Earth Day Special
Race, Economics, & Kindness:
The Ideal World
The following essay is Chapter 11 of Savitri Devi’s manifesto of animal rights and deep ecology Impeachment of Man (Calcutta: Savitri Devi Mukherji, 1959), available for purchase here.
All that we have just written will seem rather unpractical to a great number of readers. And we ourselves cannot but admit that, for all but a very few people, exceptionally conscious of the sacred unity of all life (and also exceptionally prompted by nature to love animals and even trees as their own kith and kin) the teaching of universal love which we have tried to put forward is a little difficult to live up to, in the present conditions of society.
Ninety per cent of men (and women) are both lazy and cowardly, and out of sheer moral and intellectual apathy they behave just as circumstances suggest. They follow the apparently easiest way, that is to say, the common, long-trodden path. And the common, long-trodden path is suggested, if not determined, mainly by the race to which the overwhelming majority of the people belong in a given land, and . . . by economic factors.
This is obvious in the difference that one cannot but notice between the way animals (and trees) are treated in Germany, England, Scandinavia, and in all Northern Europe, where the whole population is practically of Nordic stock, and the manner in which they are handled in those countries of the same continent in which Aryan blood is less pure; nay, in which non-Aryan elements are prevalent. So obvious that one might boldly say, speaking of course, in general: “Where Nordic humanity ends, cruelty to animals (and callousness about living nature as a whole) begins.” This is also the reason why — or one of the reasons why — the masses of India are so indifferent to the suffering of living creatures, in spite of the beautiful life-centered religions (inherited from Aryan masters) which they profess: they are themselves non-Aryan by blood in a very high proportion.
But, along with race, standard of living has to be taken into consideration. Widespread misery — and, which is more, not temporary but permanent misery — breeds callousness. Few people even among the so-called greatest ones, have ever had enough pluck to stand all their lives, day after day, against the suggestions of economic pressure — to become poorer still, while poor already, generously, for the sake of a higher urge; to be openhearted and openhanded, noble in their treatment of creatures, while themselves hungry and despised. We knew such a person in India, a humble woman, living in wretched surroundings and crippled, who begged for her food, and yet who could not witness an animal’s distress without doing something to relieve it. She still picks up and feeds the poor unwanted kittens that other human beings have thrown into the street; she once adopted a puppy she had found, half dead, under a heap of rubbish; and at the time we knew her she managed to feed some twenty or twenty-five starving cats and several stray dogs of the locality. But such people as she are rare among the rarest. In general, one of the strongest factors of all at work against the growth of a society essentially kind to animals is human poverty. One cannot get away from that fact.
We have been compelled to recognize that the religion which people outwardly profess has far less influence upon their behaviour toward animals in everyday life than one would logically be inclined to think; for people are anything but logical. We have seen how cruelty to animals is indeed hardly less rampant in Hindu and Buddhist countries (which should know better) than in Italy, Spain or North Africa, where children are brought up in the atmosphere of strongly man-centered religions. We have just seen how one can account for this on racial grounds, But we could have, also, roughly divided the world into countries where the standard of living is generally high — the North and West of Europe; the Northern States of the United States of America — and countries where it is generally low; and we could have asserted, with fairly little chance of being mistaken, that in the first animals are, as a whole, less badly treated than in the second. (Curiously enough — thanks to certain moral qualities inherent in their people’s blood — the countries that have a definitely Aryan population are precisely the “highest standard” ones).
Not that no cruelties take place in the lands where the average standard of living is the very highest; appalling laboratory experiments on live creatures are performed in America (where only a few States have sanctioned the abolition of vivisection) just as elsewhere English people — some of them at least — occasionally go hunting, and encourage the horrors of the fur industry by wearing fur coats. But what can safely be said, it seems, is that deliberate cruelty to animals, and especially indifference to their sufferings —widespread callousness — are far less rampant, as a rule, in countries where the standard of human life is higher than in those where it is low. It is as though the worries and discomforts of poverty — and even the daily sight of slums and beggars, and of dirty, ill-fed street urchins — harden the heart of the common man to all suffering save, at the most, to that of his own species (when they do not close it altogether to all but his wretched personal problems). Poverty, we say, and the daily sight of poverty. It is a fact to be reckoned with, however shocking it might be to people who are strongly conscious of the value of all life, as we are ourselves.
