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Patterns of Oppression
Whenever we the human race set about oppressing another group from within or from outside our own species the justifications we use are not only similar in design but often times exact verbatim. There is a fairly intricate pathology to how we determine the otherness of different groups. Unfortunately, it is far to complex for the scope of this slim essay. However, I would like to highlight a couple prime examples that I have come across in my years as an activist for the liberation of Animals and the Earth, as well as my experience as a political prisoner because of that fight.
I will say from the outset that what I am making are correlations of the way in which various groups are oppressed. Along with the arbitrary justifications for those oppressions. But these are in no way comparisons. Animals suffer worse injustices in vastly greater numbers than any segment of humanity. The annual death toll due to war in the middle east is roughly 91,000. For people murdered by the police it’s between 500 and 1000 annually. There are currently over 2,300,000 imprisoned in the United States. This is nothing compared to The annual confinement, torture and murder of: 9,500,000,000 Chickens. 100,000,000 Pigs and 70,000,000 Animals in laboratories!
That said, one major thing we do in order to feel comfortable oppressing a group deemed as other is to infantilize them. We do this with Animals in a myriad of ways. We take domesticated Animals and baby talk to them as if they were an ‘itty bitty widdle bawby’! Even though these creatures have, in certain arenas, aptitudes that are far beyond our own. Sure your dog or cat cannot read Shakespeare but neither can you smell a foot print and tell the age of it’s maker. Nor can we see in the dark, fall from several stories and walk away unharmed and many other amazing aptitudes and abilities that are shared by canines and felines.
Human supremacy dictates that in nearly all our philosophies, religions (or atheism), politics and lifestyles we build off of a basic assumption that humans are inherently superior. So prevalent is this arrogance that it is seen as a given, as an unchallengeable and basic truth to all our endeavors. The human race viewed honestly from the point of Mother Earth is truly the human racist!
Since Animals do not share our set of aptitudes we relegate them to the realm of stupid and inferior. Take away the malevolence from this equation and what your left with is infantilism. Not unlike how white slaveholders in the days of overt slavery in the united states used to refer to black men as ‘boys’ and tell them to ‘go fetch’ pales of water. Not unlike how many americans, upon meeting someone that cannot speak english immediately put an inflection into their tone that suggests that the listener is either ignorant or hard of hearing, instead of not proficient with the language.
There are so many correlations between racism and speciesim that it would take a volume to accurately detail them all. the phraseology between racists and specieists is strikingly similar and many times interchangeable. Historically, racists have tried (with varying degrees of success) to exact the actual idea of bestiality onto their victims. Calling them beasts, dogs, monkeys, apes or Animals. and I’m not talking solely about racial epithets. I’m also talking about the so-called ‘men of science’ of yesteryear, statesmen and business owners. The racism that today is considered lowbrow was once (less than a hundred years ago) considered intellectually astute. Just as how it is the elitist view today that Animals exist for our property, food, fashion, entertainment and so-called science. I predict that it will one day be seen as the shameful tragedy of speciesism which it is.
Nelson Mandela once wrote in his book ‘Long Walk To Freedom’ that during his time as a political prisoner the first confrontation that he faced with prison staff was they way they forced him to dress. They dressed prisoners in tight fitting, very short shorts, just like a dutch school boy would wear. In the counter terrorism prison unit where I am held a big spectacle is made out of giving a bunch of 40+ year old men ice cream/movie night (PG-13 only and usually 20 years behind the times). As a prisoner you get a very acute feeling of what it is like to be infantilized. We are constantly treated as if we don’t understand the complexities of life, as if it’s for our own good to be in a cage, as if our captors who punish and objectify us are our ‘team’.
Infantilism paves the way for our inevitable use and abuse of others. For once we are comfortable viewing them us uneducated, unfeeling, uncouth and stupid then we can easily surmise that they are being put to their best use when we use them for our own intents and purposes. Which of course are always viewed as much higher and more lofty than anything that the being on the receiving end could envision. This is the underlying attitude of vivisection and animal research. The so-called scientific community justifies the most heinous and ghastly tortures of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives annually under the pretext of advancing and safeguarding the human race/ist.
Most animal experimentation will yield results that can never be extrapolated to our species and the researchers themselves know this. To justify their careers they tell their funders, the public (and themselves) that torturing innocent Animals to death is a necessary evil when it’s really just circular abuse that knowingly benefits no one. Much like the infecting of poor black southerners in ‘syphilis experiments’, or the horrors of Dr. Mengele in nazi germany, the justifications are the same, and in retrospect just as worthless and unfounded.
The attitude of those that resist by those that flip the switches, push the buttons and sign the commitment orders of slavery, use and abuse is also surprisingly similar. In the days of the overt u.s. slave trade. The general consensus amongst the slave holders was that blacks were given this ‘wonderful opportunity’ (slavery) to take part in building a much higher civilization then they would ever experience in Africa. Any resistors to slavery or inequality were viewed as ungrateful, lazy and otherwise of discredit to all.
Today in the american prison industrial complex incarcerated industry and factory workers get paid up to one dollar and fifty cents a day to do jobs both difficult and dangerous. Never mind that this is about 50 times lower than minimum wage. Prisoners are supposed to be happy at this ‘opportunity for rehabilitation’ (and enough income annually to buy hygiene products, postage, paper and a bag of chips)! many inmates that aren’t grateful for their slavery are stripped of their general population status and confined to their cells until they are ready to get with the program.
And the list goes on and on, ad infidentum. We enslave Animals and each other for our entertainment, for our food, for fashion and for our own petty whims and enjoyments. The nasty little fact that seems to get forgotten in all these patterns of oppression is that it is always very lucrative and incredibly profitable to forsake or justify away the inherent right to life, and freedom from harm of others. And this is the prime reason for objectification to begin with. Not the projections we utilize to assuage our own guilt for taking advantage of those that cannot defend themselves…….
Animal Liberation, Whatever It May Take!