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Saturday, August 17, 2013

#Harem, Pride, and Envy by John von Daler

         We had just visited #Zanzibar and had passed by the quarters of the sultan, who evidently maintained an extensive harem just as you or I might keep a large library or a pantry full of fresh and ripe victuals.
His reputation in the little kingdom was dependent on the constant rumors of his prowess in these quarters, much in the manner of quite a few American presidents, Italian prime ministers or French financiers. One might think that the ability to rule well or badly would have influenced all their subjects, but other more potent values seem to have subtly influenced the opinions of their various countrymen.
         We were now on a safari led by a white guide who's reputation, supplied to us in great haste and secrecy by our local contacts, was almost identical to the sultan's. There were wives and children and mistresses so numerous that several on our tour found the first chapters of War and Peace, brought with them to read in the evenings, to be less complicated and more easily remembered.
         Today's tour included a quiet approach to a small-sized pride of lions, one male, five or six tigresses and quite a few cubs. They were lying in the sun digesting and took no note of us as we drove up to them in our touring bus. Only the male raised his great head from its prone position to assess our strengths and weaknesses. After a quick look, he too resumed a deep sleep.
         One of the men in our group (and don't look at me) made a remark about the joys of such an arrangement of the sexes. The remark itself was neither funny nor especially insightful, but the answer that our infamous guide gave without hesitation and with great emotional strength supplied us with more understanding than we really had hoped to receive:
         "Oh, he's not happy and contented! He's nervous and stressed and irritable and edgy. He's a wreck for the few years he's allowed to rule the pride. When a younger male finally dethrones him, he crawls away to lick his wounds all alone. You should pity him!"
         Our human awareness had been heightened considerably. I for one reached over and held my wife's hand for the next ten minutes or so.


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