsh’s tangent on abortion is supposed to make you feel guilty about caring for Harambe. He is, at the same time, trying to make you feel bad, and invalidating the significance of Harambe’s life. I have little patience for subscribers to the belief that “my pain is worse, so yours doesn’t matter.” The human trafficking, abortions, wars, etc. don’t make Harambe’s death any less important. The large scale problems do not cancel out the small scale problems. The high abortion rate does not make it okay to kill gorillas. One crime does not mean you can’t pay attention to another. Stop doing this. Stop shaming people for the news they find important.

He had his tangent, and now I’ve had mine. Let’s continue.

Walsh goes on for a while, trying to shame the “pro-choice” supports, and says

“Those who are not pro-life are either indifferent to the mountain of dead human bodies piled in medical waste dumpsters outside abortions clinics, or quite enthusiastic about the whole thing.”

I think it’s safe to say that most “pro-choice” supporters don’t get off on piles of dead babies. The “pro-choice” argument does not support dead babies. They support a woman’s right to her own body. Women are not vessels for babies, they are people, and they have a right to do what they think is best for themselves, and for their unborn child.

I’m going to one-up Mr. Walsh here, and go on a second tangent. I want to take a minute to discuss language, and activist groups. “Pro-life” was named so because they didn’t want to call themselves “anti-choice”. Just the same, “pro-choice” was so named because they didn’t want to be “anti-life.” When we are naming a cause that is close to our hearts, we try to name it in a way that makes it look the best. “Pro-life” and “anti-choice” are, in this circumstance, synonymous. They mean the same thing, but one of them sounds nicer.

Alright. That was the last one, I swear. Back to Harambe.

Walsh claims that “this was a beast directly threatening the life of a child.”

Have you ever watched a gorilla interact before? There were no signs of aggression present as Harambe interacted with the child. Videos show Harambe picking up the child out of the water and sitting him up right. That doesn’t seem too bad. What I think you are referring to, is when the gorilla grabbed the child’s arm, and flung him around. But if you notice, Harambe only does this after onlookers start screaming. It is likely that Harambe heard the screams, and thought the child was being attacked. Sensing danger for the child, Harambe pulled the child away from the screams, and began protecting him. Harambe was a silverback gorilla. These are not a different animal than other gorillas. They are just the eldest of the troop, charged with protection of the troop. All signs lead to Harambe protecting the child.

In the very next sentence, Walsh makes this point

“One can only imagine how most Americans would react if a demented zookeeper decided to kill a baby gorilla by dismembering it and crushing its skull. I expect angry mobs would burn down the zookeeper’s house and stone him to death in the street. Then they’d build a golden icon of the unfortunate creature and every year, on the date of its death, they’d make pilgrimages to the holy shrine.”

I don’t have much to say on this because I’m not sure exactly what point Walsh was trying to make here. I’m only highlighting it for you, so that maybe you can explain to me what it is he is trying to argue.

The first sentence of the next paragraph has a few problems. To clarify, by “these” I believe Walsh is referring to the amount of people showing compassion for Harambe, and the compassion itself.

“These are the consequences when a culture severs itself from reality and rejects values that are rooted in a love of God and a recognition of moral absolutes.”

I’d like to start addressing this by rewriting the sentence into something that makes more sense. “These are the consequences when a culture unites itself with another culture and rejects the elitist values that spew hatred toward those who subscribe to different belief systems, or maintain differing physical attributes.” Showing compassion for another living thing doesn’t mean that we’ve severed ourselves from reality, nor rejected any value relating to love of God, life, or anything else. All that it shows is love for others.

Also, this love of God that Walsh mentions, should also include love of all things made by God, even those things that do not believe in that god, shouldn’t it? In Christian mythology2, is it not true that God created the Earth and everything on it? Who are you to decide which of God’s creations are more valuable?

His next sentence:

“It doesn’t take long before this lost and detached cultures plunges into barbarism, paganism, and insanity.”

Come on, Walsh, we’ve been over this. Don’t use words that you don’t understand. Pagans aren’t evil, not do they disregard human life. They love all life. Just let them hug the trees in peace3.

This brings us to Walsh’s concluding thoughts. He mentions “the truth that human life is more valuable than animal life.” There he said it. I cannot be accused of putting words in his mouth, he said them himself.

“All of the animals in the entire world are not worth one child. All of the beasts that have ever existed do not equal the life of even the most despicable person. There is no question that an ape should be killed to protect a child. Indeed, if it were necessary, I would personally kill a thousand apes to protect one child, and I would feel no remorse at all.”

This is where I started to question all of the anger that this article caused me. That’s a joke right? No sane person would believe that, right? It has to be a satirical article. Walsh must be a troll. Unfortunately, dear reader, it isn’t, and he’s not. This is real.

“Beyond that, one abortion is a greater tragedy than the extinction of an entire species of animal. A million dead kittens or a hundred thousand butchered elephants do not even come close to matching the horror of one slaughtered baby.”

The insanity continues. I started to question whether poor Walsh was some sort of psychopath serial animal killer. He would certainly never hurt a human. But if he had to kill every other animal on the planet, to save one life, he would.

Then Walsh ended his article by telling us that he would still choose your life, over that gorilla (even though you are some sort of crazed barbarian that cares about animals), because he cares about you because you are a human.

He finished by trying to convince us that he is morally superior to us, but really most people aren’t even reading anymore because that are too busy vomiting from the disgustingness that Walsh calls his conclusion.

Which brings me to my concluding thoughts. No matter which side you are taking on this whole controversy, try to remember that we are talking about life. Harambe was a living, breathing, feeling creature, not all that different from us. He looks a little different, and he walks a little different, and he doesn’t communicate in the same way, but he’s still our cousin in the animal kingdom.

No matter how convincing Mr. Walsh’s arguments were, remember that compassion for others, and love of God (no matter which god you believe in) go hand-in-hand.

The name Harambe was Swahili for “come together in unity for a common cause.” There’s a message in that. Lots of people have surely come together in support of Harambe, But just as many are divided. Unity and common cause have certainly been a theme in my argument; unity between humans and gorillas for the common cause of life.

You didn’t die for nothing, Harambe. Your unfortunate death has definitely started a conversation.


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