I was awoken this morning by the someone on the radio talking about an investigation into how British schoolboy could possibly have been eaten by a polar bear. No doubt the investigation will be conducted with suitable gravitas by a thoroughly credible and competent Norwegian administration, but I’ll tell you now that the correct answer will not be forthcoming. There’ll be talk of better training for the guides on trips such as this, improved security, more accessible communications and so forth. But the real answer is simple.
What happened was a group of kids ventured onto the turf of the world’s largest land predator.
The problem is the human race is arrogant. Deeply assured of its own magnificence and excellence. We think we’re the pinnacle of evolution. We’re not. Oh sure, we’re the most intelligent, the best communicators, the most inventive. But top of the tree? Not even close.
We’re not the best in the Arctic, those polar bears survive and thrive in an environment where we need specialist kit to make sure we don’t freeze to death.
We’re certainly not the best in the sea. Get into a fight with a great white shark in his back yard and there will be just one winner.
In the jungles of India a Tiger can rip your throat out before you’ve even realised he’s close.
The African savannah plays host to the lion. Mr Lion is a huge beast who can finish you off in a heartbeat, his wife is even more deadly, and they’ll hunt you in packs.
The human lives in an environment that it has a degree of control over. We have to, we’re actually quite puny. Even our close cousins the chimpanzee, orang-utan and gorilla would beat seven bells out of us in short order. When lesser creatures encroach on ‘our’ territory we chase them down. Yet, we’re not even particularly good at that. Rats and other vermin abound.
No, we’re not the super-beings we imagine ourselves to be.
Yet the cry goes up, ‘bad polar bear! How dare you kill one of us? Now you must die!’ You see the same off the Australian coast when someone gets chomped by a great white. Granted the shark spits you out, having discovered you aren’t nearly as tasty as you looked. The boats will leave port, bent on killing the beast that so offended us. ‘He’s a killer!’ they’ll cry. Well, of course he’s a killer, he’s a bloody shark.
And therein lies the hint, a great white shark doesn’t need a boat and a rifle to do its killing. It just swims up and bites. Human arrogance attributes fault at the door of the animal. No, the animal is doing what is meant to do, what it lives to do, the only thing it knows how to do.
If you go into a part of the world which is ruled by fecking enormous predators, then you run the risk of meeting them. They may not be pleased to see you. Don’t take it personally, it is just business. They don’t answer to politicians and committees. There is no moral and ethical debate about their actions. Policemen and the law are unknown to them. Except the oldest law of all; I’m bigger and better than you.
If you don’t want to run into a polar bear, lion, tiger or shark then stay in Berkshire. If a polar bear walks down the street in Windsor, knocks on your door and punches you in the face, you may have cause for complaint.
This planet doesn’t belong to the human race, and that means that sometimes you have to give up centre stage and deal with the fact that you aren’t number one.
It doesn’t make what happened any less tragic, but it is the way the world is.