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In The Absence of Humanity

(SNN) - I once helped a friend pack for a move only to find out, as she was leaving her apartment with the last load, that she had put her declawed cat outside and had no intention of coming back for her. What lessons do you suppose her children learned from that?

Stories like this seem to happen more often in a bad economy, despite the fact there are more humane ways to handle giving away an animal one can no longer afford to care for. Sadly, many people dump animals because they have become inconvenient (usually the person is at fault for not properly training the animal). Today, I received a tweet from a local news station that sickened me. 

Here’s the news article.

Around the globe human beings inflict physical and psychological violence on animals without any empathy or shame. Typically the attitude is that animals have no feelings and don’t deserve the same consideration as humans because they are, well, animals. Yet isn’t this same behavior in children met with concern? Often, the rhetoric I hear about serial killers and other sociopaths is that as children they cruelly tormented animals, and that is presumed to lead to or be an indicator of their inflicting violence and cruelty on other humans as adults.

But human violence and cruelty are found in a myriad of anti-social human behaviors: murder, rape, scamming, sex slave trading, domestic abuse, sexism, racism, incest, child abuse, discrimination, trolling, paying lower than a living wage while expecting full work from employees, stealing the retirement savings and health benefits from employees, the conditions in which we raise and process animals for food, the way animals are treated and processed for their fur or other body parts…. What each of these forms of violence has in common is that people who are usually considered normal perpetrate them against the most vulnerable in our societies and they situate along a continuum that begins with more benign acts such as being judgmental and gossiping and ends with torture and murder.

Sometimes individuals who were themselves abused as children commit these acts of violence. A child is abused or neglected by a parent or other authoritarian figure, or bullied by peers, and the child abuses weaker children and/or animals. But this is not usually the case.

Many who do violence to other humans have no sense of shame for their behavior. Others mitigate their shame by choosing to see their victims as animals rather than as humans. This dehumanizing of other people—casting them as animals or as objects—is a common tool the military uses to help soldiers become able to kill other humans in wars. It is also the means by which societies allow some groups to be entitled at the expense of other groups.

An intelligent and successful acquaintance of mine once excused violent and cruel human behavior by pointing out that her cat liked to play with smaller animals he hunted and caught, before he ate them. She was saying that humans are no more advanced than animals. What she neglected to realize was that her cat was practicing hunting behavior as a survival instinct whereas humans generally inflict violence and cruelty on others with full intellectual choice rather than by blind instinct.

How we treat others, including other life forms, is a measure of our humanity. Unfortunately, there are far too few of us that measure up. Even the best of us is guilty of at least being judgmental or of occasionally listening to, and perhaps even participating in, gossip that destroys another’s confidence, reputation and/or opportunities. A glance at entertainment shows and magazines makes it obvious our country has made it a national pastime.

It is striking to note that in a world peopled largely by self-described religious individuals, violence and cruelty perpetrated by humans against other humans, and other life forms, is the norm rather than the exception. How then are we to eliminate this continuum of violence from our world?

It’s a question that deserves thoughtful consideration, but it requires having a will to eradicate violence from our selves first.

Maye Ralston writes stories, essays, and books. Also she is an opinion columnist for The Sage and a member of the Midwest Writers Workshop Planning Committee. She blogs at Writing Heartland.

Photo: screen capture from news item, Illustration of the main topic. No other source known.

More from Maye Ralston
DISCLAIMER: The above article is OPINION.The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the authors of The Sage Opinion and forum participants on this web site do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the The Sage News Network or the official policies of the The Sage News.



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