Sunday, March 27, 2011

More endeavoring to not use animals...

I recently wrote about a childhood incident that resonated strongly with me. Krissa, one of my most prized readers, commented on that piece in such a way that led me to believe I hadn't expressed myself very clearly or fully regarding how I felt about human animal interaction with beings that don't happen to be human.

What I was trying to get to is the notion that no being should be interfering with another being. That if you have strengths someone else lacks, then no fair using them when interacting with them. If I am physically stronger than you, no fair using that strength to my advantage. I can use it to help you, or even to help me (as long as it doesn't interfere with you). The notion is, for want of a better way to express it, to live and let live. To behave fairly.

Now, one of the things I notice (or so it seems to me) is that most human animal problems are caused by human animals. I am excluding problems that all living beings face as a function of living on the planet that we do...e.g., weather, earthquakes, disease, aging, etc. All living beings face these sorts of problems or situations.

No, I am referencing problems like war, poverty, crime, traffic accidents, suicide and on and on. If you take a newspaper and read each "news" item on each and every page, the likelihood is high that most problems you see written about are about problems that humans inflict (either on purpose or accidentally) upon themselves.

Which is really sort of weird when you think about it. Walt Kelly once had his cartoon character, Pogo, voice a thought that sort of sums it up to me. Pogo said: "We have met the enemy and he is us." Pogo was talking about environmental problems, but I think his observation goes much further than that.

I know it seems as if I am digressing, but where I am heading is here. If humans want to cause themselves problems, well, ok. We cause the problem, we can choose to not cause the problem (at least I hope we can). In other words, we have the power, it is in our control and causing ourselves problems hurts us. We cause pain, we feel the pain we cause. Fine, that's our choice.

But, when we cause pain or problems or whatever negative thing we're talking about, when we do things that inflict harm or hurt onto some being that isn't a human being...then we are (to me) into a whole different magnitude and/or order of stuff.  I am also including harm to the environment we share with other beings.

This is an order of wrongness that exceeds astronomically any sort of suffering we inflict upon ourselves or some other being that is human.

This is my logic, if I choose to take a pin and stick it in my knee...I did the sticking, I received the results of the sticking. I did something that causes pain, I felt the pain. That's my look harm or discomfort (unless I yell or something) to anyone else. But, if I take a pin and stick someone else in the knee, different thing...I have drug someone else into the situation. However, if that someone else is a human, and relatively equal in terms of age, size, physical ability, etc then that other being has the power to do something about my sticking them...if they choose. They can, all else being equal, reciprocate or retaliate or or negotiate or bitch and moan or whatever...effectively. They can, if you will, look out for themselves. If they are a child, not so much, but, depending on their age they can maybe report me to someone else who will stand up for them. And, there are rules, I could be punished for causing pain to someone who is not myself. (I know these processes don't work lots of times, and lots of unfairness is virtually perpetual but that is too much to get into here, ok?...anyway that is human animal to human animal stuff...a different thing than what I am writing about right now)

But if I do something that causes pain to a hamster, or a rat, or a dog, or a cat or any other being that is not a human being. Then I am cheating, I am in a position to cause pain with no consequences to me. Now I am assuming that I have confined or somehow else rendered that rat or dog or whomever powerless toward me...they can't retaliate or do anything else to defend themselves. They are simply mine to do toward however I want and no bad things happen to me as a result. No comebacks...I am free and clear to visit mayhem upon them. If I choose.

This is the ultimate "badness". I wrote earlier about bullying, about exploiting, about using force on others. To me, it is much much much much (think of the word much lined up to infinity) worse to hurt, harm, scare, kill a being that is not a human type being than it is to hurt, harm, scare, kill a human being because that other...that being that is not human is in the ultimate powerless position...therefore the difference in power (because of what we humans have done) is virtually infinite. That sort of power imbalance doesn't exist (generally speaking) from one human to another. Even in the example I wrote about, the boy that was bullied could have, if he had chosen to, done something to retaliate against his tormentor. (Complained to the teacher, ambushed his bully, spit in the food of the bully, something...point being he could have sometime or another gotten his licks in if he wanted).

Those beings that share the planet with us have no such recourse, not practically speaking. We confine them, we exploit them, we abuse them, we torture them, we cause them pain and suffering, we steal and kill their babies, we steal the milk meant for their babies, we kill them, we devour them. And they have no power to defend themselves, to retaliate, to run away, to help themselves. None (for all intents and purposes). They do not speak human language so we ignore their complaints, they can't hire they can't sue us. The few "rules" we human animals have set up to "protect" them are a joke and worse than meaningless.

They are the ultimate victims, the ultimate innocents, the ultimate powerless ones...and those that take advantage of them...are the ultimate bullies. We have met the bully, and he is us. And, I don't want to be one of those bullies, not any more (and I have much to pay penance for) ever, ever, ever.

And that is why I am endeavoring to live as an ethical vegan. Not because I am a "good" person, but because I don't want to be that kind of a bully.  Doing something bad to a human animal is lousy, but at least the human animal has recourse against me, doing something bad to a being that can (practically speaking) do nothing back at me...well that just sucks and I do not want to participate in that kind of crap any longer...ever. And piss on me for ever having done so.

