Wednesday, 10 August 2016

lying down with lions

ร†ons after the dispatching of the woolly mammoths, sabre-toothed tigers and Neanderthals but too far removed from mankind’s driving the whales and buffalos to the point of extinction (and sadly too late for the passenger-pigeon), a new paradigm emerged for man’s relationship to Nature, captured by some enterprising toy-makers and some US presidential myth-making. Most are familiar with the lore behind Teddy’s bear, how in 1902 whilst on a domestic safari US president and avid hunter Theodore Roosevelt nobly pardoned a frightened bear—whereas behind the myth, sanitised like the received versions of fairy-tales, the account is not so cuddly.
A guide had captured a rather mangy sow and tied her to a tree to give Roosevelt the honour of shooting her. Roosevelt did decline, believing shooting such a poor prize to be beneath him, and instead ordered that the poor creature be put out of her misery. The guide disembowelled the bear and later the hunting party dined on bear steak. Gruesome as it was, marketers saw an opportunity after the cartoon depicting the moment of Roosevelt’s clemency was widely circulated and produced the teddy bear, marking the first time a formerly ferocious and parallel creature (menacing and sufficient unto themselves like lions, yetis or wolves) was tamed in plush-form. With self-assured supremacy, the careers of these separate and competing members atop of their respective food-chains were now at the pleasure and pardon of the great white hunter. Not realising the endurance of their idea, manufacturers feared that the craze would disappear with Roosevelt and tried to capitalise on the ascendency of William Howard Taft and oddly again with an animal that ended up being eaten. After the election, Taft was treated to a congratulatory banquet in Atlanta, Georgia where he was served an enormous opossum the size of today’s turkeys. Re-enforced on his victory-lap, Taft was presented numerous taxidermy and plush “Billy Possums,” the industry tried to launch a new craze to supplant the teddy bear that represented the old-guard of the Republican Party.