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.  


  1. There is alot more gray in this area than most people think. Not everyone has the economic means to be a vegan, its expensive. It stretches all the way to the clothes on your back and the shoes on your feet.

    The question is, have you ever consciously and intentionally brought harm to something or someone and felt no remorse about it? Guilt alone doesn't justify or nullify wrong doing, but at least you haven't lost your compassion.

    I did one of my freshman research papers on the link between animal abuse, domestic violence, and how it can escalate to murder. At the time I was attending Baylor University.

    The year before I enolled, a Baylor baseball player had taken a golf club out of his truck and beat a cat to death with it. He did this in front of a large number of people waiting outside of a Taco Cabana drive through very late at night. Apparently he and some of his other jock buddies were laughing while they did it, saying it was a stray cat and no one cares.

    One of the Taco Cabana employees went to check on the cat, and called the police, the human society, and any branch of media that would listen. Thanks to this individual a media frenzy was created, demanding that something be done. He walked away with a menial fine and community service.

    The public cried out for Baylor to punish him more, to suspend him from the team, and they did...for one game.

    Less than 12 months later, as I am trying to find books and research my paper at the Baylor Moody library....there is nothing. ALL 10 BOOKS I USED HAD TO BE BORROWED FROM OTHER UNIVERSITIES. I found it hard to believe that it was a coincidence.

    Universities and professional sports teams will go to extreme lengths to protect their athletes. These organizations have made a conscious effort to protect the "Nazi's" all for the sake of a good season.

    Don't even get me started on Michael Vicks.

    Sorry I blogged in your blog.

  2. Darcy,

    I love when you blog in my blog!

    I agree about the vegan thing. It can be very expensive. I did it for a month and I found it very hard.

    I don't think everyone needs to be a vegan. I think we just need to make more conscious choices. Eat LESS meat and eat/use less animal products.

    I think it's not so horrible to buy leather shoes, but do we need ten pairs of leather shoes? Do we need to toss out our leather shoes as soon as they're "out of style".

    That's completely disgusting about the Baylor baseball player. Suspended for one game???? What the hell???

    We live in a very scary world. It makes me feel better to know there are people like you in it. It makes me feel a little better.

  3. I can't say that I completely agree with you analogies, but I get where you were going with it.

    And yes, I believe in good and evil too, but I believe that it is also intent. Mother Teresa, for example, was inherintantly good not because she didn't posses the potentional for evil, but because she chose to be kind, generous and loving.

    I also belive that consumers need to start being intentional in their purchasing. We need to buy the best quality food that fits out ideals that we can instead of throwing our hands up in the air, declaring that "it's all too hard and what difference can one person make anyway?".

    I have over the past few months really been enjoying grain fed, organic, free range eggs. They aren't in my budget being twice as expensive as the average egg, but because they don't sell as quickly they are often marked down. If I was in a position to we would be buying all our produce organic, all of it free range/cruelty free. Awareness though and positioning to take advantage of opportunities that may come up puts us half way there I think.

  4. Bettina,

    It CAN be really expensive. I went shopping last week. I bought a jar of raw honey, A free trade candy bar, A bottle of not-tested-on-animal shampoo, and a small one dollar bag of dried fruit.

    It was such a small bag of stuff and it cost about 25 dollars. I kept thinking if I had bought normal mainstream stuff, for 25 dollars, I could have gotten two or three bottles of shampoo, multiple bags of chocolate, etc.

    Do we need so much stuff though?

    It's hard to budget all of it though and sometimes it's hard to FIND the more ethical stuff.

    I will say where we live it's getting easier. We used to have to go to the "special" grocery store to get organic stuff and free trade stuff. But now our nearby grocery store has a lot of the stuff.

  5. I've read this post a couple of times now because I wasn't sure if one of those analogies was meant for me (ahem, veal?)--

    I'm not sure that people who buy meat laugh when told animals are abused, or that they would happily go along with Nazis-- seems like a pretty harsh comparison.

