Friday, November 11, 2011

We Are Exploited, We Exploit

the exploiter doesn't care about the interests and feelings of those who he takes advantage of. to him, they are unworthy of his consideration. he is in a position of power. how he has achieved this power is immaterial. what is important is that he is unwilling to relinquish it, and has the means and the money to maintain it.

to him, those who he uses are his inferiors, and are more often than not vilified and ridiculed by him. which then of course makes their troubles easier to ignore, and perhaps in his eyes, even somehow...deserved.

even if the oppressed have adequate food, shelter and entertainment to keep them preoccupied, they must still live in the shadow of their master who has control over their well-being. one false move, and punishment will be swift and doled out at his discretion.

it may perhaps be easier and simpler to live our lives following orders and doing what we're told, all the while accepting our situation as normal and immutable. responsibility then falls upon those who give the commands, our hands being clean should any problems arise. "i was just doing my job", is the familiar refrain of the obedient lackey when the finger of blame is pointed in his direction.

but we have a deep seated revulsion to having our freedom stripped away and being forced to subjugate ourselves to another, in a way that goes far beyond our human roots, extending well back into our evolutionary past.

and so sooner or later we rise up, either alone or in groups, against our oppressor, be it an unjust man made system or an individual abuser. eventually our boiling point is reached and we demand an end to their tyranny. we are willing to take whatever measures are necessary and accept whatever consequences may come our way, in order to extricate ourselves from their cruel unrelenting domination.

but how many of the abused are also the abuser? how many of the exploited are also the exploiters? we complain bitterly when we are treated unfairly and without respect, but we needn't look any further than our own mirrors to see how we are responsible for causing similar distress to others. where if it were perpetrated against us, we would most assuredly denounce it as unacceptable and an affront to our liberty.

when we discover that our actions have been detrimental to someone else, we usually take the appropriate steps to change our behavior and cease, or at least lessen, the harm we are causing. failing to do so would place us squarely into the realm of the unempathetic, or the sociopathic. what would make us think that we deserve to have our grievances addressed if we cannot, or will not, consider the sorrows of another?

often the excuse we use for why we continue to exploit another is the same as the one used against us. "they are not worthy; their interests must be subordinated to mine because i am more important". why are our feelings more important than theirs? why should our suffering be perceived as somehow more significant?

if we all have the capacity to suffer, both physically and emotionally, and we view it as something misery-inducing and repugnant when it happens to us, how can we in good conscience continue a lifestyle where our actions inflict a similar sort of torment upon another?

here we are, demanding our rights with one fist, while pounding into submission the rights of someone else with the other. we must stop thinking in a hierarchical, vertical fashion where one's position on the ladder is of greater importance than another, and start thinking in horizontal terms of all being united in our ability to feel joy and grief, in our capacity to experience pleasure and pain, and in our lives where our individualities may grow and develop to their fullest potential through careful attention and thoughtful learning, or be allowed to wither and die through reckless ignorance and unmindful neglect.

when we say we demand equality, what do we mean? we mean that as living, feeling beings capable of experiencing a good life or a bad life (that is to say, a life where things can fair well for us, or a life where things can fair poorly for us), to deny a good life for someone else so that we may have one, is grossly unjust. and not only unjust, but flagrantly immoral as well.

the exploiter takes away a good life from the one he exploits. he has chosen to suppress any feelings of empathy regarding the well-being of the one he enslaves, in order to maintain his oppressor status and all the advantages that go along with it. we would most certainly not want to find ourselves on the receiving end of his despotic whims. and we would be just as reprehensible as any tyrant we are struggling to defeat, should we find ourselves holding on to our current lifestyles and luxuries knowing that doing so, denies a good life for another.

so who are we responsible for enslaving? whose rights to exist free of our oppression do we violate? the cultural evolution of humanity is at a point now where we believe, at least in theory if not in practice, that to treat another human being as a slave is to commit a grievous injustice upon him. for some reason however, we still choose to accept the idea that being held in economic servitude as "wage slaves" is somehow permissible because it bolsters our system of production, distribution and consumption.

but there are yet others who we rarely even think about when it comes to our conduct toward them, namely those nonhuman animals who share the planet with us. for as we feast upon the scorched flesh of our murdered animal kin, to satisfy not our need for necessary nourishment, but rather our own petty, gluttonous pleasures of the palate; or as we engage in tortuous experiments upon their sentient bodies, without consent or any restitution for the untold agonies we impose to serve our purposes; or as we confine them for our amusement, as they idly lie or pace back and forth imprisoned in zoos before our gawping eyes; or as we chase and harass them in barbaric exhibitions of shameful entertainment, we exploit them for no other reason than that we falsely believe our interests are of a superior kind to theirs.

we are blindly following without critical examination that most contemptible of tenets which states, "might makes right". a world where people choose to ignore and bury their empathy for the suffering of another, and only obey their selfish desires for personal acquisition and egoistic fulfillment, pitting each against all in a ruthless competition to see who can consume and usurp the most, is a world without peace, a world without caring, and indeed a world...without love.

if we want to stop the choking hands of oppression asphyxiating our freedom and aspire to create a more just and benevolent world, we do so not by emulating our pitiless persecutor, but by opening our hearts and minds to more fully recognize the suffering of another, and imagine what it is like to be in their situation. it is through sympathy, compassionate wisdom, and long experience, that we gain a sense of fairness and justice. and it is through loving kindness and empathetic understanding that our notions of liberty and equality will mature and bloom.

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