Friday, February 14, 2014

In cold blood

This went viral, so everyone should have heard about it. It’s about the hapless Marius who was shod dead, dissected in front of an audience, cut up, and thrown as food to the lions at the Copenhagen zoo. The young giraffe was deemed genetically unfit to breed within the breeding pool the zoo had joined – so he had to die. A complex utilitarian calculation established that this would be the best outcome for everyone, not just the lions. Marius’s execution went on despite all the virtual outrage and proposals for a non-lethal solution. The zoo then issued a statement describing the killing “as a positive sign and as insurance that we in the future will have a healthy giraffe population in European zoos.” Then, a few days later, another Danish zoo announced they might kill one of their male giraffes, too (also named Marius) – for the same reason. So what’s with the Danes?

Actually, they are all right. In all international studies, they come close to the top on measures of happiness, life satisfaction, quality of life, etc. I would say, though, if this is the price of happiness, I would rather side with John – the Savage from Brave New World. When M. Mond explains to him what it has taken to achieve social stability and universal happiness in their “civilized” society, John says he wants all the inconveniences that have been eliminated: God, poetry, danger, freedom, goodness, sin… M. Mind tells him that he is “in fact … claiming the right to be unhappy.” To which John responds – defiantly: “"All right then, I'm claiming the right to be unhappy."