Twenty Tiny Elephants: Sharks, Dolphins and Lizards


You learn pretty early on in life that not only are we all not created equal but while some of us are created in varying degrees of nice – the Dolphins – many are created in varying degrees of nasty – the Sharks and the Lizards.

It has nothing to do with affluence or social status.  It’s about attitude, an attitude of entitlement, and how far an individual will exploit and harm another for their personal benefit, advancement or enrichment.  

It’s only days ago the weather ripped the guts out of our regions and even while it was happening Dolphins were out in the weather trying to ensure family and neighbours escaped to safety; rescuing the desperate from rooftops, working all hours in the emergency response services, opening their marae and homes and donating goods, services and money.  There are a lot of Dolphins.

Last time I checked in the devastated areas of Hawke’s Bay and Tairawhiti the Police had made 59 arrests for looting, dishonesty and family harm incidents.*   It’s hard to think of a looter as an apex predator, a phrase which has a certain psychopathic cachet, but sharks they are.   Any one who has seen those videos of sharks feasting on the carcass of a whale has no difficulty in categorising looters as predators.

Sharks are born like that and just can’t help themselves.    There are more Sharks around at all times than you would want to believe and there will be even more now if they think there are damaged and desperate people they can feast on.

Lizards. I think of Lizards as those sci-fi aliens inside a superficially normal, nice and comforting veneer which is ripped off in the seconds prior to them consuming the intended victim.   Lizards are controlled, thoughtful and strategic. Lizards are often respected, well-spoken, well-dressed and affluent, and will arrive to rip you off in a relatively new vehicle.

There are regrettably far more Lizards out there at all times than we would want to acknowledge and there will be even more now who think the devastation of communities present genuine opportunities for their advancement and enrichment.

It’s hard in times of personal crisis to make informed decisions and the best choices when some or all of your life has been obliterated.   The same rules apply – check the information, get some advice and don’t do anything you feel uncomfortable about.

If your intuition says “shark” it’s probably a shark and if your intuition says “lizard” it’s probably a lizard. The New Zealand Law Society might like to assemble task forces to provide some “free” guidance and advice – shark nets and lizard traps.

We have to do better for communities and individuals than we did after the Christchurch earthquakes.   And we can’t let the sharks and the lizards get them.

Note:   * Police Commissioner Andrew Foster, RNZ 8.57am 20 February 2023“   Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said reports of dishonesty offences were actually lower than normal. The 59 arrests include some family harm incidents…”

  Next in Twenty Tiny Elephants: The Curse of the Wibble


Rosemary Balu.   Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. She has been interested in all forms of the arts since childhood. 



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