Monday, July 14, 2014

Employing Orwellian Doublethink to Devour Animals

2 + 2 = 5

Despite what many of you may be thinking, I can add! But does this equation ring a bell? What if I told you that 2 plus 2 really does equal 5? Would you believe me? What if the government and corporations backed me up? Would you believe it then?

In theory, this is exactly what happens every day; industries and their pocketed law-makers tell us that 2 + 2 = 5 and, for the most part, we believe them.

I recently had the pleasure of rereading George Orwell's 1984, a novel which seems more relevant today than it ever was more than half a century ago. A futuristic dystopia, 1984 is about a culture built upon lies and one man's attempt to keep his mind from believing the lies, simplistically referenced in the equation 2 + 2 = 5.

As Erich Fromm brilliantly summarized in the book's afterword, 1984 is a warning to all nations, especially Westernized ones, enslaved by modern modes of production and organization, in danger of creating "a society of automatons who will have lost every trace of individuality, of love, of critical thought, and yet who will not be aware of it because of 'doublethink' " (p. 267).

Doublethink is a fascinating cognitive process. By definition, it is the acquiescence of two contradictory beliefs held in one's mind at the same time. According to Orwell (1949), the embrace of these two incompatible convictions has to be both conscious (in order to be acted upon) and unconscious (or it would raise doubt and a change in behavior). Doublethink allows us "to tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient" (p. 177).

Even today, many of us are persistent practitioners of doublethink in one specific way: we believe that animals have feelings and that it is immoral to cause them unnecessary harm, while simultaneously holding the opposing opinion that eating their flesh and bodily fluids—as a direct result of torture and death—is acceptable.

Attempts to reason with others as to why raising animals for food is unwarranted, abnormal and cruel are often dismissed, criticized and/or belittled to stifle one's own consciousness raising and participation. Hence, with the blessings of industry, advertisers, and the state, we tell the lie to ourselves and share it with others ad nauseam. The lie is this: breeding, killing, and commodifying billions of sentient beings as lifeless production units for our consumption is normal, natural, and necessary. Anything presented to refute this ideology is rejected and/or hidden. This entrenched system, which Dr. Melanie Joy coined carnism, is "supported by every single institution in society, from medicine to education."

In 1984, the Party and its supporters proclaim deceits as truths to control the minds of the populace for the purpose of maintaining power and the status quo. Today, the hoi polloi gladly welcome domination via consumerism.

Animals, particularly those raised as food, must keep their places, permanently, as mechanisms to be exploited by power hungry industries, lobbyists and government officials. Therefore, the prevailing mental condition of the populace must be one of a "controlled insanity" in which doublethink is necessary to quiet the human and soulful qualities that would cause us to question our role in needless animal cruelty and violence.

A successful manipulation of the mind occurs when a person thinks the opposite of what is true. Just as a violent and domineering spouse may insist that he loves his wife even though he physically abuses her, so influenced is the person who claims to love animals who continues to hurt them by eating them and their secretions.

We would do well to heed Orwell's haunting warning. We are not automatons—at least not yet—and neither are our non-human brethren. Every day we have a choice. We can believe the immoral lie or live the moral truth; we can harm or we can help; we can be told what to think or we can think critically for ourselves. In other words, you do the math.

Orwell, G. (1949). 1984. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The point here is so brilliantly conveyed, I wish I could claim to have written this. Thank you, Bethany Cortale, for your compassion and activism. keep spreading the word and educating our society, and being the voice of the earthlings who don't speak with words.