I’m not talking about elephants, pandas, blue whales or snow leopards, even though they doubtless need protecting too.
However, the most endangered species on earth is Homo sapiens. Homos still roam the earth in large numbers, but sapience is rapidly becoming extinct.
I was reminded of this looming ecological disaster by today’s reports, highlighting the plight of a British professor who emigrated from England to New Zealand to teach physiology at Auckland.
The professor moved house lock, stock and barrel, taking all his worldly goods with him. Among them was a 120-year-old upright piano played by the professor’s wife and children. The heirloom had been in the family for 30 years.
However, the musical family ran into a veritable cacophony at the border. The piano was impounded because it was cursed with having ivory keys.
Therefore the antique instrument was in violation of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. It has to be that inanimate object that’s the culprit, not the professor, who – by way of mitigation – was born some 70 years after the piano committed its crime against modernity.
It took the family eight months to get the instrument out of the pound. But the ivory keys had been removed and buried in the ground, a procedure for which the academic had to pay £100, with the bill for administrative costs yet to come. That’s like the families of executed men in China, who had to pay for the bullets with which their loved ones had been shot.
It’ll cost the academic another £200 to have plastic keys put in, for a piano without the keys loses much of its purpose, although it can still be used as a mute piece of furniture.
This acute outburst of the chronic madness of modernity shows mental collapse on several counts, leaving the clinical diagnosis in no doubt.
The first symptom is practical: ignoring human needs.
Any pianist will tell you that there’s no real substitute for ivory. Plastic keys, even though they’re now better than they were when the madness was first diagnosed, simply don’t provide the same purchase for the fingers – especially when they’re damp, as they often are during a performance.
However, I’m prepared to accept that the plight of pianists striking wrong notes in concert is minor when compared with the plight of elephants losing their tusks posthumously.
The second symptom is legal: ignoring the fundamentals of jurisprudence.
Vandalising an antique piano violates every precept of legality by making the law protecting elephants retroactive. No such law existed at the time when the key-producing animal was killed – people still hadn’t acquired the ersatz morality of which modernity is justly proud.
The third symptom is commonsensical: losing touch with reality.
The elephant that sacrificed its tusks for the keys of that particular instrument is undeniably dead. It has been dead for at least 120 years. Ripping portions of its tusks out of the piano isn’t going to bring the elephant back to life. It’ll remain dead, buried and thoroughly decomposed.
Vandalising an antique piano isn’t going to deter poachers by itself. They’ll continue to shoot elephants, taking the risk of the resulting ivory being buried in the ground when their great-grandchildren are old.
This isn’t to say that elephants or other endangered species shouldn’t be protected. But this should be done by effective policing, not by state-sponsored vandalism.
This is how a reasonably sane person would object to this Kiwi insanity, although my sanity may be doubted in some quarters, namely by my wife Penelope.
But the good professor has been caught in the same pandemic of lunacy that’s destroying the sapiens aspect of man. Hence he objected by saying that the vandalism was “unfair and highly disrespectful for the animal that was slain to give its tusks to make this ivory.
“Ivory on a piano in a sense is a monument which reminds us of the atrocities that have occurred. It’s a bit like removing the names off a war memorial – you have lost the reason for it.”
Let me see if I understand. The elephant’s memory must be cherished the same way the memory of soldiers who died for their country must be cherished. Just as those uncountable cenotaphs remind us of the evil of war, ivory keys remind us of the equally reprehensible evil of elephanticide.
Have I got this right? If so, the professor isn’t just a victim of this lunacy but also its promulgator. For this kind of anthropomorphism, equating humans and animals, is another clinically significant symptom of the modern disease.
Allow me to be unforgivably retrograde for a moment by using the kind of terminology and references that are nowadays decidedly uncool.
Both man and elephant are God’s creatures. However, they occupy different places in the pecking order established in Genesis and accepted as true in the subsequent millennia.
Man is close to God because he’s created in God’s image and likeness. The elephant, even though undeniably cute, is typologically closer to a palm tree than to Homo, formerly sapiens.
Just like the palm tree, the elephant was created to serve man, and the way it can render such service is by providing ivory for piano keys or for decorative purposes.
I also understand that parts of elephant feet and trunk are quite delicious. If so, this is another service the animal can provide, in addition to acting as public transport in some parts of the world.
Getting back to modern notions, 99 per cent of all species that have ever inhabited the earth are now extinct. So far we’ve managed to soldier on without their company and, in the tragic event the elephant sinks into extinction too, I suspect we’ll somehow muddle through.
Personally, I’d like my descendants to be able to enjoy watching elephants in the zoo, as much as I did as a child.
But looking on from wherever I’ll be residing at the time, it’ll give me much greater pleasure to see that my descendants haven’t lost – or rather by then have regained – the notion of the uniqueness of man and subservience of all other living creatures.
Modernity can’t raise beasts to the level of man. Hence the only way of equalising them is to pull man down to the level of beasts.
And not just any old beasts but specifically herbivorous ones: eating animal flesh is another uncool thing, so considered by modern savages in the grip of the modern strain of lunacy.
But even if they accept, begrudgingly, the possibility of eating hamburgers or even – at their most permissive – of wearing mink pelts, they still make ivory not only illegal but also immoral.
Let me tell you, our crazed modern barbarians do draw moral distinctions in funny places. Oh the good old times, when that task was taken out of their hands.