Posted by: vanhoff | April 22, 2008

I Saw Earthlings- A Socio-Perspective

We are Earthlings


            The documentary Earthlings takes an in-depth look at the inequality that lies between the human specie and the animal kingdom. The film contains video footage of the most abominable acts of cruelty towards animals at the hand of humankind. Like us, animals are surviving; they are industrious, strong, intelligent, mobile, and evolutional. All species are capable of growth and adaptation and first and foremost, animals are earthlings that inhabit planet Earth.  Mohandas Gandhi once said that the moral and ethical nature of a country could be seen in its treatment of animal species. For it is not but one country, rather the entire world that turns a cheek to such inhumane practices. Gandhi followed several principles that opposed non-violent actions, including opposition toward animal cruelty. Thus, he lived by a vegetarian diet where he set forth to find the truth in order for self-purification and to protest against such acts of animal cruelty. Earthlings was produced to be informative, controversial and thought provoking, however many view it as propaganda either by PETA or other organizations of the same interest. The documentary read by well-known actor Joaquin Phoenix and featuring music by the critically acclaimed platinum artist Moby, used their pop culture status to entice a mass audience to such abominations. No matter how one may read into the content of the film, it produced attention, which is exactly what director Shaun Monson wanted. 

            The documentary is for shock value, and when viewed a sense of moral panic may ensue from the individual to a collective whole depending upon the belief system instilled in one’s society. These belief systems among societies deem certain behaviors as unacceptable, and therefore take action when normative violations occur. The belief and action of one’s society is the moral construction of that society. Since the beginning of man, animals have been used to improve the quality of life within a society. Animals used for food, entertainment, clothing, and sport have sustained acceptable forms of behavior for many centuries. However, some cultures including Hindu learn from an early age the tenets of non-injury to living beings, vegetarianism lifestyle, fasting for self-purification, and the mutual tolerance between members of various creeds and sects create harmonious conditions between animal and man. The Hindu’s exemplify the very fact that certain beliefs and behaviors constitute what is deviant and thus socially constructed, but vary from one social unit to another. The vast majority of humankind believes and accepts animals as a mean of sustaining a quality of life on Earth. Therefore, Earthlings use important aspects of human emotion and sympathy, characteristics embedded in all humans, to induce a collective change. If important aspects and beliefs of the collective change, its rules are likely to change, including how to handle its transgressors. 


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