Thus is written the dedication of a novel titled "The Street Sweeper" by Elliot Perlman. One of the main characters in the novel is a psychologist who travels to Germany in 1946 to interview survivors of the Holocaust. This psychologist, after hearing a woman tell her story of having to abandon her infant daughter in a futile attempt to save the child's life, asks himself: "Who will sit in judgement over all this?"
Close to the end of the novel, a female physician faces a situation wherein she is called upon to intervene on behalf of a fired hospital cleaning worker.
"...what a tremendous injustice it was for him to be accused of theft and fired because of it. She worked at the hospital but not in Human Resources. She had her own life. She had her own problems. Who had time for this kind of thing?I'm not going to 'review' the novel...there are a number of adequate ones available on the web. Instead I want to write about the bitter and tragic fact that in a very well written novel such as this...in a novel that addresses beautifully the disease that kills (racism) noted in the dedication quoted above...this novel is blind...utterly...to speciesism (which also kills).
She asked herself this and then wondered what she meant by "this kind of thing." She concluded a few seconds later that what she had really meant was "justice" of some kind. So what she had, in fact, asked herself was "who had time for justice?" and the fact that she had articulated this question, even if only privately to herself, jolted her. She caught a vague, elongated momentary glimpse of herself walking past a reflecting surface and, not wanting to be the sort of person who asked her self that question, ..." p.596-597
One of the more sympathetic characters in the novel is an African American man who is kind and gentle and sensitive, helpful to a fatherless boy, and who also 'works' as a "splitter" in a slaughterhouse...he spends his working life murdering or dismembering pigs.
And yet...and yet...this is a sensitive and powerful and well-written novel about the horrors and damage and suffering and deaths that accompany the ugliness of racism...but the novelist and the characters are oblivious to their perpetuation of the same behaviors and attitudes that so scarred and injured and diminished their lives. How can this be?
I know the novelist did not set out to write a novel about racism and injustice and human blindness and human casualness toward perpetrating or supporting horror that exemplified the very thing he was attempting to explore and highlight in the book...but he did. His work is tainted and diminished so terribly much by his own blindness...by his (and thereby his characters) own inability to perceive that speciesism is simply another manifestation of that terrible 'disease'.
I found reading the novel to be so disorienting...for instance in one part a mother and daughter are discussing the Upton Sinclair novel "The Jungle" and on the following page are talking about the ugliness and wrongness of using the "Nword" when referring to African Americans. With never a hint that the pigs and cows and sheep murdered by the slaughterhouses referenced in Sinclair's novel are murdered for exactly the same reasons that slavery once was legal...for exactly the same reasons that the Germans built the gas-chambers, for exactly the same reason that using the "Nword" is ugly and wrong.
They were (and are) enslaved and murdered because they are considered to be "inferior", unworthy of serious consideration...or dog and cats and rabbits are murdered because no one wants to care for them...or for "sport". It is the same...the same old story of devaluing those who are "different", of denying the worth of those not the same...your life is forfeit to the group in power if you don't fit their criteria of worthiness.
And Elliot Perlman has written an excellent treatment of racism directed toward African Americans and Jews. And Elliot Perlman casually and apparently with absolute obliviousness supports and reifies and normalizes at places in his book the same ugliness, the same 'disease', when directed toward those who happen to not look like a human animal. Without a thought or a word or a tear for their anguish, for their terror, for their lives. How sad, how very sad.
"Who will sit in judgement over all this?"
Please don't be someone who doesn't have time for justice...ethical veganism is the only way of living that supports justice for those who don't happen be human animals...and...while you're at it...live a just life toward your fellow human animals too.