The Indian (and European) slum dweller takes little notice of the thin, tired and thirsty horse, donkey or buffalo, dragging its cart through congested back streets under the threat of a hard stick. He takes little notice, too, of the famished dogs and cats, seeking a meager sustenance in the dustheaps; of the kitten, still alive, that somebody threw in the gutter or in the trash can three days before; of the young birds, in agony among the blood-stained remains of their crushed nest, which half a dozen human rascals, armed with stones, shouting and stamping with fiendish glee, have just brought down from the big tree near the water pump. He takes little notice of the cow, kid or pig, screaming in the yard at the back of a shop as it is being killed. Familiar sights and familiar sounds; everyday occurrences, perhaps bad in themselves, but far too common to stir his indignation. He has no leisure to give them a critical thought, were even his brains still alive enough to produce one. He has enough to do — he says — to think of his own misery; of the job he has just lost or is threatened to lose; of his sick children; of his own wretched body.
But the rich Indian, even educated — especially the one who has imbibed, along with his knowledge of English, a definitely man-centered outlook in spite of his traditional Hinduism — and the well-to-do European in countries where poverty prevails (Spain, Italy, the Balkans, etc.) show no more sympathy for animals, and no more indignation at the contact of those very same things or of similar ones. They react in just the same way as the slum dwellers. And if one points out to them the terrible misery of animals — the skeleton-like dogs and cats, wandering in search of food at their own doorstep — they simply answer: “There is enough human misery to think of, without us bothering about cats and dogs also. There are enough starving children whom one should feed first.”
Always that same sickening old distinction between man and animal; that barbaric partiality in favor of the two-legged mammal — the “reasonable” being, made “in God’s own likeness”; that spontaneous collective selfishness of the average man, flattered, encouraged, kindled to a pitch by the widespread man-centered religions and the social creeds born of their influence; exalted to the status of a sign of objective truth; justified by whole fabrics of resounding theological, moral and pseudo-scientific sophisms!
It may be — and it is, in our eyes — a hateful thing. But it is a thing one has to take into account, because of its hold upon the insignificant little man who forms the majority of mankind; because of its appeal to public consciousness, which is not a criterion of truth — far from it! — but a condition of success, a guarantee of power.
And, if we keep our eyes open, we cannot but acknowledge that, whether in the East or in the West, wherever the average standard of living is particularly low, that hateful but deep-rooted collective human selfishness is particularly strong — even among the rich and educated; sometimes especially among them — and the chances of a general life-centered policy, on the part of the ruling classes, particularly little. Which does not mean to say that the ruling classes will always treat the wretched majority with evangelical kindness. Generally, they will do no such thing . . . But they will continue deliberately brushing aside all questions of animal welfare with the easy excuse that “human beings should be served first.”
* * *
It is not only the average man (rich or poor, academically qualified or not) who allows his attitude towards animals to be influenced, if not entirely determined, by the general standard of human life in the country in which he has acquired his decisive experience. The instance of prophets and seers, and of founders of great religions, appears as a rule to confirm rather than to refute that relation, which we tried to point out, between human economics on one hand and people’s attitude to subhuman creatures on the other. It would seem that most originators of definitely man-centered creeds were born and bred in countries where the standard of human life was particularly low in their time — where human misery, dirt and disease were an everyday sight. While in general, wherever important religious or moral innovators have unmistakably stressed, as the basis of their teaching, the sacred unity and the value of all life — wherever their teaching can be said, at least, to imply that sense of unity and of value — the standard of human life, at the epoch and in the immediate surroundings of the seers, was relatively high.
It is a fact that the material background of Christ or of the Prophet Mohamed — the wretched streets of Palestinian villages, where lepers and beggars, ragged children and starving dogs were a common sight, or the stops along the caravan roads of Arabia, where a hardly less depressing atmosphere of savage poverty no doubt prevailed — was very different from that of the Buddha or of Mahavira, both Indian princes; very different, too, from that of the forest-dwelling sages of ancient India, free from the day-after-day contact with dirt and disease; or from that of Akhnaton, the richest monarch of his times, whose glittering luxury astounded even the King of Babylon.
One might believe that Prince Siddhartha — the future Buddha — was so utterly upset as he encountered the old man, the sick man and the corpse, precisely because, during all the first part of his life, he had been systematically kept out of contact with the darker realities that those summarize. One might believe, too, that his heart, entirely unaware of cruelty under any form whatsoever, was precisely on account of such ignorance as thoroughly moved to pity at the sight of the flock being led to the sacrifice as at that of human misery. And the love of all living nature, whose joy in life and health and sunshine he understood so well — whose praise of the Sun he unhesitatingly assimilates, in his hymns, to his own adoration of Him — was also, in Akhnaton, the love of a heart that daily personal contacts with brutality and wretchedness had not hardened.
