Not my Circus, not my Monkeys!

Cowering in the corner, eyes wide open and every sense in my body on alert I wandered would I survive this encounter.  The pungent smell of manure mixed with the scent of hay assailed my nostrils.  I squeezed myself into the corner, eyed up the chain and wandered just how long it was.  Would she be able to reach me?  The chains looked strong enough but….  I began to tremble a little as the vehicle shuddered, relax breathe deeply they can smell fear I told myself. One foot after another she came, just a gentle ripple as she filled the room.   I closed my eyes as she reached out to touch me just as the clink of chains announced the start of my journey.  All good they called out? Sure I answered, how long was this journey I thought, Two and a half hours, Just me and and Jumbo.

My Uncle Frank worked as a transport manager in the Whirling Brothers Circus, Frank well he was a special kind of guy but more about Frank another time.  Frank had called in and said to my mum shall I take Paul for the holidays, I was 14 or 15 and so began my brief association with the circus.  Whirling Brothers with Captain Mark Anthony aka Tony Ratcliffe was a one ring circus.  An anachronism with wild animals still, Lions, Monkeys, horses, dogs, a chimpanzee and Jumbo the Elephant.  Some of you may remember Jumbo as Mila, infamous because of what was believed to be an accident where she killed her keeper.  Circus people are an interesting bunch, if you want to know about them read Water for Elephants, that is a pretty good description of Whirling Brothers but on a much smaller scale.

My job as a tent hand included assisting with the pitching of the big top, mucking out, a bit of clown work and travelling in the back with Jumbo between venues to keep her calm.  I stood in the far corner where jumbo could just reach out enough to touch me with her trunk.  I was terrified the first time, I remember her reaching out and sniffing me, it cam to me in an instant, the fruit!  I had packed my pockets full of fruit, I pulled an apple out of my pocket, Jumbo stamped her foot and gave a little huff, I held it out for her, my trembling arm extended as far as it could and she took it from my hand without touching me, curling her trunk into her mouth she placed what seemed to be such a tiny morsel int what was like a cavern.  With a contented look on her face she crunched the apple.  I had a bit of food with me and I decided to ration it out one bit at a time.

I came to enjoy travelling with Jumbo.  On occasion I would ride on her back in a new town, I remember walking through farmers on her back.  What astounded me was how such an immense animal who could decimate you with one swipe of her trunk was by and large so obedient. As I reflected on this I saw a parallel with society.  Jumbo’s life whilst far from ideal was relatively benign, and I am glad to see that she will spend the rest of her days in a far better place  That which I reflected on was how society is so meek and mild.  How we tolerate things which we so obviously hate.  Some of those things such as taxes are universal and necessary.  Otyher things such as violence, drugs, poor health systems, struggling education systems and the like are not, and yet we tolerate it!  We by and large do not rise up against these things.

Is it because like Mila we are fed, watered and housed.  Are these things enough to placate us?  As long as we can get our fix of consumerism the rest of it does not matter.  Is egalitarianism lost in our society?  As we come to a General Election in New Zealand I feel like Mila we will just keep on being subjugated.  Many people will not even vote, particularly those who have the least voice in society.

Makes you think…



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