1. What does hunting, self-esteem, and entitlement have to do with racism? More than you think.
2. Proof that might doesn't make right
I lost my affinity for hunting once I became better at putting myself in the shoes of others. I understand the rational arguments favoring hunting, but putting a bullet in a healthy animal that wants to live is something I refuse to do unless the animal was threatening my life or the life of a loved one. The more I learn about animals, the more impressed I am by their intelligence.
I bought a small flock of chickens a few years ago thinking they were a great source of fresh eggs but very dumb, as they are often depicted. However, I was surprised by their brainpower. Even when they were chicks, they would squeal with delight when given one of their treats, such as currants, but also simple pleasures such as fresh water, which they would instantly devour with zest.
Chickens crave freedom, complain when they are bored and not free, have favorite hang-out spots, are inquisitive and love to explore, and often enjoy hunting for bugs more than eating crumble (chicken food) or sometimes even treats they relish, such as watermelon, other melons, black olives, oatmeal, raisins, flax, corn on the cob, green and especially purple cabbage, cheese, sweet potatoes, scrambled eggs, and egg shells.
Chickens have preferred friends, enjoy basking in the sun, and love bathing in dust. They demonstrate an awareness of object persistence, numbers, instantly implement logical strategies to get more food, and clearly understand competition. They have very distinct personalities: some friendly and outgoing, others timid but often (like humans) coming out of their shells and blossoming once they are freed from the fear underlying that timidity. They feel pain and seek to avoid it as vigorously as any human.
Chickens are anything but dumb, yet many people kill them and even smarter animals without any qualms. Why? Because might makes right for humans—but not others?
Countless animals have been killed by hunters not because they need their meat to survive, but because our brains give us Remingtons and Winchesters and the capacity to generate twisted logic that justifies such killing. We kill because we can get away with it. We kill because we're human and think we're so superior to animals that the ephemeral pleasure of the kill is more important than that animal enjoying the rest of its life.
We may rue the day we think might makes right for intellectually superior species. NASA and ex-Microsoft billionaire brainiacs Nathan Myhrvold and Paul Allen fund SETI research. Statistically, we are likely to find—or be found by—species that may be a million years ahead of us in technology. Think of how far we've come in the past century, and then consider what advances might accrue in a time 10,000 times as long.
If extraterrestrial aliens visit Earth, they may be as far above us in intelligence and capabilities as we are compared to chickens. If it is fine for us to slaughter chickens and other animals because we're smarter and because we can, then is it fine for very advanced aliens to slaughter us? Perhaps they enjoy the sport of hunting humans, perhaps they find our meat tasty, or perhaps they're hungry enough to eat anything after a zillion-mile journey. They might sponsor a contest to see who can barbeque the best McHuman, or publish cookbooks focusing on human meat. We have cookbooks devoted to preparing pork, which comes from pigs. In our minds, it is perfectly OK for us to slaughter them by the millions because we are smarter than they are.
There you have it: an increment of intelligence is used as a license to kill. What a horrible precedent, and one that may eventually haunt us as we eventually bitterly regret basing the right to life on relative intelligence.
If we are able to challenge aliens on the propriety of killing humans, they may throw it back in our faces by pointing out our long history of killing animals (usually in less-than-humane ways) without any justification other than we gave ourselves the right to do it because we had more brainpower and better weapons. Then aliens could give us a taste of our own medicine and show us what it is like to be on the receiving end of might makes right. What goes around, comes around. As the Bible says, “As you sow, so shall you reap.” Or to put it more colloquially, our actions may come back to bite us on the butt. Your deeds, good or bad, will repay you in kind. Kill because you're smarter, and you may be killed because you're dumber.
No one but an idiot believes that might makes right. Instead, they think might makes right as long as they are the mighty. If another species were mightier than us and did to us what we've done to countless others, we would scream bloody murder! We'd protest, “It's not right!” We'd call them barbarians and worse. We'd try to kill them any way we could, but their technology may be so superior to ours that they could defuse all of our guns, bombs, and other weapons, leaving us easy pickings. They may think no more of killing us than we do of bugs making a beeline for a bug zapper. Just as we prefer a picnic without pesky bugs, they may prefer to visit or even colonize Earth without humans bugging them. And that's A-OK if you think that might makes right.
