By Jason Miller
Purveyors of pop culture, indigenous movement leaders, renowned academics, literary giants, and powerful philosophers alike have admonished us that we humans need to change our evil ways. So given our amazing cognitive abilities and capacities to adapt our behaviors, why do we continue with our pathological parasitism?
Steve Best, Associate Professor of Philosophy at UTEP, and a leading philosopher in the animal liberation movement, suggested that perhaps humanity is, “A biological experiment with advanced primate intelligence gone horribly wrong, as if all of planet earth is an Island of Dr. Moreau set up by an evil God.”
While hopelessly anthropocentric apologists for humanity’s ongoing rape of the Earth and its inhabitants will probably dismiss Best’s observation as the ravings of a misanthropic animal fanatic, critical thinking people of conscience and humility will consider the possibility that Best may be right.
Certainly there is no dearth of evidence supporting the fact that the human evolutionary path has veered into a deadly and destructive cul-de-sac. Homo rapiens have succeeded Homo sapiens in humanity’s evolutionary development. How long can we sustain, or better yet, how long will the Earth allow us to sustain a “civilization” that is premised on violence, greed, over-consumption, endless growth, “success” and pleasure attained at the expense of the suffering of other sentient beings, narcissism, ego fulfillment, and a host of other nauseating grotesqueries? It doesn’t take much contemplation of the human race to leave one yearning for the companionship of Moreau’s Beast Folk.
Not unlike the Zionists in Palestine, the broader human race clings to an aggressive, violent and defensive way of interfacing with the world as a perverse reaction to having been vulnerable and victimized. We have maximized our frontal lobes, opposable thumbs, and capacities to engage in complex social behaviors in such a way that we are now uber-predators, so firmly astride the top of the food chain even were all non-human animals to somehow join forces and assail us, they’d be overwhelmingly defeated. Early hominids probably perceived their numerous predators as monsters. In collectively equipping ourselves to fight those ‘monsters,’ we have ignored Nietzsche’s cautionary aphorism and become more than monsters; we have morphed into world-destroying abominations.
Western Civilization (read Eurocentric, patriarchal, capitalist, speciesist, imperialist, and Christian), the most powerful perpetrator in the brutal and merciless assault on non-human animals and the Earth, codified its sociopathic license to rape by inventing an anthropomorphic deity that gave it the “divine right” to dominate and exploit. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on earth,” proclaimed the Christian deity in an ancient tome written by a collection of largely unknown authors. And since many still hold the Bible to be sacrosanct, dominionism remains deeply embedded in our collective psyche.
As the sun set on monarchial rule and the Enlightenment unfolded, we humans entered what appeared to be a golden age of “liberal democracy,” reason, and free markets. Yet ironically, this transition marked the advent of the darkest and most psychopathic phase of Homo rapien existence. Kings were replaced by soulless corporations; Descartes’ mechanistic worldview assured us that non-human animals don’t consciously suffer, thus enabling guilt-free industrialization of their torture and murder; and capitalism spawned runaway growth, unbridled avarice, and a deep obsession with property and profits. Buttressed by new and powerful theoretical underpinnings, we began our relentless attack on the Earth and its inhabitants in a futile effort to slake our seemingly insatiable thirst for control, prosperity and security.
Catalyzed and sustained by the deep-seated terror of an animal sans fang or claw and by our most despicable attributes, such as gluttony, belligerence, self-centeredness, and mean-spiritedness (each of which has been validated in some way by the fundamental theologies and philosophies of our society), we have unleashed an apocalyptic Hell upon the rest of the world. Overpopulation, deforestation, Climate Change, nuclear waste, potential nuclear destruction, the Sixth Extinction, rampant pollution, potable water shortages, factory farming, and endless resource wars are the bitter harvest the world is reaping from the noxious seeds we’ve sown.
