Animals are reflections of our own humanity

sans-titre-numerisation-20-copierMahatma Gandhi said that the greatness of a civilization is measured by the way we treat animals. The quote is still topical, even if the images presented here, are from 1906 French magazine “Je Sais Tout”. Photos of Trump sons proudly showing off their trophy hunting in Africa to recent slaughterhouse scandals in France, respect for animal condition is far from being obvious in our societies.

In the early twentieth century, animal welfare sounded like a joke. While in the US, the caption goes in every movie (“no animal were harmed”), intensive livestock farming deprives cows, chicken or pigs of any consideration. We are so inconsistent. In 2015, animals are granted new legal status in France. French parliament admits that animals are “sentient beings”. Which is not so amazing when you think that animals can always be sold and exploited. Besides, it does not affect our traditions like bullfighting, hunting with hounds, ritual slaughter and so on. Of course, we have come a long way. In 1906, it was quite different.sans-titre-numerisation-15

The animal was just a thing. A thing without a soul, without sensitivity, even without that ability to feel pain. The captions are awful, proving that sometimes humanity is either ignorant either inhuman. The man is proudly posing between the carcass of an elephant and a baby elephant playing with the rifle. “The little elephant is considered as the most intelligent animal. However, the instinct did not warn it that the gun was used to kill its mother. sans-titre-numerisation-16He sniffs the head, not understanding.” The cynicism of the author of these lines was probably less important than his ignorance.

Meanwhile, in slaughterhouses, progresses were achieved to reduce animal sufferings. In Germany, cows were shot instead of being hammered. In a museum of the early twentieth century, visitors could see the body of a young Botokudine woman from Brazil. Captured in 1841, she arrived in London to be exhibited as a “freak“. She only survived a few months. Her body was kept in alcohol so she still could be exhibited. At the same time, the Bronx Zoo in New York was locking an African man in a monkey cage…

To love humanity, it is necessary to know how to regard, without offence, its weaknesses and its vices.” (Silvio Pellico, 1834) Indeed we must.


Are our dreams vanished?

At 17, I had to write and orally present an argument essay on a topic of my choice. It was 1979 (the age of Aquarius?, some cynics might gibe) and I chose a subject related to nonviolence being a remedy to most of our international issues. I remember taking the examples of three different countries and three similar emblematic figures: Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Thirty-seven years later, I still remain inspired by these three pacifist leaders.

martin-luther-king-180477_1920Even today. As Berlin mourns for the loss of German citizens, I wonder where humanism, compassion and tolerance have gone. When I was a teenager, I thought I was living in troubled times but I had this confident hope that new Kings, new Gandhis and new Mandelas would peacefully stand up for the rights of the oppressed. I somehow had faith in the advent of a fresh awareness era. I do not know whether it is because I am at the change of life but I have lost that conviction. My high ideals have been drowned in the present sea of mediocrity. The world today leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. It seems like our ability to think, dispute and buck the trend has substantially been shrinking. Where have our dreams run away?

“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” (Martin Luther King)
pacifist-71445_640All those powerful speeches, all those words of wisdom still echo in my mind. Though I sometimes feel like we have been giving up our visions for a better world. Excessive capitalism and greed have caused more pollution. We are consuming in order to keep others busy producing and we are producing in order to keep others busy consuming. Why? Not sure we know why. Things are not making us happier. They are keeping us busy and preventing us from thinking and being profound. Things are depriving us from our humanity. And filling the gaps in our lives. We are scared of the void are we not?
“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” (Mahatma Gandhi)
Reading this quote from Gandhi, we must believe that kind people are everywhere on this planet. They may be few but but their voices cannot be silenced by bombs and killing truck drivers. Their words will never be erased from human hearts. Now is the time to listen.
“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.” (Nelson Mandela)
non-violence-1160133_640As Mandela states it, poverty and injustice are the stumbling block and as long as inequality persists, violence will devastate our societies. Words like equality, tolerance, peace, justice or freedom may sound like hackneyed notions to those who have deleted the term “human” from their vocabulary. Let us keep on rejoicing, dreaming, smiling and laughing, resisting and questioning, thinking and learning because these are acts of bravery nowadays. And because it is thoroughly human.

