Professor Fred Lieberman: Millions of people nowadays are religious only in the vaguest sense. I've often wondered why the Jews among them still go on calling themselves Jews. Do you know, Mr. Green?When I heard this exchange this time it struck me how identical this is to the premise that human beings are not animal beings and that it is a definite advantage to not be considered an animal...therefore...to me at least...it is a matter of, not pride, but acknowledgement of injustice (and accuracy) to consider myself an animal.
Phil Green: No, but I'd like to.
Professor Fred Lieberman: Because the world still makes it an advantage not to be one. Thus it becomes a matter of pride to go on calling ourselves Jews.
This time the exchange that struck me most powerfully was:
Kathy Lacey: You think I'm an anti-Semite.It is staggering how well this exchange epitomizes much of what drives the ongoing destruction of our fellow Earthlings. It is the "good people", the "nice people" who do not see themselves as agents of cruelty, of oppression, of murderousness who support and perpetuate the enslavement and the imprisonment and the death and suffering of billions of Earthlings.
Phil Green: No, I don't. But I've come to see lots of nice people who hate it and deplore it and protest their own innocence, then help it along and wonder why it grows. People who would never beat up a Jew. People who think anti-Semitism is far away in some dark place with low-class morons. That's the biggest discovery I've made. The good people. The nice people.
It is truly all the same....speciesism, racism, anti-semitism, sexism, and on and on. The prejudice, the oppression, the ugliness of superiority/inferiority, the murder of billions because they are "different". The viewpoint that drives each of these despicable behaviors and mindsets is the same and what allows this to flourish is, in the end, the "good people"....the "nice people".
The movie is based on a novel by Laura Z. Hobson. When I read more about her, I realized that I wished I had had a chance to sit down and have a long long conversation with her. She was apparently a remarkable human. "Through her novels, she popularized issues of
anti-Semitism, unwed motherhood and gay rights. She succeeded as a
single mother and as a professional." I wonder whether she would have been able to see through the cultural veils and understand the justice and necessity of ethical veganism. I bet she would have in time.
Now, not long before I re-watched Gentleman's Agreement, I had re-watched Schindler's List. That's another movie that I re-see because it helps ground me. Then, this morning I went to Bea Elliot's excellent blog Once Upon A Vegan and found a post delineating the activity of a fellow named Nicholas Winton who helped save over 600 Jewish children from the Nazi holocaust by arranging transport to England for them. Bea was making the point that living as an ethical vegan is equivalent to being a conscientious objector to cruelty. Exactly so.
She was writing about someone who not only lived as a conscientious objector to the war and to violence but who also went further and in addition to opting out of participation but also helped save hundreds of victims of human driven oppression and suffering and death. The same is true of Oscar Schindler...he did not participate in the violence and he also saved many human victims.
The struggle against speciesism is the same as the struggle against racism, is the same as the struggle against anti-semitism, is the same as the struggle against sexism...and against each and every stance that renders one side "superior" and the other side "inferior". Against each stance that condones oppression and enslavement and violence against those adjudged to be "inferior". It is exactly the same struggle...only the characters involved may change from place to place and time to time. The victims and oppressors may change identities but the "dance" remains the same. And this struggle has plagued our species (and as a result we plague ourselves and all the other species) apparently forever.
We seem to be so prone to fall into this horrid trap of oppressor/victim. It seems to be sadly seductive to us...since we do it again and again.
Well. I'll tell you what. Morally...if you admire folks like Mr. Winson and Mr. Schindler...you can behave just like they did. First, you opt out of the violence...the dance of death by living as an ethical vegan. That's the first step. Next...you support in each and every way you can...your local animal sanctuaries and rescues. That's exactly what they did...first they caused no harm...that's the conscientious objector, ethical vegan stance...second they facilitated the rescue of victims from harm...that's the supporting by volunteering and donating to your local animal sanctuaries and rescues.
Look around, investigate the places that save animals in your community. If they promote ethical veganism...great...if they don't...help them grow into such a stance while you assist them with their rescue activities. Otherwise they are just perpetuating the superior/inferior dance that creates the need for sanctuaries and rescue facilities. The very phenomenon that created the need for humans like Mr. Winton and Mr. Schindler.
Unless and until most of us are able to get through this struggle to see beyond superior/inferior then we'll just have to keep doing the same thing over and over and harming over and over and rescuing over and over. Spinning around and around in the same spot really is a poor way to try to get somewhere....unless you're just trying to get dizzy.
The main character in Gentleman's Agreement is a writer who is taking on an assignment to write about antisemitism and he really doesn't want to. He has this exchange with his mother:
Mrs. Green: You think there's enough anti-Semitism in life already without people reading about it?Maybe ethical veganism hasn't been said well enough. Maybe it will have to be said again and again until it is said well enough that no one has to explain it, that we all understand and live it.
Phil Green: No, but this story is doomed before I start. What can I say about anti-Semitism that hasn't been said before?
Mrs. Green: Maybe it hasn't been said well enough. If it had, you wouldn't have had to explain it to Tommy right now.