Sunday, December 14, 2008

"You have not lived until you've found something worth dying for."

     I saw the above quote on a commercial for the show Whale Wars on Animal Planet. If you haven't seen the show, it's a documentary series about a group of people from all over the world called the Sea Shepherds who sale the ocean "hunting" Japanese illegal whale poachers. I love watching the show because it's about people coming together, literally putting their life on the line every day ready to die for something they truly believe in. They are making a difference in the world, and as one of the woman aboard the fleet tells the others in the premier episode, they are one small crew out of the millions of people in the world who care enough to take to the sea and fight for the whales. It may sound dramatic and as many people will say "they're only whales," but this is touching to me. These are the kind of people that I someday want to be surrounded by. 
     It's not the saving of the whales that I love about the show; it's the fact that the people on board the boat (named the Steve Irwin) wake up every morning with meaning in their lives, knowing they are making a difference in the world. This is the reason I have such a hard time with school- I get caught up in everything going on around me and forget what I am passionate about. Sometimes I feel like I'm walking, breathing, and going to class, but I'm not really alive. 
     I started a new job working for the town of Cheshire, CT's youth and social service department. Working at this job, along with working with the kids this summer in California, has really given me a new meaning in my life. My mom really wants me to be a teacher, and I think that someday I will. Once I finish my undergraduate studies at the University of New Haven, I'm really, really considering a Masters degree in Urban Studies. If my grades are good these next four semesters, I may even apply to Yale's one year program. 
     On Saturday mornings through my new job I participate in a something called the Youth Literacy Program (YLP). It's a great program that matches high school aged mentors with first graders, teaching them how to read and write. I feel that having a mentor in ones life is one of the greatest thing that can be provided for a child; one who is guided in the right direction will never stray in the wrong. I never really had a consistent mentor in my life, yet I had a great loving family who supported me growing up and has filled that void. Many kids don't have a supportive family life, are missing a parent, or deal with problems in their home that I seem unrealistic to most people. I talked about being able to recognize "pain in the eyes" of an animal in my last blog; well, I've seen it in the eyes of many children that I have talked to, and sometimes I think that my reason for waking up in the morning is to help kids who have that "pain." 
     Saturday morning I didn't want to go to work. I stayed up until almost five in the morning hanging out with friends and when my alarm went off at 7:30 and then 8:15, I thought about calling out. I have to say that one of my personal strengths is holding myself accountable for my actions, so whether I was tired or not, I was going to go to work. 
     When the morning started at 9:30, and then the kids started filing in at 10, I was disappointed in myself for ever wanting to call out of that job. One first grade boy who is aways smiling, came right up to me and hugged me. I probably said no more than two words to him the week before, yet somehow I had had enough impact on him for him to look forward to seeing me. I was speechless. 
     Because there are more first graders than high school mentors, I was paired off with my own "mentee" during the first week, and when she returned this week she was very excited to see me. We read a bunch of books, and I joked around with her, teaching her that she needed to eat her vegetables so that she could grow taller than her older sister, teaching her what snorkeling was, and also what "quo-a-shin" marks were and how they were used when people in stories spoke. Just watching her watch me talk motivates me to go to that job every Saturday morning. I know that on those mornings I am making a difference. Although I have a hard time attending my 8am class on Tuesday and Thursdays, I never will be late for that Saturday morning program at the Yellow House.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My final ethics paper---:::

I'm writing my final ethics paper on the equality of animals. What the paper will consist of, as any philosophy paper (in this class) has consisted of lately, will be a mixture of vocabulary words and bullshit sewn together so that if read twice, it may make sense.
Ironically, while reading through my research for the paper, the show Animal Police came onto the television (Animal Planet is one of three or four channels I watch, or know what channel they actually are). I sat back and watched it for a while, hoping for some inspiration to push me through writing this paper.
The show always angers me. Many times, animals are left abandoned by their previous owners, without food and adequate shelter. Other times they are removed from their active owners, who have physically abused them by malnourishment and beatings. What always bothers me is this:
why do some people think they are so much better than an animal that they can treat it however they want?
I look at these people as scum. They are the lowest form of a human being who deserve to be treated like a murderer or a rapist, they deserve to go to jail.
Whether human being or animal, any human being can recognize the look of pain in the eyes of a living creature. Those with compassion can also see suffering, hunger, and loneliness. Every human being is born with the ability to exhibit compassion, but many choose to ignore it.
This can be related back to my paper in many important ways. One of the questions that philospiher Peter Singer writes about is this:

[In regards to the equality of woman] "Many feminists hold that woman have the right to an abortion on request... Since a man cannot have an abortion, it is meaningless to talk of his right to have one. Since a dog can't vote, it is meaningless to talk of its right to vote" (Singer, 319. Animals and Environment).

To tie what I wrote into my argument above, if an animal can be hungry just as a person can, it should have the right to food. If an animal can feel physical pain in the same ways that a human can, than an animal should have the rights to not be submitted to abuse. Many other rights of animals fit into this formula, and should be recognized when debating the equality of animals with human beings.
This is a topic that has always hit home with me since I was a kid. I grew up in a family that always had animals. From cats and dogs to guinea pigs, turtles, chipmunks, and horses, we've had them all plus more. Even animals that are viewed as "scary" such as bats seen in horror flicks or horses that tower over the average person in size can exhibit emotions that any human being can relate to. Any human being can engage in many stages of empathy with an animal if they allow themselves to do so.
Personally, I think that my love for animals has come hand in hand with my love and compassion for people. I can cry for a person just as I could cry for an animal, and could never treat either one in a poor manner. I'll admit that there has been times when I have treated another person poorly, everyone has and it is only human, but a true good person can recognize this, repent and "patch it up," and learn from it. It sounds stupid and preachy, but it is something that I have learned through school and being around people, and has helped me have many diverse relationships with many diverse people. Some of the people who you think can't teach you anything are actually the ones who can teach you the most.
The same goes for animals. They will teach you much about life if you can learn to listen.

This blog really has jump started my paper. I'd better get back to it.
I'll try to keep my blogging more consistent...