Chatting recently with a minor impresario of “eco-tourism,” I was told that “the trend in the future will be towards the gun-free wilderness experience.”
I asked if he meant non-hunting vacations, and he certainly did. But he meant more than that. He meant, “The customer has a right to know that we will show respect for nature, and that there will be no guns on the expedition.”
Aha, I realized. His customers are naïve urban people.
With respect, your honour (I take my reader for my judge), a man who goes off into the wilderness without a gun is not showing respect for nature. He is showing no respect for nature at all. And while I don’t think it should be necessary to carry, say, depth charges, land mines, ground-to-air missiles, or even hand grenades, on the typical weekend hike, there are circumstances in which a rifle can prove mighty useful. On the other hand, since conventional rifles are little use underwater, I can see the point of carrying spear guns or the like, when diving in locations where the fish are bigger than you are, and require more protein.
From what I know about sharks, they have something in common with the cats, pigeons, and even houseflies, of my more first-hand experience: namely, that they are possessed of individual personalities. Even within the same species, some sharks are more docile than others, some more and some less daring, and at any given moment, some are hungrier than others, or in a worse mood. And while I have frequently read the assurance, of naïve urban writers, that “no animal will intentionally attack a human being,” I recall that the set “animals” contains e.g. sharks, orcas, octopuses, stingrays, giant eels, crocodiles, grizzly bears, wolves, rhinoceroses, tigers, dingoes, pythons, and tree-dwelling funnel-web spiders.
Verily, we learned this last week of the dangers presented by a couple of heifers that escaped from a livestock market in Darlington, England. Police marksmen were assigned to the chase, in the knowledge that these half-ton animals were quite capable of attacking well-meaning members of the naïve urban public with the enthusiasm of a bull after a matador.
I know, I know: “one must never generalize.” This is another of the myths of naïve urban people, who are generalizing even when they make that statement, and are, generally speaking, especially prone to foolish generalizations. It is only by generalizing that we are able to distinguish a giraffe from a butterfly, and moreover, outside the purest mathematics, there is no act of human reason that does not require generalizing from a mass of particulars. The brain generalizes in every moment it receives information from the eyes. And the statement, “one must never generalize” is simply one of those many ideas so ineluctably stupid, that only two classes of people are capable of believing it: namely, the unambiguously insane, and naïve urban people.
The former do not worry me, much, even in the downtown neighbourhood where I live, but the latter are beginning to be an environmental problem, although not the one they think they are. It is not their bio-mass alone, that concerns me (the ants and termites on this planet weigh more than we do, in aggregate, and the amount of formic acid they produce is out of all proportion to human emissions of pesticides).
Rather, what worries me is urbanization. According to the latest report of UNFPA, for the first time in human history the planet’s urban population now matches her rural population, and on present trends (though all trends are reversible), will greatly exceed the rural population in the near future.
Setting aside all such considerations, as that urban people are proportionally about four times as productive of toxic wastes, my worry now centres on the simultaneous spread of “democracy,” in the limited sense of people voting on things. Our own experience, in Canada and throughout the West, has been, that as a democratic polity urbanizes, the people and therefore the politics become increasingly batty, owing chiefly, I think, to the insulation of urban people from the basic facts of life.
In the small example above—irrational fear of guns, leading to politically-correct efforts to ban them everywhere—and in the many other examples I tend to offer, passim, in these columns, we have the spectacle of naïve urban people who believe themselves competent to vote even on the laws of nature, and when this happens, I don’t know to what other planet the rest of us may repair.