When elephants kill rhinos, who will answer?

From the 3-16-2003 Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune

For those who believe we can read the mind of God by observing the natural world, I humbly offer a few portents.

First and foremost, now or in the future, whenever you feel that the events of your life and time constitute the greatest crisis or cause for concern, just step outside on a clear night and look up. The weighty vastness will silently inform you of the actual significance of your circumstance.

Next, step down from the stars and look around at this magical and terrible little planet whereon we dwell. While the Good Earth is mystical in the simplicity and complexity of creation, she is also terrible in pursuit of perpetuation. Carbon-based life forms exist almost entirely by consuming other carbon-based life forms. Observed from the perspective of the outsider, this is one violent little orb.

You can thus make a perfectly consistent argument that given the violent nature of God's creation, God is not only cool with cracking heads, but also with consuming those thusly cracked. But the Great Unknowable also left us the demonstrable ability to change, adapt and improve. Not so long ago, we lived in caves. Now, we live with computers.

Over the past few millennial ticks in the geologic clock, our species has proposed various moral, ethical and societal codes and taboos. Celibacy among certain nomadic peoples served the very efficient purpose of keeping the tribe small, mobile and in harmony with available resources. Prohibitions against eating certain types of foods helped avoid poisons or diseases.

The older, more violent ways, also served us well. Consuming the tissues of other critters provided us with ample supplies of cholesterol, which turned out to be dandy for developing complex brains. Our ability to solve, innovate and adapt allowed us to dominate a world of much stronger and more efficient breeds.

But the God we transubstantiated into Mother Nature still has many lessons to impart. When her amphibians start to die in droves, she's sent us a telegram of warning. When her icecaps start to melt, that's her distress signal. When pharmaceutical companies comb her jungles for plants to patent, that's comedy. When mining and oil companies come along and destroy those healing vegetables, that's irony. When the highly evolved resort to the ferocious ways of our primordial progenitors, that's tragedy.

The Green Goddess still sends us messages which we ignore at our peril. Witness the tale of the adolescent elephants.

A few years ago, wildlife conservators, in their zeal to preserve endangered pachyderms, moved a herd of young and healthy specimens to a new neighborhood.

In fairly short order came word of a most unnatural phenomenon. Elephants were killing other critters, especially rhinoceroses. Wildlife management mavens were shocked because of the longheld assumption that Babar rules benevolently. Elephants are the true kings of the jungle and have no natural enemies except the unnatural us.

What explained the aberrational violence? Why the reasonless killing? Turned out that no mature adults had been included with the transplants. The adolescent males were acting like a street gang running wild, Lord of the Flies running amok in Tarzan territory.

So a few older bulls were imported and they promptly acted like Marshall Matt Dillon and a posse. The African Dodge City got respectable real quick — after a few minor skirmishes re-established law and order in the 'hood.

Which brings me to Dubya and his schoolyard bullies in the China shop of world affairs. For the past hundred years or so, the leaders of the United States have increasingly acted like that herd of adolescent elephants. Our excursions in imperialism in the first half of the past century could usually be traced to simple profiteering and greed.

Alas and alack, since World War II, the bullying became more mindless.

Today, a narrow clique of corporately conditioned consiglieri commit catastrophe simply because they can.
The highest irony has come over the past few days as Dubya's dunces have begged Chile to support our invasion of Iraq. Almost exactly 30 years ago, President Richard Nixon and the toxic Henry Kissinger staged a Chilean coups d'etat, murdering the elected president, Dr. Salvadore Allénde, and extinguishing the second-oldest democracy in the western hemisphere.

The United States government today stands as an adolescent impervious to peer pressure. But our more sheepish citizens are not so immune.

Like gushing girls and pimply boys going along with whatever's perceived as popular, a majority now support immediate war in Iraq for the worst of reasons, the Mount Everest excuse — we should use the soldiers because they're there.

Looks like we're going to kill some rhinos and a whole lot of other innocent critters just because we can. And mostly because there are no adults in charge.

Pray to your conception of The Almighty that we will not so regress toward the primordial angels of our nature.

Be well. Raise hell. | U-News | C.O.P. | Sen. Joe Neal
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Copyright © 2003 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 34-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of and He hosts Deciding Factors on several Nevada television stations. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.



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