Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The shark of a story…

Sammy, the whale shark.

That is the most familiar name across newspapers, radio and internet in the UAE for the last couple of weeks. Sammy has pushed Subprime, Henry Paulson, Barack Obama, John McCain & Sarah Palin to one column by ten centimeter spaces. We see pages dedicated to Sammy, we have seen Save Sammy stickers going on sale and amusingly we have had a leading Pinoy singer strumming for Sammy. We have also heard RJ’s speaking passionately about Sammy and his rights cutting across radio channels, sometimes conveniently forgetting that they love their seafood platter.

Although I am not an active or professing member of PETA or likes, I come from a family that loves animals. Importantly we respect their rights and their habitat. That said I cannot quite understand the euphoria and this, “I give a column or second airtime more than you” attitude of the media here. After all Sammy is safe in an aquarium and I am sure as at least some of the saner souls would agree, didn’t up as a biryani in somebody’s plate.

Pardon me if I sound gross or uncouth, but that is a fact. While millions of tons of habitats of the sea are trawled out as seafood, we must be happy that Sammy didn’t end up that way or being thrown out of a speeding car, as many cats are in town. He’s part of an aquarium that might, of all things serve to educate kids, the next generation who otherwise might never get to see a whale shark other than in a book or when they google it out.

I repeat, I don’t support or oppose Sammy being held captive. As long as Sammy is being taken proper care of, let him be wherever it might be. Those who claim Sammy might lose touch with reality, the independence of his habitat should also think about those thousands of lions, tigers, elephants, rhinos, and giraffes etc. who are part of the various zoos around the world. Think, have we ever printed a sticker of say, Simba the lion? And asked the zoo authorities to release him in his native habitat?

I loathe this frenzy, the senseless hysteria of save Sammy. Can we ask ourselves

  1. How many column centimeters or seconds do we devote for those labourers who toil in the hot sun sans proper food, shelter or remuneration? Forget those occasional sensational stories filed...
  2. Was there any follow-up to see if the school transportation system and safety has improved after sensationalizing the death of a kindergarten toddler in Abu Dhabi for one week? Did we ever care about it?
  3. Have we guys ever worried or cared about those numerous cats that lie dead on our roads?
  4. Have we ever seen stories in the newspapers or cared to talk about people who chain monkeys or other animals to their steering wheels, making them sit on it and drive their cars with an open window just to show the world how macho they are?
  5. And finally a simple question, how many times in your life have you ever used a zebra crossing or a designated facility to cross the road in the last 3 months?

Please, for heavens sake let’s dust our own back before pointing out a peck of dust at our neighbour’s. Let’s be responsible. I agree sensationalism sells in media, but please understand that we don’t need to either sell or buy stories at this obscenely suffocating sensation levels.

I would also ask the Pinoy musician to first strum for those hundreds and thousands of her Kabayan brothers and sisters who live a life of agony and suffering. I would ask her to do something for them before she grabs her next column centimeter at the expense of a Sammy.

Guys have some sense, let’s show at least 10 – 15 % of the concern we show on a Sammy on the fellow human beings we deal with day to day. The poor taxi drivers, the labourer, the guy who serves us at a hotel and thousands of others we encounter in our daily life. If we are able to do this first, I am sure we would end up feeling prouder and satisfied, than cutting a save the Sammy motif from a newspaper, pinning it on our kids and clicking a photo. Hoping we would see it in the next morning’s newspaper.

Let me reiterate, I am not saying don’t care for Sammy. Please do. But before that think, think how many times we ever care for our fellow human beings and their rights. At least now let us resolve, to care for our fellow humans.

Long live Sammy, the whale shark!!