To Help Control Invasive Species, Let's Recognize That People With Exotic Pets Are Douchebags
There are less harmful ways to signal that you lack a personality
Invasive species are a huge problem. So says a report from the UN that the Washington Post calls “major”. Let’s table the question of whether any UN report can be “major”; my suspicion is that few people have their world rocked by UN reports, and where I am, stores are open and life is carrying on as usual despite this “major” report. But that’s beside the point; the point is that invasive species are causing major trouble.
According to the report, invasive species cost the world at least $423 billion a year. To give you a sense of how much money that is: If you laid 423 billion dollar bills end-to-end, you’d say “fuck this” and give up well before you reached the 423 billionth dollar (especially if it’s windy). Invasive species impose costs by destroying crops, spreading diseases, and just generally being a pain in the taint. For example: Zebra mussels are clogging water intake pipes in the Great Lakes. Basically, zebra mussels are having the same effect on Upper Midwest water pipes that cheese-based food products are having on Upper Midwest arteries.
The problem is humans. I hesitate to say that, because most of my readers are humans, and the Golden Rule of political commentary is that you should always blame everything on an out-group. And I don’t mean to absolve the Chinese mitten crab of responsibility — fuck that crab. I Might Be Wrong will never become one of those publications that’s in craven subservience to the Chinese mitten crab (I’m looking at you, National Geographic). But humans are why this is happening; human modes of transportation make it possible for species to travel vast distances in short amounts of time. Invasive species stow away in shipping containers. They make their way into cargo holds of airplanes. They take advantage of the highly-discounted fares offered by carriers like Spirit Air and JetBlue. And they traverse oceans and natural barrier in ways that they never have before.
Policy solutions are available. The best way to counteract invasive species is to prevent their importation in the first place. Unfortunately, less than 20 percent of countries have laws against invasive species (Russia, to its credit, seems to be one of the countries that has such laws — kudos to the wise and noble Russian government!). Places where invasive species have already been introduced are often forced take drastic measures. Hawaii, for example, plans to release a strain of bacteria that will suppress mosquitoes that are killing songbirds — that plan is described here:
We might ask: What non-policy options are available to fight invasive species? This is an important question, because politics is often downstream of culture. Strong societal norms against invasive species could make an immediate impact, and they could also create a political environment in which effective laws can take root. With that in mind, I'd like to use this column to forcefully and unequivocally make this point: People who keep exotic pets are total douchebags. They are some of the soggiest, most pungent douchebags ever to waste oxygen on this planet, and owning an exotic pet might be the quickest way to communicate your failed personhood short of getting “DICKWEED” tattooed across your face.
I get it, exotic pet owners: You’re insecure. We’re all insecure; basically all human activity can be interpreted as a way of coping with our profound insignificance. But there are productive ways to rebel against your inconsequence. Start a company. Get really good at something (not a video game). Do something that benefits society, not something that imposes a cost. We all look for ways to stand out, but that search has taken a tragic turn for the worse when you pay someone to sneak an exotic animal through customs in a cello case. It’s a pathetic attempt to become exotic by association, and it’s not going to work; you’re just going to end up looking like Super Hans in Peep Show:
Nobody is impressed by your stupid gila monster. Or by your proboscis monkey, or your Indian mongoose, or whatever stand-in for a personality you’re imprisoning against its will. We don’t think “Wow, what an interesting person!” We think “Wow, what a pitiful attempt to be interesting — that guy’s penis must be bizarre.” I’d argue that there are levels of desperate, status-seeking affectations that can — like hurricanes — be categorized according to severity. Those categories are:
Category 1: Wacky facial hair (e.g. muttonchops)
Category 2: Use of British words (e.g. “flat”, “petrol”) by an American (in the UK, this takes the form of recreational French)
Category 3: Fedora
Category 4: Motorcycle
Category 5: Exotic pets
I would say that no woman should ever sleep with a guy who owns an exotic pet, but I’m pretty sure that’s already the rule. Probably no sexual encounter has ever been preceded by the words: “How ‘bout we put my blue-tongued skink back in its humidor and get busy?” An exotic pet tells a woman that a guy is desperate, more insecure than usual, and bad at decisions. Plus, having your apartment smell like the monkey pit at an off-the-books Malaysian zoo isn’t exactly an aphrodisiac.
Our conventional pet options are outstanding. Dogs love you and will never, ever figure out what a loser you are. Cats hate you for catering to their every need, which is the funniest comedy bit of all time. Hamsters, fish, and guinea pigs are great starter pets and can be burnt through like Kleenex without a large emotional or financial commitment. Any of us can be pet owners; none of us need to lock a puma in a studio apartment. Buying an exotic pet is like ordering off-menu at The Cheesecake Factory: There are plenty of serviceable options, and if none of them work for you, then frankly you’re just being fussy.
Exotic pets are not the main reason for the invasive species problem. But they’re the stupidest reason. They’re the part of the problem you can cordon off and say “absolutely no reason for that.” It would be nice if anyone considering importing an exotic pet would think think of the ecological impact and reconsider. Unfortunately, exotic pet people are often not the brightest pennies in the fountain. So, the next best option is probably to scream from the mountaintop that people who import exotic pets are some of the saddest, most misguided, pulsating douchebags around.