Saturday, November 19, 2011

The "Master" species...

For those familiar with WWII, you may know that that exhibition of human intellectual and moral disconnect from reality resulted in the death of an estimated 60 million human animal lives.

The two nation groups principally responsible for the onset of the violence and destruction were Japan and Germany. A similarity between the cultural world-view of those two nations existed that is rarely discussed or mentioned. That is of the "Master Race" delusion shared by both many Germans and many Japanese. The German Nazis considered their sort of folks to be superior to all others and the Japanese militarists considered their brand of human animals to be the best of the bunch.

The Japanese version:
We're superior to everyone else! (Hideki Tojo)
The German version:
We're superior to everyone else! (Adolph Hitler)

Obviously had those two groups been victorious, they might have had some things to argue about regarding their status of superiority. But, they weren't victorious and each moment creates more distance in time from their peculiar notions of a "Master race".

Or does it?

Well, actually no. This sort of psychopathic thinking continues today with groups associated with "white supremacy" notions. Thankfully these are 'fringe' groups and apparently attract a relatively small number of followers.

A much larger number of followers ascribe to another psychopathic notion, that of species supremacy. The "Master Species", if you will.

Indeed, if you look at the various "isms" associating with proclaiming and maintaining the 'superiority' of one group over another you find this theme over and over..."since I'm better to and superior to you, I should be able to do whatever I want, whenever I want and to treat beings that don't belong to my group any way I want. I can exploit them, torture them or kill them and be perfectly right and justified in doing so. My wants/needs should always come first in any situation." Elements similar to this are present in racism, sexism, ageism and on and on and on. "Me first and you...since you aren't like get what I choose."

Speciesism is just a variant of this sad state of self-serving destructive silliness, this elevation of the human animal above all other animals is sometimes referred to as human exceptionalism. Somehow, because of how we are, we human animals have decided we are superior to all other animals and have the right to do to those 'lesser' beings whatever we want.

Whenever we see individual human animals thinking and behaving this way...we quickly recognize the danger and the pathology. Whenever we see groups of human animals thinking and behaving this way...we more slowly but eventually recognize the pathology and the danger. Apparently when the bulk of human animals think and behave this way...we have an enormously difficult time recognizing the pathology and danger. It's almost as if we are so immersed in it that we are unable to see it for what it is. Stupid, erroneous, foolish and destructive is what thinking this way is...but the victims of this monstrous insanity have no human voice... and the death and horror just rolls along...with little or no comment or recognition. Some object, some condemn but the numerical difference between the perpetrators or aiders and abettors and those who sound the alarm is 99 to 1.

It is curious how fairly easily we are able to identify thinking or behaving in an individual that is bizarre and dangerous...but disseminate the same strangeness to bunches of individuals...then somehow our perception and identification of dangerousness breaks down. Especially if we happen to belong to such a group.

If bizarre notions have been presented to us since birth their identification becomes more problematical. Other factors that may serve to disguise bizarreness and decrease our critical ability include the notions offering some reward for us or if the bizarre notions flatter us or if the bizarre notions elevate our status or if the bizarre notions give us reasons for our problems.

There are extensive writings on the causes of the "Final Solution" that Germany called their attempts to try to eradicate Jewish people and other people deemed "undesirable".  There aren't nearly as many sources that examine the behavior of the Japanese prior to and during WWII. This isn't because they weren't destructive, but partially because here in the west we tend to focus on countries and groups participating in western 'civilization' and to be much more ignorant about groups using other 'civilization' traditions and worldviews. Another reason is that the Japanese did not engage in the systematic and bureaucratized and horrific imprisonment and slaughter of millions. Their violence and destruction was less systematized and pervasive when compared to the Germans...but who the hell knows what they would have done in the future had they not been defeated and what they did do was horrific enough.

Our behavior toward the other animals has and is often compared to the behavior of the Nazis toward the 'undesirables'. Numerous books are available that explore these similarities and here is a superlative photographic essay that expounds on this comparison.

Many of us are familiar with the quote from the Nobel prizewinner Isaac Bashevis Singer, who wrote: "In relation to [animals], all people are Nazis; for the animals, it is an eternal Treblinka."

Others object to such comparisons. For instance Roberta Kalechofsky wrote: "....I objected to this use of the Holocaust... The agony of animals arises from different causes from those of the Holocaust. Human beings do not hate animals. They do not eat them because they hate them. They do not experiment on them because they hate them, they do not hunt them because they hate them. These were the motives for the Holocaust. Human beings have no ideological or theological conflict with animals."

What she writes may be true, but whether someone hates or someone is indifferent...the fact is if a being that is hated or a being that elicits indifference is a being that the hater or the indifferenter feels superior to, feels more powerful than, feels unconstrained by rules in terms of dealing with them...then the being hated and/or the being toward whom indifference is at tremendous risk of being horribly treated. Here, at this point, is where the Nazi mindset and the mindset of the average human animal converge...this notion of superiority...this "Master Race" mentality...this "Master Species" mentality.

These two photos of beings transported against their will to their places of death are too similar to be dismissed.
An innocent being, condemned by those who say they are "superior".

