Look. Life is complicated. Every single issue that the Internet and social media binarises (Is that a word? It should be.) and turns into a dichotomy is actually a complicated nuanced thing.
A kid falls into a gorilla cage and the gorilla gets shot.
And people immediately divide up into camps to assign blame.
But here’s the thing. The most attentive parents lose concentration sometimes. I’m about as paranoid as you get. And I have a relatively naturally careful kid. I have to deliberately pull back because I am afraid I am making him too risk averse. And some risk is good. How much risk? I have no fucking idea where that line is. But I know that too much caution is perhaps as bad as none at all. And even then, even though I consider myself overly cautious and I have a child who tends towards caution, EVEN THEN sometimes shit just happens and he gets hurt. Would he climb into an enclosure at a zoo? Probably not. But I have known kids who would absolutely do that. And even the most attentive parent in the world might perhaps take their eyes off them just long enough. Stuff can happen super fast, and I’d be willing to bet those parents (And we won’t even get started on how most of the blame is accruing to the mother even though the father was there too because that’s a whole nother kettle of fish) are already beating themselves up. But honestly, anyone who looks after kids? There but for the grace, seriously. We do not know enough about these people to judge their entire parenting ability on one incident.
Is it fair the gorilla got shot? Of course not. It sucks. It sucks giant donkey balls. No one wants to see a gorilla get shot. But take a long hard look at yourself. Because if that was a crocodile or a hyena or a python or any other beastie we don’t think of as cute and fluffy I bet the outcry would not be so big. Hell, frankly, if it was a fucking human the outcry wouldn’t be so big. If you’re pissed about the gorilla, but you’re not pissed about cops shooting black kids, you need to think again. If you’re pissed about the gorilla but you’re not pissed about refugees drowning in the sea, you need to think again.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it sucks that the gorilla got shot. But at the end of the day, someone had to make a call, and if they’d let that child die, would that be better? It’s a terrible terrible call to have to make, and perhaps instead of blaming the parents and the zoo, maybe we should just try and feel some compassion for people doing their best in a totally horrible situation. You can be sad about the gorilla, and not have to go and find someone to blame. That is allowed. Sometimes shit just happens and it’s awful.
And then there’s the “zoos are horrible and bad” stuff. I have a very ambivalent attitude to zoos, honestly. I grew up in a land of nature and game reserves, and there is part of me that seriously balks at seeing wild creatures caged.
But zoos are a necessary evil, and there are zoos and zoos. The fact is that there are animals that would be extinct if it weren’t for zoos. Now, I am all for the fact that that shouldn’t happen. Animals shouldn’t go extinct. And people suck and shouldn’t let that happen. But it happens. And for some animals, a zoo is the only safe place with the world being what it is. Of course that’s not a good thing. Of course the bigger picture is shitty. But for fuck sake, are you seriously going to let white tigers go extinct because you don’t want them in a zoo? Yes, let’s move the world towards a point where they can live in the wild again, PLEASE, that would rock, but how much would it suck if we get there and there are none left to live there? Look, I’m no zoologist, and I am sure there are massive issues with putting animals bred in captivity back in the wild, but I’d rather have the option of solving those issues in the future than just write zoos off as horrible forever. And yes, there are terrible zoos, I have no doubt, that are totally just using the animals to make money, and we should hold them accountable by all means. I have no idea whether the zoo in question is one of those – I know nothing about it.
But I do know that taking the stance of “the gorilla shouldn’t have been in a zoo anyway” is oversimplifying an incredibly complex issue. Just like saying “the kid shouldn’t have been able to get in” is oversimplifying a complex issue. And “they shouldn’t have shot it” is oversimplifying a complex issue.
And pretty much every single time someone oversimplifies something to fit it on a Facebookable meme, the world gets a little more binary and that is a dangerous thing.
Nuance is important, necessary.
I know I’ve been guilty of the oversimplification thing myself, but really the more I think about it, the more I think the only way to move forward is to start embracing nuance again. Turning everything into an “us vs them” binary is dangerous and insane. Nothing is that simple.