Loving animals is so easy, because they don't challenge us. They seem to "appreciate" us. And even when they harm us (I was bitten by my german shepherd across the face when I was 4) we still forgive them, because in the context of our legal system, they lack intent. Acceptance of self by the other party shouldn't be the foundation of love, because it depends if the other being (human or animal) has the choice to not be accepting.
Sorry to use an analogy I've already used today... loving a being because they "accept" us, with all our faults, and in the case of mail order brides from the third/second worlds is very similar to loving your pet. Mostly these mail order brides have this as their only hope to food/shelter stability, "to marry a rich white American man" . But I don't call that choice any more than the pet has no choice to stick around if he wants food/shelter. These examples of love based on acceptance without choice DO happen a lot in our society.
But to me, love and acceptance without choice does not have the same meaning as love between equals, where both participants are exercising choice without risk to life.
Give some thought in this matter to "cat ladies". They love their cats more than their fellow humans, often because of life traumas. Do those dozens and hundreds of cats "love" these ladies, as the ladies think they love their cats?
I think your tears when seeing animals being mistreated comes more from feeling empathy for the powerless than love per se. Have you ever watched "Once Were Warriors" or "Rabbit Proof Fence", movies about "lesser" humans with less power being mistreaded by humans who could care less? I think in both cases, we have empathy for powerless.
Loving animals is so easy, because they don't challenge us.
You haven't lived with MY dogs!
Matt, thanks for joining the group and posting this thread. I apologize that it took me so long to acknowledge it.
People classify and compartmentalize a lot of things in life. I think a lot of people have a soft spot for animal suffering simply because they see animals as helpless in so many ways. When we compare a homeless dog to a homeless person, for example, I think the tendancy is for us to see the dog as truly helpless, but the homeless person as just an unfortunate person who has made some bad decisions in his or her life, was foolish enough to get involved in drugs or alchol, or that they could improve their situation if they just tried to hold down a job, etc.
I'm not judging whether those assumptions are right or wrong. I am simply stating that they are so. People do think like this, and it seems fairly universal.
Also, we can help the homeless dog by capturing it, forcing it to undergo medical treatment and sterlization, and deciding where and how that dog will live. We cannot do such things for people because people have rights of autonomy. We can't force a homeless person to undergo rehab or medical treatment or whatever unless they are found to be mentally incompetent.
Look at the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. A lot of people rushed down there to help the animals, but it seemed fewer were concerned about helping the people. Again, I think this may be partially due to the belief that the humans could have chosen to evacuate, but decided not to, therefore they were at least partially responsible for their situation. The pets however had no say in the matter.
Of course, this assumption is not completely right. Many people quite simply had no means to evacuate, or were unable to becuase of health reasons, or whatever. Still, I think the tendancy is for humans to blame other humans for their misfortunes, but not blame the animals for theirs, which is why our empathy for our fellow humans is sometimes lacking.
[...] which is why our empathy for our fellow humans is sometimes lacking.[...]Or that our empathy for animals is misrepresented as our own powertrip over another being, whereas you can't have that power over another human?
Well, people do have power over other beings at times.
I'm not clear, are you asking me a specific question, or are you making a statement about misrepresentation of intentions?
Philosophically speaking I'm leaning toward humans misrepresenting emotions. All what you expressed about it being 'our' decision making process when we're saving the animals confirms what I've always thought about love and empathy. When we are in control it gives us a fundamental pleasure, and I think as humans we misrepresent this pleasure we give ourselves as empathy towards the animal. As you expressed in quite clear words, our power over other humans is lesser, so it's not as easy for us to modify another human's course.
My "Or...?" statement was rhetorical, in that from your own argument, you reach the conclusion of: less empathetic to humans, whereas from your very own argument, the flip conclusion can be reached: misrepresenting our powertrip as empathy when it comes to animals, in other words... too empathetic to pets. Two sides of the same argument, with reverse effect.
When we are in control it gives us a fundamental pleasure, and I think as humans we misrepresent this pleasure we give ourselves as empathy towards the animal.
In other words, it is the control we relish. But rather than admit that, we dress it up as empathy. That's what you're getting at?
The cynic in me says that is potentially true, or at least in some circumstances. However, I do think that when I was involved in animal resuce, it was about empathy, and not about power over "lesser animals."
In fact, it was the feeling of powerlessness that was so taxing about animal rescue. The constant reminders that there were dogs and cats you could not help. It was overwhelming.
Of course, you might reply to this last statement that that proves that power is the key factor there. But although it may appear to be so, I'm not quite convinced that it is. Things are not always as they appear to be. Sure, the feelings of powerlessness were palpable, but the issue of power was not the motivating reason to help. Empathy was.
Pardon the strange analogy... but a similar psychological/philosophical conundrum happens when white society tries to "aid" aboriginals. The white people call it 'empathy' but in reality it takes sovereignty away from aboriginals. Similarly with religious people, helping others is a way of controlling others, desguised as church charity. Even I personally have been accused of this once... I was trying to help someone and they complained I was trying to control them, from my perspective I was helping but from their perspective I was controlling, who's perspective is most important, the receiver or the donor?
Only difference with animals is they aren't telling us we're controlling them. I'm in no way implying that we ought not to do animal rescue and feel good about it... only saying that in a general philosophical perspective, there are other concepts at work here. :)
Ironically, your words confirm it even more for me (I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be evil here, you know me enough for that :) when you talk of your feelings of 'powerlessness'. Powerlessness is a very strong negative feeling, and our human nature is compelled to overcome powerlessness, to make you work even harder, to be empowered. Empowerment is the fundamental drive in LGBT and feminists and unions and many human endeavours. So when one feels powerless, one must become empowered. Helping others empowers us.
The white people call it 'empathy' but in reality it takes sovereignty away from aboriginals.
I agree, but that is not true empathy, any more than denying a desperate woman an abortion is a form of "true morality."
People often obscure their motivations, even from themselves, by dressing their actions up as something more selfless, humble, or whatever.
I agree about the need to empower ourselves. But with animal rescue, I felt like I was swimming aginst the current. There are, as you said, other factors at work, such as Compassion Fatique Syndrome, and just a lack of time, energy, money, and space, too.
Glad I found this question because I wanted to ask another one: Why do humans really love other species so much?
My hypothesis is it says more about us and our brains than on biology as a whole, but I still think it's mighty interesting.
There are exambles of symbiotic relationships between different species but they all seem to be involved with either food or cleanliness.
Yet we as humans can really love other animals. I'm an example myself. I keep fancy mice as pets, and am surprised how they're all completely different individuals, and love them to bits. But jee... it's just a mouse.... Hm?
It might just be our brains 'think' other animals are replacement for humans but I wonder: what exactly is the biological benefit for these emotions?
I can't wait to hear your answers!