I wonder

I just today read an article in the China Daily, a site I read daily to keep up with what’s going on in China and which, like China, fascinates me. (We will be doing two Kosher English speakers’ tours to China this spring for Shai Bar Ilan Geographical Tours– come join us). In the article, the problem of the panda population was once again addressed.

As you may know pandas are an endangered species and only in recent years has China been able to successfully breed pandas so that finally the panda population of the world is increasing. Even those pandas that are rented to other zoos for 10 years (at a million dollars a year!) must be bred and the resulting pandas too eventually become the property of the Chinese.

Having visited the breeding ground outside of Chengdu more than once, I was impressed with the care taken in providing a healthy environment for the pandas and the precautions taken to safeguard the panda babies. The tiny babies may be seen only on closed circuit TV and those in the toddler stage, only through the cage which is inside a heated building and where visitors must wear coverings on their shoes to prevent the spread of germs. The rest of the panda reserve is lush and verdant with bamboo everywhere. Pandas are fed a variety of food to help them muster their energies… In the wild, pandas spend more energy eating their bamboo than they replace with its nutrition!

The problem the Chinese are facing now is that the first panda they released into the wild Xiang Xiang was found dead with injuries that seem to attest to the fact that he was unable to defend himself. Now they are wondering how to teach these animals who are used to a controlled, safe environment, to defend themselves. The current plan has to do with having a dog live with them and that perhaps they will learn survival skills from the dog.

It set me to thinking about the current stream of pacifism that has been pervading and growing in Western thought. Since the end of WWII, Western Europe and the US have been spared from any direct and imminent threat to their homeland. Korea and Vietnam are not in the backyard, nor are Afghanistan and Iraq. People do not feel personally threatened and have not for years, generations. Is it no wonder that they are ready to say that just talking will solve problems; that all people when reasoned with want the same thing? In our protected environment, war and aggression are so much NOT the point. We don’t feel it; we don’t see it; we just want it to stop.

But maybe we are like those pandas who were born into a peaceful, nurturing environment. And maybe outside, there really are dangers that we are ill prepared to meet.

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