In one of the most famous instances of “herd mentality”, a family feud in 1692 morphed into mass hysteria, political rhetoric, and the public executions of twenty people in Salem Village, Massachusetts. It seems a pattern that society in unable to break away from, as the Internet and today’s media continue to enable the public’s insatiable desire for a witch hunt.
Here’s a few things you might not know about Zimbabwe. It’s one of the poorest countries in the world, and growing poorer. Due to record drought it’s believed that 23% of cultivated land will fail to produce crop in 2015. The Famine Early Warning Network estimates that 20% of households are in danger of facing acute malnutrition. Unemployment is a staggering 80%.
According to UNICEF, Zimbabwe is home to 1.3 million orphans, 100,000 of these living on their own. 570,00 have been orphaned due to the AIDS virus, with 150,000 of them infected themselves. Sexual abuse and child labor are rampant.
The country’s complete economic and societal collapse has occurred under the brutal dictatorship of Robert Mugabe, who’s been “president” since leading a rebel group against white minority rule in 1987. He immediately turned Zimbabwe into a one-party state, established the Fifth Brigade, a security force trained by North Korea, and murdered at least 20,000 people in attempts at ethnic cleansing and consolidation of power.
Chances are you’ve never heard of Mugabe, but I’d bet you recognize the name of Dr. Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist currently in hiding, fearing for his now ruined life. He’s the guy that killed Cecil, prized African lion. I personally don’t agree with trophy hunting, where the only goal seems to be to hunt animals deemed “exotic” in your country of origin. If he was my dentist, I’d probably consider taking my business elsewhere. I wouldn’t call for his immediate death and dismemberment.
Dr Palmer paid $50,000 for his licensed hunt with professional local guides that should have know better. This type of expedition brings 20 million dollars a year to impoverished Zimbabwe. All meat is required by law to be given to local tribes and villages.
Instead of using this unfortunate incident to educate about the real problems in Zimbabwe, the media has helped perpetuate sensationalism, feeding an apparent societal need to instead burn somebody at the stake. Another embarrassing example of misplaced priorities in a seemingly unending stream of them.
Anybody that really wants to make a difference in Zimbabwe is encouraged to click on this link. It won’t bring you to a petition to end trophy hunting or to an anonymous hotline to report sightings of the elusive dentist, but to a page on savethechildren.org .
I worry about raising my children in a world where people receive their news based on the most tantalizing headline. Where Facebook mobs grab their virtual torches and chase down perceived witches at every opportunity. We should have learned these lessons by now.
photo via un.org