Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The life of Cecil the lion... As interpreted through Ambrose of Milan's De Nabuthae

In his De Nabuthae, Ambrose of Milan aims his sharpened rhetoric at the wealthy Romans of his time who, in the midst of socio-economic collapse, were waging a massive land grab and defrauding campaign against the poor. Principally, the wealthy were guilty of denying the common nature or humanity between themselves and the poor, segregating themselves as some sort of homo superior. (Cf., De Nabuthae 1.2; 3.11-3.12) Rather than sharing the excesses of their wealth and provide sheltering for their companions by nature, the perverted sense of justice or caritas among the wealthy compelled them to construct dwellings for their animals, while at the same time defrauding the poor of theirs. (3.12)

With the above in mind, consider the following,

One lion died in Africa and every suburban trendy in the US and Europe is protesting in moral outrage and demanding justice for Cecil. The media has taken moral posturing and targeted its ire at the hunter.

And yet conservatively 5,500 children die of starvation in Africa every day. Where is the mass corporate media's moral posturing and indignation? Where is the moral outrage among the suburban trendies in the West? Forget that, where is the fashionable hash tag or fb meme to plaster all over your social media accounts?

Priorities say a lot about a culture and the direction it is heading. Ambrose of Milan may have been one of the earliest observers of all too real phenomenon: when the elites of a society accord animals the same rights that properly belong to people, it is only a matter of time until people have no rights. The obsession with animal rights is often used as cloak to disguise utter indifference if not blazon cruelty towards another human being's condition.


  1. A visual representation:

  2. Dear Perceptio, I agree with your juxtaposition of the outrage over 1 lion and the silence over 5,500 children. The harm calculus shows up the disproportion, although in the hypothetical scenario where there were only three lions left in the world and 5 million children, the outrage would not be able to be so easily discounted.

    I have not followed the media story over this, except vicariously, and certainly do not speak for people who would fail to see your point, but at the philosophical level, the sensitivity and advocacy for lions is or should be no different from sensitivity or advocacy for children: they are both vulnerable to adult human greed and cruelty and do not and cannot give consent to their exploitation and extinction. This is consistent with the essence underlying the argument of Peter Singer’s anti-speciesism.

    There is, of course, a traditional Christian theological bias towards human victims over other animal ones, indeed, as Father Andrew Linzey makes clear in his extensive works on animal theology, Christian praxis and mainstream theology have been anything but animal sensitive. But there is a new zeitgeist that now appears even to have made its way, partially, into a papal encyclical, namely, that irrespective of soteriological schema, the truer perspective is to see humans as part and not above the rest of Creation. Thus, pointing to the incongruity of sympathy for a lion in the face of silence over 5,500 children is only telling to a point: the deaths of 5,500 children are themselves dwarfed by myriad examples of Man’s ravages or inhumanity to everything and everyone.

    The sad truth appears to be that most of us don’ t shed tears for anything or anyone not in our immediate circle. This is the great challenge: we have lost sense of the whole, of the great collective, the great community. And there is one good thing, I suppose: that the murder of a lion can arouse – however alloyed – sympathy at all shows the human heart may not, after all, have stopped beating.