Ulovane Update: Connecting with Shani

10 Jun

A tribute to one of the most fascinating creatures in the ocean.

There are many weird and wonderful creatures in the ocean; one of my favorites is the Orca or Killer whale. They have grace, they have beauty and intelligence, but the one thing that stands out to me is their social structure.

Orcas live in tight-knit medium to large pods and are highly social animals. They share a sophisticated, unique culture that is passed down through generations. They are led by a matriarch, which means the oldest and wisest female leads a pod. Orcas are protective of their young, and other adolescent females often assist the mother in caring for them. They give birth to one baby at a time, which may nurse for up to two years. In most cases, the bond between juvenile and mother will eventually weaken, and the young orca will go its own way, but in some pods, the juvenile may stay with the pod it was born into, its entire life.

Like Orca’s, humans are also highly social animals. There are a lot of similarities between us as humans and one of the cleverest creatures in the ocean and we can learn a lot from them; especially now. There lies incredible power in the unity and strength of a team when people stand together. No human being can be entirely self-made because no person can exist in isolation. I am only because you are.

‘United we stand, divided we fall’ is a phrase that has been used throughout the ages to inspire unity, from the ancient Greeks to the founding fathers of the Americas and many more. Yet, it is easy to forget the potential we have as a collective. Apathy and isolation have sometimes led us to think our contribution to causes we believe in has no value. However, we all have a voice. And it is loudest if it is expressed alongside the voices of others. There is always strength in numbers.

Killer whales have long been a part of marine park entertainment, performing shows for audiences. However, it becomes increasingly clear that orcas do not thrive in captivity.

They have evolved to swim up to 40 miles a day, foraging for food and exercising. They dive 100 to 500 feet, several times a day, every day. Whether they are born in the wild or in captivity, all orcas born have the same innate drive to swim far and dive deep. Artificial enclosures in captivity cannot offer that kind of range to orcas, contributing to boredom and stress. Orcas have been seen to develop stereotypes, also known as zoochosis—repetitive patterns of activity that have no obvious function, which ranges from self-mutilation to rocking and swaying. Usually related to stress and inappropriate habitats, stereotypic behavior has been documented in orcas in scientific research since the late 1980s.

From a young age we as humans are encouraged to think as individuals and focus on our own achievements; to look out for ‘number one’. Many of us then go on to spend our adult working lives in silence in front of a computer screen, secluded, or in a job where there is little time for face to face conversations. The digital revolution has reduced our capacity to see and speak to other human beings in the flesh. We have become virtual rather than physical beings. We do not make phone calls anymore; we send messages and it is easier to send an e-mail than to arrange a meeting.

This lack of human contact is in direct contrast to a lot of societies’ way of living, where cooperation is vital to enduring hostile conditions. When you need to survive by living off the same land as your neighbor and working alongside them, collaboration is key.

‘It takes a village to raise a child’, is believed to be an African proverb that stems from the understanding that a unified community is a strong community. Every single person counts, everyone contributes, and by working together great things can happen.

When it comes to mental health, unity is our biggest strength (solitary confinement in prisons is considered one of the harshest punishments for a reason). It is ironic that at a time when the digital revolution and social media have brought more interconnectivity into our lives, many people feel more alone and isolated than ever before. However, when used for the good, social media can provide an important message and outlet of expression to people. Coming together is vital. Sharing a story is vital. Even as an individual, you can make a change. You can step in and affect the narrative.

Now, more than ever do we have to stand together as humans. We need to find our tribe and look after them and protect them.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

If you think something needs to change because it is unfair or unjust, the likelihood is that others will feel the same way. If we dare to speak up, we will often find we are not alone, but a voice of many. The world is full of individuals who all want the same thing: a fair and just society, an opportunity to live in peace with good health, a chance to provide for their families, and to feel safe and prosperous. These are fundamental needs of any human.

If you believe in something and want to make change happen, the secret is not to give up. There will always be something more that you can do. Apathy has the power to kill democracy and erode collective responsibility and the rights of people. If we want to make the world, society, community, workplace, or house we live in a better place, we need to stand together.

Time is the most precious gift you can give. Human bonds are created by offering your time and sharing experiences. Giving your time to someone can be a game-changer. When you meet new people, show interest, listen, and ask questions. Reconnect with old friends and the list carries on.

Let us more closely observe the weird and wonderful creatures that live in the ocean, and let us learn from and draw strength from them.

Thanks

Shani

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

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