Monday, November 18, 2013

Barbaric Times

Aliens land on Earth.  They are neither as intelligent nor as emotionally evolved as human beings.  But they are more aggressive, and brandish weapons that render the humans defenseless against them.  

The aliens target human children, since they are smaller and lighter than adults and thus less costly to transport.  They take them away from their parents, oblivious to (or, more likely, unmoved by) the parents’ horrifying screams of agony.  They capture many children, and ship them to their own planet.  

Once there, the children are placed in concrete cells, no larger than a typical jail cell back on Earth.  They are taught to perform for the aliens in large arenas with hundreds of spectators.  They only leave their cells when they perform simple, demeaning tricks that the aliens in the audience find amusing, but that assault the children’s dignity every time they perform them.  The children receive food and water only as rewards for a trick well executed.

As the children grow and mature, semen is extracted from males and used to impregnate females.  Just a few months after the females give birth, their children are taken away so that they can perform at whatever arena is in need of a cute baby in its lineup.   Again, the mothers’ heartbreaking cries of agony are ignored.

The aliens that interact directly with the humans, known as “trainers”,  grow fond of them and even respect them, but they are not aware of how they were captured.  Neither are they familiar with their previous life on Earth, so they cannot fathom the difference between how they live under alien captivity and how their life would have been had they not been captured.  The trainers generally fail to understand that the captive children are growing up in an environment that traumatizes them, frustrates them and damages them psychologically, as well as physically.  The managers of the companies that own the arenas, though, are well aware of these facts.

The humans are effectively ticking time bombs.  

There are many incidents at the arenas during which the humans act aggressively toward each other, and toward the trainers.  Most of the incidents involving the trainers result in minor injuries to them, but on a few occasions the trainers are maimed and killed.  The companies that run the arenas keep the incidents as secret as they can, and spin the facts of those they are forced to address to make it seem like the trainers were at fault.  Their ticket sales depend on the image their marketing teams have developed around the humans: they are beautiful, gentle creatures that are absolutely delighted to live in captivity, perform in the arenas and interact with their trainers.  Any story that challenges that image is squashed or spun.

Many trainers, once they understand the realities of their jobs, leave the arena companies and speak out against them, saying things like:  “I’m not at all interested in having my daughter, who is 3 and a half years old, grow up thinking that it’s normalized to have these intelligent, highly evolved animals in concrete cells… I think it’s atrocious.”

And: “There’s something wrong… when you have a relationship with an animal and you understand that he’s killing, not to be a savage, he’s not killing because he is crazy, he’s not killing because he doesn’t know what he is doing, he’s killing because he’s frustrated, and he has aggravations, and he has no outlet for them.”

And, referring specifically to an incident where a human mother was separated from her child: “That’s heartbreaking.  How can anyone look at that and think that that is morally acceptable?  It’s not.  It is not OK.”

And:  “In 50 years we’ll look back on this [the human arena shows] and go “my God what a barbaric time”.

An alien government agency sues the arena companies for placing the trainers in dangerous working conditions, and wins.  During performances, the judge determines, there must be a physical barrier between the humans and the trainers.  The arena companies appeal the ruling.  The appeal is pending at this time.

There is some public outcry against the arena companies.  However, millions of aliens continue to flock to the arenas, convinced that what they are seeing are gentle creatures, joyfully interacting with their trainers, and thrilled to have the opportunity to perform for the alien audience.

Those millions could not possibly be more mistaken.

The foregoing tale is not fiction. It is a true story, and it is happening now.  Except,  the “aliens” are humans.  The “humans” are Orcas, also known as Killer Whales.  And the “arena companies” are SeaWorld, Sealand of the Pacific and Loro Parque.

The story is based entirely on the outstanding documentary “Blackfish”  by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, which was recommended to me by my daughter.  It is shocking, and heartbreaking.  Anyone considering a visit to SeaWorld should watch it.  And so should everyone else, for that matter.

You can watch it right now, on amazon.