Here’s the hypothesis of the hour—scarcity concentrates the mind to the point where the mind loses perspective. The deepest origin of this hypothesis is, indeed, the most fundamental scarcity, even more fundamental than the failure to find a sexual mate: food scarcity.
Starving Europeans after WWII, upon being discovered by Allies seeking to restore them to health, recounted such poignant memories as “food became the one central and only thing really in one’s life.” That’s what scarcity does. It debilitates. Distorts. Warps.
The implications of this form of obsession are explored in a recently published book called Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much. No one reading this blog is suffering from food scarcity. However, the hypothesis applies to more than food. Or at least that’s what I think.
Animal rights advocates are well fed (and not just on virtue), but they perceive and, one might venture, feel with the almost equivalent pain of literal starvation, a sort of moral scarcity when it comes to our treatment of animals. At least some of them do. They look at the world and, ethically speaking, experience a form of starvation just as excruciating as actual hunger pangs.
If this parallel is accurate (and it may not be; this is a blog, and I blow whatever ideas I want out of my head at odd hours), then we have to consider the implications of this moral starvation. When physical starvation sets in, humans lose the ability to take an accurate measure of reality. Hungry children see gold coins as being bigger than they really are. Unhappy couples are especially attentive, and unrealistically hopeful, about couples who appear to be happy. Is this hall of mirrors any different for moral starvation? Do we not, as animal advocates, equally warp the world?
In other words, I wonder: what do animal rights activists, burdened as we are by a sense of scarcity, fail to perceive that we should perceive? Ah, where to start? I cannot begin to count the occasions when I’ve noted how those who viciously condemn humanity (for our moral scarcity) and then, in turn, lament our treatment of animals based on our moral turpetude. But I wonder if this tactic is not self-defeating, a symptom of our sense of scarcity, an unintended consequence of our academic enslavement to “post-humanism.”
That is, are we swallowing the bitter pill of perceived moral scarcity, lamenting the potential of humanity, and becoming depressing Cassandras rather than seeing the wealth of our prospects, praising the unfathomable beauty of humanity, and becoming advocates for future moral fulfillment?
I only ask because, somehow or other, despite all my flaws and those of my fellow humans (toward animals or otherwise), we have this weirdly uncanny way of being so amazing that I can sometimes hardly stand it.