Earlier this week something terrible happened. A Minnesota dentist illegally shot, killed, beheaded and skinned Cecil the Lion (when I was a kid, Cecil was a Caterpillar), the star attraction of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. The world went mad. There were calls for the hunter to meet a similar fate as that of his prize, for him to lose his business and face financial ruin (which, considering he reportedly paid £32k to kill a lion would probably take some time) and, from the more level-headed among us, for him to face poaching charges in Zimbabwe. The latter is what should happen. What shouldn’t happen – regardless of how cruelly sad the situation is – is for the world to care about a lion while giving less than a shit and a half about the plight of the thousands of migrants currently camped near Calais.
This week our Prime Minister and all-round bell-end, David Cameron, went on the news to give his latest eye-watering faux-concerned sound-bite about the “Migrant Crisis in Calais”, saying that there are “swarms of migrants” trying their level-best to break into our country, steal your handbag and shit on your kitchen floor, or something. The rest of the country seem just as sympathetic, or most of them anyway. I’ve seen calls for the desperate people camped at Calais – most of whom are fleeing war-zones and certain death, having travelled hundreds if not thousands of miles for months or years, giving up their entire lives for the chance of refuge – to be shot dead on the spot, to be “imprisened (sic) in camps” and to be sent back to where they came from. One person on Facebook made the jarring observation that “they [the migrants] claim to be poor and needy but they all have the latest trainers and you never see one without a mobile phone, do you?!”… People – the media, politicians, the fella in the pub – just seem not to care as much about their fellow human beings as they do about a lion.
Why, you ask, would this be the case? Why do so few seem to care so little? A friend of my brother hit the nail on the head in a simple yet profound way. “The lion had a name”, he said, “that’s all.” And he’s right, you know. Most people couldn’t even tell you where these migrants are originally from. Most people have no interest in why these people are literally dying to get to the UK. Most have read no further into this situation than the first few columns in a right-wing, agenda-pushing newspaper. These aren’t people to many, they’re simply migrants. They come in “flocks”, “hoards” or “swarms”. When they die they aren’t deceased people, they’re “migrant bodies on the track”. Dehumanised. Little more than animals. Or not even as important.
Because the lion, on the other hand, had a back-story, a name, a unique black mane which made him special, made him something worth remembering, worth mourning. Someone I am no longer friends with on Facebook posted a petition demanding the extradition of the Minnesota Dentist (that sounds like a Darts nickname) on poaching charges at 9.00am and was posting a so-called joke that goes “four immigrants found suffocated with Tesco carrier bags: Every Little Helps!” by 9.30am. It’s disgusting and saddening and I’m ashamed to know these people.
Until the language we use changes, until the “celebrity” nature of death and suffering is curtailed in favour of factual, informed comment of the real important issues of the day – and not just in passing, but in depth and including context aplenty – and is covered responsibly by the press (don’t hold your breath!) we will, unfortunately, have to keep hearing about the selfish, aggressive flocks of illegal immigrants swarming into our country to take YOUR job, to be given – for FREE – a house that YOUR son or daughter can’t afford and every other bullshit, borderline-racist, tabloid-wank lie that our shameful establishment churn out to fit their continuing agenda. Shoot me now.