If you're a hunter reading this with rising blood pressure, know that I once was an avid hunter who thought I could trounce any argument against hunting from anti-hunting folks. However, none of the pro-hunting arguments are as important to me as putting myself in the shoes of others—ALL others, including animals, not just humans. I'll swat a mosquito feeding off me but tolerate bees buzzing inches away, as I did yesterday while picking blackberries for my chickens.
I would like to mow my yard, but I don't have the heart to do that after seeing bees magnetically drawn to a weed that seems enormously more appealing to them than any other plant I've seen. (Perhaps cultivating that weed might help reverse the dwindling bee population. Once that plant appeared in my area, the number of bees exploded. In past years, I could go months without seeing a bee during summertime, but now I can hear thousands happily buzzing away.) By the way, I wasn't stung once, but I often was years ago when I thought the presence of a bee was a good excuse to swat it. A connection to karma?
Once you live in peace and harmony with others, including animals, you have a desire to help them, not hurt them. You don't think you are superior just because you're human, have an M.D. or Ph.D. after your name, or because you're a member of a race you think is superior. Racist denigration is done by people who can't feel good about themselves without putting others down. If they cannot rise up in absolute terms of achievement, they try to rise up in relative terms: put others down, so they seem higher. (See chapter 14 in Institutional Violence: Devaluing Others to Enhance Our Self-Esteem: A Moral Phenomenonology of Racism.)
This suggests that elevating self-esteem and self-confidence might help eradicate one of the roots of racism. However, it is important to know that self-esteem and arrogance are not synonymous. Self-esteem refers to a genuine, justified self-confidence that arises from confidence in one's abilities, not one's imagined abilities, and not from arrogantly thinking one is good, great, or capable when one is not. Pride means taking pleasure or satisfaction in an achievement, or a realistic sense of one's proper dignity or value. This justified self-respect is markedly different from arrogance that manifests when people make claims to unwarranted achievement, capabilities, or importance.
Thus, in discussing self-esteem, I am not referring to the current pop culture phenomenon of boosting self-esteem in kids by giving unearned grades, awards, trophies, and praise. When such feedback is not justified, it does nothing but fuel the fires of arrogance and entitlement. Frankly, it is one reason why American students are falling behind those in other nations. When you think you're great, why lift a finger? Why burn the midnight oil? Why go the extra mile? Why work hard when Americans are constitutionally guaranteed the right to greatness and superiority?
History demonstrates that entitlement can also catalyze racism. When leaders in one race devalue other races, subjugating and even killing them is easier for them to justify. Great Britain is now a relatively peaceful, civilized country very cognizant of human rights except for lingering imperialism, but past British leaders left a shockingly sordid wake of destruction around the globe, killing and virtually enslaving so many people—even children—that they left today's most feared terrorists in the dust in terms of inflicting suffering and death, as I discussed in another article in a section entitled Not-so-great Britain.
To put it bluntly, Great Britain kicked ass because they could, and because they knew they could get away with it. They ardently believed that might makes right. They felt entitled to take what they wanted from others, who they viewed as inferior. If you got in the way of those imperialistic racists, they would enslave or kill you.
If Great Britain replicated its past misdeeds during Bush 43's presidency, he would have included them in his Axis of Evil and bombed them into the Stone Age. Of course, Great Britain's evil past is news to most American students, who usually think the sole thing the British did wrong was to fight Americans when they sought independence and later during the War of 1812. American myopia in focus.
So what is the common denominator linking hunting, self-esteem, and entitlement with racism? If you put yourself in the shoes of others (all others, including animals), you won't hunt for “sport” (ahem!), nor will you believe that real or imagined superiority gives you the right to deprive others of their rights. You can feel good about yourself without putting others down. You will be a better person, and help others lead better, happier lives. Perhaps even chickens. By the way, here is what chickens look like before Zuckerberg gets his hands on them:
The rational argument for hunting is that it helps control overpopulation (of deer, for example), but population control could be achieved by other means.
Furthermore, if killing is an ethical way to achieve population control, why is that NOT an acceptable means to control human population? The old argument is that humans are so superior to animals OF COURSE we have a right to kill them for sport, but the basis of that superiority is often a product of arrogant presumptions, not facts. When you look at the science (see my article and the many links following it), there's evidence that animals are often impressively intelligent, equaling or even surpassing the abilities of some humans in logic, math, memory, innovation, tool use, empathy, strategic decision making, and capacity for pleasure.
The real reason humans can get away with killing animals is because they think might makes right—the same justification used by Hitler, Stalin, Hirohito, murderers, rapists, and other thugs. It's not good company to be in, is it?