The Book!

Friday, August 04, 2017

Fighting the Ivory Trade in Central Park


I found this recent BBC Video profoundly revolting. As do most of the real people leaving comments. It shows how depraved, racist, and philistine our ruling elite has become.

All either the on-screen spokesman or even the BBC headline claims to see here is “ivory” and, by implication, “elephants dying.” But he is publicly destroying what may be priceless art. Which, adding insult to injury, he calls "trinkets." At a minimum, he is obliterating endless hours of work by skilled craftsmen--nobody less than a top craftsman is ever likely to get ivory to work with. Note too that there is no distinction between skilled craft and high art in East Asia; they do not share our Western cult of the eccentric and original.

Worse, some or most or all of these are religious icons. The statue he points out as “costing the lives of five elephants” (and he cannot know if this is true) is of Samantabhadra, the Bodhisattva of Learning and Wisdom. There is a tremendous irony there. Note too that, in Buddhist thought, a religious statue once completed is not just an inanimate thing: it has a kind of life, and is suffused with the spiritual qualities of the spiritual being it portrays.

This as a public display is at least as ugly as publicly burning Bibles or Qurans.

Perhaps it does not matter because the art is created by East Asians, and the religion is held by East Asians? Or is it art and religion in general that is to be destroyed, in favour of—quite literally—purely material considerations? I suspect the latter; but the former is appalling enough.

While the claimed intent is to help elephants, how is any of this even helping elephants? That, surely, can only be an alibi for an attack either on a “foreign” culture or on culture itself. Self-evidently, if any elephants died to allow these statues to be made, they are already dead. They are not being brought back to life. Destroying the art does nothing for them. If anything, it dishonours their corpses. How would you like to be shoved through a wood chipper when you die? Would it not be better to be allowed some sort of memorial?

But surely it should be pointed out, as well, that it is not necessary to kill an elephant to harvest ivory. In principle, objecting to ivory as a material is rather like objecting to milk as a beverage. I wonder, is this militant Pharisee himself a vegetarian? Does it occur to him that some cow died whenever he eats a steak? Why might elephants be more important than cows or pigs or chickens?

Yet while this is true of steaks, this is not true for ivory: tusks can be sawed off, and regularly are in captivity, without harming the animal. Even wild elephants must eventually die, all of them, and when they do, the ivory is still there, in larger quantities than it would have been had they been killed for it earlier.

African (wild) elephant without tusks. And yet it lives!

It is true that some folks in Africa “poach” wild elephants, since they are free for the taking, kill them, and sell the ivory. This, it is said, risks making them extinct in the wild. But, please note, elephants have been successfully domesticated. Domestic elephants yield ivory just as do wild elephants. A healthy ivory trade is a good way to incentivize farmers to breed more.

Accordingly, banning the ivory trade is as or more likely to lead to the extinction of the elephant as is allowing it.

The problem, plainly, if there is a problem, is with poaching, not with ivory.

So, why do people in Africa kill elephants for ivory? Probably because they need the money. Africa is the poorest part of the planet.

So, aside from not helping elephants, and probably harming them, and destroying a lot of East Asian culture, human effort of the finest sort, and our shared human legacy of beauty and wisdom, this campaign against ivory is usefully forcing a significant body of Africans below subsistance level. Without helping elephants, it is helping children starve.

Great job, guys.

It all seems a fitting metaphor for our current ruling elites in general. The BBC sees no moral dissonance here at all.

One point of the exercise, I suspect, is to claim some moral superiority over people who are black and yellow. But it graphically demonstrates the opposite.

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