Thus, Shall we Dance
We shall dance, as the waters rise to sweep us under,
Clinging to one another as the cold creeps up.
As the fires near, burning all before them, we shall dance, locked in our final embrace, and thus they shall find us, as in the ashes of Pompey.
We shall dance, when the soldiers bang upon our doors, to take us away to the place nothing leaves except than screams and dead bodies.
We shall dance, to remember the disappeared, to hold their souls in our hearts, to follow their footsteps forward.
We shall dance the rains down upon the parched soil, the grass up into the sun. We shall dance the acorn out of its shell, the herds through their great circles,
We shall dance the great dance of the Earth, to the thunder and the birdsong, the cascade and the pulse of blood.
We shall dance our dirge to the tiger, the rhino, the great and diminutive wild brothers we have lost.
We shall dance to the Great Spirit, who sees all these deeds, all this destruction in the name of what you can not eat, what does not sustain, to sustain ourselves.
We shall dance, as we have done, for that is what we do. Thus have we always. Thus has it always been.
And if we live long enough, we shall dance upon your graves, and those of your ancestors, drumming them into dust for all this.
I wrote this poem during quarantine, when my family had a writing challenge to keep us entertained – we had to write something beginning with the phrase “we will dance” but in Spanish. I of course, wrote it in English and translated it for the zoom call! But it wasn’t quite the happy story everyone else wrote to cheer us up and pass the time.
But time passes, and little changes. Some things we want to change and some we don’t. And the things that stay the same seem to be the ones we want to change and those that do are sliding away from the wonder we have before us.
But we will go on.
The Cecil the lion story has taken over the internet (except for those concerned with a tiff between two rappers? what the hell is that all about?). It took a while, though. I first saw the story last week in the Spanish press, where the hunter was claimed to be Spanish. I posted a link and a comment on my personal facebook page, that it seemed there was always some dickhead waiting to give good hunters a bad name. And he was a dickhead for luring the lion out of a protected area – never mind the huge amount of money he paid to the outfit.
Anyway, the story evolved and was picked up by the media and then the internet got hold of it. And now we can’t avoid hearing about it.
We never heard of you before, Cecil, but we’ll never forget you…
Copyright @DeGeorgeous/twitter, taken from an interesting article:
And some have rightly questioned why we are all so up in arms over one lion when there is so much more “important” (it’s an opinion, after all) stuff going on.
The media are to blame, in large part, because they like to push these heartrending stories. To take our minds off the really important issues, of course.
And there are too many of those more important issues to list here.
But you know what they are.
So why do we allow the media to sucker punch us?
Because we don’t want to focus on those more important issues.
It would be too much.
The media don’t control facebook (exactly). People have shared and liked those photos all by themselves.
Because they can manage their rage at one dentist. They can see a cause and effect, a perpetrator and a victim. It’s easy to transmit all their feelings of rage and anger and helplessness into that and think they’re doing something for the planet.
It’s a natural reaction, understandable and human. We can’t deal with such huge statistics. Our brains don’t take it. That’s why I wrote a post about one little boy being snuck across a border by his dad rather than the seven hundred people who’d drowned that same week, after having said goodbye to fathers and sons and everyone else in the family to trek across the Sahara to an overloaded dingy in Tunisia. It’s why we can feel extreme sadness reading The Diary of Anne Frank, or watching The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas but are numbed when we see film of Auschwitz, and the idea of six million people in similar circumstances is just incomprehensible.
The broader issue is that though lions are not currently endangered in Africa, their future is not bright. But the fact that this lion could be hunted outside his reserve is more important than the fact he was lured outside. It shows us that protecting our large animals is not going to work with just a few reserves. The lions of Africa cannot only survive in a few national parks, just like the wolf cannot exist only inside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park. It must be protected everywhere.
Cecil had a name and he was old and he stayed inside his reserve where he could be seen – he didn’t need to hide. But how many of his offspring had already left that park? How many of them, or other lions born in that reserve, were already hunted? How many are waiting, hidden from humans because they are not protected, ready to return and take over his pride?
But can we do anything to make African nations increase the size of their parks? Can we stop multinationals and other nations getting these African (and other nations with stunning biological diversity) to intensify their agriculture, to plant cash crops, to build more roads and railways that will carve up the remaining wild land so there is no hope of survival for an animal that leaves a park when it becomes overcrowded?
No. But we can call some trophy hunter names.
The future is not bright for a whole lot of species, especially the large ones like rhinos and elephants. Thousands of them, with and without names, are being slaughtered for their products. There are only thousands of them left. Or five of them left, if we’re talking some rhinos.
And we know this.
But it’s so fucking hard to do anything about it.
We watch helplessly as numbers of extinctions rise, as coral reefs bleach, as dams are built to drown swaths of rainforest, as jungles are cleared for palm oil plantations.
We watch helplessly as our elected politicians (I won’t use the word leader) fuck around in multiple planes. They fuck around shouting at one another, fuck around blaming people who walked half way across Africa, or Central America for their country’s problems while they eat caviar on the deck of some billionaires yacht. They fuck around with shit that’s just not important in the grand scheme of things and wash their hands of their blame for all the problems what are, indeed, important to the lives of their citizens.
And we wring our hands a little because, well, we are all a little to blame, too.
