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Saturday, 18 August 2018

The Moral Arc of the Universe
Written by Robert Fisk   
Wednesday, 22 April 2015


By Robert Fisk, Jr. and Don Lopreino

One truism about history is that much of it is forgotten. Nonetheless, history often becomes relevant to modern causes and concerns in ways we cannot always measure.

During the mid-19th century, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Theodore Parker, an American minister of the Unitarian church, were household names and notable figures in the abolitionist movement. 

Parker lamented nothing came easy and there was virtually
no discernible progress. Nonetheless, he remained optimistic and wrote: "Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and
progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little
ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what
I see I am sure it bends towards justice."

Many years later, the same sentiment, in nearly the exact language, was echoed by Dr. Martin Luther King as part of a sermon he delivered in April 1967: "The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice."

Now, in 2015, we can apply that notion of justice prevailing to the efforts of those of us who seek to improve the treatment of animals.  Why? Because the common thread of cruelty links both causes, based on the indifference to the feelings of fellow humans (slaves) as well as other species (animals), coupled with an attitude of perceived superiority that permits and condones abuse.

It would be misleading as well as untrue to say that Theodore Parker and Dr. King, as well as other prominent figures of other movements, were never discouraged about the lack of progress. Of course they were, just as we are today when humane measures are voted down or when special interest groups, despite our best efforts, prevail as they did in the 2004 and 2014 bear referendums. Not to be discouraged is not to pay attention; but to give up, to go away, to move on is exactly what our opponents want, just as those who opposed Parker and King hoped for.

In 1848, the first women's rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. After two days of discussion and debate, 68 women and 32 men signed a Declaration of Sentiments, which outlines grievances and sets the agenda for the women's rights movement. A set of 12 resolutions is adopted calling for equal treatment of women and men under the law and voting rights.

On August 20, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting the women the right to vote, was signed, 72 years later.

Today we see that gay rights and legalization of marijuana have reached the critical mass. They, like the animal rights movement, experienced the same uneven progress, but the pendulum of support is swinging our way, albeit much too slowly.

As noted animal advocate Kim Stallwood has written, there are five stages of social movements: public education, public policy, legislation, implementation and public acceptance. Gay rights and marijuana are between stages four and five, animal protection is probably somewhere between two and three.

Being aware of (and having a strong belief in) the inevitable course of history, as Parker pointed out, even though they could see "only a small part of it and cannot calculate the curve" and were unable to "complete the figure by the experience of sight," they could "divine it by conscience" and knew they would ultimately prevail. He and others knew that a step forward might well be followed by a step back, and while that was certainly demoralizing, the key was not to give up, not to lose heart. And realize steps to progress are often inadvertently small in nature.

Parker and King also knew that while the arc bends towards justice its momentum can be increased, it can bend faster with active human involvement. For all their lives, and the lives of so many others who felt the same, they did whatever they could to achieve their goals and, most importantly,never wavered in their unshakable belief that their causes were just.

If we choose to follow it, a course has been charted, one that has proven effective over time. Donate your energy and talent. Make a financial contribution to support what you believe. Speak out against cruelty wherever you find it. Write letters, send e-mails, use social media to spread the word. Promote legislation that favors animal welfare; oppose legislation that doesn’t. Accept discouragement in stride, but never consider it defeat.

And remember through your actions you are planting seeds, although you may never know when they germinate. You seldom will see measurable progress, like legislation, but as the old saying goes, "persistence and determination are omnipotent" and the more seeds we plant, the more quickly justice comes to our fellow creatures.

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