Another world

So, hate, contempt, ignorance, racism, xenophobia and such are now generally accepted and politically correct opinions. This is the kind of world we are now living in, I suppose. And all I have been taught at school or at church was nothing but a pipe dream. Is success incompatible with compassion and respect?

What is wrong with humanity? What can’t we think of ourselves in terms of inclusiveness? I listened to Hilary Clinton’s concession speech and could not help but get emotional. I thought that she sounded thoroughly softhearted and genuine. She delivered a well-proportioned message nourished with class, tolerance and benevolence. I was particularly touched by her humbleness and wisdom: “Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power.” When Donald Trump raises truculence, cynicisn and profanity to some kinds of twisted values, she proves that intelligence is stepping off in style.

I was really looking forward to witnessing the first female president of the United States. What a powerful message it would have been for all women who in many countries are still considered as second class citizens… And to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams”, she said.

“The world won’t get no better, we gotta change it”. So the lyrics of Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’ song go. I still find myself dreaming of a better world where each one has a place, where everyone owes respect to others, where tolerance is a moral duty.

But not this time. Not yet.

What goes around comes around


Harris & Ewing (1918)

Earth is about 4.5 billion years old and I came across an article stating that the oldest human DNA is 400,000 years old. Which is a venerable age for humanity, but virtually young to universe’s standards.

If we were to represent the history of Earth through a 24-hour clock, Earth would appear at 0:00:00, the origin of life starts at 4:00 AM, dinosaurs are showing up at 10:56 PM and humans are coming out at 11:58:43 PM. And the latecomers turned the planet upside down.

Do not ask me what happens at midnight but what I cannot figure out is how in a so short existence, humanity has been able to cast a shadow on the milky way. Because of light pollution, one third of the planet is now unable to observe our galaxy.

Physicist Stephen Hawking recently made a statement about pollution and stupidity as biggest threats on mankind itself. Overcrowding is a major concern too. “The population has grown by half a billion since our last interview, with no end in sight.”, says Professor Hawking to the Independent. “At this rate, it will be eleven billion by 2100. Air pollution has increased by 8 percent over the past five years. More than 80 percent of inhabitants of urban areas are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution.”

There was a time, in a very distant past, when all the resources were abundant and especially free. A time when wealth and poverty did not split up humanity. Today, 62 persons in the world are as rich as half of the poorest world’s population,  according to Oxfam. Tax havens enabled the wealthiest individuals to conceal $7.6 trillion. The super rich has today the power to bring poverty to a close, not once but… four times over. And there is more. There is enough food produced worldwide to feed everyone, still one out of seven people is starving.

The Earth’s clock almost shows the midnight hour. Or so it seems. Maybe after midnight, all is starting all over again. Maybe life is a circle, like infinity, like eternity. Maybe humanity is given another chance. Maybe. Maybe not. What if the past is actually the future? What if we were caught in a vicious circle? I am dreaming, I may be even rambling but when are we going to learn that we really are dispensable in the universe…

Mirror, mirror on the wall…

It is a fact that the most beautiful people have better opportunities in life and are -needless to say- more successful. During a job interview, they are more likely to be noticed, even if their skills and level of instruction are lower than those of other applicants. There is more : their incomes are higher and we tend to condone their behavior should they make mistakes. Is the packaging now more significant than the contents?

I sure do not want to be sharp-tongued (I am anyway ;)) but politicians do not fit in the picture or so it seems. Except for a few of them, they are rarely attractive, yet we succumb to their charms and vote for them. Is power self-sufficient? Governing and charisma must break free from the tyranny of beauty. I suppose that empathy and gibberish are effective.

Yet we all are aware that beauty is an illusion. You cannot rely on appearances. Folk wisdom says that the clothes don’t make the man. Even if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I bet many would be willing to give up their souls to get eternal beauty. After all, it must be in our genes. According to the French psychologist, Scania de Schonen, 3 days old babies prefer to look at attractive faces.

We were probably never so obsessed with the cult of beauty. Look at our selfie sticks! Complexion is so complex. We want to appeal as a way to be socially accepted, as a way to feel better about ourselves … but is the mirror telling the truth?


Enfant coquette, montée sur un meuble, vérifiant sa coiffure dans un miroir.