Curtain Raiser

Losing Elephants & Compassion, Colltalers

We may be running out of Earth’s resources to provide to everyone’s survival, but we’re still far from totally lacking them. What’s in short supply, however, is compassion to channel help where it’s most needed, and power to prevent the haves from having more.
A flawed metaphor to invoke may be the quest for saving the elephants, those gentle giants we’re slaughtering to extinction for their tusks. Because just alluding to their proverbial good memory, and how fast they may be forgotten, is almost too much to bear.
The textbook example to such a social quagmire is, of course, the U.S., the richest country in the world. Despite its wealth, and recent employment reports, it continues to see a rising contingent of the destitute and the homeless to rival developing economies.
By reversing protective environmental policies, and opening public land to oil exploration, the Trump administration is making sure natural resources will be fast depleted. And worst, proceeds will be diverted to tax-deferred corporations that’ll rather reward shareholders than create wealth to the country as a whole. The economy that ran us to the ground once is about to do it (us) again.
As for that imprecise metaphor involving elephants, it kept its currency this past month. On Aug. 12, a day dedicated to awareness about them, their global population was tallied at about 800,000, and preservation efforts were dutifully praised. But the estimated average of 100 killings a day in Africa was confirmed on cue last Tuesday, when 90 were slaughtered for their tusks in Botswana.
It was a gruesome massacre, done with customary brutality, and predictable frequency. Poachers, however, who get the blunt of public disgust about the murdering of these and other beautiful creatures, are but just a visible end of a multimillion dollar trade.
Low-paid and poorly-trained park rangers are never a match to the high-level precision and lethal capacity of raider teams

that are robbing the world of a future with elephants. And like the so-called war on drugs, consumers play a big part on this awful market.
In Earth’s estimated 4.5 billion years, we’re newcomers: just a couple of hundred thousand years as Sapiens. Some fish species are younger than us, just as many others are being or have been extinct since we’ve been around. Elephants may soon join the latter.
There’s not much difference between the compassion needed to prevent the disappearance of animals who took millions of years to evolve, and the empathy necessary to understand why thousands of working people in this country also happen to be homeless.
It seems that is not misery enough that there are now about 14 million people with no job prospects. For the lucky ones who do may have multiple, non-benefit providing, minimum-wage jobs but not a place of their own for them and their families to crash. It’s revolting that they are also ‘forbidden’ to fall ill, and that the fate of poor Americans seem to be of no concern to the president.
That some still kill animals for a living, while others rot in the streets like garbage, holding on to nothing but their dignity, can’t be solely blamed on natural resources depletion. It’s not only the planet that’s drying up; we’re tightening up our hearts real good too.
Widening income disparity and a system that privileges the wealthy and the powerful have always stood between us and our own humanity, just as man-made climate change and greed-driven environmental policies are perfect foils for those in the business of blame. But make no mistake: it’s the silence of decent people that assassinates justice, more so than those who may benefit from it.
Speaking of things that can wipe us all out, the renewed threat of a nuclear holocaust is the one that may turn all these concerns into literally dust. But for all the egotistical would-be tyrants jockeying for or occupying high offices throughout the world, there are many who choose to do something about it. Consider the ‘Disarm Trident: Savannah to Kings Bay Peace Walk,’ for instance.
A little over 20 peacemakers from around the U.S. have just reached the midpoint of an 11-day, 110-mile march that calls to abolish all nuclear weapons. It’s small, almost Quixotic in its idealism, but please take a walk those who think it’s about nothing.
Even as there are things we can all agree are unacceptable, – obscene wealth, extreme poverty, hunger, homelessness, lack of rule of law or democracy, environmental destruction or nuclear annihilation — we’re passed the unanimity-and-uniformity of action era.
Thus it’s in these sort of irritants, the small marches, the calls to action, the rallies around local causes, that the resistance, if there’s one, may be able to flourish. Don’t dismiss neither those trying small steps nor the ones going for the big leaps; they all count a lot.
Rosh Hashanah, the 5778th Jewish New Year celebration, gets the week started today, followed by the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks tomorrow. Avoiding the ecstasy and agony cliche, let’s just give in a little for the rituals, both glad and grievous, that help make sense of our lives and that of our fellow humans. Yes, we may fight for the elephants, and be solitary with the poor, always.
But we also need to be merry and dance to life joys, when we can, and remember with sadness those who perished so tragically. For it’s our ability to share and partake such disparate emotions what will give us strength to fend off injustice and cruelty. Cheers. WC


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