Saturday, May 31, 2008

Spirals and spirals

Imagine a spiral a few radials wide; just barely large enough so that it would be easily recognizable as a spiral.  The direction that it originates from isn't particularly relevant.  Now, picture an identical spiral alongside it, and draw the radials out a few more grades, and repeat that once more.  You'll have in your mind a set of three spirals, each of varying size and complexity, and we'll be using these images as something to pull from.

The largest and most complicated spiral is a human being.  The length, depth, and curvature of the spiral are representational of the complexity underlying man; conscious thought, rationality, opposable thumbs, hair, those hairs in your throat that propel food down into your gut.  The next spiral, the one of middling size and complexity, is representative of the animal.  Although for the sake of the coming argument I'll be using this to symbolize mammals primarily, it also represents middle-hierarchy creatures, like lizards and amphibians.  The smallest of the three spirals is the spiral of the single-celled organism; bacteria, (sort of)viruses, paramecium, amoebae and so on - stuff that is, in all likelihood, covering your fleshy body as you read this, but things that most people don't give a great deal of thought.

The graphic of a spiral itself is used to indicate that the three levels of complexity are all essentially the same sort of thing; DNA coding.  At which level of complexity does the necessity for protection/conservation develop?  Most people would assume that humans are within this category, and as a human, I would be inclined to agree, as if I was getting beat up I'd want somebody to say, "Hey! Don't beat him up!" and maybe punch the asshole or something and kick his teeth in, but I'm getting sidetracked.  Aside from the anecdotal datas that are my life experience, I've done little research into the next sentence, but I'm pretty sure that it applies to everybody.  Animals should be protected, too.  We have conservatories dedicated to creatures of the wild, laws preventing us not only from scourging them from the planet but even from beating them unnecessarily.  I'm not sure how you define "Beating an animal of necessity," but it certainly sounds pretty legalese to me, so we'll go with that.  So what about bacteria?  Viruses? Yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae)?

I was watching one of the few acceptable programs on the History Channel earlier in the week, and the episode dealt with how bread was made.  Something that struck me was the literal manufacture of yeast; essentially, a big vat of sugary water is left to brew, and the yeast bacteria develops rather quickly on the surface.  The water is later drained, and the yeast is harvested in a variety of forms.  Some companies dry, freeze, and then box the yeast, forcing it to go dormant until it is awakened by the heat of an oven.

Operating under the assumption that most second-spiral creatures aren't any more conscious than first-spiral organisms, why are so many more rights and privileges awarded to them?  I recently asked a friend this question, and he told me that it might be because it's easier to sympathize with something like a dog.  I see a lot of sense in that; most pet owners personify the pets that they have, giving them characteristics that they certainly don't have, but seem to.  I'm sure my dog is of average intelligence for a dog, but since I try and hold everything around me to the same lofty standards as I hold myself, I think he's pretty stupid.  When he's pushed out of my room when I become busy with something, the sorrow and misery in his eyes at the ejection is choking.  I find this to be irritating, as I know he isn't sad.  It irritates me because I imagine he is sad, and this taints my actions towards him.

So are animal rights activists unable to understand that an animal's behavior is a systematic, near-mechanical, and instinctual thing?  Pretty similar - exactly the same, really - as bacteria, viruses, and yeast cells.  So why doesn't anybody fight for the yeast?  They're arguably treated worse than chickens in de-chickening houses and cows in butchery pens.  At least those creatures get to die; yeast gets packaged up and shipped off, maybe to be made into beer or an undercooked loaf of bread in your neighbor's house.

I am left with two potential conclusions.  First, that all animals should be viewed as being more simple organisms - eliminating the need for three spirals altogether, and making things pretty much "human" and "something other than human".  Imaging the world as anything but that at this point is really kind of naive.  The second conclusion is that, as animals are now completely indistinguishable in purpose from their more simplistic cousins, they should be farmed as viciously and uncaringly as the bacteria that makes our yogurt, beer, bread, medicine and anything else you care to think of.  If Man cannot effectively control the breeding and population of a beast, then it ought to be culled like the HIV virus.  Raccoons?  Awesome hats!  Dogs and cats? Permitted due to the psychological advantage given to their tyrants.  Whales?  Oil for lamps!  Frogs? Burn them all.  Lizards, flies and most rodents?  Ship them directly into the sun.

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