From Elephant Tusks to Cocoa Wars - Entitlement
I woke up this morning to the news that it is now going to be allowed to bring elephant "trophies" into the USA again, even though elephants are and should be on the endangered species list. Killed for their tusks these majestic and beautiful animals are often left where they died, while the "hunter" grabs a saw and cuts off the tusks, or worse...just so the can hang said tusks or heads on their walls so they have proof of how strong they are.....
I have admit, I have rather strong feelings on these issues. Passion can close one's ears and open one's mouth but there is no good reason to allow this. It is believed that officials from Zimbabwe and Zambia are in support of tusk hunting, one has to wonder why. But this article isn't really about the horrifying decision of some to allow Elephant hunting more importantly this story is about all of us. The rest of us. And to be more specific, white straight males.
We are a privileged group. Rarely do we face racism, sexism, xenophobia and other intolerances and I don't want people to think that I believe that all white males are intolerant. I don't. Many of us, sit quietly and shake our heads while we read the stories, pretending that this is happening somewhere else, that there isn't anything that we can do about it, we don't identify with the problem because it hasn't happened to us.
And it is in this act of nothingness that we become the exploiters. The ones that buy their Mars bar while they stand in line at the market reading an article about how Zara clothing (recent development as well) haven't paid their workers in a long while. We might even scoff and think to ourselves, "I'm never going to buy clothing there again." And see this is the problem.
In case you are wondering why I mentioned Mars (or insert almost any other chocolate bar here), the Guardian recently ran a piece read it here. Where they found that many or our favorite chocolate bars come from illegal cocoa beans or beans that are illegally cultivated in protected rain-forests. When brought up to to companies they didn't deny it but said 'we are looking into it'. Which means that they don't really care and hope that the story will disappear in a couple of months. Which it will and which it did.
We eat the chocolate bar, while we are read, hear or see other atrocities. Then we put down the magazine, turn off the TV or shut down the computer or worse yet, turn in to see some irrelevant shit that is happening in our favorite celebs life.
All of this could lead to a depressive and horrifying trip to the grocery store. What can I buy that doesn't destroy the environment, use child labor or forced labor. This is when we begin to shut down. The overwhelming weight of the things that we do. And I know, must of 'us' will say that we do our best, that most of this shit is happening in Africa, South America, Asia or in the Middle East and that is true.....and not true.
It happens there because we want our favorite (insert name here) product here. Where ever that here is, we want it and not only to we feel we want it but we feel entitled to it. We don't think twice as we buy a product that contains cheap palm oil or buy an ivory tusk because there's an amazing carving on it's side. We forget the story about how it comes to our shores and we think we are entitled to this.
I pick out white, straight males because we have never faced being told that you aren't free to love who you want, we haven't face the fear of being pulled over the police for some unknown reason or being told we can't just grab someone and show them our penises, just cause. This has bred entitlement. A sense of shock has spread over 'us' these past few months as the ones that have faces these things began to stand up, come out forcing us to face our own roles in the shattered lives that come.
But still we are entitled. Our current outrage is sexual assault, as it should be. Last year it was racism. Next year it will be....but nothing changes. It doesn't change because we feel we are entitled. Like ivory hunting and buying our favorite chocolate bar, we are outraged as long as it doesn't inconvenience us. We can't believe that this (again what ever you want) is happening and vow to make a change. Then the next thing comes along and we forget about the first.
In 2004 there was a mass murder which sparked a short lived Cocoa war. We were outraged, vowed to only buy ethically sourced products. Now, a few have remained committed but the rest have simply moved on to the next issue having forgotten this was ever an issue.
So how do things change? How does last change really happen. I believe that the first step is to admit 'we' are the problem. Not just the ones doing said atrocities but the rest of us that close the newspaper or care more about (insert celeb name) then the real world. Second, we can't remain silent any longer. I don't mean just the social warriors that bounce from one cause to another but the rest of us. We can use our votes and dollars as our voice. Third, stop playing bejeweled on the subway or bus and read, really read. Read points of view that we might disagree with but are still intelligently written, or other sources then just Huffington Post. We lack the ability these days to empathize and be compassionate, to understand our role in others struggles and to make adjustments to stop our role in their suffering.
We all want to be happy and we ALL should be entitled to that happiness. Which brings me back to the elephants and their tusks. People will hunt them, kill them, leave their bodies in the dirt and take their heads or tusks. Killing an elephant isn't hard. Standing up to those that do is. Because the only reason that we can do this, is because we feel entitled. As a group we might not feel that our power is so absolute that we can kill for what ever reason we want but our silence is acceptance.