By now, you may have heard about the incident at the Cincinnati Zoo involving Harambe the gorilla. And I say “heard about” because, maybe, like me, you’ve heard about it, but you still don’t know anything, mostly due to the fact that any source of information on the matter is currently (god save my pun-hating soul) going apeshit.
It’s just nuts. Stark ideological lines have been drawn in the sand around child care, tranquilizers, and the habits of 17 year old silverback gorillas. Multiple animal experts have said that the gorilla didn’t intend to protect the child as people claim, and that shooting him was justified. But here’s the most important fact about the Harambe incident.
It happened 4 days ago.
That’s right – an incident that happened at the zoo just four days ago is now subject to every opinion on the face of the planet. I respect how saddening the situation must be for animal rights activists and Harambe’s caretakers, but….honestly, did all the rest of us really give a shit about that gorilla? I mean, I ate a chicken burrito yesterday, and I know many others who did, and nobody called them monsters. Nobody suggested we tranquilize the chicken instead.
It happened 4 days ago.
There is so so much that we may not know about the situation, but in the age of information, it’s almost heresy to declare that there’s something you don’t know. “You could just Google it.” Or Twitter. Or Facebook. Maybe this kind of reliance on technology and allowing it to blind us into believing that we (can) know everything is the same kind of thing that makes people upset when they think Facebook is censoring conservative content. (First of all, they’re not, but second of all, Facebook is NOT supposed to be your guiding light of daily information.)
It’s also possible that this kind of posturing by others leads us to believe that it is of paramount importance that WE have an opinion on Harambe. After all, it’s so important, important enough that everyone I know is talking about it, and that means I should think something about it, too, right?
The last point I want to make is that people have different opinions, and that is good. Discussion and diversity of thought makes us stronger.
Increased polarization, on the other hand, is bad.
I’ll let President Barack Obama say it, because as usual, he says everything best:
“The danger, whether for Democrats or Republicans, is in a closed-loop system where everybody is just listening to the people who agree with them. And that anybody who suggests there is another point of view … well, then you must be a sellout or you must be corrupted or you must be on the take or what have you. That is not, I think, useful.”
The thing Democrats have to guard against is going in the direction that the Republicans are much further along on, and that is this sense ‘we are just going to get our way, and if we don’t, then we’ll cannibalize our own, kick them out and try again,’ and stake out positions so extreme, they alienate the broad public.”
This isn’t about Democrats and Republicans. And it’s not about a gorilla. It’s about the way that we make up our minds about things based on little to no evidence or understanding.
In short, I think the case of Harambe shows us exactly how much our biases can inform our initial beliefs, and serves as a warning for the future, when we might repeat that behavior, only with much more disastrous consequences.