Friday, September 17, 2004


"On Top of Alabama's Other Headaches, Gators Gone Wild: Gators escape from Gulf Shore Zoo because of flooding from Hurricane Ivan. Residents terrified".

Why do news flashes like this send a pang of sadistic delight through me and tickle my funny bone? I think it's because it is one of the rare cases where animals turn the tables on us and take us on a spin. We always think that we rule the earth, and can happily put animals in enclosures, and in general always have a good laugh at their expense. When something like this happens, we realise that what we have is a very specific kind of control. In that narrow window of power, we may revel, but we should remember that the system is far from being foolproof and cannot tolerate even the slightest uncontrollable stimuli. Now, the residents of Alabama have to contend with 'Chucky', the 12 ft. gator from the zoo, who is having the time of his life, before he is caught again, or worse, shot. For many years, weren't these the same people who went to the zoo and made fun of his poking snout, shiny teeth and considerable bulk? They joked about him, and must certainly have called him ugly. Now he is in a position where he can make them feel sorry. That's why I feel sadistic delight. Serves them (us) right. How flimsy is our hold on Nature, how tenous our vicarious sense of supremacy. As the great biologist and humanitarian Konrad Lorenz said, the next time we feel like laughing at animals, let us remember that we may not have the last laugh. Laugh at animals we can, but we have to remember that it's similar to laughing at human beings. Payback is always a most tangible possibility. Now, the zoo authorities have found and shot a four feet long gator (Why? I don't know). But 'Chucky', it seems, is still at large. Of course, I have no contention with human beings' tenacity and perseverance. Sooner or later, they will surely find him. And then, maybe he will be shot too, and man will continue to have vicarious laughs about the great power he claims to possess over his subjects. Until a time, when there are no subjects. And then we will realise that the power was never meant to be ours. In fact, ironically it was theirs.
Edward Wilson very aptly compares us to the mythical giant Antaeus. He drew strength from his mother earth, Gaia. One day when Hercules found out his secret and held him on his shoulders, until he could no longer strengthen from contact with Gaia and finally became lifeless. We are similar to his position, but with an added twist: in our acts of drawing strength from the earth, we most tragically weaken her, and foolishly don't realise that it's going to our own undoing soon. What a pity! In the end, it will really boil down to the challenge of making both Alice's crocodile and Chucky immortal. Can we do that?

"How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale
How cheerfully he seems to grin
How neatly spread his claws
And welcome little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!"


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