Nobody wants to be literally blind. It must be so sad not to be able to see the world around you, to see colours, to see light, to witness sunrise or sunset, the blossoming of a beautiful flower or the starry, night sky. It must be so sad not to feel the warmth of a garish yellow, the deepness of an ocean blue, the liveliness of all shades of green, the passion of a bright red or the effulgence of golden or silver. However, I believe most people in this world are blind. It is not a blindness of the eyes, but a blindness of the mind, of the heart and of the soul. None so deaf as those who will not hear, none so blind as those who will not see. And as John Lennon put it, “Living is easy with eyes closed”.
Our lives are filled with moments when we pretend not to see. We pretend not to see that the chocolate we so love to eat is produced by children and women who work as slaves and have never even tasted it. We pretend not to see that the make-up we use is the cause of torture for millions of animals. We pretend not to see that many of the clothes we wear are made by people who will not earn nearly enough to eat for what they do. We pretend not to see that the tasty steaks we eat are made after the slaughter of terrified, suffering cows and pigs and rabbits and birds. We pretend not to see that “delicious” foie-gras is made by sticking a pipe down a duck’s throat and force-feeding him. We pretend not to see that those beautiful fur jackets are made by skinning foxes and minks alive. We pretend not to see that many of the tablets we take are made by also torturing millions of animals. We pretend not to see that building stadiums for our football world championships dislodge hundreds of people.
We are blind to the fact that our richness comes from others’ misery, that our happiness comes from others’ pain, that our freedom comes from others’ prisons. We claim to be all equal, equally deserving of freedom, happiness and the same basic rights. But we pretend not to see that these words are written on paper and not on our everyday world.
Life is easy with eyes closed, indeed. Perhaps, if we opened them, we would see what a violent, delusional system we are entrapped in. Human contentment, I believe, comes from a wilful ignorance, from a voluntary blindness. We are conformists because it is easier to conform and to rejoice in what we think we have than to fight for those who do not have it; including ourselves. Essentially, if we were to open our eyes to the real gears and wheels of our human world and to understand how it truly works, we would probably be horrified and not know what to do. Because what can you do when there is so much to fix? Where do you start? How do you take your stand?
So it becomes easier and more comfortable to pretend that everything is all right. We build a vacuum around ourselves and our closest loved ones, forming a bubble that sets us apart from all that we know is wrong but do not wish to move against. Sometimes, we tell ourselves that there is some sort of cosmic justice that will “make the bad men pay”. But who are the bad men, really? When the United States of America were simmering with the awakening of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. said that, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamour of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people”. It was also he who said, “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity”. If we witness a crime but do not do anything against it, are we not considered accomplices?
We are all accomplices to the crimes that are being committed on a daily basis in the same grounds we walk on. It doesn’t matter whether they are happening a mile or a million miles away from our homes. But this is a speech that I have engaged in before. My point with this train of thought is to arrive to this: being consciously blind is powerful. Blindness is powerful for it allows you to keep living in a dangerous, precarious illusion. Nevertheless, for how long will the illusion resist? For how long will we let it resist?
I would like to give you a clear example of the atrocities happening all around the world just as I write and you read. During WWII, the Holocaust* shattered the hearts and souls of people across the planet as they realised what human cruelty is capable of. Never again are the two words that flew through borders and continents, as Humanity joined together in the obviously fake promise of never allowing any such massacre to repeat itself. But while many people would argue that killings such as these occur every day in Third World countries, I will now take a different path and speak of another one. A greater one. This Holocaust is unlike any other on Planet Earth. It is one that seizes victims from every country in the world, tortures them relentlessly and kills them mercilessly. Slaughterhouses.
I am not going to discuss the imperativeness of all of us becoming vegetarians. (In fact, there are many reasons as to why people might want to become vegetarians, such as: eating meat has already proven to bring serious health problems to people; cattle breeding is the number one cause for the Global Warming; vegetarianism prevents you from participating in the torture and slaying of dozens of animals… But this is not the point I want to make now). I am more concerned about the way animals are treated when they are headed for the mass factories that transform them from breathing, living creatures into chopped pieces of meat wrapped in plastic. There is no argument that people can throw at me in order to defend their meat-eating habits that can justify the treatment of animals in slaughterhouses.
But how do we allow millions of these beautiful creatures to be inhumanly and cruelly slain every day? I’m sorry, did I say inhumanly? I meant humanely. Quite humanely, by the way, because it is humans who do this, is it not? Why do we keep “dehumanizing” our cruel actions, pretending that they are not characteristic of natural human behaviour? If we were to watch a small video of cows or sheep or goats being taken to abattoirs and killed every morning, we would probably soon start defending animal rights. There is so much horror, so much torture, that we must remind ourselves: Animals are not humans. Animals are not humans. They do not think, they do not feel. They do not think, they do not feel. This does make us feel better, doesn’t it? It devalues their suffering. If they cannot feel the way we do, then they can not suffer the way we would.
Oh, but they do… And here my thoughts cross paths with the thickness of our blindness. How can we still question that animals think and feel?! We live in the 21st Century. There have never been greater scientific and technological advances to prove to us that they do. Then why do we still deny it?
It is, of course, out of this voluntary ignorance that helps us live through another day. It is through this blindness that keeps us comfortably seated in our sofas, eating dinner with the ecstasy of the sweet taste of rotten corpses in our palate. We are all blind. Even those who defend animal causes, humanitarian causes, environmental causes, lie to themselves about something on a daily basis. We call ourselves the Human Kind. Should we not call ourselves the Blind Kind?
* Holocaust, by definition: “any mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life”.