Whales and humans

Undoubtedly, most people have read or heard about the whale that swam up the River Thames into central London this week. I’ve heard many people talking about it, and it’s been headline news for the last few days – of course ending in the whale’s sad demise. Normally such a story probably would not capture my attention, but my initial introduction to it (“Hey, did you hear there’s a whale in central London?”) was especially intriguing because I happen to be an hour’s ride away from London at the moment. The “wow, cool” factor of course quickly gave way to sympathy and concern as it became clear the whale’s fate was dim. Indeed, I was downright bummed to read that rescuers had failed to save it.

Of course, it always makes one wonder when you see “Whale in Jeopardy” as a headline next to “20,000 Children Starving in Food Shortage” (or some such thing). It feels very trivial, really, to imagine people so wrapped up in one animal’s life when so many people are suffering and being neglected. People are somehow inevitably captivated by the story of one individual in trouble – especially if it’s an animal (though it happens with humans too; remember Elián Gonzalez). It’s so easy for us to ignore huge statistics and focus on the rarer incidents.

As a result, there will no doubt be skeptics who decry animal rights activists (and the general population) for becoming so concerned about one confused whale. Others will feel it’s trivial that people become wrapped up in stories of ultimately little consequence, whilst the “real news” is perpectually ignored.

Still, I think the way people have responded to this story shows a glimmer of something very good about humanity. We do, perhaps, get our priorities mixed up, but at the same time, it’s very heartening to know that so many people care about the pain, confusion and anguish of one creature. If it is still possible for most of us to care for something or someone in such a lowly position, perhaps there is hope that humans do have the compassion and empathy to feel for the lowliest humans as well, and to hope and work for something better.

It may not have been possible to save this particular unfortunate creature, but there are many others who are waiting for assistance, and there are many ways to help, from volunteering for or donating to organizations that help hungering children or the homeless, to more simple acts like saving a cat at the pound from being put to sleep for lack of an adopter.

I agree with people who think that it’s a little silly for people to be so wrapped up in the story of a whale that they lose focus on other things that matter. But I think it says something good about us humans, if we take it as an opportunity to realize just how much we do care about every little individual.

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One Response to “Whales and humans”

  1. x Says:

    i’ve always been a journalism kid and it’s been drummed into me that stories about babies and animals sell. of course i disagree on the baby aspect, but i love the animals.

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