I ran across his name early on in this strange and bewildering journey called living vegan. Yet little mention is made of him by vegans. Little, not none, because you can find writings about him here and here.
I was thoroughly impressed by him because the little bit I read made note of the fact that he refused to ride in carriages or ride on horses because he felt that was unjust. He was opposed to enslavement or the "use" of others for ones own benefit whether that 'other' was a human animal or any other variation of animal. He was a vegan before the word was created. What makes him even more remarkable is that he's pretty much the founder of the first official organization devoted to improving the lives of animals....the RSPCA. (at least he was from what I can tell and they trumpet on their website that they're proud to be the "oldest")
Mr. Gompertz should be much better known to vegans. His book about avoiding the oppression of animals was written in 1824. It's difficult to realize the profundity (and serious opposition to "normal" socially accepted behaviors) that he was advocating (and living). This was an era when human transportation and much labor performed for humans was done so by horses and oxen. He had to walk or to ride a bicycle to get around. Imagine going to lunch with him and you jump into your carriage or onto your horse and he says: "I'll meet you there, wait for me" and takes off walking. It makes me smile...good for him. Not only did he avoid eating animals or animal products...he refused to "use" them either.
And...this part is what is so tellingly terrible and wonderful at the same time is that he was driven out of that organization he started because he was "different".
In other words, he started an organization devoted to opposing the oppression of marginalized and relatively powerless beings simply because they were "different" and then he was driven away from participating in that organization because he was "different" and belonged to a group that was marginalized and relatively powerless. How bizarre is that? How terribly exemplary of our species. We aren't the "thinking animal", we are the "erring animal". If you need something to be messed up...give it to a human...if it can be screwed up...we'll manage it.
Mr. Gompertz was Jewish and a segment of Christians became concerned about his presence in the organization and his possible influence...big laugh...since he helped start the organization...and they forced him out.
There's a lesson in this that we (human animals) still struggle with. Jeez, we still struggle with everything...or so it seems but most tellingly the obvious things. Like don't do what you say you don't want to do.
What does this have to do with anything? Well, I've been writing a bit lately about intersectionality (here and here) and the similarities of oppressions and...big wow...look at this...the human who apparently wrote the first complete book devoted to explaining why we should not oppress our sister/brother Earthlings was run out of the first official organization devoted to not oppressing animals (which he founded) because of oppression. The insanity of that exemplifies something so exquisitely true about our nature as a species that it makes my teeth hurt. We're, indeed, the zany species (and zany in a sad and terrible way).
All the isms of oppression...and they are myriad...breaking free from them in one area doesn't give you a pass for any other area. I'm struggling hard with all that right now and the other day when I received a copy of his book via interlibrary loan it struck me right in the face that the animal anti-oppression movement seemed to start right off with oppressing the founder of the first animal anti-oppression organization. Somehow that's fitting in that it exemplifies what a spooky bunch of beings we human animals are.
The only oppression worthy of being practiced is the oppression of oppression? As I said in my last post, it makes my head hurt. Maybe Rodney King expressed it best when he asked: "Can we all just get along?"