a penguin parade or a penguin braggadocio?

February 19, 2006 at 5:45 pm Leave a comment

Procrastination is my favorite past time, I doubt I would be learning as much from my university experience without it. Today, while trying to ignore the piles of readings that loom over my shoulder, I stumbled across the Zurich Zoo site. The Zoo, every year during the winter months, sends its penguins on a march through the zoo, every day at 1.30pm, provided it is below 10 degrees celcius.OR-0-2-2096_02.jpg

One of my favorite films is the Elephant Man. Regardless of the number of previous viewings, I always cry (same goes for E.T. and Life is Beautiful, is this thematic or what?). I was reminded of this beautiful film when I saw this 'Penguin Parade' which to mean seems more like a spectacle than anything else. But could you expect any less from the local zoo?

Originating as royal menageries, the collection of animals, as with anything else, has always been a public display of power. This lead to the use of animals in gladiatorial games, which thankfully fell out of style following the collapse of the empire. Essentially this is where humans are briefly thrown into the mix, something which by the end of the fifteenth century was a distasteful as actual human zoos, showacasing other races.

The idea of keeping animals in a 'naturalistic' environment is only a century old, which is not surprising in the least. For a good while, animals were kept in tiny tiled cages, alone so that they were easy to get a look at, similar to the way pet store or laboratory animals are kept, with only a tiny window on a world in which they are a star but treated like an emotionless commodity. Freeing animals from the tiny cages was a prudent move, since studies have shown that animals, much like people, grow to be vicious and psychotic when kept distant from love and companionship.

This image of the Penguin Parade makes me wonder what this sort of routine does to a penguin. Yes, penguins are required to trek long distances for the sake of survival, something that seems as though it could be hardwired. However, how many of these penguins have ever made such a journey? Haven't these been in captivity most of their lives?

Next, I question how it is that they are lead about this walk. The pictures are quite adorable, the penguins are waddeling along with awe struck visitors in tow. But honestly, how often do penguins look happy? All the time. They are so cute and jolly looking by nature, that unless they are sticking their tongues out or pecking in self defense, they don't look anything but jaunty. These photos don't show zoo keepers throwing open the gates and the penguins running free in anticipation to go see their 'zoo friends.' Are they being proded out with hands or other 'guiding' instruments? Are they lead by tempting buckets of fish heads? Do their memories retain enough to remember that everyday they must do this and like it? How many try to run off? How many just stand there in blatant refusal to be made a spectacle?

My question is what does this do for society? The utilitarian in me considers the fine balance between the good of society and the mildly negative reprocussions on the part of the penguins. I can see how for many people experiencing a march with any creature would inspire greater empathy for existence. Maybe such an experience could quell a future torture session involving a local cat, or the shooting of a hapless dog. Maybe not. There is something to be said for the words inherently evil.

Perhaps this is just barbarism for a postmodern society. The appearance is happy and joyful, the lesson is that using the inferior is an inexpensive way of personal gain. But what doesn't follow this standard? Advertisers, PR persons, Lawyers, Journalists, Politicians, Professors, Filmmakers, even those in the Dictionary publishing business! Oh god, it seems there is no way of escaping the downward spiral. I suppose now there is no way of crossing off any of the above from my list of potential careers. Damn, I was hoping to narrow the list so I could actually make some progress, but seeing as procrasitination is my strong suit…

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Entry filed under: , This That and The Other.

“there is green stuff floating in that glass of water…i’m assuming it’s yours?” set the mood: Rocky Racoon the amazing feats of technology…

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