15 September 2009
Once the ideas of rankism and dignitarianism take root in your mind, new shoots of thought begin to ramify, new instances and applications sprout.
For instance, animals, or the Earth itself: “Don’t treat the Earth like dirt,” exhorts a bumper sticker I’ve seen. Does not the lovely, living ecosystem of this planet deserve respect from its most predatory species—us?
Our rape of “resources” and our wanton decimation of other species abuses the dignity of other precious life-forms. Our inhumane maltreatment of animals, mammals especially, demeans our own humanity, undignifying us.
“But,” you say, “in a dog-eat-dog world, such tender sensibilities would only lead to our extinction. We must fight to survive. It’s eat or be eaten. Ask Darwin.”
It’s not always that stark, I reply, and our intelligence allows us to think more widely and wisely, if we so choose. We can observe how cooperation among populations and species often works more to the advantage of all than does domination and exploitation.
For the sake of cultivating kindness in ourselves (an essential virtue), we need to consider how our attitudes and actions can become more Earth friendly and more ecologically savvy, which includes developing empathy and reverence for all the valuable life-forms that Earth’s evolution has engendered.
How high on the food-chain can we eat with good health and in good conscience? With what reverence and respect do we honor what nourishes us? These, I think, are vital dignitarian questions to ponder as we reform the rankist practices now prevailing.