Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Solidarity: A New Law of the Jungle

The first thing one recent morning, even before the caffeine had a chance to kick in, a co-worker, bubbling over with excitement, came into my office asking, "Did you see them? Did you see the water buffalo last night?"

I was pretty sure I hadn't, since I live in a city, in North America, and there were no stories about escaping zoo animals in the paper.

He wasn't about to let my confusion or sarcasm dampen his spirits, and directed me to YouTube and the "Battle at Kruger", an eight-minute video. If you have not seen it, you must!

Go watch the entire video; it's a nail biter. About 1/3rd of the way through it, you'll want to stop watching. Do not stop; close your eyes if you must, but watch it all. It ends well. Go now. I'll wait here.

The video shows a battle between a pride of lions and a herd of water buffalo at South Africa's Kruger National Park at watering hole. The huge herd approaches the watering hole. A pride of lions lay in wait, rush the herd and capture a baby water buffalo. Panicked, the herd runs off to protect their own lives, then re-group. En mass they tentatively approach the pride of lions in the act of killing the baby water buffalo. Two forcefully charge and two lions run off. Emboldened by the acts of a few, the herd surrounded the stunned lions who astutely release their choke-hold on the baby water buffalo. He walks back and disappears into the herd.

It is the perfect metaphor of how, together, we can get things done. Solidarity-- without it, we're lunch.

When you watch the video you'll see that while they numbered many, most were hesitant. Behind the "front line" there was angst and trepidation. You can actually see them shaking. That is perfectly okay. They were there.

Their heroism was standing with the others to show the lions that they were unified and would not stop until they got the baby back. They didn't have to toss a lion into the air. It was enough that they stood with those who did. The crowd behind the more aggressive water buffalo ensured that neither the fighters, or baby would become another meal for the "kings of the jungle".

Sometimes it feels like we're being eaten alive by the powerful in our fight for equal rights. Nursing homes, hospitals, and insurance company lobbies contribute mightily to re-election campaigns and in return, legislators pass laws that favor them, not us. They seem invincible.

Jay Gould, a railway baron, spoke for the power elite when he said "I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half." I’m becoming more of a conspiracy theorist everyday. They have done a superb job helping us focus on our differences. I firmly believe that the powerful set up a system so we have to fight one another. While we are busy doing that, we aren't even watching them, let alone fighting them.

It does not have to be this way; we can win the fight for universal, single-payer healthcare. We can win the fight to close down institutions and provide community living options. We can win the fight to stop physician-assisted suicide. We can win the fight to give our children with disabilities appropriate educational opportunities. We can win the fight against a 70% unemployment rate for working aged adults with disabilities.

Just like the water buffalo, most of us are not radical activists. While we may support the disability rights causes, we cannot imagine stepping out of the shadows.

If that is how you feel, that's perfectly all right. There is room in the movement for you too. There is room for all of us. If we stand together, if we vote together, even if our knees are knocking, we will win.

Be the water buffalo.

Photo from


stacey said...

so true. without solidarity and community, we are nothing.

Barb said...

This is beautiful. Thank you!

Kim said...

You are one of my favorite writers - officially. I can always count on your words to reach deep inside and capture me. Truly an excellent author!
Kim, MFH2 Board President