Saturday, May 21, 2005

Acting Like Animals - If Only We Would

Today I listened to a presentation about Jose Saramago's book Blindness. When everyone goes blind in the book the social order breaks down. People do terrible things to each other: raping ,starving, defecating any where, murdering, etc. Someone in the group said, "The people started acting like animals." I know it's been said before but clearly it's worth repeating: Non-human animals don't do the horrifying things we do. Certainly one could find all sorts of examples of non-human animal behavior that is shocking to us but it's fairly obvious that you could easily find examples of human behavior that go far, far beyond what any animal has ever done or will ever do. Someone in this same session said something about our humanity separating us from the animals. And that's right, but not the way she meant it. Our humanity is both one of caring and compassion but also of unbelievable destruction and genocide. Animals don't committ genocide; it is a strictly human trait and thus part of this thing we speak of reverentially called "humanity". If humans did act like non-human animals when the blindness stikes in Saramago's book, we wouldn't be shocked and outraged. It wouldn't be a story about how low humans can sink. It would be about adjusting to new circumstances and continuing to live in a sustainable way as best as one could. If only we would "act like animals" more often we all, human and non-human animals both, would be much better off.

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