Before reading this post, I highly recommend reading Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
In a previous post, Carmilla DeWinter made the comment “I can only add that propaganda in Nazi Germany made a valiant effort to present some groups of people literally as vermin and/or unworthy of life.”
I belong to one of those groups of people which the Nazis considered to be ‘vermin’ and unworthy of life. My maternal grandmother survived Auschwitz. My maternal grandfather’s parents, siblings, siblings-in-laws, nieces, and nephews all died in Treblinka.
I want to unpack the idea of ‘vermin’ a bit.
I know organic gardeners whose first reaction to snails/slugs is ‘go kill it’, even if there is no evidence that the snails/slugs have done significant damage to any plants, and even if they haven’t tried other methods to protect plants from snails.
I, however, feel that snails and slugs deserve a shot at whatever constitutes a full life for them. Just last week, when a slug was found in our kitchen, I insisted on removing it in a way which wouldn’t kill it. It took a little more patience, but I felt it was the right thing to do. Likewise, I always use nonlethal control methods for snails, such as putting plants where snails can’t reach them (for example, the stevia plant in my room), or making the area around a plant unpleasant for snails (spread coffee grounds around the base – caffeine is poisonous to snails, and they know it, so they stay away). If that weren’t enough, I might set out a wet newspaper, let the snails gather around it at night, and then move it to a spot where I don’t mind the snails being. Finally, a lot of the plants I have (blueberries for example) seem to be pretty unappealing to snails – even though I know snails get in there, they seem to hardly ever nibble on the leaves.
See, the problem is not that snails are alive. The problem is that snails and I sometimes want to eat the same plants. I can share – much as I sometimes do with humans – or I can make it difficult for snails to access the plants I want to eat – much as I do with stuff I don’t want other humans to take.
This was basically like my relationship with roaches in Taiwan. I never intentionally killed a single roach in all of my years in Taiwan. I made sure they couldn’t access my food, and as long as they weren’t in my food, I felt that living with them wasn’t such a big deal.
I’m not perfect, but I do try to stop myself from framing any being as ‘vermin’ or ‘pest’, human or not. A lot of residents of San Francisco regard homeless people as something like vermin, and I have been influenced by their prejudices just as I have picked up racism, ableism, and so forth. I do try to treat homeless people with the same level of respect as I would treat any other stranger I meet on the streets (incidently, I once ended up having an extended conversation with a homeless person about blueberries).
I think the Nazi’s targets were no more the cause of Europe’s problems in the 20th century than any other group of Europeans, so designating them as ‘vermin’ was much less effective for solving Europes’s problems than, say, killing slugs in order to prevent plants from being eaten by slugs. However, aside from the question of effectiveness, if the public didn’t already think in terms of some entities being ‘vermin’, that propaganda wouldn’t have had much effect. Heck, the technology used to kills humans in mass numbers is the same as the technology to kill other mammals in mass numbers – if people hadn’t pioneered the technology to quickly and efficiently massive numbers of cows/pigs/etc. in industrialized slaughterhouses, the Nazi regime may not have had the technology available to kill such large numbers of people, and there might have been more survivors.
If ‘humanizing’ is an award given to the Worthy Ones, it is something which can be taken away. I would rather not be awarded anything of the sort. If I am never humanized, I cannot be dehumanized. To put that on a broader scale, if nobody is ever humanized, then nobody is going to be dehumanized either. To bring this back to aromanticism/asexuality, instead of aspiring to be ‘recognized as fully human’, let’s try to make it so it doesn’t matter whether or no we are ‘recognized as fully human’.
I am surprised by how popular this series of posts is. I expected this would only reach the people who read all of my posts, but the pageview stats tells me that this isn’t so. I am also surprised by how many comments these posts have been getting, and I thank all of the commenters.
I think I will continue this series, but I first want more time to digest some of the points raised in comments, and to organized my own thoughts on this subject better, so this series will go on hiatus for a while. I do have another series ready to start next week, on a completely different topic. What topic? Well, there is this place which is called the ‘four countries’ even though it has been a part of a larger politically united entity for over a thousand years, and I travelled there last year…
You raise some very interesting questions with your thoughtful post. I hope I can ask a few more, just to show you what sort of thoughts your post kicks off in my head.
– If humans should not receive a higher status, as creatures, than other animals. what sort of implications does that have for humans being the dominant species on the planet and killing not just other animals, but meaning the end for several species altogether?
– If everyone were to accept we have no special status, how would that inform our treatment of the environment, especially the more global threats we have a hard time responding to now?
– What are the implications for political parties claiming to represent animals or nature as a whole, as similarly important to humans?
Thank you for reading and asking those questions!
One of the difficulties with this series is trying to avoid getting too far into those questions, because if I treated those questions in anything but a superficial manner, I wouldn’t be blogging, I’d be writing entire books.
I understand! Do please continue with this series though. As you can see, it’s very nutricious food for thought.
I love love love your last paragraph (before the break). So much agreement.
It’s ofc hard to also make room for folks who are hurt and find being recognized as human very important for their healing / etc. And we aren’t at that great point yet, where de/humanizing ceases to be meaningful. Nor do I know quite how to work toward it…
But yes. ‘Humanity’ being given and taken away. Agency, I guess, is the crux of the matter? Inalienable agency, right to self-determination.
Yes, it is very hard to write about this while also being sensitive to folks who are hurt and where ‘humanizing’ is part of their healing, and I’m not sure I’m handling it well. I already scrapped one drafted post because I felt it might be too harmful in that way, and that’s one reason why I am putting this series on hiatus.
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