Dr. Who -BOOM TOWN (season 1)
Margaret: I spared her life.
The Doctor: You let one of them go but that’s nothing new. Every now and then a little victim’s spared because she smiled, ’cause he’s got freckles. ‘Cause they begged. And that’s how you live with yourself. That’s how you slaughter millions. Because once in awhile—on a whim, if the wind’s in the right direction—you happen to be kind.
Margaret: Only a killer would know that.
It’s amazing the way your mind wanders, how little things…quotes from t.v. shows and bits of blogs, make you think of the strangest things.
I’ve been studying Esperanto lately with my little boy, and we’ve been having a lot of fun. And it didn’t occur to me until after we’d begun studying that the first time we’d heard of it was actually years before through Scifi. Red Dwarf features it as a second language throughout the show and Harry Harrison talks about it as the Galactic secondary language in his Stainless Steel Rat book series. After we’d begun studying the language, I began to understand why.
Esperanto was created as a supplementary language to facilitate peaceful relations between people of different language backgrounds and cultures. It’s not meant to replace anyone’s native language, but rather to ease communication while preserving the linguistic and cultural identity of its speakers. In fact, Esperanto has a culture of it’s own.
Because of it’s original peaceful intent, its sometimes referred to as a Peace Movement itself. Because it doesn’t belong to any one country, nor is it a requirement, the people who study it tend to be self motivated activists and idealists. There are a lot of vegetarians and vegans in the Esperanto movement.
Which led me to thinking of the similarities between Esperanto and veg*nism. Both movements are considered somewhat on the fringe. Both are taken up by a small fraction of the overall population of the Earth. Both are considered by many as a good idea though unattainable “in real life.” Both have lofty, noble, peaceful goals.
What struck me about that conversation, the very first time I heard it, was how it illustrates perfectly the compromises and double-think we’re all guilty of in our everyday lives. How many times have we cried out enraged against cruelty to animals while simultaneously filling our bellies with their flesh? How many times have we fed the ground remains of some animals to the animal companions within our own homes? The pressure for this kind of double-think is so rampant throughout our society, that most of us are completely unaware that we do it. We’re immersed in it; it’s become part of the way we think, or rather the way we double-think ourselves, in order to rationalize our actions and be “normal” members of society.
But what is so “normal” about our society? When our society is fractured and split by the great language divide, when our compassion is split between the animals that need to be cared about and the ones that can be abused, is being “normal” a worthy goal?
What is “normal” anyway? I’m going to be cliche here and quote from Merriam-Webster Dictionary…
- Main Entry: 1nor·mal
1 : perpendicular; especially : perpendicular to a tangent at a point of tangency
2 a : according with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle b : conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern
3 : occurring naturally <normal immunity>
4 a : of, relating to, or characterized by average intelligence or development b : free from mental disorder : sane**
Here, I believe, lies the fundamental difference between the idealist and the “normal” people. “Normal” to most people equals conformity and sanity, while the idealist sees conformity as insanity. How is it sane to settle for the way things are when the world could be so much better- if everyone just lived the values they already profess to cherish? Normal people see seemingly unattainable goals (that go against the mainstream of society) as impractical. Idealists see the seeds of change in thoughtful choices and small everyday acts of kindness. Even Cyrano himself (in the play Cyrano de Bergerac) claims:
What say you? It is useless? Ay, I know
But who fights ever hoping for success?
I fought for lost cause, and for fruitless quest!
What does it matter if the numbers are few? If society frowns upon the person who devotes time to causes that seem fringe, hopeless and impractical? Some things are worth fighting for. Some things are worth speaking out for. I may have begun studying Esperanto purely as a hobby, but I still respect it’s ideals and culture and would never disparage it. I became vegan for other reasons: for the animals; for my conscience; and for a better, more peaceful world. And unlike Cyrano, I don’t NEED to fight. All I need to do is be true to myself and my ideals. Whether or not something is attainable in my lifetime (or even at all) is irrelevant. Some things are worth doing simply because they are the right thing TO do.
And maybe, just maybe, our small numbers will make the difference.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.” —Margaret Mead
I think The Doctor would approve.
**In the above Merriam-Webster definition, I made the text that I wanted to draw attention to both bold and italicized.
To learn more about Esperanto:
Food for thought