There has been much outrage and outrageousness over the brutal killing of Cecil the Lion, including the very authentic moment when late night host Jimmy Kimmel was visibly moved over how the animal was killed. My social media feeds for the last four days have been overwhelmed by a deluge of posts on the lion including calls for the perpetrator of the killing, a Minnesota Dentist, to be hunted himself. Yesterday morning, between the time when I was eating breakfast and listening to the radio while driving to work, I noticed something that left me a little troubled.
First was this story posted on my Facebook feed, “International report confirms: 2014 was Earth’s warmest year on record“ and then came, “Canada offers up to $8.3M in fight against ISIS” with this line in particular leaving me shaken, “Naked women are sold at market like cattle, with manuals on how to sell slaves and deal with them.” Then this came up, “France deploys riot police at Calais as migrants try to rush Channel Tunnel” where Prime Minister Cameron of Great Britain has offered to send dogs and chain link fence to deal with the issue of the economically displaced. And then there was “Verdict in Mohamed Fahmy retrial postponed until August” about a Canadian journalist who is still being held in Egypt. Or “Attacker stabs six people during Israel gay pride parade” about an ultra-orthodox man recently released from prison who had stabbed people at a parade five years previously and did the same thing again. All of this I read in the space of the hour when I eat my breakfast and when I get to work.
While the issue of Cecil the Lion and the way this animal was butchered is tragic, I was struck by the lack of comparative attention to these other stories involving the lives of people around the world. I mean women and children being sold at sex slave markets with instruction manuals should create some outrage one would think, or the fact that thousands of economically displaced people from Libya to Afghanistan are trying to jump on to moving trains and trucks, where five have died, in order to get to Great Britain because they want a better life, should cause some attention on Facebook or Twitter, no? Or the fact that our planet seems to be on a collision course for radically higher sea levels and rapid weather change that would affect millions should at least create some stir? But no. The story of Cecil the Lion not only consumed social media but was in heavy circulation on our radios and tv sets and North America was focused on that.
How did this happen? How did we end up so focused on the case of this lion and not on at least some of the stories, or thousands like them, above? Have we become so disconnected from the plight of our brothers and sisters on our planet that what happens to them doesn’t even register anymore? Have we been reduced to veering wildly from Cecil to cat videos to the billions of inspirational videos that we cannot even see through the noise to what is happening around us? Or have we become so overwhelmed with the complexity of our economies and environments, combined with the distraction of the small screen, that we can’t even begin to grasp how to look at and deal with these very human issues?
I don’t believe that most people “just don’t care” or that Gen Y is “self involved and lazy” or that Baby Boomers are ”all about their own money and power” or that the poor should “be able to pick themselves up by their own bootstraps” or any of the thousands of easy one-line responses to issues and problems that are deeply complex and are woven through our communities and planet. No, I believe that people are essentially good and that our fellow humans will go out of their way to help those who need it.
But maybe we have become more myopic in what we react to and maybe that myopia leads us to not be able to understand our place in the larger context of humanity and our planet. And maybe the world comes at us so fast and in such a customized way that much of the world is filtered from our view even as it is happening right in our own backyard. And maybe, in writing this to myself and in recognizing my own small world view, we can lift our eyes a little higher to see over the horizon to see a wider view of our world and our place in it. Cecil is a part of that story but so are the millions of people from our own downtowns to the middle east and across the World. I hope you’ll remind me to lift my eyes as you remember to lift your own and consider the bigger picture and hope that Jimmy and the rest of us are as moved by these issues as we are by Cecil.