While in a lad brought up in a carpenter’s shop, among the people — we would say today among the “masses” — of the Semitic near East, in the daily company and friendship of the peasants and artisans and fishermen of Galilea (honest but miserable folk, who might have had good qualities, but who knew nothing besides their bitter struggle for existence, and who had surely no more time for kindness to asses and to dogs than their descendants have at present); or in a man accustomed to the rough ways of nomadic warriors, shepherds and camel-drivers, one need not be surprised not to find a similar sensitiveness to all suffering, a similar love towards all living creatures; one need not point out too indignantly the absence of any signs of a life-centered outlook — even if the lad has grown into a miracle worker and a prophet (and a God, in the opinion of some), and the man into a teacher of millions, and a still greater prophet (in the opinion of others). One should, on the contrary, be almost grateful to Jesus of Nazareth for having compared himself, in a parable, to “the good shepherd” who leaves his whole flock to seek the lost lamb that he loves, although he does not appear to have abstained from lamb’s flesh at the Paschal Feast. And one should be grateful to the Prophet of Islam for the kindness to cats so clearly ascribed to him by popular tradition, although dogs are not regarded with the same favor by his followers.
But it may be that this correspondence between the standards of living of a country or a class, and the outlook of its greatest seers on animals and on life in general, striking as it appears in history, at first sight, is in reality but a coincidence. To all that we have just written one might object that a genuine seer — and “initiate” — cannot but include in his love all forms of life, even the humblest, whatever be his material surroundings; that much is “symbolical,” “allegorical,” in episodes of the Christian gospels such as the story of the barren fig tree, or that of the draught of fishes or of the Gadarene swine; that we know nothing of the “real” Christ or of the “real” Prophet of Arabia. And it may be so indeed. It is difficult to know such exalted beings, save through direct, mystical contact with them, in which case all that is allegorical in their teaching appears in its proper esoteric meaning, as clear as daylight. And rare are the lay folk, like us, who are granted the privilege of such a communion with more than one of the great seers in their lifetime. It may be that the “real Christ,” whom we do not know, loved the fishes and the swine and the trees in spite of references of which the true meaning escapes us, and the sheep also, in spite of his partaking of the Easter sacrifice. It may be, too, that the verses of the Koran in which meat eating is tolerated, are a concession to deep-rooted custom on the part of the legislator, rather than a mark of indifference to the suffering of animals on the part of the Prophet.
On the other hand, we ourselves would like to think — for the honor of our planet — that the Buddha and Mahavira, and the other Indian sages with a life-centered outlook, and the royal Prophet of the Sun, young forever, who sang the joy of life and adoration in all flesh, would have been no less universally loving had they been born and had they lived in the most wretched material conditions, instead of in their privileged status. We cannot, in fact, imagine any of the great expounders of life-centered teachings to have been less free from the burdensome influence of surrounding misery — or even of personal misery, had it been his destiny — than the one or two beggars, kind to all creatures, whom we met in a poverty-stricken land.
But one thing remains certain: the interpretation of a real teacher’s message depends — and depends a good deal — on the standard of living of the people among whom it is preached, whatever be the teacher’s original spirit. In particular it seems true to say that, however thoroughly life-centered a teaching might be, the interpretation of it is bound to be man-centered to the extent to which the people to whom it is addressed are in a materially miserable condition. One only has to look and see to what extent the great life-centered religions of India have degenerated in the hands of the increasingly miserable Indians of modern times. The very revivers of the most obviously impartial creeds of universal mercy — Buddhism and Jainism — seem to forget that they are not merely Christians; that man’s welfare should not be their sole aim. The Jains seem to have no concern whatsoever, outside man, but for cows. And ever so, in the propaganda articles they publish, their writers insist far too much on the “usefulness” of those animals, as though they were defending them mainly in the interest of mankind. The well-known Buddhist Society of Calcutta — the Mahaboddhi — during the dark days of the Bengal famine in 1943 started free distributions of milk for babies, as any Christian organization would have done. But it had no free food for the numberless starving animals also, in the spirit of the Buddhists of old. The Ramakrishna Mission, the Arya Samaj, and other societies, all aiming to compete with the foreign Christian missions for the respect and support of the Indian people, behave, for all practical purposes, exactly like the Christians: they have hospitals, dispensaries, schools and orphanages, but no animal-welfare centers at all; men seem to come first, in a country of widespread human misery, in the eyes of such averagely “good” people as those bodies are composed of — in the eyes of all people, in fact, save of a very few truly intelligent, unprejudiced and impartially loving ones.
* * *
This brings us to say, that, whatever be the creed people officially profess, their practical interest in the welfare of all beings is largely dependent — in the case of all average folk, at least — on the general standard of human life in the country where they have learned to feel and to think. Useless to add that the practical possibility of doing good to animals depends largely on the same. With the best of good will, an Indian slum-dweller or peasant, in the present state of affairs, cannot do for the starving dogs and cats of his locality what an equally kind well-to-do person could easily do. There are material limitations which even a true lover of animals experiences, when he is himself half-fed, sickly and overworked. The exceptional beggar woman whom we mentioned in the beginning of this chapter could not do what she does without the financial help of one or two more privileged people interested, like her, in animal welfare.
