Nature Sends a Message
Florida has canceled programs which involve people "diving
to frolic with sharks." The number of recent, fatal shark attacks
apparently sufficed to restart the brain function of a generation
whose members have largely shut it down during their formative years
in the late 1960s.
For ease of communication, we might refer to their affliction as
the "Woodstock Virus." It prevents the sufferer from seeing
the world as it really is.
Among other things, they came to view the animal kingdom as it
is portrayed in works of fiction, or as animals might have behaved
in the Garden of Eden.
What is funny about that last quirk is that people afflicted with
the Woodstock Virus do not believe in the Garden of Eden, or anything
else proposed by those who had grown up before the 1960s. (That's
everyone since Adam.) But I digress.
Witness the Discovery Channel, animals have come to be publicized
as wondrous creatures whose perception, decision making, and ability
to communicate far exceed anything we wretched humans could have
"dreamt of in [our] philosophy" (William Shakespeare,
Fish appear on the screen, said to have "developed" a
disc-shaped orange spot left of their tail fin to fool the hook-tentacled
hermit crab. One can just see the fish at their convention responding
to the call, "All those in favor of having the spot left of
the fin say Aye."
The other day on CNN, a pregnant woman, involved with trying to
induce dolphins to reproduce in captivity, whispered secretively
to the camera. "I know Jesse (a porpoise) is examining my baby
right now, using her sonar. Alas, we humans have no way of finding
out whether she herself is pregnant."
The announcer took over. "After considering this problem for
nine years, the head of the research team decided to use ultra-sound
to examine the dolphins and found that Jesse had ovulated on schedule."
Nine years? Ultra-sound is used every day in every American village.
Next we saw the pregnant woman, jubilant on her back. "Since
the ultra- sound was here, I had myself examined as well."
These are the brains that have given us the shark as this noble,
demure creature who wants to be patted, likes to be fed and - this
above all - craves to be understood. (Especially those abused at
an early age.) When one of these tragically misunderstood creatures
bit off the leg of a boy, the TV anchor shrieked with indignation
as she reported the "vicious attack."
Sharks are neither noble nor vicious. They are, well, sharks. They
were meant to be. But the adolescents who came of age in the 1960s
were eventually supposed to grow into homo sapiens, not remain mired
in their world of phantasy. On the one hand, they see animals as
superior to humans, overlooking with gusto that it is people who
make films about gorillas, not the other way around. On the other
hand, they believe man is so powerful as to be able to destroy the
planet. To top all this, they try to prevail on third-graders and
beauty pageant contestants to save it.
Earth to Children of the 60s: See if you can predict the path of
a hurricane for the next 24 hours before you panic about global
warming a hundred years from now. Use our new technologies to film
creatures large and small for observation, rather than as visuals
to accompany political diatribes. Try to combine admiration for
man's unique capabilities with respect for the restrictions Nature
has placed on them.
And for Pete's sake, don't tell children that sharks are harmless
so long as you treat them with dignity. And don't believe that wolves
actually brought up Maugli, even though Walt Disney made a wonderful
film about Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book. Consequently, don't introduce
wolves into our villages, and don't send children to swim with the
animals. It is nothing short of outrageous that leaving a stroller
outside a store for a minute or two is punishable by law, but placing
children deliberately in harm's way is all right if it conforms
to the correct political purpose (porpoise?).
Nature has sent us a message. Florida appears to have heard it.
Hopefully, others will too. The time has come to engage our brains
once again to guide our actions. And while we are at it, we might
also put an end to the "man is the enemy of Nature" rhetoric
that runs parallel with deification of the animal world. It is not
only stupid - it is downright irresponsible.