There, I think that is what I wanted to say. Let me know if I got the point across, thanks.


Have Gone Vegan said...

Yep, I think you got the point across! It's the degree of power imbalance that's key. And I believe that's why there's more of an outrage expressed in certain cases of animal cruelty then when the victims are human animals (e.g. the torture of dogs and cats) precisely because of that. The challenge then is to get people to see how animals thought of as disposable food or lab or entertainment products deserve that compassion too.

Krissa said...

At least my sloppy way of commenting (I sometimes get going with an idea and leave out a tiny, but key piece of the puzzle) led to another good post. :) I did realize that you feel this way, but I was focused so much on my own feelings in that comment that I left the opposite impression. Anyway, I completely agree with you. And this: "However, if that someone else is a human, and relatively equal in terms of age, size, physical ability, etc then that other being has the power to do something about my sticking them...if they choose. They can, all else being equal, reciprocate or retaliate or or negotiate or bitch and moan or whatever...effectively", sums it up in just a couple sentences. What you wrote about us ignoring their complaints because they don't speak our language brought tears to my eyes. Us humans miss out on so much because most of us don't care to listen/learn/understand. The worst part about us not understanding their language is how that is used against them (ignoring their complaints, pretending they are beneath us, etc.). But those of us who don't listen miss out on the love and happiness that they try to share with us. And they do. To be rewarded with the trust and friendship of another creature who has absolutely no reason to trust or accept one of our kind is one of the most amazing things in the world. But now I'm digressing.... whatever nasty trick of nature put our weak, pathetic (in comparison to others) species on the top of the heap is and will always be a mystery to me. We don't deserve the position we have. We just don't. Thanks to our species there is no balance in this world. And yes, we are destroying the very world we live in too. Not just for us, for everyone. It is such an enormous concept, but somehow is so easily ignored. Guess the earth itself is screwed too since it doesn't speak our language either. ... I better wrap this up somehow. All I know is, some of us clearly get it. Far too many of us don't. And the consequences of that are tragic beyond any magnitude I think I can even grasp. And I do understand what you mean about not doing what you do just to be "good". But I do believe that those of us who get it are the good guys. And our fellow beings agree - that much I do know.

veganelder said...

Thanks HGV (easier acronym :-)) for commenting. Yes, and a hell of a challenge it is...

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Krissa. We human animals seem to be somewhat clever at manipulating our environment...but the manner of our manipulation is almost always of a kind that is destructive. It is almost as if the lesson to learn have this powerful learn to get along without using it because if you use it you will destroy everything. Interesting dilemma. (not interesting for the other animals though)

All we can do is "Keep Calm and Vegan On"...(thanks to Have Gone Vegan for the motto)

Bea Elliott said...

Hi veganelder! This has got to be my favorite post you've ever written. It makes so many things that much clearer. While it's true that humans cause much of our own unhappiness, what we cause to nonhumans by comparison, can only be termed as the "ultimate" in wrong-doing.

As you say, they are the least capable of defending themselves against us. And what we take from them is a constant wounding. We take EVERYTHING from them. Most times done in little pieces: denying freedom, mutilating their bodies, violating them sexually, stealing their babies then eventually - the final harm and all the possible "insults" one can inflict on a corpse. And our whole entire species for as long as our history can record, we've used this might against these most vulnerable ones.

How true! "They are the ultimate victims, the ultimate innocents, the ultimate powerless ones...and those that take advantage of them...are the ultimate bullies."

If fairness or justice was ever the goal for man, this treatment of the innocent is in every way, a "sin" (to be off the mark)- It is the most grave, evil that there could ever be!

This post of yours has clarified even further what I was prone to believe before... Many times I hear "You care more about animals than people" being one. Well, if this is true, it's because people *DO* have some recourse. They are NOT the most helpless... Their victimization is NOT an institutionalized and socially condoned habit!

And then I see what humans want: bigger cars, larger homes, more, more, more of everything that is so inconsequential to life. New nail polish colors, longer eyelashes, pills that "burn fat", 3-D entertainment, more, more and ever more. And what do these nonhumans desire? Simply the sun and grass and their time to live as free beings. That's all! And still we deny even that! I can't think of any "bad", more wrong, more petty, low and despicable than this.

Maybe this is why I keep thinking over and over again that this is man's *ultimate* test - Our *ultimate* challenge - Our pinnacle lesson to learn. If we can ever master this ability to "live and let live" we will have conquered and corrected our greatest flaw. So simple isn't it? It's not the bridges, space travel, micro-science or any of those things that are our biggest obstacle to achieve... But it is the pure, uncomplicated ability to be mindful to the *least* among us.

I think anyone who has gotten to this place understands the source of this being directly felt inside one's "spirit" or consciousness... Without any "holier-than-thou", "divine" edicts - It's a peace that nothing can replace or pretend to be. This certainty of what is right, fair and balanced is what NOT being a bully, AND being vegan is all about.

That's what I needed to say. Your post was absolutely inspirational to me! Thank you! <3

veganelder said...

Thank you Bea for commenting. I am glad you enjoyed the post, your comment is so rich with meaning that I want to respond to it more fully after some more digesting. In the meantime I wanted to acknowledge your comment and thank you for it.