While Senator James Inhofe, George Bush 41, and myriad other ardent supporters of Western Civilization, the American Way of Life, corporatism, imperialism, patriarchy, speciesism, and a host of other malevolent social, cultural, political and economic dynamics which comprise the anthropocentric mechanisms by which we dominate and exploit the planet, may have deluded themselves into believing that the rape, pillage and plunder by which we exist is morally palatable (or perhaps they simply don’t care), there are plenty of people who are deeply concerned. These individuals want to find a way to develop that “natural equilibrium” to which Agent Smith referred by breaking down the physical and psychological barriers we’ve erected, rejoining nature, and ceasing to exist as alienated, belligerent, and vampiric entities.
Hence the questions become, are we human animals a lost cause and does Mother Earth need to eradicate us to enable life to perpetuate on this planet?
A widely accepted notion is that peaceful, gentle Homo sapiens began their metamorphosis to barbaric Homo rapiens about 10,000 years ago when hunter-gatherers became sedentary agrarians—working the land meant that ruthless men rose to power by hoarding surpluses, territorial wars were waged, and women and animals were subjugated. However, it is much more likely that our ancestors were brutal war-mongers as far back as 45,000 years ago. Evidence indicates that when early Homo sapiens migrated from Africa into Europe , they waged a 15,000 year genocide that eventually drove the Neanderthals to extinction. Even the Bible, which many Homo rapien apologists utilize as a validation for our savage domination of the planet, provides numerous examples of our cruel propensities. Poignant example number one is Cain murdering Abel.
We know how bad we can be. Now how good can we become?
Our moral evolution is not necessarily limited by our genetic make-up. It has become obvious that the common characterization of nature versus nurture is a false dichotomy. Genetics and learning dialectically shape who we become and how we interact with the world, both individually and collectively. So the lines between humanity’s innate tendencies and those qualities we acquire through parenting, education, and experience are often blurred and indiscernible.
Humanity, past and present, is filled with examples of compassionate, courageous, and decent human beings, clearly indicating that Homo sapiens remain extant, that savagery is not programmed into our DNA and that developing a more “natural equilibrium” with our surrounding environment is within the realm of possibility.
However, those who wish to shape social and human evolution in such a way that Homo rapiens become endangered, and eventually make their way to the species’ graveyard of extinction, need to realize that they are not attending a tea party. This is a war–philosophically, psychologically and physically. If humanity is going to “become good,” those who want to make it happen need to enter the fray.
It is no easy task to simultaneously function within a planet murdering system and to struggle against it. While the opposition is indistinct, difficult to identify, and ever-shifting, Homo sapiens resisting the evolutionary inertia toward sociopathy encounter enemies frequently throughout their day to day existence. Approximately four out of 100 humans are born with no conscience or capacity to empathize. Those individuals, like Cheney, Olmert, Petraeus, Kissinger, Palin, and Condi Rice, are readily identifiable foes. Those who comprise the rest of the Homo rapien population are not as easy to discern. Many are covert in their allegiance to savagery. Some people are akin to the fabled missing link, as they comprise characteristics of both species. At times they are allies, but they can also align with the opposition. Complicating matters still further is the fact that it is possible for an individual to evolve from one species to another. So one day they could be friend and the next foe–or vice versa.
When one considers that the stakes are incalculably high, that Homo rapiens will fight to the death to maintain their hegemony, and that the institutionalized violence perpetrated by the status quo is intense and ubiquitous, those who challenge their dominionism must employ the most holistic, pluralistic, and militant tactics possible, including (but not limited to) education, outreach to minority groups, grass roots social service programs, boycotts, strikes, picketing, letters, petitions, networking, legislative efforts, veganism, monkey wrenching, and direct action.
So, how good can we human animals become? That depends on how hard we are willing to fight and how much we are willing to sacrifice……
Jason Miller is a relentless anti-capitalist, straight edge vegan, and animal liberationist. He is also the founder and editor of Thomas Paine’s Corner, blog director for The Transformative Studies Institute and associate editor for the Journal for Critical Animal Studies.