There was an advertisement on the tram this morning that read:
Drink Dilmah to save an elephant
Now I rather liked that idea. Saving an elephant sounded fine and grand and heroic, just the same sort of a thing a big game hunter would do, but in reverse. I envisaged myself, a house husband, ensconced in a chair by the table, proudly drinking Dilmah, sip by valorous sip, while my wife (it's amazing what you can imagine on a tram journey) stomped gloomily around and about, finally sticking her head around the corner and asking what on earth I was doing.
"Oh, nothing," I would reply, magnanimously. "Just saving an elephant."
But then, I reflected, it's all about the elephants, isn't it? Or if it's not the elephants, it's the whales, or the dolphins, or the glorious wilderbeest. Humans like having big compassion for big things. Can you imagine extending that compassion to the fungal rash on your finger that has caused you to slather the dermal-cream equivalent of Agent Orange all over your hands, every morning, and every night? Or what about the plight of the parasitical bug that is so epically titchy it spends its entire life living up a mosquito bum, and has become endangered due to a tragic shortage of mosquito bums? It must be hard to extend our God-like compassion for all things living to those things which we don't know about yet.
We humans, all things considered, really are rather pragmatic about our sympathies. It's easy to feel sorry for an elephant. Oversized, overweight, but most importantly, over there. Not so much smallpox, which has an unpleasant habit of forming over you: and which we've been conducting nothing short of a genocidal war of extermination on for the last few centuries. We couldn't contract elephants like we contract bacterial infections or viruses, either: it's geo-spatially a rather difficult proposition. No, it's easy to love an elephant from afar. They don't give us anything to worry about, really.
But still, just this once, I'd like to see an ad like this:
Buy our marvellous product! Save the endangered mosquito-bum dwelling exotic-bug-thing from extinction!
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