The animal as guardian of human passion

Man can imagine the suffering of others. That's why he cannot do to others what he would experience as a possibility of suffering himself. Since we do not know how animals experience pain, we have to assume that animals feel the same pain we would under identical circumstances. That is the bottom limit of my ethics. In that sense, nature is permanently pointing us toward our responsibilities. Still, you cannot escape violating these ethics, even if only to survive. Native Americans used to ask their prey animals for forgiveness. Western man has invented original sin for this. The expulsion from paradise was man's introduction to the knowledge of good and evil, that gave life its essence. In a determined world you cannot have free choice and so you cannot lead a human life. In fact, losing the paradisiacal condition was a positive event. God sent his son Jesus Christ to Earth to experience what it means to be human, what it means to have a body that can suffer. There is an interpretation of the crucifixion of Jesus, that says that at the moment of his death he felt betrayed by God and experienced the loneliness of physical suffering as absolute (J. Hillman: Verraad en Verlangen - Betrayal and Desire, 1984). That is why he called out: "My God, my God why have You forsaken me"? In Jesus, God experienced the suffering of humans and reconciled with humanity. And all the sins of humanity were forgiven. Through this, corporeality has acquired an autonomous position in western Christian thinking.
Corporeality holds millions of years of evolution, and it is a much more complicated process than the entire spiritual development of man. What do we really know about it? And what do we know about spiritual development? We know too little, and in order not to lose any chances of gaining knowledge, we must be careful in how we handle nature. Maybe God is corporeality! In the physical, we experience the real boundaries. Through our physical fears we uncover the most intimate truth. So our responsibility lies in the fact that we can imagine the suffering of another man or animal. Why we were given this ability, I don't know, but the fact is that we have it. I would like to tell something about my relationship with my dog Nouscha now. This "relationship" has shown me that her logic is different from mine. She only knows the logical connective "and". She unequivocally links one event to another. But they must be events that are important to her, and the link must be made in a few seconds. I on the other hand think that there is a law of cause and effect, which is a typically human product. In fact, there is no cause and effect in nature. Everything is as it is. My dog "knows" this better than I do, and that is often the cause of misunderstandings between us. She maintains the sober and consistent philosophy that you have to take things as they come. People usually don't do this, and that is the main cause of their suffering. That is why they invented religion, to make this suffering acceptable. People have an option to suffer. For people, suffering can become a Passion. Animals don't have such freedom. They cannot choose one option and not the other. We have chosen to "associate" with animals in a way that is beneficial to us. Animals haven't chosen this association, and do not benefit from it in any way. That makes us responsible. We should take this responsibility seriously by gaining knowledge about the animals, trying to find out what their interests are and by looking after them as best we can. This means we have to put ourselves in the animal's position; animals cannot put themselves in our position. In that sense our relationship with animals will always be asymmetrical. We have to "give" and in principle animals don't have to give us back anything. Our problem is that humanity as a species has become so successful, that it's starting to work against us. Space on this planet has become limited, and nature is forced back more and more. It seems like a nice option to drive back animals into separate areas, but it won't work at all. In the same way, western man thought to confine native Americans and the aboriginal in reservations, where they could supposedly "preserve their own culture". But we don't know enough about their needs to do justice to every species of animal or plant life. We are not capable of repeating evolution in a short time. The only solution is for man to step back and to realize that his success will be his downfall. Another possibility is that nature is still strong enough to strike back. BSE, climate changes, aids etc. are clear examples that nature isn't just passively letting us violate her. But should we wait for that? Eventually it will turn out that the greatest Passion of all time is the awakening of man: man who finds out that he has paid a terrible price for his success.
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What is the Guardian Campaign? In the past, animals were recognized in legal terms as mere commodities or property, not as individual beings, and often their exploitation and abuse was ignored, rationalized and even justified. The Guardian Campaign was created in 1999 as an Americawide platform to reflect growing public to support for a redefined public standard of relating to animals. Ted van Loon also wrote about animals and their right to freedom: I have a problem with the way Animal Freedom uses the principle of freedom with animals: animals have no freedom of choice. They follow the laws of nature. Man can limit them in this, and make them live unnatural lives that may even be harmful to them. What it is basically about, is the restrictions man imposes on animals, and why they are unable to follow their nature. In that sense, animals only have rights and no duties. This is comparable to the position of children, who basically only have rights as well. As they grow up, they obtain more duties, but more freedom of choice as well! Freedom is also linked to being able to choose between two evils. The idea of freedom is attractive in this discussion because it guarantees equality between man and animal. This is a radicalization that makes the discussion more pure. There won't be many people who dare say that man and animal are equal. I would like to plead this case in the same sense that children are equal to adults, yet dissimilar. But adults have the duty to protect children and to raise them according to the possibilities and talents within the child. Adults have the duty to create an environment in which these talents and possibilities can blossom. I think that adult citizens have the same obligation towards animals. They must make sure that animals can live according to their natures within the necessary limitations that are inherent to the keeping of animals. I think this is possible, if at least we are willing to take an interest in the psychic and physical needs of animals. A lot of animal love turns out to be animal abuse, from pure ignorance. We have always been too arrogant to really take an interest in the needs, welfare and pain of animals. Our society's attitude towards animals speaks volumes about our attitude to weaker parties in general and I think that it has not improved very much over time in our so-called humanitarian culture.

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