Thoughts Provoked by the Killing of Harambe, the Gorilla

(Due to being typed at an ungodly hour, this entry will likely be edited at a later date)

A link to the BéBéCé’s coverage for context

So, there are a few things that can be said about the situation regarding how the hollering, video-recording cretins made it worse. One does not need to be a primatologist or David Attenborough to know that the affair becoming a spectacle contributed to the gorilla’s agitation considerably and, thus, the final outcome. Strike one for humans if you ask me. Zoos should also obviously have protocol for situations like this that involves clearing spectators out of the area so they do not make things worse by putting undue stress on personnel or anything else that the situation involves directly. If a spectator doesn’t comply, there should be legal repercussions: lives are more valuable than curiosity or footage to upload. Strike two for humans.

Because I am a misanthrope who experiences bouts of depression, I have access to a peculiarly objective way of appraising things. Concerning the killing of the gorilla, I thought to myself: “If only the fatalities were reversed…it isn’t like the gorilla is going to be raised by morons and leave a huge carbon footprint, like virtually all humans do.”

Immediately, I felt guilty because that’s a four year old child…surely a four year old child’s life is more valuable than that of a gorilla…right? Finding a logical snag, I continued working it out…well, the child could go on to save a few other peoples’ lives or do something that’s really great for humanity, as a whole. Here we go again though because what is so special about humans? This is a question that those who have never considered suicide might fairly easily dismiss for self-serving reasons(ex: “Nahhhh…my awesome life where I work, fuck and spend must matter more”). From my perspective, as someone who has spent excruciatingly lengthy periods in the throes of depression, something that psychologists call “depressive realism” is basically hardwired into my thought process. In this context, that means being able to step outside of myself with more ease than some non-depressed people may find. Moreover, something else that is interesting about how mood and thought intersect is that all people have a tendency to overestimate their abilities, but…as you might have predicted…this self-serving bias is not as strong with depressed people.

What should be stressed is that there are ongoing debates among social scientists about depressive realism, but it is still a useful concept to be aware of for demystifying the times when we make glum predictions that miraculously pan-out.

Anyway, the segue about depressive realism matter because the majority of us are hardwired to value our lives dearly for reasons that go back to humanity’s earliest days. Thus, most of us will reflexively balk at the question of our lives being less valuable than those of others– let alone those of non-humans. What comes easiest often is to not even go to the second stage of inquiry: thinking harder about why their life is objectively valuable.

Even as a depressed person, the implications how severely my being alive inherently impacts the environment relative to any other organism on the Earth was a very bitter pill to swallow…but it is true. Consider how much plastic I’ve put into the landfill, carbon emissions by flying/driving, my electric appliances/gadgets, not to mention the infinitely small, yet crucial role I play, as a consumer in perpetuating capitalism with my money, which in turn fuels horrendous human rights abuses(ex: conflict minerals used for electronics, sweatshops, murders of Latin American unionists, etc.), plus the environmental impacts arising from making products and getting them to market(ex: extraction/burning of fossil fuels to ship, deforestation to make room for plantations, etc.). Yes, human suffering made it onto the list because all suffering matters. In fact, if the late Harambe had ripped the child apart, he would still have less blood on his hands than most of us probably do without knowing it for how we contribute to the mining of conflict minerals and necessitate sweatshops with our insatiable hunger for electronics alone. At risk of overstatement, consider how the people in the global South(Latin America, South Asia, India and Africa) have been getting poisoned by the pesticides that they are forced to use in various types of plantations.

I can grasp it in the abstract, but the actual extent of costs imposed on other living things needlessly by humans exceeds my imaginative capabilities and let me tell you, I’m really fucking imaginative.

While I am of course a monster who thinks that worrying about happiness/fulfillment are evidence of vapidity, for anyone who has stuck this out, there’s a light at the end of this tunnel. Being as I live in perpetual gloom, perhaps I am overestimating the levity of
my conclusions, so perhaps you should be the judge…

Anyone familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous, anger management or self-help groups will understand that before problems can be addressed, their existence has to be acknowledged. With this in mind, it seems plausible that for humanity to get its collective shit together and change its nihilistic, irrational ways, we must accept that our lives are intrinsically less valuable than those of other animals who do not live stupidly, like we do. Then maybe we can finally get around to recreating ourselves as a species deserving of the cosmic lottery that granted us the privilege of ending up on this rock.

Doesn’t the struggle of trying to live a less harmful life seem a lot more meaningful than accumulation and consumption too?



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