Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Carnivorous predators and the food chain: enough to drive us into vegetarianism!

It's a dog-eat-dog world, some say, pointing at the primeval principle of kill-or-be-killed underlying all political and economic conflict. The smell of blood is all it takes to trigger a feeding frenzy among sharks. We see it around us, every single day, and so we become desensitized to the blood and gore of the abattoir (a word we borrowed from the French, because it sounds a lot more genteel than "slaughterhouse").

Few of us have had to hunt and kill and skin and gut and cook the meat we consume. We buy it from the supermarket, neatly wrapped in cellophane and kept fresh in the freezer. No protruding heads or feet to remind us what the animal looked like when it was alive. Often the meat comes in tidy, bloodless, machine-sliced fillets, ready to stick in the oven or frying pan.

That's the only way we can deal with the horror of being part of the food chain. When children become aware of what being a carnivore actually entails, many become horrified and vow to get off the bloody wheel by turning to vegetarianism.

Eating fruit and greens doesn't seem so hideous, perhaps because plants don't scream or bleed when chopped up. And, even if they do, their blood is green or colorless, and their screams are beyond our hearing range. Fruits and nuts, of course, are aesthetically the least offensive, since they grow off trees - and no matter how many fruits or nuts we consume, at least we're not harming the trees themselves.

I wish I could live on fruits and nuts - but that would require a monumental, almost fanatical, effort. And it's no fun being a fanatic about anything. Nevertheless, after an ayahuasca experience I had in July 2011, I'm beginning to feel more tolerant towards vegetarians.

Hishamuddin Hashim,
Teoh Beng Hock's  tormentor
It's not every day that I'm so vividly aware of being part of the food chain. In theory, it seems only natural that one species devours and consumes another. Animals whose flesh we find delicious usually feed off plants and grains. And because we humans consider ourselves "the crown of creation" with our access to technology, we are no longer prey to other species of carnivores - apart from our own.

Even so, we can still be killed by the tiniest lifeforms. A disease-carrying mosquito or flea, even a bunch of hostile bacteria - or something totally invisible, like a mutant strain of virus - can take us down, no problem.

Ku Nan the Barbarian
Those who have seen Apocalypse Now - Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 film adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness - will recall the spine-chilling last words of Colonel Walter E. Kurtz: "The horror... the horror!"

That was exactly how I felt when I was granted a vision of what Malaysian politics looks like from the astral perspective. We live in a multi-tiered social hierarchy defined by genetic heredity (traditional aristocracy) and financial inheritance (the nouveau riche). Those not born into one of the nine royal bloodlines have to buy their perks and privileges with hard cash.

Everybody wants to scrabble up the status ladder - and those who have to start from scratch place their hopes on their progeny. So they invest every cent they can scrape together in "higher education" for their offspring - which they believe will grant them access to the upper tiers of society through membership in various professional guilds.

Strong egos dominate, exploit and oppress the weaker ones - that's the way the world works. That's how it has always worked and that's how it will forever be.

Mahathir Mohamad,
Tyrannosaurus rex
The battlecry of the French Revolution - Liberté, égalité, fraternité - sounds noble and stirring, but it can never happen. Liberty, equality and fraternity for all means no more slave labor. We would be forced to clean up after ourselves, do our own dishes, nobody to carry bricks on their broken backs to build our dream castles!

Can you imagine: who would risk their lives balancing on precarious scaffoldings, day in and day out, to construct a 100-story skyscraper, for a measly RM100 a day? Would you do it? Would you want your children to do it? Let those foreign workers from impoverished countries do the dirty and dangerous work!

Najib Razak, cold-blooded and vicious
But why are some countries "impoverished"? Do they not have their own natural resources? A cursory probe into the history of these "impoverished" lands will reveal the same age-old pattern: the extreme gulf between the haves and the have-nots is an artificial one, created by a feudal social structure wherein the privileged few live like gods, while those at the bottom have to be content with the most basic of necessities.

Apandi Ali,
High Priest of Iniquity
In between you will find the lower, middle and upper classes constantly pushing their way upwards, towards the top of the power pyramid, presided over by a complacent and corrupt priesthood whose function is to sanctify the status quo and assure everyone it's all part of God's plan.

Is there a way out of this endless loop of energy predation, this neverending nightmare of master-slave, victor-victim relationships?

Hishammuddin Hussein,
fang-and-claw politics
Yes, of course, there is. Twenty-five centuries ago, a young prince named Siddhartha Gautama walked out of his cushioned existence in his father's palace - after he was inadvertently exposed to the horrible sight of disease, decay, death and inescapable debt.

Prince Siddhartha realized he was living in an artificial bubble of comfort, insulated from the raw reality beyond the palace walls. Unable to enjoy his creature comforts, knowing they were merely transient, Siddhartha set off quietly to live like an ascetic. He learned to meditate from a variety of spiritual masters and eventually broke free from the robotism of physical embodiment.

In short, Siddhartha awakened from his cultural trance and was henceforth called Buddha - the Awakened One. The title "Buddha" (like "Christ" or "Christos") is not a personal name - it's a state of consciousness each of us must attain if we wish to gain true liberation from the wheel of life, death and rebirth - from the feeding frenzy of the biological food chain.

It's not enough to believe in or revere what Prince Siddhartha achieved. We have to become Buddha ourselves. And that's just a start on an inner journey back to where we began, as the Source of All Energy and Consciousness. But, once we attain our own enlightenment, we will never again wallow in the abysmal ignorance of automatism. Every word we utter, every thought we bear, and every action we take will be done consciously.

We may continue to devour the flesh of other species, but we shall do so with apologetic humility and gratitude - and, in so doing, we shall consciously bless the animal whose death now feeds our life and whose body now becomes part of our bodies. The soul of the animal, thus being acknowledged and blessed, will depart in peace and continue its adventure, perhaps in different embodiments, and it may even opt to experience being human.

Zahid Hamidi, ready to pounce
For the slayer and the slain are bound in a karmic knot, so that any human who kills and devours an animal is actually granting the soul of the animal entry into the human domain.

Personally, I would rejoice in the ability to live entirely off sunshine, fresh air and love. Occasionally, as a special treat, I would allow myself to be devoured and consumed - and to, in turn, consume and devour - but only as a ritual of sacred union performed with a lover in the celebratory spirit of tantra.

[First posted 26 July 2011, reposted 19 June 2014 & 2 May 2017]