By Safe Haven Volunteer Deborah Schwartz
My mom made the best spaghetti sauce; no other spaghetti sauce even came close to hers. Imagine my surprise when I learned that other people thought their own mom’s spaghetti sauce was the best! It forced me to broaden my perspective a bit and realize that everyone had their own opinion on what was the best.
As I gained more experience, I noticed that humans have a tendency to think their stuff is the best and other stuff is less-than-best: spaghetti sauce, clothing choices, sports teams, cities, states, countries, gender, sexual preference, skin color, people, species, etc. The problem with thinking our stuff is the best is that, by definition, other stuff has to be less-than-best, or even inferior. When we can categorize other stuff as inferior, then we can mentally justify all kinds of behavior as acceptable towards “the inferior” because, of course, ours is the best.
On the other hand, when I learned to open my tastes, mind, and heart to other stuff, I realized the value of diversity. There is no ONE best spaghetti sauce and other spaghetti sauces, while different, kept me enjoying spaghetti to this day. Some days, I crave a hot and spicy sauce; some days, what satisfies is a smooth and mild sauce.
So, what do we tend to do when we think there is one best [pick your favorite stuff: clothing, gender, sexual preference, tribe, nationality]? Well, since everything else is inferior, we can justify all kinds of horrible behaviors towards others that seems, in the words of Melanie Joy, “normal, natural, and necessary.” Think about all the great social justice movements – they were all about changing the thinking toward other humans who were thought of as inferior at the time: abolitionism, civil rights, feminism, homophobia, etc. Why does anyone ever think that someone who is different from us automatically becomes inferior? And, if we can categorize some group as inferior, we can do whatever we want to them, because, well, we are the best and they are less-than-best.
Why do we think it is acceptable to sit down to a meal of dead animals and animal secretions (such as cheese and eggs)? Well, if we think about this at all, we think animals are “other” and we are the best. It is normal, natural and necessary to consume them. But, don’t animals value their own lives as much as we value ours? We don’t need to consume animals to survive (in fact, science shows us that animal protein is the number one promoter of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and autoimmune diseases).
How can we possible believe this absurdity that there is one “best” species and we are it? It is equivalent to my absurd, childhood belief that my mom’s spaghetti sauce was the best. How absurd our belief that other species exist to be slaughtered so we can eat their flesh and secretions! Where is our compassion to other sentient beings? Has our ability to categorize cows, pigs and chickens as “other” allowed us to give not a thought to their suffering and slaughter? As Voltaire said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” What is the atrocity on your plate?