Do We Care More For Animals Than Humans?

A recent article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune pointed out the grand lack of shelter for the growing number of men, women, and children that are becoming homeless due to the downturn in the economy and the consequences of the mortgage scams that have plagued our nation. In our town, there has been much discussion about the homeless situation, and one of my friends pointed out how willing people often are to donate to an animal shelter, but often either turn a blind eye to the plight of homeless humans are are downright loathe to help the less fortunate.
Why is it that people are so eager to help our four-legged friends, yet so unwilling to offer the same care to those of the same species? Why do we hold the people who have been victimized by our commodity-based culture in such disdain?
Perhaps it is because in this culture, we laud the merits of hard work so much that when we see someone unemployed, we attribute their lack of participation as some sort of character defect. Because each of us is pushed so hard to work so many hours and make so much money in order to be able to afford the lifestyle of materialism that is paraded before, we often take it as a personal affront to see people who are not jumping through the same hoops as us. Perhaps deep down, we are so jaded by having to do so much just to get by, that we resent those that aren’t as integrated into the system that we are forced to serve.
Perhaps the less fortunate represent to us an image of our possible future selves, and we fear that by acknowledging their plight, we may be unwittingly drawn into it ourselves. The majority of the people in this society are but a dropped paycheck away from becoming as destitute as those we now shun, and though it would make more logical sense to help them in good hope that karma will find its way back around and help us in whatever future perils we might face, we often turn away, refusing to regard them with the respect that any human being deserves, instead treating them as if they are below us, clinging blindly to our precarious position on the socio-economic ladder.
Perhaps we’ve just grown accustomed to them as poverty has been propagated throughout our civilization. The New Testament even quotes Jesus as saying that the poor would always be with us, thereby hammering into the minds of those brought up in the Judeo-Christian tradition that there is no cure for poverty, but that it will be a constant in our lives until the day we die. Of course, this tradition also singles out humankind as a special breed of creation, the first and only to have their nature born into sin.
Perhaps it is not merely the poor that we despise, but humanity itself. For so long, it has been taught that man’s natural state is rebellious, irreverent, and sinful, that we have come to deplore our entire species, as evidenced by the way that we treat each other, and even our own selves. When we see someone mired in a deplorable situation, the memory of our religiously tainted view of humanity triggers the explanation that all who suffer are getting what they deserve.
Because we have grown up in this uncivil civilization, we regard it as the way of life and find fault in those who cannot maintain adherence to the fabricated reality our culture has created around us. Is it possible for us to open our eyes to the reality that it is our culture, our faulty human developments of science and religion, that have created this plight? Must we continue to seek blame in individuals instead of finding the courage to question the system which increasingly doles out greater and greater helpings of suffering and strife while claiming to offer ease and luxury?
Perhaps one day we will realize that human beings and the relationships that are cultivated between them are more valuable than the things they create. Perhaps one day, each of us will wake up to realize what an incredible miracle each of us is. Perhaps one day, we will find the wisdom to love ourselves and expand that love outward to encompass every member of our species.
Until then, let us care for the species which share our planet with us and hope that the act of caring for another will become so desirous due to the good feelings it creates that we will have no choice but to care for all living beings.

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