It's always better to speak in hyperbole than to understate things. Always.
So I may or may not have referred to animal rights activists as "worms" this evening. This was more or less said in discreet conversation, but said nonetheless. I feel a proper apology is warranted.
Worms came to mind because I thought about what it would be like to do absolutely nothing. It would be like sleeping in indefinitely, never growing hungry or restless, never wanting or needing, never cold or hot, never fully unconscious or fully awake, oblivious to light and dark, idly lolling around with purposeless limbs. This is the secret dream of much of the movement.
I'll of course caveat this with a nod to the legitimate discussion that is taking place, and which needs to take place more visibly, about the sustainability and safety of animal foods. There are many who raise very sound and alarming objections to many of the ways in which we interact with animals today. There are others who picket restaurants. It is these others I am interested in.
These activists represent the more extreme manifestation of a larger phenomenon that they are not entirely separate from. If you look at the underlying ideas of a movement, you can be sure to find a slightly less developed version of them in their mainstream support base. When it comes to the specific genre of animal rights activism I'm talking about, the people who send restaurant owners death threats, there's an undeniable core of anti-humanism. Their dialogue is constantly tinged with a guilt of existence; their righteousness is a burdensome one. They feel so keenly the utter blasphemy of human existence that they cannot help but supplicate themselves before the shrine of wheatgrass and tempeh. Theirs the knowledge of the utter equality of man to beast, to grass, to stone, to molecule. The human should seek to gradually withdraw itself from its grievous imposition. And so on... And so forth... And such that I should not eat foie gras.
It's seen as horribly gauche to argue one's superiority to animals these days. Even to say that one is better than a lobster, a wretched insect of the ocean floor, is to invite a tut-tutting of relativist piety. Are we really no better than lobsters? And if so, why object at all to the snapping of claws, the writhing duel of the seabed. To recognize some degree of hierarchy is not to bind time to an atlas. Superiority is not teleology; its possibility does not imply some kind of cohesive all encompassing order. Water is heavier than air regardless of whether the cosmos reflects some deeper intelligible order. Rank, or relation, is an inherent property of all phenomena. Nothing is entirely unto itself.
This isn't some we-are-all-connected fluff, rather it's the observation that there is a sort of order to nature that doesn't necessarily give us any pointers as to how we should order ourselves. Nature cannot tell us who should lead, but it does say that someone will. The reason for this rule may very well seem arbitrary, and it is, and it is fraught with contingency.
We shouldn't read too much into the shape of things, other than the fact that there is a shape at any given time. This is more or less what Nietzsche is getting at. Strangely enough, it's also the mantra of modern empirical science. One must infer from material findings with the utmost caution, with a shield of skepticism, hesitant to go beyond a mere cataloguing of the facts, opting for the comfort of specialization.
The importance of hyperbole lies in its impact; it drives home ideas in a sort of compressed uncanny form. Hyperbole is unspoken communication between those in the know: a cryptic verbal shorthand.