manatees (Trichechus manatus) churning up the water around the dock, nibbling algae off the pilings and otherwise feeding on the underwater plant life. Luckily, I had walked with my camera, and the critters practically dared me to take their pictures.
Anthropology can explain this by evoking the American mode of enculturation called Independence Training (IT). IT begins at birth and produces a tendency for Americans, or at least "good" Americans, to see themselves as the center of the Universe, rejecting ties of reciprocal interdependence, decrying the value of social responsibility. How else to explain our lack of national health care, the difficulty we have with trade unions, our preference as a nation to "go it alone" (Iraq, Afghanistan, Grenada, Vietnam...), our fear of the very word "socialism," even our antipathy toward the United Nations and our refusal to obey the World Court.
But back to the manatees. I think that the reason their plight bothers me so much is that, as a Peace Corps Volunteer and later as an anthropologist in training, I lived in a small fishing and farming community in the Caribbean. There, people went to sea, you know, like the actual ocean, in tiny boats with lawn-mower size engines, to, like, fish. They did it to survive.
People here run around here in their megaboats for nothing, because they're assholes.