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Kinky, bizarre events dominate headlines

business Updated: Jun 26, 2007 02:06 IST
Abhijit Das
Abhijit Das
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

This past month has been one of madness and depravity. Extraordinary incidents grabbed the headlines practically everyday. There is no connection between the incidents, except the obvious — that we live in a very strange world indeed.



The first event gripped the country for days. A gorilla at the Rotterdam zoo escaped its confines by scaling a high wall and jumping over a wide moat to severely wound a woman visitor. The 180-kg ape called Bokito jumped on the visitor — breaking her arm and wrist, and bit her repeatedly. Bokito then smashed his way into a cafetaria, where many more terrified visitors had sought refuge. The zoo was evacuated and the ape finally subdued with a sedative dart.



At first, public anger focused on the zoo authorities and the gorilla, but the matter was not all that simple. It soon emerged that the woman attacked had been visiting the gorilla four times a week for the past several months! From her hospital bed, she declared that Bokito and she shared a "deep bond" and, despite what he had done to her, he "remains my darling".



The media proceeded to call the woman mad and sick. Some sections even theorised that the male gorilla's reaction stemmed from its natural instinct to "possess" and "dominate". The question no one asked was how the woman had become so lonely and desperate as to seek social satisfaction from a gorilla!



Warped thinking


The next sensation occurred within days. It was revealed that at some gay parties (a couple of newspapers called them gay orgies) men had been drugged into unconsciousness, raped and then injected with HIV-infected blood! Two men were arrested, one of them a male nurse.



They did not deny the crime; on the contrary they justified it by maintaining that only unprotected sex was 'pure'. But the fear of AIDS was leading more and more people to engage only in (condom) protected sex. Reason: if everyone was HIV-positive, fear of AIDS would disappear and there would be no need for protection, they set about infecting whoever they could! The case has led to some soul-searching among Dutch authorities about their easygoing attitude to sex, and whether gay orgies were a public health risk.



Un-reality TV


But the event that most shocked the country and the world was a Dutch television programme, "The Donorshow". Major newspapers and television channels from across the world sent reporters here to cover it. What was it all about? A terminally-ill patient was ready to 'donate' her kidney. But there were three claimants, all three desperately needing a kidney. The winner of the contest among the three would get the prize! A game show with lives at stake!



It was condemned by all, including Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, but Dutch laws are such that virtually nothing can be banned here.



At the end of the show, the producers revealed it was an elaborate hoax; the "terminally-ill" patient was, in fact, strong and healthy and a small-time actress. They claimed their objective was to focus attention on the shortage of organ donors. And, actually, after the show thousands registered as donors!



Once again the question arises: freedom of expression and, indeed, every kind of freedom is all very well, but has the Netherlands gone too far in this respect?



(The writer is a student of history and law at the University of Amsterdam)

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