February 4th – Torture Abolition Day
You Can Stop Harming Other Beings
I’m organizing an environmental film festival and one of the films submitted was Earthlings. The premise of Earthlings is that we are all united as we are all earthlings. Every living being on the Earth is included and we are all in it together. When unnecessary harm is caused there is an overall negative effect as our thoughts and feelings send out waves just as a rock dropped in water sends out waves. Every one of us has a choice at every moment as to whether our actions and words uplift or crush other earthlings.
Factory farming of plants, animals and humans; torture of people and animals, whether for pleasure or for gain; and just plain indifference to suffering all cause negative ripples. The film Earthlings is relentless in it’s documenting the abuses humans impose onto other earthlings. The question that begs to be asked, and answered, is – Why?
There is plain indifference and the belief that none other than one’s self has feelings. Some earthlings do not understand that all sentient beings have desires and needs and feel pain, both physical and emotional. I have heard over and over that only humans have feelings. This presupposition is completely species centric as no human can know what any other being feels. However experience demonstrates that sentient beings do have feelings and seek comfort over pain. And as with humans, abused beings can be nursed through their pain and become healthy and thriving if taken from abusive situations and provided with love and care.
Then there is pleasure. Somehow or another some humans take pleasure in harming other beings. This may be a result of conditioning from actual experience or from genetic causes. A lack of empathy is often at the basis of taking pleasure from other’s pain, but there is also the factor of conditioning that leads to a sense of anti-empathy where one knows one is causing pain, but does so regardless of or even purposefully for pleasure. When I was in grade school my friends and I would tease other students. We picked out the least popular ones and we in turn were teased by more popular students. We did not stop and think about the feelings of the people we teased. Now I find it hard to believe that I took part in this, but I cannot deny that I did. And yes it did give me a sense of pleasure. This was the pleasure of feeling superior. Now, looking with hindsight, I imagine that I might have really liked to be friends with some of those people I was cruel to. I feel grateful that I have changed and would never purposefully hurt another being. I thought that we all grow out of this childish behavior, but I found I was wrong.
I went to a gathering billed as the networking event to be at for young entrepreneurs. While there I spoke with a woman I had met at an earlier event. This woman told me how she was avoiding a woman because she had started dating her boyfriend. She mentioned that life was still just like it was from when she was back in school. It made me realize that many people don’t grow out of the cruel behaviors that were set in earlier years. Now I am not implying that one should never date others. My point is that this woman gave me a sense that she was taking pleasure out of the pain she had caused the other woman. I often sense a feeling of entitlement and that the person being harmed brought it on themselves so therefore there is no culpability on the part of the perpetrator of the harm.
I learned, from my training as a domestic violence victim’s advocate, that the perpetrator of violence often feels that the victim deserved to be harmed and will even feel that they are helping the person by harming them. Relationship dynamics are very tricky in that there are so many factors that play into why two people are together. There is love, of course, but then there is financial security, fear of being alone, psychological dependence, sexual addictions and on and on. I think if one looks at the cat and mouse relationship it may help demonstrate how a co-dependent abusive relationship is based on anything but love.
Often when a cat catches a mouse it will play with it before it kills it. Play is in the eyes of the beholder, because is is clearly not play for the mouse. All the mouse wants is is to escape. I have seen it over and over where the cat will bat the mouse around and trap it under its claws only to let it “escape” and then pounce on it once again. The cat will prolong the game as long as it can and seems to take great pleasure in getting even the littlest stir in the almost dead mouse. The cat may even leave the mouse alone for a while with the hope that the mouse will find the energy to try to escape once again. And then when the mouse dies the cat seems to suffer a sense of loss. So is this love? Is the domestic violent relationship love? I think not. I think love can only be among equals. I think that we are all equals, but when there is the perception that others are inferior there may be many feelings for the other person, but it is not love.
One thing that I found interesting from my domestic violence victims advocate training was that as same sex relationships have become more open the same abusive dynamic found in heterosexual relationships have become apparent. It seems that it is part of our nature to be abusive to those closest to us. I believe that there is the possibility of an evolution of consciousness where one can leave behind relationships that are based on power inequalities and then perceive all other earthlings as equals and deserving of being treated with respect and care. Even a cat can live in peace with a mouse. But this takes gentle dedicated work by loving beings. So much of our world is alienating and encourages a lack of compassion. Every time I hear of people complaining of loosing jobs in their community as they purchase items made by sweat shop labor made great distances away I wonder how they cannot see that they themselves are the cause of the local loss of jobs. It is not them, or some corporation, that has caused this. It is their choice to buy cheap goods made by sweat shop labor. If we were to all become conscious of our actions and their repercussions we might just have another world.