New disturbing coronavirus developments in context with hundreds of elephant deaths in Africa

The circle of life is drawing tighter around us

vol. 2 issue 35

Greetings,

This week I have been quietly pondering a series of disturbing reports that more than 400 elephants in Botswana have turned up dead in the last several months (warning: these photos are disturbing; the frame above says 300, but now it’s over 400). The leading theory is that they are dying from a novel neurological disease, given that they apparently just suddenly drop dead, head-first.

Meanwhile, a new study indicates that there is an emergent neurological threat posed by the coronavirus, with adverse effects ranging from psychosis to stroke, and a host of neurological complications in between.

One is not necessary correlative to the other, but I connect the two and bring them to your attention because conservationist Dr. Niall McCann said this about the mysterious elephant deaths:

“Without knowing the source, it is impossible to rule out the possibility of a disease crossing into the human population - especially if the cause is in either the water sources or the soil. Dr McCann points to the Covid-19 pandemic, which is believed to have started in animals…Yes, it is a conservation disaster - but it also has the potential to be a public health crisis," he said.

Elephants are already alarmingly endangered on this planet. The World Wildlife Foundation reports that as little as less than a century ago, there were 10 million African elephants in existence. Now there are less than 400,000 left on the continent, nearly all of them living not in the wild, but under some form of protection. Even that is not foolproof: an estimated 100 African elephants are killed a day by poachers who sell elephant ivory on the black market. Meanwhile, conservationists continue to fight development of the elephant population’s habitat, occasionally winning a battle, but losing the overall war to the combined forces of poor local governance and Chinese business interests extracting the continent’s resources without regard for the environment.

Contemplating the magnitude of this loss, now compounded by this recent development, it occurs to me that we might lose this mighty species entirely before we’ve had a chance to actually learn from them. Not learn about them, but learn from them.

Studies of elephant behavior have been at the vanguard of science aimed at dispelling the anti-anthropomorphism that holds sway in academia, with much of the focus being on how they intuit imminent death and grieve for their loved ones.

How do elephants have such sentience, and perhaps even more intriguing, why are they so sensitive to loss and trauma? Are these elephantine behaviors different now that the herds no longer live in the wild? What might we humans learn from these powers of perception? Why have we not wanted to associate animals with such soulfulness?

These are the questions we should be asking, but clearly as the elephant death rate quickens, we are running out of time to do so, focused as our own species has been on hewing to our hierarchical view of ourselves at the top and everything else beneath us: We might be made in God’s image, but animals are certainly not made in ours. And yet, evidence continues to mount that whatever our differences from animals, our emotional lives do not fall within that differential. And if all sentient beings are capable of feeling, then aren’t they capable of processing what to do about what they feel? In other words, if they feel, then they must also think.

And if they think…then what do they think of us and how we treat them?

For so many of us, such a question sounds so preposterous it’s better to just keep the status quo and remain on top, not put ourselves on the beasts’ level. After all, if we were to actually entertain this question, following this equation to its natural conclusion would render us so guilty, and require of us a level of atonement so enormous, the only way we could meet it would be through the transcendence of forgiveness.

Ask elephants to forgive us for how we treat them?

How silly.

And so, we have continued imposing our materialistic world order, unconcerned with the whole of life, and pushing our way into their territory, harming them, killing them, dominating them. There is no more wilderness to speak of, very little natural frontier.

Yet, the less we respect their boundaries, the more our own boundaries dissolve. The metaphor has become literal, and there is now a mortal threat to both our species because of the dissolution of the boundaries between our bodies and theirs: we are drawn together through a mysterious illness, rather than pause to consider the mysterious ways elephants have of knowing things.

I wonder then, where do these murky illnesses such as the coronavirus really begin? With us or with them?

