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Monday, September 29, 2008

Living with fear...

Recently on the TVA's e-newsletter, another story appeared, this time from Australia, about cruelty inflicted on farm animals. Quite often when I see these stories, my thoughts drift back to a passage in Iris Chang's book, The Rape of Nanking. You might be wondering what is the connection between war time atrocities and factory-farm cruelties, but I see a direct correlation.

In the attached link (click on the title to ready full story), animal activists posed as workers in an Australian meat processing plant. An employee was observed "viciously beating pigs with a metal rod while shouting to one of the PETA spies: "I hate them. These (expletives) deserve to be hurt. Hurt, I say!"

Chang's book talks a lot about how Japanese soldiers were indoctrinated by their commanders into thinking that the Chinese were no worthier than "pigs". Attacking the citizens of Nanking, the Japanese soldiers, on their wild orgies of raping and killing, gave no more thought than one would when butchering farm animals. I wish I had the book at hand so that I could quote the passage, but if you are curious I would recommend this historical work (although of a ghastly nature, I could not put it down....Chang's story of Nanking will stay with you long after the last page is read).

Another recent story appeared about the U.S. military using live pigs in their training. I am assuming that pigs physiologically are similar to humans, hence make good 'live' target practice. The military also claimed that they were studying the damage to the animal for medical reasons.

I have often thought that to work on an assembly line in a meat processing plant, one, must of necessity, become quite numb (even if said person, entering the doors, possessed only a grain of sensibility). Also helpful if you want to kill without interference from a conscience, is a complete shift in thinking or attitude. The object becomes a 'thing' to be despised and reviled. In turn to rid yourself of the stomach-churning revulsion you must annihilate the object. Is this how it worked for a young, poor and probably hungry soldier in Japan back in the invasion of China, or continues to work in other parts of our world today?

In my view, it matters not whether we are talking pigs or people...the tendency of the strong to dominate the weak ('dominion over') is everywhere and very close at hand. The propaganda never changes - strip the enemy (be it a chicken or a person) of any identity, at the very least any similarities between you and them. You can then go out and do your job and sleep at night.

I wonder if this really works...could I be indoctrinated so readily given the right conditions?
Makes me afraid. Very afraid.

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6 comments:

Fresh from the Source said...

Yes, you could. That is what is call "conditioned existence" in Buddhism. This is the reason that we must be constantly vigilant and look deeply at what we are doing and why we are doing it. You may be interested in http://www.prisonexp.org/ and http://www.new-life.net/milgram.htm.

Compassionate Consumption said...

Dear Fresh,
Thanks for your comment. I visited the two sites you refer to and time disappeared (as it seems to do when you get into something on the computer). Both were compelling reads but I was really shocked and sickened by the prison experiment from Stanford back in 1971. How easy and quickly people 'turned' including the psychologist running the whole thing. I hope and pray that I can and will be vigilant enough to not cross that line ever.
Michele

nltnjnns said...

Hi Michele -

I check your blog from time to time, and enjoy your posts.

As the Buddha said, All beings want happiness and to be free from suffering. That includes animals.

Keep up you good efforts.

Regards,
Nalton

seriously amused photoblog said...

Hi Michele,

I totally agree that one of the reasons people feel justified in caging, testing on (actually, a form of torture), killing (to be blunt, it's premeditated murder) and eating animals is because they see them as less than human, whose feelings don't matter.

I'm sure some people would have difficulties acknowledging that anything other than a human being was worthy of being treated with loving kindness, and if you're from the "wrong" race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class or religion, then you, too, are more likely to be treated as less than.

Getting back to animals, even the vocabulary used is interesting. In North America people don't eat "pig" -- an animal that is supposed to be highly intelligent. They eat pork. People don't eat that beautiful cow in the field. They eat beef, and so on. To admit to what's involved with the taking of another sentient being's life and then the eating of the dead animal's flesh (also wearing pieces of the animal as leather or fur) would mean having to admit to something really ugly.

Hope this all makes sense because I'm quite tired today.

J

Compassionate Consumption said...

Hello J
Thanks for your comment; yes, it all made sense. I hope you are feeling now more rested!
Kind regards,
Michele

seriously amused photoblog said...

Hello Michele,

Thank you for your kind thoughts.

You made an interesting comment in your post:

"I wonder if this really works...could I be indoctrinated so readily given the right conditions?
Makes me afraid. Very afraid."

A pity more people don't think like you because indoctrination can happen so easily. I've seen it often enough with various jobs I've had. It becomes too easy to see "others" as being less than or as a means to an end and that kind of thinking can lead to unethical behaviour. Not only does it open the door to be nasty, but it wears down the person who resorts to dehumanizing others.

During the long weekend I saw a video from the library and it showed how a psychiatrist could easily become desensitized to his patients and the resulting domino effect. The film is call Man Facing Southeast. It's Argentinian and was done years before K-Pax.

Take care,

Judy