Greed Eats Love

 

I had never lived in the South before my partner and I moved to Athens.  I cannot help but think about how slavery is such an enormous part of Georgia and all of the South’s history.  I grew up with a father who worked in civil rights and still, in my fifties, I wonder how slavery could have ever happened.  How did people come to the point of thinking it was okay to own other people as property and tear them apart from their families?  How was the tradition able to continue for so long?  Since my work for the past 30 years has involved working on social justice issues and compassionate living education I think about oppressions in all parts of society.  When I saw this sign “Greed Eats Love” on the outside of a bakery in Ann Arbor, MI, it made perfect sense to me.

 

I have come to realize that all it takes for suffering and injustice to continue is for the majority of people to agree that it is okay.  It just takes a large number of people not questioning the agreed upon idea and the actions that accompany it.  If you add economic profits to the mix it is even harder to get people to question these agreed upon myths/stories/cultural norms. 

 

If you also consider the idea of a tipping point, my idea about the majority of people becomes inaccurate.  It does not take the majority.  It only takes an influential group to shift society’s perceptions. 

 

When slavery ended in the United Kingdom or in the USA it was not because the majority of people understood that it was wrong.  It was that a powerful minority influenced the culture over time.

 

The same blindness that created an acceptance of slavery is at work worldwide when it comes to our treatment of other species.  We have an agreed upon story by the majority of people.  The story/myth is that these individuals are property and slaves, not living, thinking, feeling beings. 

We are stuck in this story because we have traditions and economic gain that stems from the practices that accompany it.

 

My father asked me recently why I wouldn’t come to a family gathering and just “ignore” the turkey in the middle of the table.  I asked him if he was going to a home that served dog meat (the case in many parts of the world) if he could “ignore” the dog curled up and cooked and sitting on a platter in the middle of the table.  There is no difference between turkeys, chickens, dogs, pigs and deer in terms of their ability to feel pain and pleasure and their desire to form lasting social relationships. 

 

The same way that many cultures have abolished slavery and look back on it and wonder how it could have been, we will look back on this time and wonder how we could have lived the way we live now. 

 

 

"In fact, if one person is unkind to an animal it is considered to be cruelty, but where a lot of people are unkind to animals, especially in the name of commerce, the cruelty is condoned and, once large sums of money are at stake, will be defended to the last by otherwise intelligent people."

Ruth Harrison, "Animal Machines"