Paul Thomas: A world turned upside down

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Executions at the zoo, protection for bigots ... it's all going wrong

A giraffe put down by Copenhagen Zoo was dissected and fed to lions in front of a group of children. Photo / AP
A giraffe put down by Copenhagen Zoo was dissected and fed to lions in front of a group of children. Photo / AP

We learn early on in life that the world is a contradictory place, full of things that don't make sense and explanations for them that make even less sense.

In the days of corporal punishment, which didn't make sense on several levels, those on the receiving end were sometimes told by those dishing it out that "this is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you".

That's probably been a Tui billboard.

When the person dishing it out had sadistic tendencies — and history and common sense suggest that was often the case — the distortion of reality was grotesque.

And many's the time the dubious claim "sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind" has been used to justify some act of petty tyranny.

Consider the week that was: A Danish zoo — an institution we'd assume is a haven for wildlife in a country renowned for its civilised values — is forging ahead with its policy of executing animals in its care.

Last month, the Copenhagen Zoo shot Marius, an 18-month-old giraffe, then dissected it and fed it to lions in front of a group of children.

The rationale for this Roman Coliseum-style spectacle was some vaguely Hitlerian waffle about genetic purity.

This week the zoo offed four lions, two cubs and their parents, to make way for a new male, which suggests the zookeepers' arithmetic is as hazy as their concept of animal welfare.

When Marius was slaughtered, defenders of the action dismissed the outcry as an example of the "Disneyfication" of zoo animals.

I would've thought it was more a case of the critics believing there are enough people in this world killing wild animals without zoos joining in the carnage.

Likewise, we think those who fly airliners should try to deliver their passengers to their destinations safe and sound. As the week wore on, a consensus emerged that the most likely explanation for the fate of flight MH370 is, the pilot did it. This scenario is routinely described as "pilot suicide", although a more appropriate term would be mass murder.

Apparently Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah's personal life was falling apart. An associate and fellow pilot speculated that Zaharie decided to go on a "last joyride", taking the plane to "a part of the world he had never flown in".

If Zaharie did deliberately take the plane on a flight to nowhere, the use of the term "joyride" and the suggestion that it was some kind of bucket list exercise are sickeningly mealy-mouthed characterisations of the cold-blooded murder of 238 people who'd placed themselves in his care. You can only hope it was a case of English as a second language.

Across the Tasman, the Abbott government decided that the most urgent orders of business are bringing back knighthoods and enshrining the right to bigotry.

Flagging changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, Attorney General George Brandis declared "people do have a right to be bigots".

That won't have come as a surprise to Australia's long-suffering indigenous population nor, it would seem, to many Kiwi immigrants.

One in five Kiwis living in Australia who took part in a Monash University study complained about their adopted country's racism and discrimination.

Maybe there's some lateral thinking going on.

Working on the premise that, just as the prohibition of drugs doesn't deter drug use so race hate laws have done little to reduce bigotry, the Australians may feel that if people are given the right to choose, they'll choose to say no. If that's the logic, I think it's faulty.

Unlike personal drug use, bigotry isn't a victimless crime.

Unlike recreational drug users, bigots are a reviled minority, even in Australia. Creating a bigot's charter will only validate them, thereby undoing the progress of recent decades.

Meanwhile the Disneyfication of our electoral politics continued with the launch of the Internet Party or, as cynics call it, the Society for the Prevention of Kim Dotcom's Extradition.

In what may be the ultimate test of the notion that there's no such thing as bad publicity, Dotcom revealed that he's the — presumably proud — owner of a signed copy of Adolf Hitler's autobiographical Nazi blueprint, Mein Kampf.

A columnist in this paper thought Dotcom might be just the fellow to wrest the country from John Key's evil clutches.

Given that he's armed with a copy of Mein Kampf, one nervously wonders how Dotcom would go about that.

Hone Harawira, Dotcom's political ally — or not, depending what time of day you logged on to a news website — wasn't bothered by the Mein Kampf furore, insisting it was just an investment.

I somehow doubt Harawira showed the same indulgence towards companies that invested in South Africa under apartheid.

- NZ Herald

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