The Roots of My Misanthropy

I am not a hate-filled person by nature, but I have what I consider a realistic view of Homo sapiens as a technologically over-evolved—yet morally under-evolved—ape that supersedes any blind allegiance to the species I might otherwise ascribe to. My disdain for humanity—hereby referred to as my misanthropy—knows no borders, boundaries, colors or cultures, aside perhaps from the emerging culture of do-no-harm veganism.

I’m not so enamored by the modest achievements and advancements we hear so much about that I don’t clearly see that mankind’s ultimate claim to fame is the “undoing” of the most incredible and diverse epoch in the history of life on earth.

My misanthropy is not aimed at individuals per se, but at an entire misguided species of animal with an arrogance so all-consuming that it views itself as separate—and above—the rest of the animal kingdom.

It’s not like humans can’t afford a little resentment once in a while, there are entire religions built specifically on the worship of mankind and its father figure—the maker made in the image of man. But sometimes someone needs to step back and see this species in perspective…

Ever since hominids first climbed down out of the trees and started clubbing their fellow animals, humanoids have been on a mission to claim the planet as their own. No other species could ever live up to man’s over-inflated self-image; therefore they became meat. Or if not meat, a servant or slave in one way or another.  If their flesh isn’t considered tasty, they’re put to use as beasts of burden, held captive for amusement or as literal guinea pigs to test drugs and torturous procedures for the perpetual prolongation of human life. Those who don’t prove themselves useful are deemed “pests” and slated for eradication.

Because, for whatever rationale, the human species sees itself as the top dog—all others: the underlings. My misanthropy is not really about a hate of humanity. I just tend to root for the underdog.

Text and Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Text and Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Hello Mass Extinction

In yesterday’s post, “Bye Bye Biodiversity,” I mentioned the hundreds of miles of Iowa cornfields where nothing else grows or lives. Humans have seen to it that nothing else lives in that region, at first by physically killing off the birds and mammals through hunting and trapping, and next with poisons to eradicate those species they deemed “pests:” the insects and burrowing mammals, along with any competing plants, collectively known as “weeds.”

To see to it that only the resultant monoculture thrives, their chosen plants are genetically modified to repel any other life that might find its way into the wasteland 524958_3325028303604_654533903_n(also so they won’t reproduce on their own without the parent corporation’s seed stock). Much of the corn is grown to serve as feed for those other monoculture “crops:” cows, pigs and chickens stuck on factory farms.

It requires huge tracts of open, flat land to allow for this kind of whole-Earth manipulation to go on, and the Midwest, once known as The Great Plains—the former home to vast herds of migratory bison and elk, pronghorn and prairie dogs, wolves, grizzly bears and more—was just the ticket.

As long as there are still miles of farm roads to speed their pickup trucks along and an occasional deer, coyote or “planted” pheasant to hunt, folks growing up there consider it to be the “country,” blissful in their ignorance of the biological diversity that thrived across the once wild land they call home.

It’s a similar story out west, where so much of the ancient forests have been removed and replanted with single-species tree plantations. Though the slopes are still mostly green, much of the wondrous diversity of life has been lost, along with the memory of whom and what once lived there.

By the same token, anyone arriving by transatlantic schooner would have no way of knowing that mass extinction in North America had already begun with the arrival of the first human hunters to cross the Bering land bridge a dozen centuries before. The megafauna which evolved on the Western Hemisphere—in glorious isolation from predacious human primates, whose greatest achievement may well be the complete undoing of all that evolution has created during this, the tail end of the age of mammals—would have brought to mind the African savanna; an American Serengeti.

Futuristic films, such as Soylent Green and Silent Running, suggest that when humans inevitably destroy the planet, there will be absolutely nothing left. But mass extinction does not necessarily equate to a totally denuded planet. The otherwise lifeless Midwest monoculture cropland, where one or two dominant species have displaced all others, is closer to what a mass extinction looks like.

In other words, we aren’t on the “verge of causing” a mass extinction, as the mainstream media (loath to report on anything that might affect the stock market) would tell you; we are among the living-dead in the midst of a human-caused mass extinction. It may not be the “Zombie Apocalypse,” but as far as life on Earth is concerned, it’s pretty damned scary.

Text and Wildlife Photography© Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photography© Jim Robertson

That Thing Called God

As I’ve stated in earlier posts, and on the “About” page, I don’t normally approve comments from hunters trying to defend their blood sport. But I do sometimes save them as fodder for future posts. This is one of those comments, from someone going by the name “Sparky,” which warranted some examination on its way to the round file:

“Fine I’m a Psychopath. I enjoy feeding my family wild game meat instead of highly processed burger king. It’s healthier, period. Also animals ARE things. God created them for us to EAT!”

