Something is weirding me out about all of the outrage on social media directed towards a hunter who killed a lion in Zimbabwe. It’s not that I think that the killing was justified, or even that the outrage is *wrong* to begin with. I always think it’s strange when people purposefully engage in violence just for the hell of it.
But I think it’s worth examining our outrage. Why do we choose to illuminate this story as opposed to the other horrifying and preventable atrocities that happen in the world every day—atrocities that happen to human beings just like us!
I’m publishing this post at the risk of being perceived as self-righteous, opportunistic and unsympathetic, but that’s not what I’m trying to do here. I’m writing this to illuminate the fact that people get weirded out by the idea that their priorities might be out of whack. And people usually respond to weird feelings by getting defensive. Go up to somebody at a party and suggest that people might care too much about lions and not enough about human beings; I’m sure it’ll go over well.
But…isn’t that what’s really going on here? People are prioritizing the plight of animals over humans by choosing to express outrage at this incident instead of towards other things higher up on the priority list. It’s like my mother screaming at me for not cleaning my room while I’m sitting here reading a book or doing homework. “Wait a minute…what’s more important here?”
What’s higher up on the priority list in America? How about:
• American aggression, including war and drone strikes
• American domestic spying programs
• American-sponsored torture programs
• The tangled mess of American inner-city poverty cycles, police brutality, and the War on Drugs
Those are all issues that I find exponentially more outrageous than what this guy did to the lion.
And I’m not saying that what this hunter did is excusable! I’m not even suggesting that people should be ashamed about how this incident makes them feel. I’m just saying that if it’s possible for people to muster up so much outrage at something as inconsequential to humanity as a guy violently slaying a lion, then it should be possible to muster up much *more* outrage at problems that are actually more outrageous and consequential in the first place.
Politicians pay attention to what the people are upset about, which can ultimately drive the changes we need to make the world a better place.
What are we *really* upset about, and why? This is the conversation that we should be having. So I asked my friends about it, and this was the response that made the most sense:
I think that apathy is dangerous, and for that reason I think the whole idea of mass outrage is worth examining (which is why I wrote this post in the first place). Outrage is necessary and serves a purpose. Without anger, there’s no instinct to drive change.
But are we really giving up on the important issues because we haven’t figured them out yet? Do we really identify more with African lions than we do with Iraqi children?
(I don’t have the answers, but I think these are the important questions)