In other words, there is a very close relation between human welfare as a whole and the well-being of those animals at least which depend on man for their food; a very close relation, surely, between human welfare as a whole and kindness to pet animals — dogs, cats, horses, ponies, etc. We know it is often difficult enough to teach kindness towards all animals even to those people who happen to be full of solicitude for their pets. It seems still more difficult, not merely to induce people to give up eating flesh, but to bring them to realize their positive duties towards all creatures when they never experienced, in their homes, the fellowship of a tame animal — when they never knew the pleasure of making a cat purr, or of seeing a dog wag his tail at their approach.
Which means that the preaching of active kindness towards animals is likely to meet with little response in any part of the world wherever the general standard of human life is low. And even in those countries where it is high, one is likely to face the indifference, if not the opposition, of all such believers in man-centered creeds as hold the existence of human misery, anywhere in the world, to be a more than sufficient reason to postpone the starting of any animal welfare work on a national or international scale.
What, then, is to be done? Put off all serious talk about animal welfare till all human beings are “served first”? Wait till there is no more human misery anywhere, before promoting any broad scale effort to give a happy life to dogs and cats, donkeys and buffalos, now miserable? Or try to kill in many the spirit of the man-centered creeds, in spite of the remaining fact of human misery? The first of these two courses would be criminal, the second utopian — practically impossible. One surely should do one’s utmost to fight against the prejudices of the present-day world, product of a man-centered tradition, centuries old. But we believe that one has, at the same time, to contribute to the relief both of animal and of human misery, and especially to work in order to prepare the advent of a type of society in which it would be easy for men to live in loving harmony with animals, and even with plants.
* * *
The root of much human misery — and in particular of many wars — seems to lie in the steadily increasing number of human beings in the world. When a country which has already more inhabitants than it can comfortably accommodate, employ and feed, continues producing more and more babies, it is bound to claim “more living space” for itself in due course; in other words, it is bound to attack its less prolific or less well equipped neighbors, or to seek colonies overseas. Its only third alternative would be to see its millions starving and discontented; to accept a gradual lowering of its average standard of life. In all cases, human misery is the natural outcome of reckless overbreeding. It seems to be so now, at least, in the present state of the world.
The immediate step to take, therefore, all over the world, in order to raise the standard of human life everywhere and to avoid useless wars, would be, logically, to stop the indiscriminate production of babies — to cease bribing people to have young ones, in the countries of moderate birthrate, unless, of course, these be of exceptionally fine racial stock, to encourage them to have none, or extremely few, in countries already burdened by overpopulation, especially if these be also of inferior racial stock. Less people would mean “more living space” for all men. And racial selection would mean a more beautiful and nobler mankind.
But our humanitarian dreamers do not want that solution of the world’s economic problems. Fancy depriving human beings, members of the “superior” species, “reasonable” creatures, of the pleasure of having as many children as they like! What an awful thing to think of! Their solution is different. There is quite enough space for everybody, they say, provided everybody is allowed to use it. Don’t stop or discourage the production of babies, but increase and systemize the production — and also if necessary, the consumption — of wealth. Organize the distribution of the world’s goods so that every man, woman and child will live comfortably with a minimum number of hours of daily work. The earth can yield far more than man has yet compelled it to. There is more than sufficient space, and more than sufficient food. The only thing is to make the best of it: to increase the production in proportion to the increase of the population — indefinitely.
To keep on increasing production indefinitely — what does that mean, and where does it lead? In the present state of the world— with the unhealthy division of mankind into separate, unnatural states, each one protecting its own industry by putting high duties on foreign goods; each one bent on “keeping up the prices” of its own goods sold abroad — it means waste in one part of the globe and want in the other; it means bitter competition between countries struggling to lay hands on the same “markets.” It ends in war. But — such, at least, is the opinion of many of our humanitarian friends — in a “better” world, in which both capitalism and watertight commercial barriers, and also artificial frontiers, would be things of the past, it would be quite different. In that worldwide paradise governed by all workers in the interest of all, on socialistic lines, every particular increase in production, no matter where it be, would mean a corresponding improvement of the general standard of human life — not competition, not war. The population of the globe, of course, would continue to increase, perhaps not in the proportion it does now in India and China, but still quite steadily enough for a constant increase in the quantity of foodstuffs and of manufactured goods of all sorts (and thus, in the surface of cultivable lands and in the production of raw materials) to be necessary, if every man is to live in relative comfort.
