OpEds: Did the Batman shooter have a vivisection connection and does it matter?
By Ruth Eisenbud
The struggle to expand ethical boundaries:
Is overwhelming force capable of creating a valid moral argument?
The debate on vivisection is one of the thorniest because it cuts so deep into our desire to be protected from dreadful diseases, not to mention that people, in general, have been conditioned to respect “medical science” as pretty much incontrovertible. That’s why so many ethicists, while objecting to hunting, meat-eating or fur coats give animal lab experiments a pass. It’s hot water, and they want no part of it.
In this article, Ruth Eisenbud takes us to the philosophical origins of our dominionist attitudes in the Judeo Christian tradition, comparing them with non-dominionist religions, such as Jainism, the most compassionate faith of all. She also explores the notion that desensitization to violence, acquired in the animal labs, may have played a role in James Holmes mental makeup. It’s conjecture, but worthy of a hearing.
By Ruth Eisenbud
“Witnesses said a man wearing a gas mask opened fire after tossing a tear gas canister in the auditorium as movie-goers watched The Dark Knight Rises. A 24-year-old former neuroscience student was arrested in a car park outside the theatre in Aurora city.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-18921492
MIDNIGHT MOVIE MASSACRE: THE VIVISECTION CONNECTION…?
In the latest spree of violence and rage in the United States, a massacre at a cinema in Colorado, the news media is focusing on the lack of gun control as a contributing factor. The USA has 20 such random killing sprees a year. The fact remains that while guns make it possible to kill larger numbers of people more rapidly, they are not the reason the trigger is pulled. Other speculation by the media involves improper use of psychotropic medication and violent media/computer games. What is never mentioned by the media is the depth of spiritual poverty behind such fury and rage. Religions, such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam, that encourage violence with doctrines alluding to man’s right to tyrannize animalkind, known as dominion, create an environment which allows for violence to the weak and defenseless. As such these religions legitimize the sadistic exploitation of animals used in cruel experiments, which can only be performed by those with the sang-froid attributed to serial killers.
Individuals, such as the midnight movie shooter who engage in such violent outbursts may have a troubled background, with possible abuse. In any case these killers have somehow become acclimated to violence as an expression of their inner turmoil. What has not yet been expressed [and properly explored] in the American media is that the movie massacre killer was a neuroscience student. Neuroscience experiments are among the most gruesome. Animals are restricted and confined for years with mechanisms and brain implants to test reactions to various treatments. Prior to testing food and water is withheld from the already traumatized victims, so that they will perform the tests with enthusiasm, when rewarded with bits of food or water.
When children abuse animals it is often a precursor for future violence to humans (Jeffrey Dahmer, serial killer and cannibalist started his “career” practicing sadism on animals). Serial killers often begin their careers by torturing animals. The kind of violence associated with vivisection, especially neuroscience, is consistent with behavior indicative of dangerous and troubled individuals. While we do not yet know the childhood history of this killer, his willingness to participate in the cruelty associated with neuroscience experiments, does indicate a willingness to deliberately and intentionally harm the weak and defenseless. If his background eventually reveals childhood trauma, it is likely that the sadism of vivisection pushed him over the top, allowing him to orchestrate a carefully planned assault on innocent movie goers, designed to inspire dread and fear.
How many carefully planned experiments of man’s unbridled power over animals did James Holmes participate in, before he moved on to human victims?
In India, dissection is banned for every high school student in every high school of every state. Vivisection is banned on the university and college level. The reasoning for this legislation is to protect living animals from harm as well as to protect the sensibilities of young children and young adults, so that they do not lose their reverence for life. Reverence for life in India is guided by the compassionate religious belief of Ahimsa, which respects both human and animal life.
Reverence for life is not possible in a nation where the predominant religious view is based on dominion of the Judeo-Christian tradition:
‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.’ Genesis
By any measure, this is a mighty convenient mandate. Could it be that “God” is nothing but projections of the human mind and “His” dictates nothing but self-serving instructions?
With this mandate man has the right to harm, exploit, torture, maim and mutilate weak and defenseless animals. With this view, cruel neuroscience experiments are tolerated [and even encouraged] for human advantage. When a troubled individual falls prey to this belief system, it can easily result in extravagant and excessive violence to humans. While we do not yet know the psychological details for this latest mass murderer, it is quite likely that his participation in neuroscience experiments contributed to the grandiose desire to dominate and inspire fear and dread in people casually enjoying a movie on a summer evening.
Eleanor Roosevelt understood the importance of protecting animals from violence to inspire empathy and justice in children:
“It seems to me of great importance to teach children respect for life. Towards this end, experiments on living animals in classrooms should be stopped. To encourage cruelty in the name of science can only destroy the finer emotions of affection and sympathy, and breed an unfeeling callousness in the young towards suffering in all living creatures.”
Dominion has failed to recognize the perils of its sanctified violence to animals. It is this spiritual failure that is at the heart of a devaluation of life that allows for the slaughter of animals, vivisection, the proliferation of guns, the popularity of violent media /computer games and the need for psychotropic drugs. It is spiritual, systemic poverty that lies at the root of yet another bloody, random massacre of innocent bystanders shopping at the mall, attending classes or attending the opening of a movie on a summer night.
Margaret Mead also understood the implications of sanctioning violence:
“No society that feeds its children on tales of successful violence can expect them not to believe that violence in the end is rewarded”
When we teach our children to inspire dread and fear, substantiated by an unbalanced sense of their importance and power, it is no wonder so many often seek the thrill of terror.
It is not a gigantic leap from ‘unfeeling callousness’ to out of control rage and murder for someone accustomed to tormenting harmless creatures. The question is not only whether this troubled individual should have been involved with vivisection, but whether any young adults should ever be exposed to such a blatant desecration of life. The spiritual poverty of dominion lies in its failure to grasp the nature of compassion and empathy, in such a painfully short supply in the world today.
Only when the monotheistic religions learn to accept the more humane view of unconditional compassion for humans and animals, as expressed by the indigenous Indian religions, will we see an end to the endless random rampages of dominion:
“I am a Hindu because it is Hinduism which makes the world worth living. I am a Hindu hence I Love not only human beings, but all living beings.” —Gandhi
“It is the essential characteristic of a wise person the s/he does not kill any living being. One should know that non-killing and [moral standing] equality of all living beings are the main principles of [a worthy] religion” —Jain Sutra
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