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September 7, 2012: The case against selfishness

Originally posted on this blog.

The way we treat other animals is based on a variety of factors: upbringing, cultural and societal norms, and education, among others. Whatever the reasons, people who mistreat animals often donít care enough about them to behave any differently. More often than not, this is tied in to a self-centered view of life, where our own goals and aspirations take precedence over everything else. Weíve been taught to "look out for number one" our whole lives, so itís natural that we turn a blind eye to the suffering around us. While there is nothing wrong with focusing on ourselves to an extent, we should also open ourselves more and more to the suffering and take concrete steps to alleviate it. A self-centered way of life might seem fine, but, from an Effaist perspective, it is ultimately pointless in that it is a wasted life that could have been used to improve the world in which we live.

EFFA has always stressed the importance of helping. The reason that we stress the importance of helping other animals, is that we believe that our current relationship with other animals is an enormous ongoing problem for the world that we live in. This (mis)treatment, whether it be killing millions of them daily for our food or clothes, abusing them for our sports and entertainment, or simply ignoring their suffering on the streets of our cities, is leading the world in the wrong direction. Negativity causes more negativity. Itís a simple case of cause and effect. The current treatment of other animals can be remedied by taking a step back from our selfish behavior and thinking about all the suffering we are causing. It starts with the realization that no sentient being, human or otherwise, wants to suffer and die. Other animals were not put on this earth to serve us. This is the epitome of selfish (and faulty) thought. They were put here to see if we could all coexist peacefully, and as long as we donít change the current way of doing things, we will not be able to.

Realizing that itís not OK to hurt and kill other living beings is the first step. Thinking about this, really meditating on it, should ideally lead you to empathize more with the other animals suffering around you. You should then act on this realization, and do whatever you can to help these animals. This, in a nutshell, is what Effaism is all about. You should help even if you donít feel this empathy. Active helping is the best way to broaden our focus, and to start making a difference in the world. The actual act of helping innocent beings is so positive it is almost therapeutic. It is the antithesis of the popular (and misguided) hedonistic approach in which see the world as something that we can use and abuse. The more we move away from this hedonism and selfishness, the better our chances to truly improve the world we live in.

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