One definition of the word invention is: the creation of something new. Ask me what I think is one of the greatest inventions and I am most likely going to say “libraries”. I love libraries. I have a huge stack of library cards for every place I have been from Minnesota to Stockholm. Drop me in a place for more than a day and I will end up with a library card. My library card collection is even bigger than my co-op membership card collection. I also join every co-op I live near for more than a week.
Libraries are filled with history, fantasy, new ideas, films, recipes, music, art and shelves of what is possible and what has been. And, all of this is available to anyone of any age, background, race, gender, and economic bracket.
JC brought home a dvd called Unchained Memories from the library yesterday. It was a 2002 documentary about former slaves in the USA who were interviewed in the late 1930’s as part of the Federal Writers’ Project. They wrote memoirs in the exact words of the ex-slaves. More than two thousand former slaves were interviewed. For the documentary, HBO chose some of the interviews and had actors emulate the accent and personalities and read the interviews.
The dvd was eye opening, even for someone like me who grew up in a very aware civil rights family.
What really struck me was how recent these interviews were. It made this documentary a mix of horrifying and hopeful. Incredible that people were sold to the highest bidder and taken from their families and given no choices. Intense to hear about people being whipped horizontally and vertically across their backs so the skin would come right off in chunks and then have salt rubbed into the wounds. These beatings could happen to a hungry adult or child stealing part of a biscuit. Children and adults were forced to watch
I have been working as a voice for the voiceless for so many years. I am working with the hope that people, who so recently were able to commit these kinds of atrocities legally in the USA, will widen their vision to include all beings, human and non-human. It is asking a lot. Not that long ago, we could not even see that a human of another race was not property and had feelings. Now I am asking the human race to see non-human beings as other than property. A big leap. But, the most hopeful for me is that in just a few generations we have gone from thinking that having human slaves was just fine to being shocked by what we Americans were capable of. And that said, there are currently 27 million human slaves around the world. Slavery is not just part of history.
But, most people, if asked if slavery is morally or ethically ok, would say “no”. Most people in the USA look back at what we did to Africans who were stolen from their land and people and sold into bondage, as something that we, as a nation, are ashamed of.
I look forward to the day when we look back at this time and feel the same about our current treatment of other species. It is going to happen….it is just a matter of time.
I love this by Ellie Maldonado in NY City:
In order to believe we are entitled to domesticate, exploit, and kill, we need to believe the others are inferior to us, and that they can’t think, feel, or experience emotions. Now we know better. No wonder this myth is losing believers, and that so many of us include other animals in our moral code.
And, as Lee Hall so beautifully put in her book On Their Own Terms:
Each person plays a political role every day. We can conform to the scheme of things, and that’s one role. Alternatively, we can become conscious of the messages that run through our heads, adjust them, tune our thoughts to another wavelength, conceive other possibilities. We can then organize our lives, and perhaps whole communities, around a key idea. This takes stamina. Whenever we get together and dare to undo old hierarchies, we can anticipate vehement attacks that mischaracterize our efforts.
We may be very close to the tipping point….the place where a minority of the population influence the entire culture to choose compassion for all beings.
I want to hold this vision. The vision that this tipping point could be tomorrow….