We know the electricity our computers and internet use is partly responsible for the coral beaching. We know the trip we take to go visit animals like lions, while giving money to the local economy (just as hunters do) to stop the locals just killing these lions and be done with it, is also making the Arctic melt. We know that buying shampoo and other stuff with palm oil is going to make it harder for the orang-utan babies we love to actually move out into a rainforest. We know that buying all those great cheap throwaway clothes in big retailers is contributing to global warming and poverty.
But what are we to do? We’re caught in a whirlpool that just drags us down with it.
One thing we can do, which I’ve done, is be concerned for all endangered animals. Not just one old lion, but all lions, all African megafauna, all species facing the threat of annihilation, along with their habitats.
We can join the amazing NGOs that are standing against these extinctions and actively protecting species.
Join your local wildlife trust (The Irish Wildlife Trust if you’re in Ireland).
Go to WWF and click a donation in the name of a lion, or a tiger, or a green turtle.
Become a member and get a sticker for your bumper to tell others that you’re doing sometime proactive rather than reactive like all this anger going around the internet.
You’ll feel much better about yourself, and a little bit better about the planet.
It’s a great feeling to see progress. To know that attitudes can change very quickly. For the better.
I watched the movie Pride a few weeks back. It’s thirty years since the UK Miner’s strike. GLBT rights were stagnant in Ireland during most of those years. Yet now they’ve been propelled forward very rapidly.
I watched a youtube video of Mark Ashton (the person the main character the movie is based on) talking about the Thatcher era. He said it was set up so the rich could get richer off the backs of the poor. And we are more than ever under the yoke of the 1%.
Thirty years ago, global warming was ringing alarm bells and elephant poaching was a huge problem. Now we are again looking at the extinction of the few remaining megafauna on the planet and the Antarctic ice sheet is melting while a bunch of politicians are more interested in stopping immigrants and sending them home to die than accepting the looming crisis of millions left on land that can not sustain them, or house them, because of desertification and flooding their economic policies cause.
There are glimmers of hope, though.
Despite a setback in Britain the other week, there is some movement forward. In Spain, the ruling right wing party suffered a big setback yesterday, losing the majority in most regions and municipalities.
The Pope will hopefully remind us on his “much-anticipated encyclical letter on the environment“,
that a religion aged in millennia must think of the long term survivability of the planet and its inhabitants, and anyone who considers himself a follower of that guy two thousand years ago should see past the financial reports of next quarter, and understand that a superrich Christian is a contradiction in terms.
The Yes vote is a giant leap forward for Ireland, but only a small step for mankind.
But after Friday we can smile that we’re still standing.
I have said this before, but we really are a strange species.
On the one hand, the Aboriginal Australians have stories that go back ten to fifteen thousand years, describing how their formal lands were flooded when the sea level rose after the last ice age. This made me remember an article about disposal of nuclear waste and the super intelligent nuclear physicists thinking about how to label the area so that future generations will know it’s there. The local Native American tribe told these scientists not to worry – they’d tell the future generations. It made me laugh.
But then, on the other, Yuval Noah Harari writes a book:Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind about how our species of humans becoming so powerful because we can believe stories (including complete bullshit), and thinks that the first really big impact of humans in the world was the arrival of humans in Australia, after which the megafauna of that continent disappeared from the record (a little further back than the sea-level rise in the story). The second big impact he says was when humans arrived in America and destroyed even more species of giant mammals.
In case it’s not clear, the book does not say the rise of humankind was in fact a great thing: for individual humans or for other species. He does speculate about the future, and reckons that humans will quickly evolve into some kind of new human-computer hybrid… But first, there will probably be a speciation event between the poor and the ultra -rich, the latter going on to becoming superhuman and somehow avoiding the coming problems.
One thing he seems to have missed (from the radio show I listened to), is that there are still people who live like our ancestors did, hunting and gathering, and they are, I hope, still as happy as Harari believes (and I agree) our ancestors were. I can only say that the this book is a huge reason to support NGOs like Survival International (to which 10% of the royalties of my second book in the Silver Nights Trilogy will be donated) so these people can be left alone in their happiness, and not made sad just because we are so blind to our own sadness that we think we are helping them. I can only hope that in the future, when the rest of us have evolved into whatever strange stuff will befall us, there will yet be uncontacted tribes living in the forests the way they have since they destroyed the megafauna.
A post I had on my former google site… I wanted to repost and the recent (ongoing) floods across the British Isles made George Monbiot’s recent posting about denuded hilltops due to sheep grazing practices reminded me of this connection between a post of his and a Poem I wrote years back.
Below is the poem and the original post….
The Secret of the Thorn Trees
Why do the hawthorn and sloes carry such barbs
Across an Irish hedgerow, as if they were scrub
Bushes upon the dry savannah? Against caterpillars,
Or our diminutive deer and domestic livestock?
Or do they betray the absence from our landscape
Of what belong: buffalo, megaloceros andmastodon?
A poem I wrote in May of 2010, when observing some thorn trees in a park in Boston along the orange-line train tracks near Green Street.
I was reminded of it just this last week when I was reading through some blogs by George Monibot, a writer I have huge respect for:
He explains that our hedgerow and woodland trees are designed for the megafauna that he’d like to see return to Western Europe and the British Isles, rather than the roe and other deer species we have.
I can only concur with George (I’d never claim to have had the idea first!)