This is the horror story, but it takes me a while to get to it…
In general, I’m not a Twitter fan. At first, it was great because I followed people I normally read, so it kept me up to date on what was going on. But it got to be too much. I wasn’t getting anything done other than reading. The main thing I use Twitter for is to publicize this blog, and it does about as good a job at that as I can expect given the small number of followers I have. On the other hand, when I piss off someone with a large following, literally thousands of people will come and read me. I have tried to avoid allowing this to make me write any differently than I normally do. And I think I’ve succeeded, because the truth is, as much as I like the traffic, I don’t like it when people yell at me and call me stupid. (Not that I’m thinking of anyone in particular, Josh Barro.)
Anyway, when Andrea got on Twitter, she took to it like a fish to exactly the kind of water that it prefers. As she has become something of a prominent atheist, she quickly gained a following. This resulted in my getting some atheist followers. It also resulted in my getting into some discussions with theists and atheists alike. And I have to say: both groups are in general made up of awful human beings. They both prove that if God exists, he is not a loving god. Slowly, and delicately, I untangled myself from this group.
Soon, I came into contact with another group. A much better group! Film geeks! Well, these are my people! This very evening we geeked out over filmmaker Walter Hill. On another occasion, I was not ridiculed for making the nerdiest of film geek tweets, “Neo would say “00100000 00100001″ Nanook would say ” !” And Mork would say, “Nanu!” Get it? Of course you don’t! Neo from The Matrix is saying in ascii binary ” !” Nannook of the North was a silent film, so he is saying ” !” And the Mork comment is just silliness because “Nanu” sounds like “Nannook.” Ah, my people.
After this, I became involved with a number of wildlife people—not just people who love wildlife, but people who work to save and protect wildlife. The connection was that I had just seen the film Blackfish and it had a profound effect on me and I think I started tweeting things out. This introduced me to Ms.OpRoar, who kept tweeting out these absolutely beautiful wildlife photos. In fact, I got an article out of one of her photos, Orcas In the Wild—Free! She has a great love of and concern for rhinos.
I guess this is the great thing about Twitter, because I don’t know this woman. In fact, I only assume she is a woman based upon her account name. I know she likes wildlife and I know that rhinos are a special thing for her. So this evening, as I made dinner, I was watching Al Jazeera America (because I don’t watch MSNBC anymore) and they had a segment on rhino poaching. So I ran to my computer and tweeted to Mr.OpRoar, “Rhino discussion right now on @ajam.” Sadly, by that time, it was over. But I promised to see if I could find it online. Most likely, I will be able to find it tomorrow.
Tonight, however, and this is where the horror story starts, I found a video “Al Jazeera Correspondent – The Last Rhino.” It is less than an hour and I really think you should watch it. It shows humans are their worst and at their best. And a whole lot in between. My regular readers know: I do not think death is the worst thing; pain is. I was prepared for a lot of senseless killing. I was not prepared for the senseless cruelty. After ten minutes, I had to turn it off. I was writing my birthday post and sobbing while I watched the video. I couldn’t work. The worst of it is at the beginning. The rest is about people who are trying to stop the poaching.
The story is very similar to that of the drug trade. The people who do the actual work of poaching, are incredibly poor. They are well compensated, of course. But I have a hard time seeing them as the true villains, even though I don’t especially mourn their deaths. But the true culpability is further up the chain. As a young poacher says, “They make a lot of money and we don’t get much. We get almost nothing out of poaching.” These are the words of the desperate. Compare him with John Hume who has a ranch of 700 rhinos. He “harvests” their horns, and I will admit that it all seems to be done properly. But as a rich man, he has that luxury. I think he’s vile. I don’t want to go into it in detail here, but in addition to everything else, Hume is wrong about what would happen if they allowed a legal rhino horn trade. Buyers would soon conclude that the wild rhino horns were more powerful for whatever the use. I know that a legal trade would not reduce the killing of wild rhinos, but it very well might increase it.
It is the oldest story in the world: the rich getting the poor to do their dirty work so that the rich can get even richer. Or at least feel richer. But here it is causing the extinction of a wonderful animal species in the most cruel way imaginable. I highly recommend watching the video.
Also: three cheers for Al Jazeera. They do really good work, and you should check out Al Jazeera America!