In this excerpt from Beyond Words by Carl Safina, ©2015, the author discusses the way humans interact with other species, with each other, and with the world:
Other animals cannot negotiate, but that’s not the deciding factor. People can negotiate. But only from strength. The oppressed, the enslaved and exploited–. Being able to speak up for yourself using complex language with syntax gets you only so far. Money talks, guns speak, and neither needs syntax to get their point across. We permit ourselves the excuse that animals can’t talk. Truth is, they can’t fight back. Weaker people, too, often find themselves overpowered, devalued, dehumanized. “The Oriental does not put the same high price on life as the Westerner,” said U.S. general William Westmoreland, who was running an industrial war in Vietnam. “Life is cheap in the Orient… life is not important.” That delusion let him do his job.
One of the things that “makes us human” is: the strong obliterate the weak. Humans do both magnificent and horrific things. In our treatment of other animals, of lands and waters, there is little malice aforethought because there is little forethought. But into the fabric of the future we are burning gaping holes, living as though we are smoking in bed.
I wish I could say he’s wrong.