Friday, September 19, 2008

Power

It seems a matter of plain fact that the suffering endured by a minority group coincides neatly with the amount of power we have over them.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that millions of pet owners (excuse me, companion animals) show that this behavior is not the norm. They all have complete power over their animals but do not engage in the nasty behavior in this video (in fact, quite the opposite).

Rick said...

There are many companion animals in loving homes who haven't been and won't ever be abused. But dogs and cats and other animals kept as pets are abused regularly.

The differences in how we treat each other, say dogs and pigs and humans, falls out pretty nicely along the scale of the moral and legal constraints on harming them. Our power over another is lessoned by laws and various cultural norms.

Get caught abusing a pig, and as Hormel said, the culprits might even lose their jobs. Get caught abusing a dog, and you could go to prison. Yet there's no penalty for keeping a dog on a chain throughout his or her life.

Gary said...

I think both sides have some points here. Certainly, companion animals are abused every day in a myriad of ways, but I have to say that in my experience, the average person with a dog treats the dog pretty well.

On a grander scale, such as the billions of animals we confine in factory farms and brutally kill, not to mention the slaves, Indians, and other humans whom those with power have oppressed, I think our overall record on treating the lesser-powerful has been dismal.

But it is not black and white. We generally treat our chilren well. Most people swerve to avoid hitting the squirrel crossing the road. Many people take care not to harm spiders; though they may use torturous glue traps for mice.

So I think the power differential is one factor among many that governs our behavior toward others.

Jeremy Beckham said...

I think the key issue here, as with so much in America, is conformity. It seems more normal to torture a mouse with a glue trap than it does to whip a dog, so we don't object to it. It even seems more acceptable and normal to brand and castrate a cow than it does to those these to dogs or cats. In neither case can a rational case be made for such seemingly schizophrenic behavior.

Conformity demands no logical consistency. All it takes for us to feel ethically justified doing horrible acts is if we can point to millions of others in our society engaging in the same practice. No principles required.

Gary said...

I agree that conformity plays a role in much of our behavior. But also, we're conditioned to seeing cats and dogs as companions, and we get to know them as such, and that may be the main reason we treat them better than, say, farmed animals. In that sense, there is a rational - though not ethically defensible - reason for the disparity.