Complacency and Fear

We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. ~ Elie Wiesel

Today there was a fox on campus.

By the time I stumbled upon the scene, there was a growing crowd of students all with their iPhones at the ready. Instead of doing anything to chase the wild animal away from the campus, the police were doing all they could to corner the fox with their SUV. It was obvious that the fox was scared and confused. I knew that if someone didn’t do something to help the fox escape, it would be killed on the spot, or by Animal Control once they showed up.

I wasn’t about to let an innocent animal be murdered because it posed a “threat” to humans.

I ran between the SUV and the fox and started yelling at it, clapping my hands and flailing my arms to get it away from the police as quickly as I could. As I’d hoped, the fox took off running. I gave chase, doing my best to keep it moving towards the woods. The police were yelling at me, students were screaming at me to “Just leave it alone!!!” While their hearts were in the right place (I’d have preferred to have left it alone myself), if someone didn’t do something, the fox would be killed.

Behind me I heard someone say, “Get that guy.” It was the police. And while I continued to do all I could to scare the fox into the woods, I wasn’t succeeding. I turned around and faced the cop who was just a few steps behind me at that point. He made some comments about it being “rabid” and that I was “in danger.” I told him that I wasn’t going to let him kill the fox. Then he started threatening me with arrest if I didn’t do as he said.

I stood my ground, refusing to compromise the innocent life I was desperately trying to protect. I was nose to nose with the cop, demanding his name and badge number. I guess he didn’t like his authority to be challenged, and demanded identification. I had none. We exchanged words for a few more minutes, him making idle threats of arrest and me demanding the fox not be killed. “If I wanted to kill the fox, I’d just kill it,” he said. Tough guy with a badge and a gun.

By this point, things weren’t looking good for me, or the fox. I decided that I’d done all I could short of being arrested. Getting arrested wasn’t going to help the fox, or myself. I asked if I was under arrest (after all the threats, who the hell knew what my legal status was at that point) and was told I was not. I turned and walked away. I’d done all I could do.

This situation made me think about how we behave in our daily life. How we just fall into line, and don’t upset the status quo. It’s why we take photos with our iPhones instead of intervening to save a life. We fear authority, even when we know that what we’re doing is right. So long as our lives aren’t the ones being threatened, we remain complacent.

We refuse to challenge social norms for fear of criticism, retaliation, or ostracization. We’re afraid to stand up for what we believe in because we’re afraid to stand alone. It’s easier to swim in a sea of mediocrity. People who fight for what’s right often face pressures to sit down and shut up. Those in charge will do everything they can to maintain power and control. Sometimes, things are just worth fighting for. You have to decide what those things are for you. For me, today, it was for the fox.

Animal Control never did show up. Apparently they were busy. And the fox disappeared back into the woods. Did I save its life? I doubt it. But I sure as hell wasn’t going to let some jerk with a gun kill it without a fight.

Don’t Swim With Dolphins

One of the most common goals I see on other people’s list of life goals is to swim with dolphins. I understand why it’s such a popular goal; dolphins are amazing creatures. But swimming with them in the wild seems like a longshot for most people, so they settle for a few minutes with a captive dolphin in a swimming pool.

What we don’t understand, however, is just how evil the captive dolphin industry is. We only see happy dolphins doing tricks for our entertainment. We marvel at their intelligence but never once stop to ask ourselves why such intelligent creatures deserve to spend their life in a concrete tank, doing tricks for dead fish and our amusement?

It’s nothing more than a minstrel show.

Why is it acceptable for us to dominate every creature on this planet simply because we can? Does our intelligence give us an inalienable right to control the destiny of another sentient being? Where is our empathy for other species? How can we walk through life convinced that it’s okay to confine another living creature to a pen or a pool for our amusement? How do we justify that to ourselves?

Our intelligence also provides us with another option: to stand up for what’s right in the face of what’s popular and accepted by society at large.

Anyone who has seen a dolphin knows how intelligent they are. Researchers have suggested that they are as intelligent as humans, and have complex social structures. Why then, do we rip these beautiful animals from the oceans and put them in a concrete pen? How can we patronize businesses such as Sea World or Discovery Cove when it’s nothing more than a prison for the dolphins?

Is it greed? Is it because we want something for our own selfish desires? Is it for that photo-op moment so we can show our friends and brag about how cool we are?

I’m asking anyone who has a list of life goals that includes swimming with dolphins to remove that goal from their list unless they do it in the wild, at the will of the dolphins. Join my Facebook Cause to show your support and pledge your refusal to patronize any captive dolphin programs.

I’ve seen dolphins in the wild, and they are far more amazing in their natural habitat than confined to a concrete prison. I’ve also seen dolphins slaughtered with my own eyes in Taiji, Japan out of greed and sometimes I wonder if death isn’t the better alternative for these creatures rather than a life of captivity doing tricks for stupid humans.

It’s a minstrel show. Jump Dolphin Jump.

To learn more about dolphin captivity, please read this document.