I am a Meerkat! I own it, and trust me it is an important declaration. I am married to a Meerkat, my dear friends are Meerkats, and today, I drove around a car load of scruffy little Meerkats. Do you know much about this amazing African critter? If you are Human you should. As a matter of fact I think the Meerkat should become the community of beings with which we strive to emulate. Let me explain.
Today my boys and I picked up my teenage daughter and her friend from a sleep over. As I drove her friend home we ran into an awful scene. I had just turned a corner, on a quiet city street, when the girls called out ‘oh my god! a fight!” A big, nasty, man punched a woman in the face and she fell to the ground. As he was over top of her I quickly pulled my car up, rolled down my window and shouted for him to step away. My daughter grabbed the phone and dialed 911. We stayed on the scene, all of us safely in the car, but taking a stand for the protection of the woman. At my forceful insistence and threats, he had split apart from her, and as the woman gathered her bags and walked up one road yelling for me not to ‘call the cops’, I put my car in crawl and stayed on the heels of the man down the road in the opposite direction. I was going to put my car between him and her until the police arrived and I was not going to let him make his way back to her. He turned around to re-engage and as he approached my window he made threat. I slowly turned the car around continuing to follow him like stink on a skunk.
My insistence to stay was not out of anger at him, but out of the fierce need to protect the pack; to protect the victim. But it was also to protect the hearts of the two young women in my car who had just watched a man violently attack another young woman. It was to show that sometimes, at personal risk, we do not turn away – that we are a pack, all of us, and the protection of the individual is also the protection of our collective selves. I wanted them to know that there will always be someone to watch, always someone to protect and that alone we are vulnerable but together we are strong.
So it is with no coincidence that tonight the boys (9 and 11) and I happened watch ‘The Meerkats’ by James Honeyborne and Starring Paul Newman. It was the perfect end to a day that had such a polarization of experiences. I was in tears, at points, by the loving humanity with which this community of critters lives.
“Meerkats demonstrate altruistic behavior within their colonies; one or more meerkats stand sentry while others are foraging or playing, to warn them of approaching dangers. When a predator is spotted, the meerkat performing as sentry gives a warning bark, and other members of the gang will run and hide in one of the many bolt holes they have spread across their territory. The sentry meerkat is the first to reappear from the burrow and search for predators, constantly barking to keep the others underground. If there is no threat, the sentry meerkat stops signaling and the others feel safe to emerge. They also protect the young from threats, often endangering their own lives. On warning of danger, the babysitter takes the young underground to safety and is prepared to defend them if the danger follows. If retreating underground is not possible, she collects all young together and lies on top of them.” From Wikipedia
The Meerkats are small creatures that will group together as a force to ward off much larger and more powerful danger; ‘Together they can!’ But most importantly, when they are not in defense mode, they are a community full of touch! They actually hug one another and touch one another constantly and in the most loving ways. They drape their arms around each other, reach out for each other, they sleep curled up, all together. Everyone feels protected and cared for.
Don’t we need more of that? Safe, loving, caring touch and fierce protection when danger is near. We need to protect our children, and when I say ‘our’ I don’t mean you protect yours and I will protect mine – I mean ‘we’ all together, protect all our collective children. We watch out for those vulnerable in our community and for each other. We don’t ‘mind our own business’ at the expense of the safety of our own kind. Sometimes that makes our own lives uncomfortable but the alternative is a broken society and in the end our individual pain is greater.
The movie ends by saying “its not easy growing up, it never is for anyone”; (Kolo – the main character) has learned what it is to be a Meerkat – to guard, to protect and to teach the next generation how to survive”
After the movie ended, my boys and I rolled around like ferrets on the bed giving out the little bark ‘merp’, ‘merp’ of the Meerkat and repeating over and over “to guard and protect, to guard and protect”.
Let’s start a Meerkat movement! ‘merp’