Sometimes this place takes my breath away with its natural beauty. Two days ago I watched the huge red sun seemingly melt into the horizon over the ocean, at the high speed that you get this close to the equator. Then, as I turned to drive in the opposite direction I was lucky enough to catch the golden yellow orb of a full moon rising behind the silhouetted mountain range. Totally stunning. Then at Tamri beach the other day I was struck by the sea’s blue and white striation, as an endless army of brilliant white breaking waves poured onto the beach, when my eye was caught by a flash of pink in the sky. Looking up I saw the arrow formation of a flock of flamingos against the blue – completely unexpected, and even more beautiful for it.
Yet this beauty is set against the savage rawness that is Africa. The other day I was walking back to the apartment from the car and I heard a sickening crunch and instinctively knew it was the sound of bones snapping and life ebbing away. Reluctant to turn but unable to stop myself, I slowly looked back and felt a stab in my core as I saw the tortured final throes of a cat thrashing around in the road, clearly on the edge of death, but refusing to let go without a fight. With no limbs working it nevertheless twisted and flipped, in eerie silence. I was horrified, and found myself welling up uncontrollably, desperate to help but feeling completely helpless. But what really struck me was the seeming unconcern of the Moroccans – a brief flick of the eyes, a tiny pause in conversation, then life resumed as before, with no one even seeming bothered about putting the cat out of its misery. To them I guess it was just another inevitable casualty of the huge wild cat population – one less mouth to feed, one less noise in the night. The cat’s body lying discarded by the bins the next morning seemed an appropriate symbol of this attitude.
It made me re-evaluate my own reaction; the seemingly default human reaction of horror and sadness to seeing another creature suffering no longer seemed so natural – the counter evidence surrounded me in the unconcerned eyes of fellow human spectators, as unbothered by the incident as the goats foraging through the bins nearby. Maybe my assessment is wrong, and it’s just that I don’t understand the Moroccan expression of emotions yet, but it seemed pretty clear that folks were used to such events and not too bothered by them. As I often seem to say in this blog, we are but mammals after all, with our deep instincts being personal survival and procreation, with ‘default’ base reactions being tied to these objectives. The layers that we have built upon this are dependent on social conditioning, and clearly vary hugely between different cultures.
I’ve seen locals throw big stones at dogs too, and ‘dog carcass’ was apparently the casualty of such a stoning. It’s just a different take on things I know, but one that’s hard to adjust to, coming from a culture that places a different value on cats and dogs. Some locals do seem to own cats or dogs as pets, but largely they are seen as pests not pets, and I suppose the attitude towards them changes accordingly. I guess a cat being run over in Morocco is akin to a pigeon being squished in London – most people wouldn’t really bat an eyelid aside from an initial feeling of distaste.
Hmmm, all food for thought – living abroad really does challenge your set ways of thinking, which can only be a good thing.