Tilikum: Why you can be a real dick sometimes

I watched Blackfish last night.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a documentary about the emotional state of the killer whales in captivity at places like Sea World.

The documentary follows Tilikum, a male orca that lives at Sea World Orlando.

In the beginning of the documentary there is an interview with a whale hunter and diver named John Crowe. He was part of the team that captured Tilikum. He’s an old sea dog complete with a cut off t-shirt, tattoo sleeves, and an old white overgrown beard. Despite a hard exterior, the old sea dog is choking up through the entire interview.

(Tilikum from CNN’s Blackfish)

​​“The worst thing I’ve ever done is hunt that whale.”

Tilikum has killed 3 people including two trainers and a random guy who snuck into the park after hours.

Tilikum is the “grandfather” of 54% of the whales owned by Sea World. He still performs in shows, but in a limited role.

The rest of his time he spends in isolation and segregation. Prison. Tilikum’s only crime was getting captured. He’s been held in 10x20 tanks since he was a child, deprived of food for “training purposes,” and attacked by other whales. He’s been asked to perform while blood spilled out of the rakes from other orcas.

And what was his reward?

The glorious opportunity to go back to his concrete pool and swim in circles. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Imagine life like that. Some of us can very easily.

I’ve always had this fear (right or wrong) of being “tucked away” or that someday I would have a specific role in the world. It never want to be easily defined or live a life full of routine.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Repeat.

What I’ve found is that trapped people like to capture things. Trapped people are possessive, materialistic, and cruel. They lack empathy, understanding, and compassion. It makes them capable of doing things like hold whales in 10x20 swimming pools, and it makes them capable of turning a blind eye and cheering for Tilikum at Shamu Stadium.

There is a connection between that Monday morning dread and the ability to say things like, “Good, let him rot in there” about that child molester you saw on the news. It causes our worldview to become increasingly jaded.

So how much does Tilikum’s story resonate with you this Monday afternoon? Is it not the epitome of frustration?

How many people have you “killed” today with harsh words? I do it all the time. Whales aren’t meant to live in swimming pools — neither are you.

(John Crowe, CNN’s Blackfish)

And I’m tired of feeling like that old sea dog at the end of my day saying, “The worst thing I’ve ever done is hunt that whale.”