It always strikes me as odd that, otherwise educated people, can be so ignorant (or indifferent) about the plight of animals or human beings in misery. It is as if being educated makes you intolerant and ignorant instead of intelligent. But it is also true of non-educated people. It then brings the question of what is real intelligence.
First of all, intelligence has nothing to do with education or lack thereof. That is intellectual baggage. Real intelligence is from the heart, the kind that opens to others without prejudice, hate and bigotry. You can be the most educated person in the world but be the worst bigot, hateful person there is. You can also be a vegan and call other vegans « names » (as it happened to me recently because of one misunderstanding).
Intelligence is not about having an encyclopedic mind full of data (often useless, like what year such and such war started?) but is about opening up to new ideas, theories, and ask questions and more importantly not accepting blindly what is being taught to us.
Non-intelligent people think they know everything and often disguise it behind either diplomas, ego or false humility. The masses, often ignorant and blissfully (or not) manipulated by the media display non-intelligence and ignorance based on cultural dogma for which education, the medias and corporations have a great deal to do with.
As Thomas Jefferson once said: « He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. » And he also said: « Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty. » And he wasn’t referring to education through corporate media obviously. But Jefferson himself, of course, was a product of his time, as would his slaves had testified and he never claimed to be perfect or right in everything.
Life is a constant re-examination of our knowledge. It is not acquired by accumulating information mindlessly (as if watching reality shows and Fox News equaled intelligent information). Our intelligence develops when we open our hearts enough to embrace everyone, even the worst of the worst and do everything we can to help them, not to do evil things of course, but to improve and heal from their sickness.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: « To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. »
As society is trying to constantly mold us into robotic zombies, it is good to remember a few things:
We are not born with hate, bigotry, the desire for animal flesh or their secretions, sexism, racism and speciesism and even violent tendencies. That is injected into us over and over and over again by the propaganda machines that we and our parents and our grand-parents, and so on, have heard for thousands of years. Therefore we are far from wise, not because we don’t have wisdom in ourselves, but because it is deeply suppressed and repressed by ourselves and others.
The depth of humanity’s non-intelligence as well as intelligence is highly visible nowadays. Just spend a day on Facebook and you will see it all: from loving, caring people rescuing animals and helping the poor to deeply sick people who have secret Facebook groups on bestiality and display it in living colors (I am currently involved in trying to shut down one of these). We see people moving you with words of kindness as well as hateful people (vegans included ironically and sadly) bashing others because they don’t fall into their criteria of what THEY consider acceptable (or vegan enough). Who made them intellectually superior? God? The Blair Witch? Who?
Intelligence of the heart is about questioning not just the world but, most importantly, ourselves…. every single day. If someone has a negative reaction towards you, don’t ask what’s wrong with him/her. Ask what’s wrong with yourself. Because when you really are deeply centered and kind and have a strong message, it is hard to argue against it. Of course, they will try but you already planted seeds in them. And, for the record, I’m not saying here that I am always successful. In other words, I constantly work on myself to be better to the best of my abilities (and I consider myself still highly selfish). There are very few people in the world I truly consider intelligent (in their heart). Intelligent people are not those who put themselves on a pedestal as if they were superior to others, they are the opposite. They are usually the most humble (case in point, the most intelligent man I know in our time: Dr. Will Tuttle).
Juddi Krishnamurti once said: « There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning. »
Intelligence is also not about punishing but helping. The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world (with only about 5% of the world’s population). Does it help stop violence? Of course not. If it did, America would be the safest country in the world. Opposite to this, there is the example of Norway. Norway’s longest penal sentence is 21 years (even for rapists or murderers). They have one of the highest standard of living in the world. Their prisons look like summer camps (obviously isolated so they don’t escape). What do they do? Instead of treating even violent criminals like dirt and humiliate them, they help them getting safely re-inserted into society as productive contributors. Norway has one of the lowest rate of recidivism in the world. By the way, it also has the lowest crime rate in the world. Coincidence? I think not.
But this is not a new idea. Native American nations like the Iroquois Confederacy understood that. In fact, the US Constitution was greatly inspired by the Iroquois Confederacy (little conveniently ignored fact not taught in US schools). Women, in fact, made the most important decisions. In the meantime, white Europeans (while thinking the Iroquois had good ideas) denied white women, African Americans and other people of non-white descent and white men who didn’t own property the right to vote.
