Harambe: a Fallen Comrade & Martyr

It was the day after Harambe’s 17th birthday when a three-year-old child climbed over a protective fence and tumbled into the moat surrounding the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. An inquisitive Harambe saw the child flailing around in the shallow water, as if he were injured. Harambe, being the good-natured western lowland gorilla that he is, decided to reach out and help this poor child. Immediately upon making contact with the small human, however, the other humans standing above began shouting at Harambe, agitating and confusing him in the process. Believing that these humans posed a threat to the safety and security of the young child, Harambe grabbed the boy and dragged him away to safety. Just moments after, a single shot rang out from a sniper’s rifle and pierced Harambe’s body, causing the once-mighty gorilla to lay withering in a pool of his own warm, scarlet blood as the eternal oblivion slowly consumed him.

Artist rendition of the events that occurred that fateful day. (Source)
Artist rendition of the events that occurred that fateful day. (Source)

Though Harambe is no longer with us physically, his presence and legacy is still felt. In getting viciously executed, he transcended his mortal body and was forever immortalized in the holiest of places– the Internet– by becoming a meme. Millions of people throughout the world have proliferated the harrowing story of Harambe’s death throughout social media, going as far as pulling their genitalia out of their pants in order to show solidarity with the slain ape. Three months after his assassination, Harambe continues to draw extensive emotional outpouring and cries for justice from the public. Fervent supporters of Harambe even managed  to get the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden to shut down their official Twitter account after non-stop heckling by both people demanding justice for the ape and internet trolls (the distinction is a bit difficult to make).

Harambe’s name is Swahili for “working together”, which was ultimately his final ambition. Comrade Harambe sought to overthrow the capitalist system and usher in a communist utopia in which the global proletariat would get together and harambe for the good of the people rather than for the benefit of the obscenely wealthy. Harambe died the death of a martyr– as such, his death has united people throughout the world under a common front, regardless of pre-determined social constructs such as race, gender, ethnicity, and political views. His death has rallied the masses together– some, admittingly, doing so ironically– in support of a sociopolitical movement that is much larger than any one gorilla.

Media pundits and other out-of-the-loop-Gen X-and-Baby Boomer-types have ridiculed this emotional outpouring of support for Harambe, calling it immature and claiming that Harambe was simply a gorilla and that we need to get over it. However, these eggheads are clearly out of touch with the young folks and have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. Each generation has their own cultural icon who more or less embodies the zeitgeist of their time– for millennials, it happens to be Harambe. Rather than attempt to understand our reverence of the deceased primate, they shun and ridicule us without truly understanding the cultural and societal framework that allowed the killing of Harambe to become the defining moment of a generation. The same media that has been de-sensitizing us to issues of police brutality, economic inequality, immigration, climate change, etc. by either perpetuating false narratives or entirely avoiding any mention of them is now criticizing others for making a mockery of a tragic event such as this while ignoring actual pressing issues.

More than just being a dead gorilla and a dank meme, Harambe also serves as a manifestation of our youth’s existential angst. Harambe was a noble savage in a cruel and torturous world. Though he was intended to live untouched by the evils of human society in a state of nature, Harambe’s parents were ripped from this environment due to human deforestation of their natural habitat and the killing of their fellow gorilla. Harambe himself never truly experienced the freedom to roam the forests of Africa, as he was born at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas. Harambe also never once consented to  being encased in a pitifully small pen with concrete walls all around, where he was ogled by heckling tourists seven days a week for eight hours a day for the entirety of his short life. He was exploited and oppressed for the enjoyment and entertainment of others. When he tried to reach out to the outside world via the small child who fell into his pen, he was belittled, agitated, and subsequently killed by the same forces who were allegedly saving him by placing him there in the first place. This is analogous to the fact that we, too, did not have a say as to whether or not we wanted to be reared into this cruel, harsh world, where we, too, are ogled by other heckling humans for eight hours a day inside various concrete-walled buildings throughout the entirety of our lives. By exhibiting these age-old motifs constantly found in existential philosophical works throughout history, the tragedy of Harambe has managed to resonate with people throughout the world.

Moreover, Harambe represents the disenfranchisement and nihilistic embrace of the absurd felt by some millennial. In a year where our two major choices for president are either a spray-tanned megalomaniac or a dishonest oligarch, a year where we face the record-breaking heat month after month, a year where civil and political strife has hit countries throughout the world, a year where police brutality continues to fester, a year where we’ve lost so many celebrities and cultural icons, in such a tumultuous year where fact is seemingly stranger than fiction,  nothing makes sense anymore– thus the only safe bet is to embrace the absurdity of it all and ride the tidal wave of insanity that comes careening down on the shores of logic and reasoning. Venerating Harambe as this divine Jesus-like figure who died for our grins ties this all up with a nice big bow.

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