This ideal system would not for years, and perhaps for centuries — for as long as population and production would keep pace with each other — mean waste on one side and want on the other, and commercial strife. But it would mean something, in our eyes, far worse. It would mean the intensified, and more and more systematic exploitation of living nature by man, on an ever-broadening scale. It would mean, with a flesh-eating population — and men would soon find in their very number an easy excuse to remain flesh eaters for want of mere vegetable food, specially in certain regions — an intensification of cattle breeding and an extension of slaughterhouses; an increase of the fur industry (men would be too numerous to all live in temperate climates, where they could go without wearing furs); a further cutting down of forests and clearing of jungles, in order to utilize every inch of land for the securing of man’s food, and man’s clothing, and man’s housing; also of man’s industries. The beautiful wild beasts, especially those that dare to be man-eating, would soon disappear. The last specimens of their vanquished species might at most adorn the “zoos” for man’s amusement. Man, having at last ceased to prey on his own kind, would prey on the whole of creation with unprecedented efficiency. He would make the world a safe place for his own species, never mind at the cost of what ruthless exploitation of the rest of the living, both animals and plants. Were those not all “made for him” by old Jehovah, the typical god of all man-centered creeds, whom our “free thinking” humanitarians worship, at heart, more thoroughly than even most Christians or Muslims? He would live and thrive. They would either die — if harmful or useless to him — or else live for the sole purpose of being utilized by him to the utmost; of having their flesh, their fur, their skin, their young ones year after year, their milk (or their sap, their wood, their bark, whatever they have) taken by him. There would be one king of the earth: mankind; one slave: subdued living nature. Most hateful prospects!
We know — they tell us, at least — that a time would come when an excess of comfort would bring the human population of the globe to a standstill and even to a gradual decrease. But before reaching that new equilibrium the world would have become, for long, past praying for. Men would perhaps at last decrease in number. But the beautiful animal species sacrificed one after the other to their convenience could not be brought to existence again. And the remaining enslaved ones would probably be too degraded to be able to live in renewed freedom. The forests alone, perhaps — in the tropics — would regain their former breadth and beauty once greedy mankind would be extinct — out of the way forever. But what an abominable trail of ugliness and of suffering, until then! A thousand times better the age-old international rivalries; war, and again war, each time on a grander scale; the atom bomb — or some other similar device of destruction — and the end of it: man, animal, plant and all; the world’s “master species” and its victims — once for all, within a few brief decades from today!
* * *
To raise the standard of human life all over the world by an increase of production and an entire reshuffling of the distribution of wealth, without bothering about reducing the number of men on earth to a minimum, would be doing little or no service to the cause of living creatures in general.
At most, once man as a whole would be completely free from the burden of human poverty, one might expect him to give a little extra care to pet animals; one might hope that, in the ideal world of our humanitarian friends, dogs and cats would be as well looked after in Spain and Italy, Greece and India, China and Mexico, as they are today in England. That would surely be something; but how little, compared with the intensified worldwide exploitation of animals for man’s food, clothing, “scientific” researches, and amusement; or with the merciless destruction of both forests or jungles and of the wild animals that live in them! How little, compared even with the amount of suffering indirectly inflicted on pet animals in the name of man’s convenience in a well-to-do society dominated by the principles of a strongly man-centered creed: the merciless castration of tomcats, the destruction of whole litters of unwanted kittens or puppies, the “putting to sleep” of sick, old, or simply no longer cherished pets!
Our dream is not to see all the world behave towards animals as most people already do in present-day England. We wish it would behave much better, and under the urge of an entirely different outlook on animals. Up till now, most of those who, out of spontaneous kindness, take good care of their pets, and even those who protest, sometimes vehemently, against cruelty to animals in general, do so while still clinging to the belief that animals are “made for man.” They cling to it without even questioning it, as to an inherited habit of thinking, and therefore consider the destruction of a litter of kittens and that of a newly-born baby, the shooting of an old horse and the shooting of an old man (equally unfit to work) in a different light. It is that very belief that should be uprooted all over the world, if a better world is ever to come into existence. The idea, or rather the feeling, that in the beauty of life, and not in the interest of man, lies the basis and the measure of all moral values, should replace, in the subconscious mind of all men, or at least of an overwhelming majority of men, that sense of mere human solidarity, hardly less barbaric than the most outdated forms of tribal or even personal selfishness. Then, and then alone, will man become the perfect culmination of the living world instead of its rival, its tyrant or its torturer; the truly superior species. Then and not before.
Possibly — probably — that cannot be as long as there is widespread human misery. That cannot be, either, if the problem of human misery is finally solved in a man-centered spirit. We repeat: it is better, far better that the world should rush to its doom as it is, rather than evolve into that horrid future society, efficiently organized for the well being of all mankind but of mankind alone, which appeals so much to some of our contemporaries!
