Tag Archives: news

Default Positions

I was thinking about default positions, and how they seem mired in very low expectations of humans. For example, this tragic story at the Cincinnati Zoo where Harambe was killed (unnecessarily, it would seem). The parents of the boy involved are responsible, I think, and in a perfect world they would be charged with reckless endangerment. (And yes, I know there is the even bigger issue of whether animals should be in zoos at all. I’ll save that for another time.) That said, what I have found very disturbing in the aftermath of this tragedy are the masses of people saying stuff like, “kids wander off! It happens!” Or “it’s hard to keep your eyes on your kids, you know!” And then there are the defensive (and probably crappy) parents who say, “Well I guess you’re a perfect parent, then!”

Um, no. It isn’t about being a perfect parent or about not understanding that kids can wander off. But there is a world of difference between your kid wandering off and your kid jumping into the gorilla enclosure at the zoo. It seems to me that if you are at a busy, crowded place like a zoo (a place which keeps enclosed wild and dangerous animals) with a young child — your young child — you might want to be, oh, I don’t know, extra vigilant. And yet the default position here is, “Oh well, parents aren’t perfect. Kids run off! No big deal.” The default position should be that we expect vigilance — not negligence — from parents.

It reminds me of the people who say that since they don’t know what they would have done in, say, Nazi Germany, we can’t or shouldn’t criticize people who turned in their neighbours or looked away from the horrors. In other words, the accepted default position for humans is moral bankruptcy. I find this profoundly depressing.

Along similar lines, Mark Steyn wrote about this in regards the Montreal Massacre — why did the men that the murderer ordered out of the lecture hall that day meekly leave?

There’s an expression about ‘the soft bigotry of low expectations,’ an expression which refers to the tendency of the regressive left to make excuses for certain groups of people when they commit crimes, for example. We saw a lot of that nonsense after the Charlie Hebdo massacre (my column on this very topic here). But it also could be said to describe how little we expect of ourselves in so many ways. Our default positions should not be that negligence is understandable or that cowardice and moral bankruptcy are the sorry spots to which we are naturally destined.

Ghomeshi, Unfortunately

Had hoped to keep this site as Ghomeshi-free as possible, but I wanted to comment on the #webelievesurvivors hashtag. I really resent the use of the word “survivors” to describe the three women in this case. Even if everything they are saying is true, they weren’t in Auschwitz, or buried under rubble for seven days, or stricken with cancer. It is a little bit like the over-use of the word “brave.” Supermodels who don’t wear makeup are called brave, for example. To me, brave is hiding Anne Frank in your attic.


There is much I could say about this case but I will only say two things. 1) It makes me think of a favourite phrase of my sister-in-law Louise – “yet another example of the never-ending stupidity of women.” The never-ending stupidity of women. 2) It is important for Canadians to not learn about law stuff from American law shows. Case in point — I keep wondering why these terrible witnesses don’t take the Fifth.


I could rant forever about animals and how we treat them, but I just want to say a few words about the “but brigade” where the cruel slaughter of Cecil the Lion is concerned. The “but brigade” are the people who say, “But what about Syria? You care more about a lion than ISIS? et cetera.

Guess what? I can be upset and outraged about two things at once! More than two things, even. It is not en either/or. We’re all in this together, animals and the human animal. And isn’t empathy for others, including other species, the sign of an evolved society? Isn’t an understanding that murder for sport (and cruelty for sport, when you think of how Cecil suffered for 40 hours) is despicable, the sign of an evolved society?

I’m also quite dubious about the argument that trophy hunters pump so much money into the economies of these poor countries and they actually help conservation. Maybe if the money wasn’t being pilfered by the nightmarish political and tribal leaders in so many African countries, and maybe if they actually produced and sold stuff, then they wouldn’t need to rely on sickos who pay exorbitant sums to murder animals to feed their economy. Admitting that they “need” creeps like the Minnesota dentist and others to engage in barbarism for them seems an admission of failure on their part.

Finally, I am tired of people saying “what about all the other animals killed? Don’t you care about them?” Uh, yes, I do. But I am glad this one is getting some attention from people who usually wouldn’t give a hoot. But of course, humans being as sucky as they are, the first time the world comes together to support an animal, people have to find ways to try and take that support away. This is a chance to have a meaningful conversation — trite as it might sound — about trophy-hunting and cynics have to try and ruin it by saying, “But don’t you care about ISIS?” Sheesh! Of course I do.

To me, it’s about moral values. If you believe they are absolute, which I do, then hunting is repugnant. There is a philosophical basis for according animals the same rights as people, and we should all hope it becomes the norm.

A note about vigilantism: I am disgusted by it. As much as I hate what Walter Palmer did, I’d like to see him dealt with through the law and the free market. And it bothers me that people are threatening physical violence on him. I hope it’s just a lot of puffery because truly, that would not only be wrong, it would not be helpful to the cause of animals.

Now, some links for you: regarding this nonsense asserted about how people who pay to trophy-hunt are actually helping animals, a good piece from the New Yorker. 

Regarding aid to Africa more generally and how it goes to the wrong places/people, read African economist Dambisa Moyo’s book on the matter.

Regarding the “but brigade” in another circumstance, read my Charlie Hebdo piece from January of this year.

Finally, I’d like to end this post with a great quote from Isaac Bashevis Singer, who, when asked if he thought the life of an animal was worth the same as the life of a human being, said, “I see no evidence to the contrary.”

Amen to that.