Saturday, August 23, 2008

What Kind of Person Would Torture a Koala?

The recent brutal murders of Koalas has made me think about bad depressing stuff:  The existence of evil and how cruel we are to each other.

I used to not believe in evil.   Recently I've decided that I do definitely believe in it.  I don't believe that any one person is pure good or pure evil--not even Hitler and not even Mother Teresa.   I think we all have both good and evil within us.  But some people definitely have more of one than the other.

I think the big thing is that most of us have the good and/or evil, but we don't act upon it.   I think we all have urges and desires to cause great harm to someone else.   But fortunately a lot of us keep this all within our imagination.   Unfortunately, the same goes for acts of good.  We all have great ideas of the wonderful things we'd like to do, but for most of us, it never goes beyond being a good idea.

At one time, I was obsessed with the World War II Holocaust.  I would sometimes wonder how I would have acted if I was alive during that time.   And I wondered how people I know would have acted during that time.

Most of us probably imagine that we'd be like Miep Gies who helped to hide Anne Frank in the attic.

We imagine that we'd risk our lives and reputation to do the right thing.   If we were Jewish, we'd never become a Kapo.   We'd fight to the death to save our fellow Jews.   If we lived outside of Europe, we'd spend our money, time, and resources to bring as many victims to safety as possible. 

In other words, we'd all be heroes.

We refuse to imagine that we'd be the ones laughing while throwing Jewish corpses into the incinerator.  

We refuse to imagine that we'd turn Jews into the Nazis to save our own butts.  

We refuse to believe that we'd sit at home watching soap operas, totally not caring about what's going on so far away.

Is all this really true though?

I don't think so.  

If there's a correlation between cruelty to animals and serial rapists/murderers, I think maybe there can be a correlation to other types of behaviors toward animals and how we would treat humans. 

Animals today are being systematically and horrifically abused in factory farms.   I believe how we react to this indicates how we might have truly acted if we had been alive during the Holocaust.

1. For those annoying individuals who loudly protest against animal cruelty and refuse to use any animals products.   Those self-righteous vegans?     I think they'd be the ones who would hide the Jews in their attic.    They would risk their lives and reputations to save lives.   And they would be hated by most of their neighbors.

2.  For those people who happily buy excessive amounts of meat and think it's their God-given right to do so--and laugh when told animals are abused?   I think they'd be like the Europeans who happily went along with the Nazis.   They would not have given one ounce of protest about what's happening.  Their attitude would have been one of entitlement and lack of empathy.

 3. For those who change the subject whenever animal cruelty is mentioned, and act offended when people question the ordering of Veal off the menu?  I imagine that person would be the type who wouldn't personally  participate in the cruelty of the Holocaust.   They wouldn't get their own hands dirty.  They'd just be an indifferent bystander.  They're the type of person who would buy stuff that belonged to Jewish families and not really care that the original owners of these objects had been murdered.    They would choose ignorance to allow themselves pleasurable gains.

4. For those who actually work at these factory farms and enjoy it?   They'd be the Nazis who found great pleasure in hurting others.    For those who work at these farms out of necessity--because they need to feed their own families?   They'd be the people who became Nazis, not because they wanted to, but because they had to take care of their own families.   They would do bad things to protect their own skins.
 
Would I have been a hero during the Holocaust?   

I wish I could say yes, but the answer is no.

I think I'd be better than a lot of people, but not good enough.

I am very aware of the cruelty that occurs in factory farms.   I do not stick my head in the sand anymore.    I am a vegetarian.   That's a nice thing.  Every so often,  I donate money to an animal rights charity.  It helps me feel good about myself--absolves me of some nagging guilt.   I try to eat organic dairy products and free range eggs--hoping that this means the animals are treated okay.

But I'm not good like this all the time.    I too frequently treat myself to an ice-cream cone that does not have cruelty-free ice-cream.    I eat cheese at restaurants that is not organic.   I eat many products made out of eggs that are not cruelty free.  I allow my son to have huge cups of milk at restaurants that are not only not cruelty-free, but also have hormones that are not healthy for him.

I often try to be good and do the right thing.   But too often I let my own selfish lazy desires get in the way of doing what's best for others.

When I order that ice-cream cone, I don't think about cows being abused.   If I think about anything negative, it's about  which part of my body the calories go to.    At moments like this, I'm superficial and voluntarily ignorant.

I think I'm no different than the Europeans who happily laughed at their dinner parties while nearby Jews were being sent to the gas showers.  

Who would YOU have been during the Holocaust?   And can you be honest with yourself about that?



Note:  I have a feeling the contents of this entry will make many people feel too uncomfortable.   I'm sure some people will make themselves feel better with the old argument that humans are superior to animals--that you can't even begin to compare the two.   Who knows?  Maybe human life is worth more than animals.  Maybe it's not.  I don't think that's the point here though.  It's more about our feelings towards saving or hurting a living thing.  

I personally don't think the life of a butterfly is equal to the life of a human.   But I believe the man who laughs as he tears off the wings of a butterfly is the same man who will laugh as he sticks his stepson's hand into a pot of boiling water.    

The young man who stands up to bullies to save a puppy from being drowned is the same man who will stop a violent fight in a pub.