The bizarre idea of ‘pardoning’ a turkey at the festival known as Thanksgiving has popped into my head several times in recent days. Even disregarding the cultural gap arising from my Scottish heritage, it’s such a strange concept, to cause a sentient individual to exist by our contrivance and intervention (never more true that when applied to turkeys from whom our ‘selective breeding’ for massive and early weight gain has actually removed the ability to procreate without the terrifying outrage of artificial insemination), and then enact a mockery of a ceremony to ‘pardon’ them for the crime of being our unnecessary victims.
However it finally occurred to me today that the idea comes from a familiar place. That place is that one of entitlement and superiority, the place into which we are indoctrinated as infants by a mixture of half truths, myths and outright lies. It occurs to me that ‘pardoning’ does not occupy a unique space within the confusion and delusion of the narrative that we create in our futile efforts as adults to make sense of a childhood fantasy that for many makes less and less sense as we reach maturity.
‘Pardoning’ defenceless individuals sits snugly alongside the words ‘mercy’, ‘compassion’ and ‘kindness’ to name but a few within the whole fiction of our imaginary entitlement and mistaken necessity.
Each of these words holds more than just a suggestion that we are exercising stern and noble restraint from actions and behaviours that we feel perfectly entitled (i.e. within our rights) to make. Aren’t they such feel-good words? They’re words we like to use in the hope that we’re creating a good impression with just how decent we are towards those whose lives we (and, we presume, everyone else) considers to be so much less important and worthy than our own.
And the soaring climax of our immense self importance? ‘Pardoning’ animals; benevolence personified.
Its all about us. Again.
And who is all that about? It’s about us. Of course it is, who else is there? Basking in the warm glow of demonstrating what nice people we are, there is little if any awareness or empathy for those who are ‘pardoned’ in this pantomime. Why would there be? They’re just animals for goodness sake. It’s just a joke, right?
But let’s change the script somewhat. Let’s use words like ‘justice’, ‘rights’, ‘integrity’, ‘decency’, ‘honesty’, ‘truth’. And here’s a really big one, ‘respect’. These are words that simply focus on the big issues of right and wrong. There is no self-aggrandisement in being right, in doing the right thing; it’s just right. There are no brownie points in being honest, in being decent or in seeing justice done. It’s no more and no less what we should all be doing as the bottom line. These are words that focus on those who are being persecuted. They’re not words that look for admiration or approval for the persecutors; they’re humble words that speak to our conscience rather than our ego. They’re words about our sentient victims and they ring with sincerity.
Making it real
We would never hold a comic ceremony to ‘pardon’ a human child from being beaten or abused. We wouldn’t seek praise for being ‘merciful’ because we decided not to batter our spouse this week. It’s not ‘compassionate’ or ‘kind’ to refrain from needlessly harming, hurting, mutilating, killing other humans. It’s just the absolute rock bottom of our responsibility as individuals.
Words are so very much more important than most of us recognise, and the words we use about the defenceless victims of our vicious, deluded species are the most important words of all.
Keeping our focus where it needs to be
When we make it all about us and our need for praise and approval, we take the focus off these billions of gentle and desolate victims whose dates in the slaughterhouse will never be rescinded by a ‘pardoner’ looking for praise and a pat on the back. We make the whole issue about us.
And it’s not about us. It never was.
Despite the fiction that we weave about the violence and the slaughterhouse horror of our actions in our attempts to justify the unforgivable, it is not about us. It’s about our needless, defenceless victims. And they need justice. They need us to be honest. They need us to be decent. They need us to be vegan. What are we waiting for?