Okay, first of all, this may be one of those rare cases where the hunter in question is not actually a psychopath, simply because he says he is. A true psychopath would not have the insight to see it, nor the honesty to admit it.

On the subject of healthier eating, no one here is promoting or defending Burger King; but the fact is, a “processed” patty is probably not much worse for you than freshly killed venison—they’re both red meat, riddled with cholesterol. At least the hamburger might have a few vegetables and grains to provide some fiber to move things through that would otherwise sit in the colon and rot. Meat contains 0% fiber. And really, where did Sparky get the idea that there are only two food choices in the world: wild game or Burger King? Millions of good people are living proof that you can get by quite comfortably (and much more healthfully) on a completely plant-based diet.

Now, on to the last point sparky raised, “Also animals ARE things. God created them for us to EAT!”…instinct and better judgment would have me avoid any argument involving religion, but this is too outrageous to ignore. If all of the animals are merely “things” created by a god for people to stuff their faces with, then everything that was ever written by the world’s top scientists is wrong. Forget evolutionary biology, geology or physical anthropology: all we need to know was spelled out over 2,000 years ago on papyrus by people who knew nothing of science and had an agenda to champion the sandal-clad 2-leggers they deemed God’s favorite species—superior to all other animals in mind, body and spirit. Heck, to hear some folks’ interpretation, we humans are practically gods ourselves. But where does that leave all the other precious and amazing life forms who evolved along with us? According to the prevailing religion, they’re just “things” whose only purpose is to provide (colon-clogging) meat for the palette of the once-plant-eating-now-carnivorous-primates-gone-berserk.

Perhaps some hunters weren’t born psychopaths; for some, grandiosity, a lack of empathy and the objectification of our fellow beings are traits acquired by attending one too many sermons preaching that humans are the only ones that matter. It’s a pretty convenient mindset for those lucky enough to be born human, but I’m afraid it mirrors the kind of biblical misinterpretations that have been used to elevate one group of people and subjugate another. There is no chosen species any more than there is a master race. I don’t know what sort of thing God is supposed to be, but I can’t cotton to any being, supreme or otherwise, who plays favorites and gives special treatment to one creature while forsaking all others.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2012. All Rights Reserved

Ignorance is Such Selfish Bliss

Practically every day I receive ignorant comments from hunters which reinforce my theory that—despite their overweening attitude—their understanding of the science of biology is inherently lacking. Just yesterday I trash-canned a comment from a defensive sportsman who obliviously declared, “You might be related to primates, but I’m not,” before going on to accuse me of being ignorant!

Another well-worn classic hunter excuse I hear on a weekly basis—one that must be a contender for the top ten feeblest rationalizations for hunting of all time—is some variation of the ridiculous notion that, “Our sharp teeth are proof that we’re meant to be carnivores.” I could go on all day refuting this absurd figment, but I don’t want to bore the educated reader with something so off-base. (If you happen to be one of those who consider that statement an accepted truth, please take some time to look it up and learn a little about physical anthropology and humankind’s ancestry.)

The history of how Homo sapiens became the species we are today harkens back a bit farther than 10,000 years (as young-Earth creationists believe) or even 100,000 years, as those who tout the caveman diet might suppose. Every species here today has an extensive backstory. As you may well know, we all started out as sea creatures at one time (long before the first biped sharpened the first stone for butchering carrion).

During the reign of the dinosaurs, all of us mammals were rodent-sized creatures who scurried about and tried to stay out from under foot. After the extinction spasm that ended the dinosaur’s days, mammals had a chance to flourish and diversify. Some went through more radical changes than others.

Whales were once wolf-like mammals that returned to the sea between 60 and 37 million years ago, in the early Eocene epoch, eventually becoming the largest animal ever to grace the oceans or the Earth. In terms of physical changes, our species’ story is nowhere near as dramatic as that of the whales. But as far as our impact on all other life forms, it’s a doozy.

No other species of animal has come from such humble beginnings as a tree shrew, progressed through the monkey-types and on to forest-dwelling apes, only to climb down out of the acacia and kill off the largest, mightiest or most numerous of species. But rather than weighing on our species’ collective conscience, it’s gone to our collective head, in the form of an over-inflated ego that is a key trait of the genus Homo. No other species can claim responsibility for changing the Earth’s climate to the detriment of all life or—Homo sapiens’ crowning achievement—causing a planet-wide mass extinction event.

As blissful as it must be to have our collective head in the clouds, when it comes to human origins, it’s critical that we come down to Earth once in a while and keep ourselves informed of reality, lest ignorance facilitate our own demise.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson