It isn’t often that pop-culture recognizes the schism that has been created between human and non-human animals. It is rare in fact. But the book and Broadway show Wicked hits the point right on. Most people know Wicked as the story of the Wicked Witch of West from the Wizard of Oz. If you haven’t read it, it is a fun and creative twist on a story we are all familiar with, but the book is also quite political, and directly addresses serious and currently relevant issues, like bullying, government lobbying, and animal rights…
In the Land of Oz, previous to Dorothy’s visit, Animals (with a capital A, meaning they were “with spirit”) held jobs, spoke the same language as humans, wore clothes (even with a bit of irony, like the tsebras who wore black and white satin stripes on the bias to their inborn design.) They were equals to their human neighbors. But there was a shift in political climate, humans somehow felt threatened, and the Emerald City passed a “Bann on Animal Mobility,” that they “should be seen and not heard.” Animals were no longer allowed to travel in the same train cars, those coming of age were no longer allowed to hold jobs, and eventually they lost their ability to speak. Similar maybe to how our dogs, by law, must be on a leash, or if they are barking in a building a neighbor might complain. They are cute to look at, but no one wants to hear them. ..
The human animals decided they were “better-than.” One of the main characters, a professor who also happens to be a Goat, was conducting a research project hoping to isolate “some bit of the biological architecture to prove that there isn’t any difference, deep down in the invisible pockets of human and Animal flesh – there there’s no difference between us,” hoping that if he can prove that there isn’t any inherent difference between humans and Animals, the Banns could not be upheld. Government officials got wind of his project, and he was unfortunately murdered…
This book is fantasy, but eerily similar to our own real lives. Human animals have decided that we are “better-than” or superior to the other beings we share this planet with. Rather than sharing and communicating with our non-human neighbors, we have chosen to exploit them; using horses to pull carriages around central park, clearing hundreds of acres of trees to make room for a factory farm, or killing 45 million plus turkeys to celebrate Thanksgiving. Even the way we refer to ourselves as our pets “owners” or “masters” rather than caretakers. But the majority of our population would rather not admit this is happening. My father, for example, LOVES animals. But when I try to get him to watch a movie about animal rights, like Earthlings, he refuses, because he KNOWS that animals have feelings and emotions just like us. But if he sees it, then it makes it true, and then he will have to change. And nobody likes change. ..
People in our society feel just as threatened as the characters in Wicked, because if they really saw what was happening to the billions of other beings on our planet, who are inherently the same as human-animals, they wouldn’t be eating meat and dairy. Our earthling counterparts are trapped in factory farms, literally on top of each other, never see the light of day, have their babies taken away from them almost immediately, and when they are sent to slaughter, very often they are still conscious when their throats are being slit, or they are dipped in boiling water. And it is in our Government’s “interest” to hide this from us. Rather than admitting what really happens, our food is advertised as pretty pictures of a cow with its calf roaming a grassy field of flowers – something that hasn’t existed in our culture in 50 years.
There was a point in human history when we communicated with nature, but we have somehow lost our way… and rather than progressing towards kindness, we seem to be regressing towards Avidya, ignorance. Like in the case of my dad – ignorance is bliss, right? (Yes, I just called my dad ignorant – but he is CHOOSING to be so)
But I have hope that this could change. In Swami Satchidananda’s translation of the Yoga Sutra, he states that “when the vow of ahimsa (non-violence) is established in someone, all enmity ceases in his or her presence because that person emits harmonious vibrations. If two people who have enmity between them come to such a person, they will temporarily forget it.” Can you imagine what would happen if we all practiced ahimsa? How amazing would that be? It’s time to wake up and to no longer be ignorant.