Was I sleeping when the world went mad?
There I was, biking to work one sunny morning, only starting to reach appropriate levels of lucidity to do so and bam! I have one of those experiences that you know will be an unforgotten memory that in some way may eventually (re)define you. It happened just outside the Salvation Army, the morning sun was shining, my bike chain was making that noise it makes when I’ve been neglecting it, and I was determined to get to work by 8:30 am so that I could leave by 4:30 pm. The road was clear, aside from me riding on it and one lonely pigeon seemingly pecking at the air with each step. The sound of a slow-moving SUV (my second least favourite vehicle) approached from behind. There was plenty of room for him to pass, aside from the fact that there was that pigeon in the middle of the road up ahead. Since the vehicle was moving slowly and the pigeon was far enough ahead, the only thing he could possibly do was let the pigeon pass by slowing down (swerving would have meant hitting me or going into the oncoming traffic lane which started to show signs of waking up). But the driver didn’t do that. He just ran right over the pigeon. SMACK! Just my luck that I was right beside the bird and vehicle, on my bike, when it happened. I reflexively let out a huge gasp. I have never seen a life so quickly taken away before. On one side of the wheel, the pigeon was happy, breathing, thinking, feeling. On the other side of the wheel was just a big mess of feathers and sticky stuff. Craft supplies maybe. Objects. Garbage. Road kill. I was traumatized. I couldn’t help but think that the driver noticed the pigeon, but did not consider stopping to save its life. Riding over it was maybe somewhat pleasurable or merely insignificant. That made me so angry! Of course, it is more likely he did not see the pigeon. I’m not sure then why he didn’t seem perturbed by it waiting at the red light up ahead after his vehicle crushed the life out of it. He had to have felt that little bump in the road. So for kicks, let’s say that what I suspected–that the driver purposefully ignored the pigeon in his path–was right. Well, I guess I really have no reason to get angry. In some way, I should congratulate the driver for his being somewhat less hypocritical than the average Joe, having consciously killed a bird on the street. He was probably going to have chicken for lunch that day anyway, right? In the same way, I could perhaps extend this congratulatory sentiment to any person who kills anything really. I guess the main difference is that killing for fun and killing for food aren’t exactly the same. No matter, I was angry anyway, despite having this philosophical debate in my head on my way to work. I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the bird.
There is some theory that links serial killers to cruelty to animals. Basically, torturing and abusing animals is a likely precursor to becoming a cold-blooded killer. Go figure. So is it so controversial to think that violence in our society may be directly linked to our callousness and maltreatment of other species? The reason we are able to abuse animals is because we focus on our differences — “They are different from us, that is why we can do this to them.” Similar reasoning could be used to reassure killing other people in war, the Holocaust, genocides. If we can convince ourselves that those we are killing are not really human (i.e., not like us, a different species), then it makes more sense to kill them. Fictional alien movies rarely invoke compassion or regret for killing alien intruders. Until we learn that killing others just because they are different is wrong, I don’t think peace will ever be possible. If only we could focus on how we are the same: how we all have emotions, feel pain, get scared, love others, maybe the senseless killing will stop.
More and more I feel like I fantasize about utopias, even though in public, I advocate a more realistic position. When I realize that these things that mean so much to me probably won’t change much for a really long time (definitely not in my lifetime), and probably will get worse before they get better, I get sad. But please, dear reader, do not be alarmed. My sadness is just as much a special, almost cherished part of me, as is my pensive nature in general. Nothing out of the ordinary here. I would always take the red pill. And then I would recite that quote that makes me remember why I still do what I do.
“The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.” – Abraham Lincoln