Iroquois had their murderers too. How did they deal with them? Did they lock them up? No. They considered someone who committed a crime to be sick and they helped him/her accordingly. If the person could not be healed/cured, that person would be banished from the tribe. In the 21st century, we still lock people up in solitary confinement and we wonder why they commit crimes again? We lock up mentally disabled people, teenagers, non-violent offenders, a majority of them African Americans. And then, when they get out, we tell them, sorry, you’re not a citizen anymore (even though you spent 40 years in prison and paid your sentence) therefore you can’t vote and participate in society anymore (let alone find a job). And then there is capital punishment (banished in France since the 1970’s but still considered « useful » in some parts of the US). That is not intelligence, that is a mentality which has its base in the dark ages.
It is also interesting and not surprising to note that, contrary to common white myth, most native tribes of North America (with a couple of exceptions like the Inuits and the Apaches) were eating a mostly plant-based diet before the Europeans showed up on their shores. In order to demonize others and take what they have, you have to depict them as blood thirsty monsters. In fact, as documented by Choctaw Native American author Rita Law, the bulk of the diet of most Indians were plants. Dr. Law talks about her own native culture in this way:
« More than one tribe has creation legends which describe people as vegetarian, living in a kind of Garden of Eden. A Cherokee legend describes humans, plants, and animals as having lived in the beginning in « equality and mutual helpfulness ». The needs of all were met without killing one another. When man became aggressive and ate some of the animals, the animals invented diseases to keep human population in check. The plants remained friendly, however, and offered themselves not only as food to man, but also as medicine, to combat the new diseases. «
Ironically, that is exactly what is happening in our time. We fulfilled the creation myth of the Cherokee people (and of course we can find a similar creation myth in all religious and spiritual societies of the world, the Bible most notably).
This is also well documented by Dr. Will Tuttle in his article What Did American Indians Eat, Actually? As Will explains beautifully:
« What I continue to discover is how far from reality are many of the “official stories” that we tell ourselves and teach our children. They are stories that serve a specific purpose, which is to justify the existing order, and they are passed on effortlessly and subconsciously, because they make us all comfortable in believing, in this case, that our current practice of enslaving and slaughtering huge numbers of animals for food (75 million daily in the U.S. alone) is somehow a normal and natural expression of who we are as human beings. It is no accident that we term native cultures “hunter-gatherers.”
But intelligence, in the case of animal abusers, is also understanding why they have become that way. I researched and wrote extensively about this in my article Link Between Violence to Animals and Humans: A Deeper Look. But to summarize what I say in that article for the purpose of this one, we live in a society that teaches us to disconnect from our inner compassion from birth. It starts by convincing us to eat animal foods and their secretions while we « pet » cats and dogs. So we create this schizophrenic mentality of loving some species of animals on one side and hate others at the same time by consuming their bodies. We then start this cycle of mental instability that follows us into adulthood. In other words, we live in a sick society and none of us are immune, whether you call yourself vegan or not. As Khrisnamurti once said: « It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. »
People who abuse children have often been abused themselves as children. People who abuse other animals often have also been abused as children and dealt with their sense of powerlessness by abusing someone even more defenseless than themselves: other animals. If this is not taken at the root, this is carried into adulthood.
So let’s learn to really listen intelligently to others. « So when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it. » ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti
As Vegans we carry huge burdens: we know what is being done to other animals, the environment and the health of human beings. But what we generally ignore is what has been done to ourselves. Until we remove these roots (of intolerance, bigotry, sexism, hate, ego and so on) from our own sub-conscious, it will be very hard to really move the world in the right direction. We have an extraordinary opportunity to save all beings and the eco-system on this planet. So I am asking you? What do you do about saving yourselves from your own shortcomings and become the example you want others to follow?
Photo courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com (Free stock pictures)
Thom Hartmann on the Iroquois: « The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child » (extract from his book)
See also this video of Thom Hartmann on the Iroquois: Iroquois Confederacy
Will Tuttle: What did American Indians Really Eat?
Rita Law, Ph.D. : Native Americans and Vegetarianism
Michael Moore’s documentary Sicko (about the Health Care system) is online. Unfortunately, the segment about Norway was deemed too « radical » for American audiences compared even to the segment about France and therefore does not appear in the theatrical release but is included on the DVD of the movie in the special features. The version linked here is subtitled in Spanish.
Obligatory reading: The World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle, which beautifully and clearly explains the roots of our culture.
© Vegan Empowerment/Véronique Perrot – December 2014 – All Rights Reserved – No printing without permission but sharing is encouraged.