Walter Palmer’s Choice

If you truly want to live the life of your dreams, you’re going to make some choices along the way that you never saw coming.

There’s been a lot of interest over the last week or so regarding the death of Cecil the lion.  I’m going to touch on it because it illustrates the enormous power of choice and also in part, the morality of your success that you’re going to face sooner or later. If you truly want to live the life of your dreams, you’re going to make some choices along the way that you never saw coming.  These are going to be choices with consequences that you didn’t expect, and the more you understand about how choices work the better prepared you’ll be.

…the more you understand about how choices work, the better prepared you’ll be.

My interest in the case is this:  Walter Palmer has inadvertently become the subject of internet vitriol and hatred, and it’s going to be the ruin of more than just him if it continues.Cecil was an African lion who was killed by an American named Walter Palmer.  There is a ton of information available on the internet about the incident, so I’m not going to go into the details here.  Partly that’s because I don’t want to sway your opinion about the incident itself, and partly it’s because if you really want to know what’s going on you’ll read several different accounts and then decide for yourself how to approach this and any other major issue.

If you’ve read The Right Question or basically any other article on this blog, you’ll know how much I respect the fact that every single thing you do or say is a choice.  Whether you like it or not (most people don’t like it, and most people aren’t successful, either.  Not a coincidence) the fact is that the choices we make, expanded over a lifetime, decide our fate.  Charles Noble hit the nail on the head when it comes to choices when he wrote that “First we make our habits, then our habits make us.”

This means that choices are something to be valued, and the ability to make good choices is a skill, a talent, an ability worth developing.

…the ability to make good choices is a skill, a talent, an ability worth developing.

It also means that there is honor and maturity displayed in making the right choices.  And on some level, we all know that.

That’s the reason why we can all go into a theatre and sit there with a bunch of strangers in total darkness.  We’re living by an unspoken code of conduct and behavior, a choice we’re all making to get along with each other so that we can enjoy the movie or performance without interfering with someone else’s enjoyment of it.  It can be a fine line sometimes between what you consider fun and what someone else considers annoying, but we all learn that as we go.

When we can’t seem to make those choices, we have people step in and do it for us.  When we’re children, these people are our parents.  In adulthood we call them lawmakers.  Bureaucrats.  Politicians.  Basically, anyone but you.  They’ll decide what happens to you if you don’t behave.  These are people who have made choices that have put them in a position to be able to limit yours.  You’re grateful when they choose not to, and you dislike it when they do.

Here’s how it relates to poor old Cecil the lion and his accidentally famous killer:
There is no law against anyone reading this blog going out and killing a lion.  Nothing at all.  And there shouldn’t be.  Because it’s face it, why the hell would you go out and kill a lion?  Why bother making a law about something like that in the first place?  I mean, who kills a lion anymore?  Call me naive here, call me an old-fashioned gentleman, but is anyone going to eat him? Is his hide of any practical use? His paws aren’t going to be used for making glue, such as horses’ hooves are.  He has no tusks.  To the best of my admittedly limited knowledge, he’s got nothing of practical value that is commercially attractive at all.

Even though there are many areas of the world where wildlife can be a danger, Palmer was too cowardly by far to genuinely place himself in harm’s way.  His choice to exercise the right to kill a lion exemplifies everything that’s wrong about the abuse of free will and power of choice.  And therein lies the reason why he is screwing everybody else over.  By exercising the right to do so, he gives other people with the right to but who choose not to, a bad name.  Do you follow?  I’m assuming you’re a non-lion-killing sort of person.  I’m definitely one.  I’d love to shoot a lion one day, but only with a damn fine camera.  You and I have the right to go shoot a lion, and that’s nice.  But why would we?

I’ve nothing against big game hunting, as long as there is value in the kill beyond the experience sought by the hunter.  I know people who hunt.  They obtain permits to do so, for animals such as moose and deer.  The hunters kill their quota, and they enjoy an overflowing freezer full of healthy game that has never seen a processing plant.  The game has never had preservatives sprayed on it, injected into it, has never been plumped up with water to fetch a higher price when sold by weight; the animal itself grazed freely and reproduced as its ancestors have done for hundreds of years.  I don’t know anyone who hunts bears but I’ve met a few, and I spent an enjoyable afternoon once chatting with a hunting guide whose sole occupation was guiding bear hunters.

One of the more interesting insights I’ve had into wildlife population control was when I picked up two Bavarian hitchhikers on a trip through the Canadian Rockies.  They asked about bears in North America and related how a bear was seen near their town back home.  They said that the authorities shot it.

“Why?” I asked.  “Did it attack someone?”  No, they answered, it’s just that people are nervous knowing there’s a bear around.  The local wildlife authorities didn’t have the knowledge to transport it elsewhere, so they simply shot it to assuage common fears of bears.  To me, that’s every bit as lazy and abhorrent as what Palmer did, but you don’t see people up in arms over that.

All laws were made because somebody with the power of choice decided to make that law.  They had freedom and used it to limit yours.

If we vilify Walter Palmer for killing a lion, we invite lawmakers to interfere.  They’ll side with the indignant masses, and they’ll make it illegal to hunt lions.  And do you know what result that will have?  It will mean that you and I will have one fewer freedom than we do now.  Who cares if it’s a freedom we’ll never use?  All laws were made because somebody with the power of choice decided to make that law.  They had freedom and used it to limit yours.  And you and I, responsible people who would never have pointlessly killed, may not even have the right to shoot an animal with a camera.  And this brings me to why it is that choices are so wonderful.

There will always be people such as Walter Palmer who push the envelope of what we all consider common standards of behavior and conduct, a larger version of the standards that allow us all to go into a darkened theatre and get along with each other long enough to enjoy the performance.  But in a world where we all avoid killing animals because it’s a law, the honor inherent in making the right choice is completely eliminated.  Now we aren’t sure if our neighbour isn’t killing lions because he’s a good person, or if it’s solely because of his fear of punishment.  And that means that we can’t pay tribute to each other’s choices in the same way anymore.  The entire point of having freedom of choice gets belittled.

Success is more a matter of making the right choices in a practical way than it is a constant moral judgment, but your choices stem from your beliefs. And every time the opportunity to choose is eliminated, you lose the ability to practice making decisions. You risk losing sight of your beliefs. And if you can’t choose success, you’ll never be successful.