The Death of Harambe and the emptiness of Moral Outrage

The Death of Harambe is sad that this beautiful silverback gorilla was killed. Let’s move on. I am dismissive of the groups expressing outrage and seeking to hold someone “accountable” for this “horrible act of injustice”; if you are truly appalled by this event you must ask yourself, where have you been all this time?

The child falling into the gorilla’s area precipitated the deliberate decision to kill the gorilla. A great ape was sacrificed to ensure saving the life of a human being. The real underlying issues are twofold:

First, is it right for zoos to hold these animals for our amusement/education? Shouldn’t wild animals be allowed to live in the wild rather than Disneyesque approximations, what do we gain by the study or entertainment/observation of these creatures that is worth their captivity?

Second, given that so many of these creatures live in threatened habitats, why aren’t we more active in protecting them in their native environments on the land and in the sea? Rhinos, elephants, tigers, gorillas, the list goes on and on, are in an existential struggle to survive as species. Without public awareness, money and human staffing the outlook for these creatures is bleak. The loss of a single gorilla pales in comparison to the disappearance of these animals from the planet. Until these activists are ready to commit to the cause it is difficult to do other than dismiss them.

Protesting to achieve “Justice for Harambe” is not about justice.  Unfortunately, it is about the hollow ease with which someone can jump on a bandwagon without thought as to the underlying cause. We can too easily click an icon on a social media page or electronically add our name to a petition and consider our obligation fulfilled. But such inaction does little to actually affect change or address an injustice. Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” To truly express moral outrage is to take a real stake in the process of change through financial contribution and more importantly personal action. To champion a cause requires more than noticing injustice, it requires combatting injustice.