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A Brief Reflection on Animal Lovers and Fascists
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2011-08-27 05:23:16
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Recently, in a forum to which I belong, a controversy has been initiated on whether or not the orangutan is the equal to man, or better to rational homo sapiens, deserving of the same rights and protection from cruel treatment. This in turn gave rise to a conversation with my elder daughter who works for the Humane Society of Florida. I’d like to share some of the conclusions we reached on this controversial but fascinating topic.

We both find it quite intriguing that many of those who go around proclaiming the natural superiority of homo sapiens (as justified by his inherent rationality) to the orangutan, will just as easily apply the same reasoning to their own fellow humans and consider some humans superior and some inferior. That judgment is usually based on the vaunted superiority of one culture over another. For example, the Greeks are “naturally” superior to the “barbarians.” An English man, with imperialistic tendencies, will consider himself more “civilized” than anybody else, and therefore consider it his duty (some would call it his burden: the white man’s burden) to spread that civilization to the far corners of the earth making sure that “the sun never sets on the British empire.” An American may consider himself superior to an African because he went to the moon. Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh, both with fascistic tendencies, considers themselves superior to President Obama because he has no class and puts his shoes on the desk in the oval office thus ruining the furniture which belongs to the people. Silly, but true. This was even reported in the news; Fox news of course which of course has amnesia when it comes to remembering that Nixon, Ford and Bush, all put their shoes on the desk in the oval office belonging to the people. Their motto is “fair and balanced.” Indeed, it sounds more like the fairness and balance of Goebbels’ propaganda machine parading as the truth. 

Another  sterling example, is that of the anti-multucularist who declares that his culture is superior to that of any other and needs to be defended and maintained pure and uncontaminated, at all costs. In short it is a mind set found in fascists and the Nazis of all stripes and persuasions, those ready to first deny some of their cospecifics of basic health care and the safety net of basic social services, eventually to dispatch the so called “inferior races” to concentration camps and then proceed to their extermination when they are no longer useful.

It appears that if one cannot consider animals equally deserving of one’s compassion as one’s fellow humans, chances are that one will also consider some of their cospecifics as inferior or superior as the case may be. Only rational homo sapiens, the so called “rational animal” can think and behave this way. Animals surely kill each other and some are predators to each other, but they act that way instinctually and to survive; they have never been known to have calculated and planned the extermination of their own cospecifics or even non cospecifics by the millions. It takes a fascist or a nazi mind-set to do that.

We think that St. Francis of Assisi, the pious humanistic patron saint of animals, had it on target: animals have been entrusted by God to our care, not to our domination. Some theologians call it stewardship of creation, and the special relationship that man may have with God does not imply to them the natural inferiority of animals. Some cite lack of natural empathy or the fact that animals live outside the moral sphere for the conclusion that they are inferior to man. In other words animals do what they do by deterministic instincts and do not know that ought to be done in certain situations. That is obviously true, but it is exactly that inability to behave ethically that makes animals equal to us who have the ability and are charged with their care. If animals had the ability to be ethical but failed to exercise it, then indeed they would be morally inferior to man. But that is not the case.

 Indeed the fascist is truly inferior vis a vis his human nature since as a human he has the ability, and indeed the duty, (Kant called it “the categorical imperative”) to be moral and sympathetic toward his fellow humans but fails to exercise that ability. I am rather skeptical toward the notion that some of those fascists were great animal lovers. Perhaps they were, but only because they could dominate the animals they allegedly loved and could be sure at all times of their allegiance and their usefulness to their ego; it may well have been a mere substitution for normal moral human relationships as underpinned by freedom. As I said, ruminations that I and my daughter would like to share with the Ovi readership, for all their worth.      

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Chris A2011-08-31 20:06:47
I like the part where you make the jump from denial of health insurance to concentration camps. Entertaining, if not subtle.
Also, I think the word is 'conspecific'.
Finally, "[animals] have never been known to have calculated and planned the extermination of their own cospecifics or even non cospecifics by the millions. It takes a fascist or a nazi mind-set to do that." Mao Zedong and Stalin both have Hitler and Mussolini beat in number of people killed by, at least, a 2 to 1 margin. Fascism, as an ideological reason for murder, seems to be far outpaced by a Marxist ( Socialism, Communism, ect ) philosophy.

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