FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion

Who’s afraid of the big bad colonist?

The amount of attention brought on by Cecil the Lion’s killing is incredible, with a huge image even gracing the front of New York’s Empire State Building. But this kind Imperial display of sympathy for the wild obscures a very real hypocrisy.

The idea that a white man from the US can go to Africa on his spare time with the expressed intention of shooting down an “exotic” animal is surely not new. For hundreds of years, big game hunting has always been a part of a colonial system wherein non-European countries became the cathartic playgrounds where the bored and banal Western lifestyle could vent itself through supremely egoistic pursuits of blood and glory.

Big game hunting was part of the internal colonization of the US. The hunting of the buffalo was seen as a kind of national sport of westward expansion—a pursuit justified in itself as the domination of a wild land by a stronger, purifying force.As the buffalo were brought to the brink of extermination by US colonists, Africa was increasingly opened up to colonization, and the Serengeti became the infamous new place for the big hunt. The grand waltzes and bagatelles that graced the sumptuous parties and feasts of 19th Century Imperial courts were played on the ivory of majestic African conquests. Social life in the colonial center was refreshed with the blood of the colonies. And in spite of what we might think, this still goes on today.

The Symbol of Dominion

There has always been something particularly colonial about the bold, courageous explorer and big game hunter who travels the world to kill the last remnants of the wild in order to make way for clean, healthy Western progress in the form of continuous exploitation through logging, mining, and plantations. His domination of nature marks his domination of himself in a weird way. He has become the master of the universe by manufacturing an identity based on the subversion of what he presumes to be his own arcane, more-feminine nature, which is most commonly associated with non-whites and colonized peoples.

Theodor Roosevelt, a staunch believer in eugenics and the white man’s mission to colonize the world, is perhaps the world’s most famous big game hunter. His own failed attempts at ranching brought him in close contact with a man identified as the first national socialist, the Marquis de Morès, later to inform his eugenic beliefs on raising the appropriate “human stock” (a concept that has everything to do with atavistic notions of “hereditary nobility”).

“If I were king of the forest”

Roosevelt’s administration is often known for its “conservationism,” with its chief being Gifford Pinchot, an occultist who learned his trade in “forest hygiene” from the greatest minds of France and Germany (the latter forest service having established itself under the Wolfsangel symbol later taken up by the Nazi SS).

For Pinchot, the forest was a hygienic place for man to recreate; however, to exploit natural resources, the forest had to be cleaned up a bit—large, fast-growing trees had to be planted in an order that made it easily accessible to loggers, so that the Imperial conquest could continue. The US forest service still views “healthy forests” as consistently logged ones.

Claiming the Territory

When the Western man (or woman) kills the native animal, he claims his territory and proves his reproductive worth, his virility. He stakes out a Westernized place in which he might bring his own brand of cattle, crops, and culture—a place for his own progeny to settle. Through killing, the pride of colonialism establishes itself.

With the recolonization of Africa occurring today through millions upon millions of hectares of land grabs made not just by the North Atlantic, but by India, Brazil, the Saudis, Russia, and China, the big game hunt is once again becoming a show of colonial force.

The slaughter of the wild buffalo made way for the devastation of the West through cattle ranching on non-native habitat, which has, in turn, contributed to soaring greenhouse emissions. Today, Africa’s lands are being pummeled by climate change-induced drought, making it difficult for native species to survive on their own.

The hunting of big game is, then, almost a mere symbolic gesture of the white man aggressively confronting the native in an unnecessary display of dominance. It is like ISIS destroying historic monuments, or perhaps more directly, Napoleon aiming his cannons at the Sphinx. But this is where the attention on Cecil somewhat misses the point.

An End to All That

We cannot have a kinder-gentler colonialism, where native species are rendered to their reserves, and land grabs continue apace. The machinery of colonial domination in full swing is rendering the planet uninhabitable for native species everywhere. When keeping them alive becomes as symbolic as murdering them in big game hunts, we have already lost the value of biodiversity.

As many have pointed out, the big game hunting of lions and elephants in Africa, or adventure hunting of bears and wolves in North America, reflect similar systems of colonial oppression in the streets. The same financial system that is grabbing land out from under the feet of indigenous peoples is also responsible for foreclosures and gentrification—both of which are enforced by the same kind of police, military, and security forces, and both of which have their own symbolic systems of racialized dominion.

If we are against the symbolic reality of big game hunting, we have to also be against its implications. Yes, this kind of sinister butchery must be stopped. So must everything it represents. That means transforming not just the juridical relationship to big game hunting, but the economic, cultural and political system to which such displays are virtually indispensable.

More articles by:

Alexander Reid Ross is a contributing moderator of the Earth First! Newswire. He is the editor of Grabbing Back: Essays Against the Global Land Grab (AK Press 2014) and a contributor to Life During Wartime (AK Press 2013). His most recent book Against the Fascist Creep is forthcoming through AK Press.

Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
Dave Lindorff
Mainstream Media Hypocrisy on Display
Jeff Cohen
Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?
Victor Grossman
Stand Up With New Hope in Germany?
Christopher Brauchli
A Family Affair
Jill Richardson
Profiting From Poison
Patrick Bobilin
Moving the Margins
Alison Barros
Dear White American
Celia Bottger
If Ireland Can Reject Fossil Fuels, Your Town Can Too
Ian Scott Horst
Less Voting, More Revolution
Peter Certo
Trump Snubbed McCain, Then the Media Snubbed the Rest of Us
Dan Ritzman
Drilling ANWR: One of Our Last Links to the Wild World is in Danger
Brandon Do
The World and Palestine, Palestine and the World
Chris Wright
An Updated and Improved Marxism
Daryan Rezazad
Iran and the Doomsday Machine
Patrick Bond
Africa’s Pioneering Marxist Political Economist, Samir Amin (1931-2018)
Louis Proyect
Memoir From the Underground
Binoy Kampmark
Meaningless Titles and Liveable Cities: Melbourne Loses to Vienna
Andrew Stewart
Blackkklansman: Spike Lee Delivers a Masterpiece
Elizabeth Lennard
Alan Chadwick in the Budding Grove: Story Summary for a Documentary Film
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail