“As we devour them to satiate our appetite for power and wealth, we devour ourselves, making for a bizarre act of self-cannibalization.”
Our dominant culture, in which I fully admit to participating (despite my significant efforts to minimize my involvement) is wreaking havoc on this “pale blue dot” we call Earth. Climate change, scarce and tainted water, devastating levels of toxins in the environment, rampant consumerism that generates truckloads of fetid refuse per second, massive deforestation, and the Sixth Extinction implicate humanity, and our socioeconomic/cultural construct we euphemistically call “civilization,” as nothing short of the living embodiment of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Our species, by virtue of our chosen ways of interfacing with the world, personifies Death, Famine, War, and Pestilence. Despite our numerous worthwhile attributes and accomplishments, humanity specializes in slaughter, mayhem, abject cruelty, genocide, ecocide, and all manner of destruction.
Gaia, the Earth, is our mother and we are engaging in matricide against her. Nonhuman animals are our brethren, and we are engaging in fratricide against them. Intentionally or not, we are on course to emulate Orestes and Cain. As a deeply committed vegan and a practitioner of my own eclectic spirituality–in which I consider nonhuman animals and the Earth to be sacred–this disturbs me in a profound way. Yet I find solace in the fact that Mother Earth was here long before our species became an infestation and that unless we radically change our mode of existence, She will eradicate us like the virulent pests that we are.
Whether we want to admit it or not, nearly all of our psyches have been twisted, perverted and, in some instances, pulverized to the extent that we live and believe some of the most outlandish lies that an objective and sane mind could imagine, were such an observer somehow able to completely extricate themselves from the tapestry of self-deceptions we call “reality.” Our inculcation is so deep, the damage to our battered psyches so immense, and the appeal of industrial civilization’s alluring artificial and pernicious comforts so strong that many people barricade their minds from the truth with a variety of potent psychological defenses, including projection, ad hominem attacks, scorn and ridicule, anti-intellectualism, appeals to tradition, distortion, rationalization and a host of others.
While it poses a monumental challenge, if we’re going to stave off self-destruction and the annihilation of billions more nonhuman animals along the way, we must exorcise the psychic demons that keep our souls shackled to the pathological and metastatic ways in which our species behaves and organizes. Painful and seemingly impossible as it may be, there are a number of deeply ingrained cultural memes and components that we need to significantly alter or obliterate to avert impending disaster.
Patriarchy, which infects and informs the monotheistic religions on which many of our morals, customs, and beliefs are based, serves as a source of many ills. One can smell the stink of adult male privilege wafting from our corridors of power, our universities, our corporations, our churches, our legal system—it’s nearly ubiquitous. Women and children are still second class citizens, even in the so-called Westernized “liberal democracies.”
The social impact on women and children is troubling enough, but male and masculine predominance has far more profound and deleterious effects on nonhuman animals and the planet. Myths that man as hunter, man as carnivore, and man as uber-predator predominated throughout most of human history and that engaging in such activities enabled us to become social and intelligent still permeate the dominant culture like a foul stench. It is much more likely and demonstrable that our ancestors were gatherers and foragers (a task in which women and men participated at least equally)–eating a diet that was largely herbivorous (with occasional insects and scraps of “meat”) and living as potential prey to large carnivores (a position in the food web which forced us to live much more cooperatively and to think critically to protect ourselves, hence sharpening our capacity to communicate and to problem-solve). Our downfall was utilizing the means we developed to defend ourselves as tools of domination and predation.
Social and peer pressure drive many men to suppress and scorn their “feminine” tendencies, or anima. “Weaknesses” like compassion, mercy, love, empathy, kindness and nurturing are discarded in favor of an obsessive devotion, a fetishism really, to “manly” ideals and preoccupations like war, conquest, winning, achieving, dominating, over-powering, and taming. I know this from personal experience. My father, coaches, teachers, and other paternal figures in my life instilled a “warrior mentality” in me and crushed my natural inclinations to empathize and act on my compassion. It took me two decades of fighting, soul searching, parenting, and painful trial and error to find a healthy middle ground. As evidenced by the endless wars we wage, our species has a long way to go towards finding such a balance.
Anthropocentrism and its malevolent spawn, speciesism, are also demons that dwell deep within the collective human psyche. In People of the Lie, M. Scott Peck wrote a compelling argument that narcissistic people, who lack the capacity to empathize and are pathologically self-centered, are evil. What could be more narcissistic than a species of beings that believes that the planet on which they reside and the fellow creatures with whom they share that planet exist for them to use and abuse as they see fit?
As a dedicated animal liberationist, I’ve studied, read, watched, listened to, and observed the vile manner in which our species exploits, tortures and murders other sentient beings with callous indifference, and in some cases, obscene pleasure. (In the interests of full disclosure, I participated in, and benefited from, nonhuman animal exploitation for years before my conversion to veganism). Yet rarely a day passes without me recoiling in horror at some other form of cruelty we inflict on “lesser” species. And those who rush to defend the abject immorality and myopic idiocy of anthropocentrism and speciesism often crow that humans have subdued nature and are superior beings “at the top of the food chain.” It seems more than a bit odd that such “superior” creatures would be so paranoid and insecure that they’d devote incredibly vast amounts of their time, energy and resources to creating, building, and stockpiling weapons. Or that they’d overpopulate and “foul their own nests” to the point of an ecological collapse.
Dr. Seuss was more of a prophet than a clever author of children’s books, as evidenced by The Lorax. There’s a little Once-ler in all of us, but a lot more in some than others. How many Thneeds do we need? At what point do we come to our senses and collectively abandon consumerism? Must all the Truffula trees be felled, the Bar-ba-loots become extinct, and all water become contaminated with Gloppity Glop and Schloppity Schlop before we come to our senses and reject corporate consumerism as the Earth murdering, self-destructive way of being that it is?
Heavily reinforced by the omniscient, omnipotent god we are indoctrinated to believe exists, [the same god who created Adam (men) in his own image, Eve (women) as an afterthought with one of Adam’s ribs, and the rest of creation for our use], bolstered by Calvinist notions that the wealthy have prospered because they are righteous, “justified” by a Cartesianism that holds that nonhuman animals don’t have the consciousness to experience pain as humans do, and replicated by the mass addiction to the infotainment of corporate mass media, the dominant culture infects nearly all of us like a virus and has hundreds of millions genuflecting to transparently hyper-ambitious, morally retarded troglodytes like George W. Bush, Sara Palin, John McCain, Dick Cheney, and James Inhofe AND rewarding them with power, influence and affluence.
Each of us needs to consciously work to restore a balance in ourselves and reintegrate into the natural order to the extent that it’s possible. Our species has become so addicted to fueling our egos, so obsessed with domination, so compelled to be in control, and so hell-bent on conquest that in an ironic twist, we’ve become our own predators and victims of our own blind ambition to play God. Despite our Herculean efforts to extricate ourselves from nature and place ourselves upon a pedestal on high, we remain deeply interconnected with the Earth and with the other species of sentient beings we are abusing and destroying wantonly. As we devour them to satiate our appetite for power and wealth, we devour ourselves, making for a bizarre act of self-cannibalization.
Contrary to the pernicious myths of the dominant culture, Homo sapiens will not become an endangered species if we “regress” to organizing in reasonably egalitarian social structures with democratic, decentralized and limited governing bodies; limited industrialization, agriculture, and technology; a high degree of individual autonomy balanced by socioeconomic interactions based on cooperation rather than competition; a renewed reverence for Mother Earth–living as grateful residents rather than savage plunderers; a respect for the rights of nonhuman animals to be free of human-imposed confinement, torture, and slaughter; and a relegation of violence to its proper place–as a means of self-defense or extensional self defense.
If each of us replaces the question, “Is it good for the children?” with “Is it good for the Earth and nonhuman animals?” as we make each significant decision in our lives, we will have gone a long way towards saving billions of nonhuman animal lives and our own species, but that is only one side of the equation.
Given what Adorno coined as the “absurd persistence of domination,” personal evolution and the education of others will not be enough to overcome the powerful inertia of 10,000 years of systemic anthropocentrism; monarchy and plutocracy; wholesale violence against people, other animals and the planet; and the masses’ strong propensity to fall for propaganda and readily accessible palliatives.
Consider Orwell’s observation in “The Road to Wigan Pier:”
“Whole sections of the working class who have been plundered of all they really need are being compensated, in part, by cheap luxuries which mitigate the surface of life.”
Make no mistake about it. Those with vested interests in the status quo–the systemic oppression and exploitation of humans, nonhuman animals, and the Earth alike– are fiercely determined, ruthless, heavily armed, technologically endowed, and highly skilled at manipulating the people. Our culture of domination will not “go gently into that good night.” Flower power, granola, and vegan potlucks will not even give the juggernaut of industrial capitalism pause. In conjunction with our personal evolution and the education of others, anti-capitalists and liberationists of all stripes must come together to form a culture of resistance, employing as many tactics as we can imagine with as much intensity and power as we can muster. They “leave all options on the table,” so why wouldn’t we?
As my best friend in the world would say, “We better get our minds right…”
And once enough of us do, resistance will no longer seem futile.
 “The Sixth Extinction” by Niles Eldredge
 “Man the Hunter to Homo X: Rethinking Human Nature” by Steve Best
Jason Miller, Senior Editor and Founder of TPC, is a tenacious forty something vegan straight edge activist who lives in Kansas and who has a boundless passion for animal liberation and anti-capitalism. Addicted to reading and learning, he is mostly an autodidact, but he studied liberal arts and philosophy at the University of Missouri Kansas City. In early 2005, he founded the radical blog Thomas Paine’s Corner. An accomplished and prolific essayist on social and political issues, his writings have appeared on hundreds of alternative media websites over the last few years. He is also a press officer for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office and the founder of Bite Club of KC, a grassroots animal rights activist group. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org