We are wrong to anthropomorphize, but we do: he has lost something he had
The ranger’s account is comforting because we understand it: imagine a hippo bull, irritated and drying out in the baked earth that was once his wallow. His investments, so to speak, have gone sour.
People used this reasoning to defend Vincent, of course. He felt trapped, some said, invoking his animal nature. Others said one should never stand between a hippo and the water, though Swatton had no water in his garden. But the explanations in St. Lucia eventually ran dry; Vincent was finally put down because he was designated – by the head of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife – a “problem animal.” He had lost his fear of humans. No rehabilitation possible. He had grown oblivious to the threat we represent.
This should sound familiar to us too, this second-order level of explanation – we love to apply motive, to supply cause
That’s just another story, of course, and it doesn’t hold water, not for a minute. South Africans objected to Vincent’s treatment and questioned Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s decision to put him down. If Vincent had become truly oblivious to humans, he wouldn’t have gored Swatton. He would have been as indifferent to Swatton as he was to Swatton’s barking dogs. What really happened was much more complex: Vincent got used to humans in the environment and started seeing us as creatures with whom he could interact. The language of Vincent’s story becomes strangely legal in the arguments that follow his death: articles speculated as to whether the attack was “provoked” or “unprovoked.” If Vincent was provoked, then he was acting in accordance with what we understand animal behavior to be. If he was not, then Vincent was classified a problem animal. The case hinged, then, on whether Swatton going out to his barking dogs in the yard constituted a “provocation.” Did an oblivious Swatton go out to meet an equally oblivious Vincent and surprise him unawares? If everyone is surprised, then everyone is innocent.
There is a dam, one of many in Kruger Park. The map says I should drive across it. Or rather, my father says this is what the map says. I don’t believe either the map or my father at first – there’s a substantial pool of water in the middle of this “road,” really just a narrow shelf, less than a lane, between the cement wall retaining the water at a higher level on the left and the water below to the right. My dad points and explains until I’m forced to acknowledge that he’s right, and we start across.
Driving from the right side of the car has scrambled our spatial affiliations. We have no instinct for where the left side of the car – usually right next to us – might actually be. My father (formerly liberal, now a conservative) drifts happily left when he drives. Frequently we’re actually on the shoulder; once we drive into a curb. Less oblivious than is my wont, I find myself noticing and saying what bothers me, loudly and often: “Move right. Right!” Meanwhile I (a conservative-cum-leftist) compensate by driving so far to the right that I get honked at, repeatedly, by oncoming traffic. During this trip I wonder if our politics, like our driving, are compensatory. We’re close, my https://hookupdate.net/geek2geek-review/ dad and I, but when you stop living together, you miss the steps of each other’s journeys. (Not just the journeys, the destinations, too. Where’d you land, dad? Where’d you go, kid? What values do we still share?) The best thing about this trip turns out to be the quiet ways our worst fears about each other are assuaged. I don’t hate men. He doesn’t think the poor should die. We’re not particularly expressive people, but I sometimes think of our behavior in traffic – him left, me right – as a sublimated gesture of goodwill, a conciliatory tending toward the other. (Then again, we both keep accidentally turning on the windshield wipers. There are limits to how much interpretive weight our bad driving will bear.)