* * *
Our ideal world, entirely free from all forms of exploitation of animals; our world, in which man would both feel himself morally compelled to help all living creatures and have every power to do so; in which the rights of vegetable life itself would be recognized and respected as far as possible; our world, we say, seems bound to remain a dream so long as the number of human beings is not brought to a minimum — a few score million only; perhaps a few hundreds of thousands on earth — and made to remain stationary, and so long as the noblest section of the Aryan race — Nordic humanity — not only is not the master of its own destiny, but has not the final word to say in all matters of legislation — even outside its own actual pale. Only then would it be easy, apparently, for man to increase his wealth and comfort to a degree yet unheard of, without becoming the rival or exploiter of the other living species. Only then could active, organized kindness to animals take, all over the world, the broad proportions that organized philanthropy has taken in the present-day centers of Christian tradition — provided the few men enjoy, along with their material well-being, a proper education.
* * *
The state which appears to us as the ideal preliminary background to the true fraternity of man and animal (and plant, to the extent it is possible) is not the return to that “simple life” and “healthy manual labor” so vehemently advocated in certain circles in our present society.
We have not witnessed enough kindness to animals among the manual workers living a relatively “simple” life to be convinced that such a return would be of any use to our cause. On the contrary, it is difficult for us to visualize a non-mechanized society without any form of exploitation of animals whatsoever, especially if it be a society in which animals were still the slave of man not long before. If there be no trucks, nor agricultural machines, nothing, then men would soon take to using horses and oxen once more to pull their carts and plough their fields — for their must be fields, and there must also be arrangements for carrying goods from one place to another. Men with absolutely no machines at all would soon learn to regard the horse and the ox, the ass, the camel and the buffalo just as they did before, as useful instruments “made to work for them.” And, with this obnoxious outlook, the whole trail of evils we wish to abolish would again come into being. It is better to nip it in the bud.
We believe that all hasty talk against man’s technical achievements in general, and particularly against the use of machines in daily life, is out of place in the mouth of anyone who earnestly aims at the liberation of animals (and even of plants, to the extent it is possible) from the yoke of mankind. The society we call “ideal” would be a very highly mechanized one, and electrified one, in which man himself would have to work only as little as possible; a society composed of a few myriads, at the most of a few hundreds of thousands of households with two, one, or no children — or rather, with twelve, in the case of pure blooded, healthy and beautiful fathers and mothers, splendid specimens of their race, and in all other cases, with none or at the most one — living far apart from one another save in a small number of attractive and comfortable industrial areas (automobile factories and aircraft plants; shipyards, mining, electrical plants, etc.); happy households, separated and united by vast expanses of forest, by jungles or steppes, or simply by areas of free waste land with motorable roads running through them; a small, harmoniously evolved society, scattered over the surface of this glorious earth like rare waterlilies of different colors over an endless marsh. It would also — naturally — be a hierarchized society run on racialist principles. Indeed if the number of men is not to increase indefinitely, very strict regulations are to keep down the numbers of the inferior races lest the Aryan — the ruling race — be forced to have larger and larger families, merely in order to survive. For without his survival, there could be no ideal world, in the sense we have defined it.
A dozen factories or so would be enough to supply the whole world with all the necessary things: foodstuffs, textiles, machinery — flour, vegetable preserves, jams and chocolates, linen and cotton cloth, electric bulbs and engine parts. Men who have no special call for any art of learning would have to work the machines for an hour or so a day, in turns. The rest of the time they would enjoy leisure. Those who have a marked inclination for any sort of handicraft or art, for music or for writing, or for any sort of serious and harmless research, would be encouraged to contribute, each one in his way, to the edification of the world. They would have more duties, but also enjoy greater freedom than the others: they would have higher wages for producing their handspun, handwoven cloths, their embroideries, their artistic brass work, carvings or jewelry; they would be given free transport to go and play, exhibit or speak in public from place to place; and granted the free printing of their writings, if these be really works of art with an eternal meaning.
The number of human beings on earth, after having been gradually reduced to a few tens of millions at most, would be maintained at that level as rigorously as possible. We suppose that such a result could hardly be attainable without a systematic training of the average man and woman in the art of avoiding conception while living as most creatures do, and without the free supply to them of the technical means of doing so. As for the more sensitive and more understanding people, their whole education would naturally lead them to prefer experiencing in their lifetime rare periods of perfect enjoyment — glorious fulfillment of all their being, in. harmony with itself and with the world; hours of apotheosis (a few, but supremely beautiful), after years of both physical and mental preparation — rather than having the regular, humdrum satisfactions of the majority, with the necessary adjuncts of trickery for fear of “complications.”
