The Jakarta Post
One of the joys of living in Asia is that life is 'delightfully unpredictable', which was the exact phrase used when a few of us learned, while enjoying lunch at a Guangdong open air cafÃ©, that 100 crocodiles had escaped from the local reptile farm.
'Relax,' said one of my dining companions. 'If they get anywhere near downtown, they'll be snapped up by people who make handbags.'
His answer infuriated the vegetarian in our party, who accused him of 'speciesism'. I rebutted this on his behalf by pointing out that (a) there was no such word, and (b) even if there was, it would be totally impossible to say after two glasses of wine. (Try it.) She did a Google search on her phone and proved me spectacularly wrong by finding 352,000 references to speciesism, apparently a hot new trend in the West.
Speciesism, a follow-up to sexism and racism, is a new Western rule of political correctness which requires that all species must be accepted as equal in every way.
So, when Shakespeare says 'thou foulest cur', the actor speaking the line would have to add, 'not that there's anything wrong with being a cur'.
If species equality catches on, making a crocodile into a handbag will be a crime as bad as making a politician into a handbag, despite the fact that doing the second would clearly be a public service.
But I had a question: 'If all species are equal, what would we eat?' The vegetarian said that the anti-speciesism movement had decided that vegetables, although technically living species, could be eaten as they did not have feelings.
This interesting concession implies that we could also feel free to chow down on a delicious meal of corn-fed stockbrokers, pet shop owners, direct mail gurus, etc.
A day later, a reader sent me a link to a Times of India story about a leopard stuck in a well who was saved after a rescue cage filled with live chickens was lowered into the hole.
This incident, which happened near Ooty at the end of last month, read like a feel-good story. But under the new species equality rules, it now becomes a vicious tale of deliberate multiple chicken-murder.
The next item in the inbox, about a lizard, reminded me about a phone conversation I once reported between a Western expatriate and a police officer.
Caller: 'There's a lizard in my house.'
Cop: 'This is normal in Asia, Madam. Ignore it.'
Ten minutes later she called again.
Caller: 'Can't you please come and get rid of it for me?'
Cop: 'No! Just ignore it.'
Caller: 'I'm trying to, but it just knocked over the coffee table.'
Police raced to the house and discovered that a giant iguana or small tyrannosaur was terrorizing her.
Well, a similar incident happened again last week, but this time the monster reptile was in an apartment in Leshan, Sichuan, China. Once the rules of species equality get a grip, the cops would be unable to eject such interlopers, but would have to read them their Miranda rights and ask them politely to leave.
Anyway, the next time the vegetarian calls me a worm, I'll make sure she adds: 'Not that there's anything wrong with worms.'
The writer is a columnist and journalist.