An Austrian philosopher of Jewish descent argued that if a lion could speak we could not understand him, while a German philosopher of Polish descent, argued that we could understand him all too well, as deep down we share his rapacious contempt for weakness. Nobody knew which of these two brainy central europeans had the lion’s number until in the late 2070s exciting insights into the genetics of intelligence allowed the biological engineering of a smart, talking lion. As the in house philosopher for a small journal devoted to lion and tiger studies, I was invited to give the lion his first interview.
On the way over I wondered what I had to say to this talking beast and my world-historical role pressed in on my consciousness with a surprising weight.
Me: Lion, I want to apologize.
Lion: What for?
Me: All the abuse that lions have suffered at the hands of humans. We have hunted you to near extinction.
Lion: Hey. Don’t beat yourself up. I totally get it.
Me: You do?
Lion: Sure. It’s a tough world. We’re powerful predators. You guys had an exploding population since your agricultural revolution. Us coming in and eating your infants was frightening. You did what you had to do.
Me: Wow. I had no idea you would be so forgiving. I guess I also want to apologize for all the medical experiments we subjected you to.
Lion: These things happen.
Me: “These things happen?”
Lion: Sure. Look, you developed science. You wanted to understand the source of disease. Obviously the non-human animals were not going to set up labs and have like a lion Pasteur or a Tiger Metchnikoff. [The lion is referring to Eli Metchnikoff, discoverer of the white blood cell.] So the guys who were able to do experiments experimented on the guys who weren’t able to do experiments. No surprises there.
Me: Well it feels good to this off my chest. You know we also castrated you–
Lion: Buddy, I would do the same thing! If you didn’t we would have more baby lions who would grow up into lions and eat you. Honestly don’t we have something else to talk about other than your sense of guilt. You are a bit, as we say in lion, “needy”.
Me: Sure, sure, this is just so great. We have a lot to talk about, there’s just one more thing I want to apologize for.
Lion: (GOOD HUMORED LION LAUGHTER) Go for it.
Me: The circus. We used to make you do tricks for fun.
At this point the lion leapt for my throat, killed me, and raced around the enclosure rending people with his jaws and claws.