Moreover, as people would be few, education would become quite a different thing from what it is now. It would not consist merely of imparting “information” on various subjects to groups of fifty or more children of about the same age. It would be an individual training in the art of thinking and of living, given by every recognized master to a very few boys and girls, along with the necessary information about the history and geography of the world, the properties of matter and of numbers, lines and curves, etc. The development of an aesthetic outlook on life, and of the will to live up to it in all one does, would be the main aim of such an education. The very atmosphere of that world which we call “ideal,” the general mentality of its people thus educated, would be congenial to the existence of small, comfortable families; to the free individual development of men within the limits of the freedom of other men and of animals (and even plants, to the extent to which it is possible), and to active, organized kindness towards all living creatures.
* * *
In our ideal world, the extra wealth of man, instead of being used to bring up more and more future men in extravagant numbers, and to increase indefinitely the production of goods useful to man, would be employed both by private individuals and by governments to make the world a happier place for all the living: men and animals.
As we said in a previous chapter, it is gradually that one would have to get rid of the system of enslaving animals to man in man’s interest. One would have to prepare the coming of the day in which cows and sheep, goats and buffalos, horses, asses, camels, reindeer, etc., would once more live in their free wild state, only occasionally coming in contact with man as his friends, never as his servants. Homes for every kind of presently enslaved animals would have to be set up in the meantime, and maintained by public taxes (as homes for children and aged men are already, in present society) until the new generations of beasts, slowly reeducated, would again be fit to live on their own, as they did before the dawn of man’s domination. We know that, then, a number of them would fall a prey to carnivorous animals, especially in certain regions of the globe. That cannot be helped, so long as nature is such that some animal species cannot live without flesh. It is perhaps also — and that has to be considered from a practical point of view — the only lasting solution of the problem of the increase of animals. So long as one cannot teach birth control to wild beasts or in some way interfere with their rate of reproduction, it seems indeed to be the only solution. As for domestic animals living in the human settlements as man’s friends — dogs and cats, and occasionally bigger animals (now made to work, then completely free) such a pet horse or cow — one would have to force some amount of sex control upon them, as on the human species itself, if, in time, one is not to witness again the habit of drowning or abandoning newly-born kittens and puppies, or of castrating tomcats, horses and bulls. The best way would be, apparently, to have public institutions, maintained lavishly by government funds, to which people would be obliged by law to bring their unwanted puppies, kittens, or any other young animals, after the mothers have finished nursing them. There, the males and females would have to be kept apart from each other, unless it were possible to operate painlessly and without any injury the their well-being upon the females (not the males) so that they might know the joys of life without the risk of giving birth to more young ones than could be well fed and well looked after as long as they live.
Surely this would be a very imperfect arrangement. Anyone who has watched a mother cat lying with her kittens and purring as she gives them her milk understands what a pity it would be to deprive numbers of female animals of the pleasure of having young ones, or to allow it to them only once in their lifetime. But unless they are all gradually put back into their natural wild state, and left to fend for themselves among other animals of all sorts in the great forests of our “ideal” world, there is no other solution.
Another sad point is the food problem for carnivorous pet animals, such as cats. Dogs could, to a great extent, live on rice or bread mixed with milk. Cats, without any flesh or fish at all, do not thrive. The best would certainly be for them to be given rice and milk or bread and milk in the human homes and to catch rats and mice for themselves out of doors. But would they find enough rats and mice to live on? They do not now, in countries like India, where they are left to eat what they can, having more often than not no owners to look after them. And what about the cats that would grow up in the public homes, never to go beyond the limits of a certain enclosure — broad enough for them to have the impression of freedom, but still a fenced enclosure? They would have to be fed. The only solution, apparently, would be to give them not meat, but fish. The fishes, as all creatures, are no doubt glad to live. But what is to be done? As the flesh-eating men say, the law of the animal world is that one species preys on the other. One has no right to keep animals within a limited enclosure and to force unto them an uncongenial mode of living. Man alone should either rise above the law of the animal world, whenever he can without impairing his physical well being, or else cease claiming to be the “superior” species.