Innocent beings, condemned by those who say they are "superior".

I think Henry Beston expressed a truth about our fellow animals that rings and resonates with accuracy and clarity when he wrote "...They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth."

We are citizens of Earth, as are all the other living beings. We are not superior, we are not inferior, they are not superior, they are not inferior...they are just trying to get by and they owe us nothing...we, however, owe them the right to be left alone to be themselves.

Living as an ethical vegan is a requirement in order to follow the path of leaving them alone...and of avoiding the superiority/inferiority delusion.


joan.kyler said...

And so many are just indifferent to the suffering and death of other species. Business as usual, this is what we've always done and we don't want to think about it at all because we might change our hearts and our ways. 'Others' can't be like us, can't feel like we do.

On the back from Farm Sanctuary in New York, where we had just met two extremely joyful piglets, we passed a transport trailer of pigs. I could only cry.

Annie said...

I'm ashamed to say I never put it together this way, but the connection is most definitely there. Thanks for the very thought-provoking and sobering article.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Joan. Each moment of suffering, each death adds to the burden of sorrow of the victims and to the sorrow of those of us who see, understand and are repulsed by the sea of blood and death in which we are immersed. Every human on the planet should be crying.

veganelder said...

Thank you Annie for commenting. This was one of the more difficult and painful pieces for me to write. Mr Singer was so correct, so right...maybe even more than he realized.

The master species realization started bobbing up when I was watching parts of the superb series titled "The World at War" (narrated by Sir Lawrence Olivier). The insane violence and destruction, the waste, the unnecessariness of it all...I truly fear there is something dreadfully wrong with our species.

I can think of no instance where this notion of superiority hasn't, if allowed to, devolved into destruction, death and disaster. It is a seriously psychotic way of thinking yet we seem horribly attracted to and fascinated with has been around a long,long time.

All of nature, all of our fellow animals...yes, even ourselves...may be eventually killed by this psychosis.

Bea Elliott said...

I know I wrote about this before - But I just have to say it again for the sake of honesty and the love of reality. The first time I saw a pig in a cage - Without any prompting from anyone... I understood the connection to a concentration camp - without question. It's evident. Though the pig might not be in the situation for the same reason (hatred) - But the agony and despair is exactly the same!

This othering mentality is capable of committing the worst offenses to those who don't "fit" the mold. And it's true... Most people can spot a bigot in an instant. But when there's a whole culture of (species) "supremists" - Then they're completely blind to it all. I don't get it a bit.

I know this must have been a labor for you to write... But I'm glad you expressed it - And positioned reality as it truly is!

And if I can only add one thing that allows me still to recognize the parallels between human and nonhuman victims at the hands of oppressors--- it would be this quote by Don Piraro:

"The word "holocaust" is defined as "destruction or slaughter on a mass scale." In modern times, the word is applied most often to the plight of European Jews at the hands of Hitler, but the word was not invented for this event. There have been many holocausts before and after, many on a larger scale.

Even so, to compare the slaughter of non-human animals to the slaughter of humans is not to degrade the deaths of humans but to dignify the deaths of non humans."

Different does not mean better... And even if it did - Better does not sanctify brutality.

Thank you VE for respecting life as it ought to be.

Anonymous said...

This is great. I had a hideous conversation involving the term "top of the food chain" yesterday, and am still processing a response. This master species/master race link is so interesting; helps me see things more clearly.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Bea. I don't have any issues at all with describing what is being done to nonhuman animals as a holocaust...I was just focusing on the superiority notion in the post. I agree that we are engaged in behaviors that are in some ways worse than ever and I suspect what provides many with the lubrication to slide their value structures right on by these abhorrent behaviors is the superiority idea. It is the superiority thing that makes religion so volatile and unhinging for so many folks. Superiority removes you from the rest of the world...once there who cares what happens to the doesn't affect you except peripherally.

Coupling superiority with comes the european invasion of the western hemisphere, the holocaust of the Native Americans, european invasion of Africa, and on and on and on. Atrocities, massacres, slaughters, culls, death camps, horror after horror after horror...spooky how often a superiority notion is lurking inside of the perpetrators.

Thoughts of degrading any group of victims is simply misguided and misunderstanding.

"Better" is almost invariably a slippery term that usually can be translated to: "I like it more" and trying to justify brutality, for any reason, is...well...weird. Brutality and the imposition of suffering and murder on innocents can't be sanctified by any pantheon of god or goddesses in this or any other universe.

If we don't get a grip on ourselves...well...the consequences are almost unthinkable...and one of the things we must give up is the superiority silliness.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting DEM. Ah, that top the food chain stuff is a pain in the ass. When I hear food chain I think of a naked human with no technology chasing an elephant...nope...doesn't work.

Remove technology, including fire for cooking, and humans eating other animals sort of disappears as a viable survival method. Tell your top of the food chain folks to let go of their technology and go get their food...there's the "food chain". It's the technology that provides the power...not the human animal.

Let us also always remember that each of us, when very very young, used to urinate and defecate on ourselves...but we (I hope) eventually learned better. Food chain folks often don't want to admit that growing up is a necessary part of living...therefore no matter what it was like "back then"...time to grow up.