Many folk have been upset by the news that a dentist from Minnesota has killed one of Zimbabwe’s finest lions. There is something inherently disagreeable in the very idea of ‘trophy’ hunting, as it appears to us to be so senseless – can it be about anything more than people with more money than compassion killing animals out of machismo and bravado? Our friend, the dentist, finds himself in the midst of an international maelstrom as a result of his killing, with an extradition warrant hanging over his head. For many of the hotheads on social media, hanging would be too good for him. But not for us.
We don’t know much about this man personally, but let us posit the following logic. Here is a middle-aged dentist, who hunts because it allows him to feel like a man. The risk of personal injury is minimal, yet one gets to kill animals, which in normal circumstances would tear you limb from limb. What could be more pathetic than that? However, many of his friends and peers do the same, in a country where such an activity is not taboo. This very same social inadequate now finds himself at the centre of international attention. Is anyone concerned for this man’s mental health? How might this be affecting him? Will he even be able to carry on as a dentist, to make a living?
Righteous indignation is justified up to a point, but the bigger question is how we respond to people who transgress against what we hold to be a moral ideal. We are all fallible, but by extending the hand of compassion to our hapless dentist, we would be more likely to bring about the changes we seek. We might even get in return the same kind of understanding and forgiveness when we transgress others’ morals. This seems to us a sounder basis for changing the world than righteous indignation and anger and threats of yet more violence.–Dave