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"I Am Not an Animal" – the signature cry of our species

It's surely the most important question in the world today: Why are we humans driving the Earth into a Sixth Great Extinction – an extinction event that will likely include our own species?

Why, despite the fact that there are more animal protection groups and more environmental organizations than ever before, is the situation for our fellow animals and the whole world of nature getting worse by the day?

And why do we humans, a supposedly highly intelligent species, continue hurtling down this catastrophic track?

This is the first in an occasional series of videos and other posts that set out to address these critical questions.

In this video, we look at our need, as humans, to pretend to ourselves that we're not animals and to distance ourselves from the other animals and the world of nature.

Being an animal means being mortal, and we humans are blessed and cursed with a level of self-awareness that enables us to reflect on our past and our future. But when we look ahead and imagine our future, we see the one inevitable, unstoppable event toward which we're progressing: our death.

So we spend our lives in a state of anxiety – conscious or unconscious – trying to avoid and deny this terrifying fact. And we do this mostly by rejecting our own animal nature.

The effects of this on how we treat our fellow animals, and on how we treat each other, are devastating.

This denial of death is at the heart of the human condition, and psychologists who study it have not been able to come up with a way through.

So, is there a way out of this predicament? And how would it apply to each of us?

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11 comments
greenmatters
greenmatters

Lovely piece. Any one of us as individuals can practice empathy and care as suggested.  Many of us already do so to the extent at least that it fits into our neat little lives so dependent on fossil fuels, factory farming and imported goods hewn from massive deforestation and destruction of flora and fauna. Naive to think we really are doing anything more than soothing ourselves and hopefully a small number of fellow animals we may be acquainted with.


But given that most humans are totally unexposed to even such a philosophy of life, is all we can do sit back, care for the beings within our own reach and let mankind collectively spiral into a horrible ending for all animals (ourselves included).


Yes, it is hubris to think we can change things, but isn't it in human nature to at least try?

AndrewRandrianasulu
AndrewRandrianasulu

Guess  one  of  reasons  behind  this  cry  also  understanding  of  what,  exactly,  humans do  to  animals. We  fear  to  be in  the  same  cage,  same  situation  as  we  put others  in.

KathleenL
KathleenL

Great piece on one of our core assumptions. The idea that we humans aren't animals is everywhere, as I noticed again recently, when asked the dif. between a necropsy and autopsy. According to a go-to source for health stuff:

"The main difference between a necropsy and an autopsy is that a necropsy is performed on animals and an autopsy is performed on humans."- See more at: http://www.healthguideinfo.com/infectious-disease/p50353/#sthash.OoCCWPAo.dpuf


elizabethdf
elizabethdf

Such a deeply intelligent presentation.All I would add is that for some of us, it may be important to note that while religion can mean a separation between people and other animals – it doesn’t have to.There have been religions throughout history which have held that other animals – and even rocks and stones – have spirits.

Mary Finelli
Mary Finelli

"Telling ourselves that 'I am not an animal' is something we all do – even those of us in the animal protection movement who care deeply about what's happening to our fellow animals." I, for one, do not tell myself that, and it really irks me to hear others refer to people they dislike as being "animals." Instead, I like to consider myself a loyal subject of the animal kingdom, and I try to live up to that.

michaelmountain
michaelmountain moderator

@elizabethdf It certainly doesn't have to. For many of us, identifying with our fellow animals, working to protect, and living in a way that doesn't harm them is our religion - what we believe in and what ties us together.  

treetalker
treetalker

@elizabethdf Absolutely. I know that many indigenous cultures hold these beliefs, and many of us who were raised in the "Big Three" have gravitated in those directions. Wish there were a whole lot more.

pomegranateraspberrysoda
pomegranateraspberrysoda

I agree, its the animals that are behaving better than the humans! And yet we insult them.

Joyce Pollack
Joyce Pollack

@michaelmountain @elizabethdf I agree that we can live lives that do as little harm as possible to other species, but at the level we have reached, it would be pure hypocrisy to pretend that our very existence isn't based on the wholesale slaughter of other species.  Apart from the horrors of animal agriculture, so much of our "developed" world has come to be as a result of enormous habitat destruction.  Even at the simplest level of human social organization, our species has been extremely destructive of others. I am a strong believer in animal rights, but the foundation of human society has been based on the destruction of so many other beings. 


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  1. […] how this happens, see the post "I Am Not an Animal", about how we humans have a level of self-consciousness that burdens us with the inescapable […]

  2. […] reasons we've discussed before, we humans like to see ourselves as being exceptional, superior and "spiritual". We have […]

  3. […] “I Am Not an Animal” – the signature cry of our species | Earth in Transition. […]