A couple of days ago Emily and I were driving home when we came across a tortoise crossing one of the main roads in the wildlife estate we live in. It was tiny and it blended in with the small stones scattered on the gravel road we were travelling on. To be honest, I may not have seen it had my teenage daughter not shouted at me to stop, while, not so gently, slapping my leg.
I stopped the vehicle and before I could blink an eye Emily jumped out and picked up the poor little guy, probably terrifying it as she moved it off the road and placed it gently onto the ground out of harms way. The driver of the vehicle that stopped behind me smiled in appreciation, probably an acknowledgement that we had saved its life.
I have thought about what we did that day as indeed I have thought of the many tortoises and chameleons I have taken off the road on my safaris over the years. I have thought of the times my colleagues and I have blocked the road so that a snake could slither safely into the bush and I have thought of the thousands of little creatures I have avoided as they have decided for some reason or other to cross a busy road.
It has impressed and amused countless international tourists who have watched me wait for a millipede, a frog, a dung beetle or some other unidentifiable creature to scurry across the road in front of my vehicle to safety. I have no doubt that there are countless people who do this, but there are also countless who do not.
Just yesterday, I was driving through the little town where we live and I approached one of the stop streets that regulate the traffic. Most of the few stop streets we have are 4-way stops which apparently is something unknown in most other countries. The idea behind a 4-way stop is that the vehicle that arrives at the intersection first, will stop, then be the first to cross the intersection. As I approached the stop street I saw a huge 22 wheeler truck also approaching the intersection, from my right side. Although I was going to get there first, which thus allowed me to go across first, I stopped longer than necessary to make sure he stopped, which he did and then I safely crossed the intersection.
Obviously the lockdown has given me plenty of space in my mind to totally overthink everything, which has been something I actually always do. I got to think about all the stop streets, the traffic lights, the roundabouts and the barrier lines scattered throughout our country, in fact throughout the whole world. When we start driving, we have to learn to navigate all these things before we can get a drivers licence and arm ourselves with a motor vehicle. Notwithstanding all these things that are in place to ensure that we go about our business safely with our weapons, over 15,000 people a year die on our roads. How can this happen?
I am sure everybody who has ever driven a motor vehicle has at some point seen how this happens and why. It is because people don’t care. They break the rules. It is that simple. And because of that mentality thousands of innocent people die. Families are destroyed and lives are changed in a heart beat. The roads in our country are also littered with dead animals that have been killed by motor vehicles and just left on the side of the road, or turned into dark spots, as hundreds of vehicles grind them into being part of some highway. Can you imagine how many millions of other little nuisance creatures die by our hand every minute just because they are ugly or an irritation?
But you already know this and really, what difference does it make? We can’t do anything about it. Just as the pandemic is still ravishing the world, destroying lives as it goes, the rules and regulations that have been implemented continue to be enforced. People have lost loved ones, homes, livelihood and hope. So many lives that matter - destroyed.
A few days ago, a “psycho” police officer in America accidentally killed a criminal while effecting an arrest. I say accidentally because I cannot believe that even the most ignorant amongst us would be so stupid as to intentionally kill somebody in front of so many witnesses. At the same time that this maniac was committing that irresponsible and reckless act, countless other lives all over the world were being destroyed: mothers were ill treating their children, men were abusing their wives, bosses were exploiting their employees and gangsters were shooting each other, killing innocent young kids in the crossfire.
Right in the middle of all this chaos, someone, somewhere, decided that two criminals should get the attention of the entire world. The kind of people who disregard the rules of society, who wipe out families because they overtake on a blind rise or fail to stop at the stop street. Criminals who cause chaos by looting shops, burning vehicles and in some instances even killing people.
A group of people, who would probably stop for a chameleon or take a tortoise out of the road, suddenly change their profiles and buy T-shirts, share slogans and take part in peaceful protests. In an instant they are turning one criminal into a martyr. Making a statement about what and who matters, while not one of us knows the name of the little boy in Somalia who died of starvation at the same time all this was happening.
I am not going to use this blog to cite all sorts of statics because enough has been done to divide the races even further. There is nobody who can justify what that police officer did, but surely we cannot justify the aftermath. In the middle of the disaster that has befallen mankind we identify one life that matters; we then turn it into a generalisation, apply it to a specific segment of humanity, based on the unfortunate death of one bad person at the hands of another bad person.
Is this not the time we should look at ourselves, at the world around us? Not the world we despise and reject, but the place that we know it can be? Should we not be taking in all the beauty that Mother Nature has given to us, for free, as a gift, and make a collective statement as the species that thinks we rule this world: All Lives Matter.