Looking at Steve on Animal Planet, one did not associate him with dying and death. One only thought of how full of life he was, how gutsy he was to play around with wild animals and how passionate he was about nature. His untimely death is indeed tragic. We will miss him.
However, while I admired him, I must admit that Steve’s programmes made me feel very uncomfortable, as do some other wildlife documentaries on TV. Always the thought, “what right do human beings have, to invade the privacy of animals that are simply leading their lives, just as we do, in our environment?”
Germaine Greer, Australian academic, writer, broadcaster and well-known feminist, in her much-criticised criticism of Steve Irwin says: “What Irwin never seemed to understand was that animals need space. There was no habitat, no matter how fragile or finely balanced, that Irwin hesitated to barge into, trumpeting his wonder and amazement to the skies. There was not an animal he was not prepared to manhandle. Every creature he brandished at the camera was in distress. Every snake badgered by Irwin was at a huge disadvantage, with only a single possible reaction to its terrifying situation, which was to strike.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/australia/story/0,,1865124,00.html#article_continue
Even without someone like Steve holding crocs and snakes and showing them off to the camera, scenes on wildlife channels showing lions and tigers hunting a terrified deer, or a group of hyenas feeding on a just-killed zebra, or, worse, copulating animals, or even worse, closeups of a giraffe or an elephant in labour and then, the birth of their young ones…really, what right do we have, to broadcast all this? Or to watch it sitting on a beanbag and munching popcorn? Do we think we have a right to do anything we like with them just because animals don’t have the ability to speak and write, wield a video camera, have names and a religion?
Perhaps these questions seem naïve in this world full of much more horrible happenings. Perhaps I am still asking these questions because I grew up listening to the likes of Pushpavilaapam (‘lament of the flowers’)--- a beautiful Telugu song written sensitively by Karunasrii, and sung with great feeling by Ghantasala. It is a song about the cruel act of plucking flowers (yes!).
The flowers cry out to human beings, telling them not to give them such pain:
"We are ignorant; you are wise;
You can think and are discrete!
Do you have a heart that turned granite hard?
Doesn't it bloom a flower or two for your Lord?
The few hours that are allotted to us,
we prosper to the immense pleasure
of our creeper-mother; and in her arms we sing
in joy celebrating our freedom absolute; and
when the destined hour approaches, we breathe our
last uncomplaining, and drop dead at ourmother's cool feet…”
(Complete lyrics and translation at http://www.bhaavana.net/telusa/apr96/0063.html, but one must listen to the song to appreciate it)
Pushpavilapam apparently made people stop plucking flowers. I remember feeling extremely sad when I heard this song, and beginning to hesitate before I unnecessarily plucked flowers.
Human beings have done enough damage to nature. Our generation should make it their mission to contribute actively to the regeneration of the ecosystem, in whatever small way they can, not further damage it by their insensitivity and indifference.
But wait! What have I been saying? What credibilty do I have, to be saying all this? It suddenly struck me that when, as a child, I collected those red velvet mites in match boxes (see 16 Sep blog), I was…playing with nature.
Just as Steve Irwin did.
So, did I contribute to the disappearance of velvet mites from this part of the world?