    I think all of those comparisons were kind of whack.
    I'm just sayin', don't be hatin'..

    By the way-- fix your title missy.

  6. This is a brilliant piece of writing. I enjoyed reading it and the responses.

    I'm a vegetarian, but I DO wear leather boots. I know where the leather comes from and while I do not eat the flesh of the beast, its hide has provided me with warmth for my feet. I justify this (to myself) that my leather boots last for years where a synthetic substitute would be replaced many times over.

    *sigh* I think what I'm trying to say is... there are consequences for every action. We, every one of us, could and should think before we consume. There are no greater or lesser than beings, respect is necessary. While I disagree with the slaying of beasts for food, I will not be a rampant vegetarian and protest people enjoying meat. I DO think that all livestock should be treated well and slaughtered in the most humane way possible.

    Sorry, I ranted a bit.

  7. Laura,

    Veal or're MY hero because you were the only one who noticed and/or mentioned the mistake in my title. Thanks!!! I'm embarrassed and I'm wondering how I didn't see that.

    I honestly wasn't thinking of you while writing the post. I PROMISE!!!!!!!

    I don't really remember you eating veal. ?????? I remember we had a little argument about Wildlife World and eating meat. That's about it.

    I didn't really think of you as a major carnivore type person. You eat meat, but you seem to have a conscious about it. Unless I'm reading into things.

  8. Anja,

    I think we have very similar viewpoints.
    I'm not really against killing animals for meat--or the occasional leather shoe.

    I'm more against animals being abused while they're alive.


    What I wonder is where do you draw the line when it comes to suffering?

    Why is it okay to abuse animals and not humans? Is it because animals are less intelligent? If this is so, then is it okay to abuse the mentally retarded? How about infants?

  9. Omigod that last comment about abusing retarded people and infants is just so wrong.

    Guess what I'm in the middle of doing???? Setting up my new Imac!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Just thought you'd wanna know.
    I promise not to abuse or verbally torture any animals or small children in the next 10 minutes whilst I set up my new Apple!!!!

  10. Laura,

    I am glad you are unable to abuse anything while setting up your computer.

    I'll just keep sending you computers to set up so all the sweet little innocent things in the world are safe!!!!

    Seriously though. Isn't it the most vulnerable individuals who are the most likely to be abused? I don't have statistics on hand, but when I hear about abuse, it's usually children, the elderly, mentally disabled, animals, etc.

    I think abusers are like any type of bully. They prey on those who are more easily overpowered.

  11. Dina,

    I took a class once from a psychologist. We were talking about evil. I won't go into details, few would have the stomach for them. The point he made and backed up with fact...anything, no matter how sick and perverted, you can IMAGINE has been done and will be done again. Humans...seemingly more males are really a disturbed species.

    Another story was from a Dean of the Chapel at Stanford long ago...he once said he didn't really believe in evil until he came to be at the Chaplet. He described some sick event around the outside of the church and one sick murder that took place 40 years ago...convinced him evil exists!


  12. Bdaul,

    It's hard not to believe in evil. At least for me.

    I see it as a kind of force. I guess I see things kind of like Star Wars. A dark side and a light side.

    I think it's just around. Waiting.

    Did you hear about the bus attack in Canada? A man stabbed his seatmate and then chopped off his head. Totally unprovoked. And from what I've read, the guy didn't seem evil before this.

    What makes someone snap like that?

    Or maybe he did evil things before that and no one knew about it.

    The thing about men. I don't know. Lately, I feel that a good man is one who doesn't hit woman, rape woman, molest children, or walk out on his family.

    If a man doesn't do those things, than he gets to call himself a good father or a good husband.

    But why is it in the negatives like that?

    I wish I could expect MORE from men.

    I guess it applies to both genders. Someone is good if they don't treat me like crap. But that's sad sometimes. It that all I can hope for?