Before blaming China for this, which would be to miss the point entirely, consider that the hierarchical world view has been so pervasive, and such a bullying force globally, that China’s catastrophic “Great Leap Forward” and its successive iterations under different names and regimes — including its current so-called policies of democratic centralism under authoritarian President Xi Jinping —have all been taken as a way to compete with the West on the West’s terms, and then beat us at our own game. Clearly, they have done this, chiefly by owning our debt, but in other ways too, including brazenly stealing our intellectual properties, spying on us, and aligning with our enemies.

And what exactly, is our game? Until now, it has been total domination, one winner over the rest of a vanquished world, embodied in the most powerful nation on the planet having installed a president named for the ultimate power to vanquish.

Unless we are committed nihilists, there is clearly no reason to stay in this game.

All of this points to the need for a different world view built upon a framework of dominion not domination, constructed of new kinds of questions such as, “How do elephants grieve?” not “Do they grieve?”

Now, we may never know the answer as to the ways elephants know they are dying. We may never have the chance to explore whether they have an awareness of what we are doing to them, and so learn how to stop doing it to other creatures.

Where the elephants might have taught us different lessons about empathy and community, instead they – and the bats and monkeys and other animals we’ve dismissed as inferior, now implicated in so many of our world’s potentially lethal infections – seem to be showing us that what we do to others we will invariably do to ourselves.

Are we ready to listen?


My heart is full for the astounding influx of new readers and patrons to docu-mental in the past two weeks. Welcome and thank you for signing on. I especially would like to thank readers of Elisabeth Grace’s weekly mundane astrology forecasts, and also to Shannon Curtis and Jamie Hill, creators of the Misfit Stars community of musicians, artists, and others seeking a just and proper world. My husband and I had the good fortune to attend a recent virtual house concert given by Shannon and Jamie, at the invitation of playwright and activist, Amanda Moskowitz, creator of I Am Her. Now, I am happy to say Amanda is now a docu-mental reader, too!

To remind us all where we’ve been and where we’ve going, since we have so many new members of what I intend to become a community of like-minded dreamers of a new american dream (little “a” to keep it real), a little review is in order.

I started this publication as way to create herd immunity to anxiety and depression ™. Little did I know at the time in 2018 what kind of import herd immunity was about to take on! Feel free to take a stroll through the archives to see what essentially amounts to the long division of how I went from:

  • investigating whether it might be possible to view these epidemics of mental ill-health through an infectious disease model;

  • to seeing our Capitalist American dream as the “infectious agent” where anxiety and depression are the symptoms not the cause of our ills;

  • to connecting the dots between democracy, freedom, and mental health;

  • to mapping how our having elected a President Trump is a metaphorical and yet quite real manifestation of our own national sickness of narcissistic self-hatred;

  • to deciding it was time to just quit talking about the horror of this and do something about it instead.

So…

Beginning next week, as promised, we will be shifting gears for a bit, leaving the open road of mapping the american state of mind to healing it instead. For more on that, you can read this and this. In all, it’s soul retrieval time, for us as individuals and for the nation.

My premise is that there is little point in healing a wounded democracy only to pile it up again with impractical policies.

We need to establish a clean slate, a sacred template, and a new reason for being. Out of that will come policies for governance under a new american dream.

The more patron-subscribers we have, the more resources there will be to achieve the following:

  • Video interviews such as the upcoming one on July 13th with guests such as Gwendolyn Reece, PhD, High Priestess of the Hellenic Sacred Wheel coven in Washington, DC, who will discuss with us how to create rituals and practical solutions for a healthy democracy based upon her work with the myths and healings of the goddess Athena.

  • Transcripts of these videos so that we can start to amass a collection of practical steps to take in the direction of the goal stated above.

  • A video channel where these videos will live, including special access for patron subscribers only.

  • A private community where we can have candid discussions about what we would like to see change in the nation, and practical steps for making it so.

  • Eventually, virtual events, and possibly even live ones here in DC.

  • Ask-me-anything events with me and other guests.

If you’d like to help make this happen on a material level, please become a patron subscriber.

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Thank you!

Whitney