torsdag 17 juli 2008

Superiority vs Inferiority in Zoroastrianism

Dear Dina

Then I must offer friendly disagreemant in return, for two reasons:

- Wait a second. Don't put words in my mouth that I did not use. When I say inferior I mean inferior and inferior only. To stamp inferiority onto something (like a dog) does not allow for any exploitation in itself (although the fact that you do keep your dog locked up and that you own it is in itself an admittance of your "exploitation" of the dog). But lets not mix two things which in themselves are separate. Inferiority is a subjective value applied to something which HAS to be applied. Ranking things is a necessary thing for us to do in life, it is all about making ehtical priorities, something which we can not avoid. The question for us as Zoroastrians is not whether to rank or not but how we should or could rank WELL. This is precisely what the celebrated Zoroastrian freedom of choice is all about.

- I have NEVER spoken of OBJECTIVE superiority or inferiority and I have again and again stressed that there exists no such things (all things are sacred). Have you niot listened to me, Dina? So why are you then throwing objective values into the mix when I have made great efforts to avoid this? I speak of superiority and inferiority as NECESSARY and SUBJECTIVE valuations. This is all about priorities. You seem to prioritize animals before human beings. This is your choice, but don't you ever expect me to hire you as a babysitter in that case. OK? Which leads us onto the third issue at stake here:

- You are trying to avoid the uncomfortable question which still HAS to be answered: If a fire breaks out, which do they save first? The little baby or your pet dog? I MUST INSIST on your answer before I ever again recommend anybody to hire Dina McIntyre as a babysitter. Even worse than picking the dog first would be if Dina does not even have a clue in advance of what she would do, which would leave both the dog and the baby dead in the fire. So what is you answer, dear Dina? The bay or the dog first? And do you not honestly thereby RANK betwen the baby and the dog???

I even believe that proper druj in Mazdayasna is not to rank wrong but to refuse to rank at all. This is a despicable attitude to Zarathushtra for whom the existential act of ranking, of taking on life aesthetically, is what makes us beautiful and unique as human beings. But then Zarathushta LOVED people even as an imperative, he did not hate human beings which seems to be a popular and rather disturbing trend these days.

Alexander Bard

2008/7/16 :

Dear Alexander,

I must offer friendly disagreement. In my view, ideas as to the perceived "superiority" or "inferiority" of living beings are precisely what should not determine the resolution of ethical problems, and difficult human choices.

When we designate something as 'inferior', that is the first step towards exploiting it, or leaving it outside the pale of the laws that protect "superior" beings, because we do not consider the "inferior" being as deserving of the same consideration, or the same protections, or the same rights and privileges, as we "superior" beings.

The history of the human race is replete with examples of how the label of "inferiority" preceded the exploitation, degradation, and abuse of other life forms and also other human beings.

This negative consequence of designating other living things as "inferior" can be seen in the way in which animals are hunted for sport. Some species were hunted into extinction, and some into near extinction for no reason other than entertainment.

The negative consequences of designating other living things as "inferior" can also be seen in the dealings of human beings with each other, where there are differences of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, et cetera, and, as Steve pointed out, mental abilities as well. It should come as no surprise that those who made the designation of 'inferior' or 'superior' always placed themselves in the 'superior' category, and were=2 0those who stood to benefit in one way or another by classifying other life forms, or other human beings, as 'inferior'.

In my view, regarding living things as somehow "inferior" or "superior" is one of the most deadly, pernicious criterion that can be used in determining ethical choices and human behavior.

Sure, we all have to make choices in our relationships with animals and other human beings. But they don't have to be made on the basis of a perceived "inferiority" or "superiority".

My own view is that I should not kill any living thing unless it is necessary, in which event, I should do it quickly and humanely, so that it feels as little pain or terror as possible. That is the way I deal with insects that sometimes invade my house. Not because I think they are inferior. I just don't want them in my house.

If we believe in the notion of immanence -- that the divine is present in all things -- (as you and I both do), how can we classify anything as "inferior" or "superior"? The indicia by which such classifications are usually made -- mental ability, physical ability, good looks, wealth, aristocratic birth, race, religion, gender, et cetera, are all so irrelevant to whether or not a person is living a good life, and making a positive, constructive, contribution to the people and environment in which he finds himself.

Many years ago, when this same question of animals20being considered inferior was raised on these Lists, you posted a very wise comment. At least, I thought it was wise. You said something to the effect that animals are not inferior, they are just different from human beings. I really liked that.

Wishing us the best,

Dina G. McIntyre.

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