* * *
To the picture we have just tried to sketch — the picture of a society organized in a life-centered spirit, far better than the present-day one, but yet a long way from perfect — we would no doubt prefer that of a world in which all animals, including dogs and cats, could be allowed to breed freely, being in a position to find their own food, and in which they would come to man’s settlements as visitors and friends, without being dependent upon him for their sustenance. We would far prefer the impossible world in which the wolf and the lamb would walk together. But it is not in man’s power to change the nature and needs of the animals. All he can do — if he really be the superior species — is to organize the world, inasmuch as it depends on him, in such a way that all creatures — men, animals and plants — might enjoy happier lives to the extent the rival species allow them to live. All he can do is to abstain, for himself, personally, and as a species, from becoming the rival or the enemy of any animal. All he can do is to be kind to all, both individually and as a promoter of institutions maintained for the welfare of animals; to choose as members of the human governments, only such men as have a spontaneous life-centered outlook; such men as love all living beings without even any official religion telling them to do so. All he can do is to bring up his children in the spirit of a life-centered teaching; to believe himself in the one universal religion of Life and Sunshine, whatever be the recognized faith of his fathers, and to live up to it in earnest — in truth. But that is already sufficient to make him more than a clever animal. Nay, that is the only way by which he can become a truly superior living species, not merely cleverer than the others, but also nobler and more generous.
In the Popol-Vuh, the old sacred book of the Quiches of Central America, it is said that the animals were, from the start, condemned to be killed and eaten because they were devoid of articulate speech and could not therefore praise the Gods.
In the beautiful hymns of Akhnaton to the Sun — millenniums older, but far more modern in inspiration than the indigenous American Scripture —quadrupeds, birds, insects and fishes, and even plants, all living creatures are said to worship and praise, every one in its way, and to the utmost capacity of its species, the One and self-same creative Energy, Essence of the Sun, “Lord and Origin of Life, Father and Mother of all beings.”
Mankind has been evolving between those two conceptions of the world and the two different scales of values that correspond, each one, to each of them: the man-centered; the life-centered. If one judges them by their actions in everyday life, one must admit that most men — even today, even in the countries that officially profess life-centered religions — are still on the moral level of the tribes who produced the Popol-Vuh; not an inch higher. They will pride themselves on articulate speech — on “intellect” — as the special prerogative of man, and try to justify the horrors of all forms of exploitation of animals on the grounds of that human “superiority.”
We believe man is not yet, as a whole, a really superior species, but just a creature applying its greater intellect to the same selfish ends as any animal would: to its personal interest and, at the most, to the interest of its own kind. And we are convinced that it is not intellect alone that can ever bear witness to any true superiority in him. What can, and what does — be it up till now, only in a few individuals — proclaim real human greatness, is sympathy for all that lives; it is not the mere intellectual admission, but the feeling of the unity of all life; the love of all sentient creatures as man’s brothers of various shapes; the feeling that one is guilty if one does not help them to live in health and joy, as one would like to see one’s own children live. What can alone reveal in man a superior creature is his capacity to rise from the man-centered point of view of the Popol-Vuh (and of other Scriptures, more famous, but in fact no better than it) to the joyous wisdom expressed in song — and in life — by Him-Who-lived-in-Truth; his capacity to see, in every beast or bird, a living hymn to the Sun, and to love it because it is beautiful.
We are conscious of the practical difficulties one would meet in organizing even a far more limited human society than the present-day one on such lines and in such a spirit as this. But we believe that it is better to try to overcome those difficulties, if necessary to face a bitter struggle for the welfare of all creatures and for the cleansing of humanity from an age-long shame, rather than to remain indifferent to all the cruelties involved in the exploitation of animals. We believe one should at least do one’s best to make men conscious of the amount of barbarity tolerated by most organized religions in their present state, and to stir in them the shame of it. One should do one’s best to tell the modern world, craving for a lasting peace based on international justice and for the end of the exploitation of man by man, under any form, that man, as a whole, deserves no such justice and no such peace and no sympathy whatsoever, as long as he tolerates the existence of slaughterhouses, of the fur industry with all the atrocities it implies, of scientific experimentation upon living creatures for whatever purpose it be; as long as hunting parties, bull fights, circuses and exhibitions of caged animals are not yet an abomination to him; as long, too, as he can witness the life-long hard labor of the beast of burden without a collective outcry of protest.
That is what we have done, in this book as all through our life.
1. The woman happens to be a Muslim. Her name is Zobeida Khatun. She used to live at 97B, Taltala Lane, Calcutta, at the time we knew her.
2. One should also notice that, as such — members of the Kshatriya caste — these Founders of life-centered religions were Aryans; and that King Akhnaton was half Aryan. (See our book The Lightning and the Sun [Calcutta: Savitri Devi Mukherji, 1958], Part III).
3. “In thy land, gold is as common as dust …” (Letter of Burraburiash II, King of Babylon, to Akhnaton: Tell-el-Amarna Letters).
4. Otherwise there would hardly be any protection for creatures, among men of an inferior stock.
5. Popol-Vuh, French translation of Brasseur de Bourbourg (Paris, Arthur Bertrand, 1851), pp. 15–17.
6. Ankh-em-Maat — one of the titles of King Akhnaton of Egypt.
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