The western black rhino is no more according to headlines, tweets, shares and other modes of eco-agony, invariably perpetrated by that most spineless of Moloch’s children, the hipster and its incestuous cousin, the yuppie.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved the western black rhino, as much as everyone else who had never heard of its existence. I will however bet my last Oreo, that all those cyber tears were shed more in aid of social awareness brownie points than actual knowledge of, or love for the animal concerned.
As a South African, countless mentions of the (very real) plight of the rhino have flitted across my Facebook page over the past few years. During the same period a young South African girl, Anene Booysen, was gang raped and killed in the most horrific way. Anene was not born into privilege, did not have access to top class education and definitely did not have a lovely job in marketing. No, she was a coloured girl from a marginalised and economically depressed part of SA. The gruesome murder was widely reported in South African, and even international media. How many times was it mentioned on my Facebook page, as an example of the intolerable level of violence against women in Africa? Not once.
You see, rhinos are sexy, poor coloured girls are not.
The dishonesty at the heart of fashionably exotic wildlife issues is not only nauseating, it also marginalises important issues in the wannabe nature advocate’s own community. But there is a reason for that too. Do you really think a soccer mom from Orange County or an advertising executive from Islington is going to get down and dirty in the local soup kitchen, or are they rather going to establish their caring nature, saving time and energy, by sharing the latest rhino atrocity on social media. Never mind that it is an animal that they have never seeked out in the bush, and thus supporting income starved local communities in Africa. No, they had a lovely time in Acapulco and Lanzarote respectively. Thank you very much.
Why the only good hipster, is a waterboarded hipster:
Western consumerism feeding off Eastern manufacturing of iGadgets creates more disposable income in countries like China, Korea and Vietnam, which in turn means more demand for rhino horn, shark fin, ivory etc. You have to be either mentally challenged or the world’s most pathological liar not to admit the above connection.
Have you ever considered the impact of that lovely upwardly mobile job of
yours in media, travel, advertising, sales and marketing, basically any
position that leads back to a product made in countries where illegal
trafficking and consumption of endangered wildlife is endemic? All those
fancy gadgets, devices and appliances in your home. Your car, yes that
includes European and American brands. Your designer branded clothes. Your
package holiday to Vietnam or Thailand.
So indirectly you, yes, you hipster number 3, helped to kill off the last
western black rhino.
You want to save the rest of the rhino clan?
Don’t buy products manufactured in countries that do not have strict wildlife trafficking legislation and effective enforcement thereof. Don’t advertise, market, or work for a company that sells those products. Petition your government to break all trade ties with transgressing countries, even if it means you lose your job and you have to prostitute yourself to put some food on the table.
So your choice. Be a hypocritical sack of shit with trendy accessories and a nice
job, or a principled pauper writing profound vitriol on the last IBM
desktop PC, wholly manufactured in the USA.
I can hear the litany of dissenting voices roaring that the above is over
simplifying the issue or simply not true. Which is natural considering that
the people to whom those voices belong never really gave a rat’s ass about
rhinos, elephants or the last mating pair of the lesser spotted flying fox, in the first instance.
What really motivates the posters and sharers of ‘save the rhino’ and other
eco-memes is the opportunity to portray themselves as ecologically, and
by extension socially aware, citizens of the world. Look at me, look at me,
I’m a ‘gooooood’ person, I love the rhino. Support the rhino, save the
rhino, or be damned.
The latest incarnation of this burgeoning moral elasticity may be found in the plethora of rhino focused NGOs which mushroomed since, well, since the panda fell out of fashion. Handy vehicles for opportunistic vampire bats to further their incipient careers as bullshit artists in advertising or marketing. Nothing like a trending wildlife issue to kick start that career in mouth farting, eh?
As popular as a debate about population control, would be the suggestion that if westerners cared more about people in developing countries than they cared about animals, we would have had a vibrant manufacturing sector in Africa, and less ecological devastation. Nature conservation starts and ends with people, people.
Unfortunately, most of the people making comments about nature conservation issues in Africa have never really travelled or lived in Africa. That does not include the privileged, white enclaves of South Africa, or fancy designer safaris, where animals are viewed from air-conditioned luxury lodges. Most of those comments are nothing but inane white noise generated by ignorant westerners with zero insight into African culture or challenges. The offensive subtext is that they do not want to confront the reality that wildlife do not exist for their exclusive, privileged entertainment. The dangerous implication is that all that white noise may just drown out the real conservation issues as addressed by hard-working conservationists on the ground.
Maybe true conservation minded people should not be shocked by the rotten core at the heart of eco porn. After all, those are the same people who murmured in unison with Russell Brand about some nebulous revolution, but will inevitably be the first to turn tail or coat when push comes to shove, or shot. Cowardice comes natural to them.
Another worrying sub-component to superficial rhino love is the hidden racial/cultural superiority of the superficially morally outraged. Scratch a save-the-rhino advocate and you will often find some form of bigot, be it class, race or culturally based. In their insular world their culture/race still holds dominion over the rest of the world and their views are paramount. You know the type, they occupy trendy city centres and leafy suburbs, and profess themselves to be liberal democrats…as long as the ‘others’ (that would be them blacks, hispanics, arabs or asians) behave appropriately culturally assimilated. For these enlightened folk there is only one true perspective , and it is their own.
Of course the extinction of the western black rhino is a tragedy. The immense diversity and complexity of the natural world gives us pause to reflect on our own insignificance in the greater scheme of things. It is supposed to keep us humble, and hopefully make us strive to be better human beings.
However, conversations about conservation are irrelevant unless they are translated into measurable actions. If you love rhinos or any other endangered animal, action it by supporting the professional conservation agencies that are doing the hard work on the front line. That means organisations run by people with a long history of involvement with the study and protection of the particular animal and ecosystem, not some glitzy, smooth talking NGO with a fancy website. And do that after you have solved all the crap in your own community. That glue sniffing street kid down the road may just be the genius who recreates the mammoth and sabre-toothed lion from extinct animals’ DNA.
While we are cracking the cat ‘o nine tails, if you are an ardent rhino fetishist and have never heard of Dr Ian Player, you are probably an asshole. Second World war veteran, revered warden of the iMfolozi Game Reserve in Kwazulu Natal and architect of Operation Rhino, which saved the southern white rhino from extinction, his voice was one with authority on the subject. Oh, and he was golfing legend, Gary Player’s older brother. Gary has obviously been the under-performer.
The importance of a lucid and truthful media role in conservation is emphasised in an extract of a speech by Dr Player: “I can tell you from my own 62 years involvement in wildlife conservation and the environment that had it not have been first of all with the press, then radio and only much later, television, we would never have saved iMfolozi, Hluhluwe, Mkhuze and Ndumu Game Reserves. Without you we would not have won the battle for St Lucia which became a world heritage site. The first in South Africa.”
That however, does not include superficial, emotionally self-serving hubris dished up by the bucket load on social media platforms.
For more about Dr Player and his immense contribution to nature conservation head over to ianplayer.com.
If for some mysterious reason you actually give a shit about women’s rights, read Rebecca Davis’s insightful piece about Anene Booysen’s rape and murder here: Anene Booysen: Why India and SA responded differently to two brutal rapes
And ditch the iGadget fucknut*….
*according to the urban dictionary a ‘fucknut’ is a person who is so annoying and dumb that they can no longer be classed as an idiot and therefore a new level of idiot was created for them.