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Saturday, May 23, 2009

A New Pet vs. Stranger Survey

Well, I can't say the "Pet vs. Stranger" votes to date are exactly what I expected. I am just about to buy me a yard full of dogs if they are that important as friends. Don't kick me while I'm rolling over, please, but isn't every person we meet and later consider a friend really a stranger at first? No wonder few children want to be left the first day at school. It seems strangers are largely viewed as threats. Are many people saying that pets make a better first impression than strangers, or what? An interesting view in the animal/human worth debate occurred after one of America's worst natural disasters. Hurricane Katrina caused PETA to level a number of accusations and requests in a case against Lousiana State University because of alleged cruelty to animals. These accusations and requests, according to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education include, but are not limited to: "We believe that Louisiana State University officials must be charged with the cruel abandonment of the thousands of animals who drowned, suffocated, starved or died of dehydration in its laboratories," stated a letter sent by PETA to the attorney general of Louisiana, Charles C. Foti, Jr. I find these charges very interesting considering LSU was doing everything in its power to save people's lives during the tragedy and the animals in their facilities were largely a homeless population in the first place. What should the officials have done: Turn the animals out into the flood and certain death or take the risk that they inevitably took and live with the sad consequences? So, does the law have anything it requires of a bystander to save his fellow man? The absence of a generalized duty to rescue is a perennial feature of the first year of law school. Generations of law students have learned of the existence of the no-duty rule by reading hypothetical cases of babies who drowned in puddles while Olympic swimmers stood by and did nothing, and real cases, such as Yania v. Bigan and Kitty Genovese in which bystanders did not intervene or notify the police when someone required rescue -- with tragic results. The no-duty rule prevails in most of the United States, but it is not popular. Interestingly enough, studies have found that groups of people witnessing a tragic event may be less likely to intervene than a single observer. A shared feeling of indifference is tolerated more than a personal episode. When people are alone and represent the only help for a stranger in need, they feel more morally obligated to respond. However, xenophobia, the fear of strangers, seems almost hardwired into the human psyche. It is definitely taught to people very early in life. Understandably, the fear of anything foreign and potentially dangerous is instilled into children for their own protection. Yet, the parable of the Good Samaritan seems to have been eroded by reports of child abduction and abnormal behavior. In fact, very little, if anything, is now expected of youth in respect to their kind treatment of people unknown. Helen Schucman and William Thetford, Professors of Medical Psychology at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, present an interesting alternate to conventional thinking about strangers. Their work, in A Course in Miracles teaches an idea that can sound shocking. A Course in Miracles says that in reality there is no such thing as a stranger, for there is no actual gap between people. Individuals seem to be separate bits of mind stuck away inside different bodies, but in truth they are one (an idea that is taught by many spiritual traditions). And if they are one, then, somewhere inside, "I know you." According to the course, no matter who a person may be, they have known each other forever. If this is true, then there are no strangers; they are just ancient friends. Since I'm sure few bought into the work of Schucman and Thetford, I must slightly change my original post dilemma. Please respond so that I can discover if the changes made any difference in your answer. Let me try a question with a slightly changed scenario. Both your pet and Angelina Jolie (for the male respondants) and Matthew McConaughey (for the female respondants) are drowning. Only one can definitely be saved and the other is certain to die. Who will you save? I assume both of these people are strangers to you. And, assume you are going to survive without injury in your rescue attempt.
If anyone wants a reversal of the scene, let's make the stranger a black female homosexual. I am curious about responses to gender, race and sexual orientation vs. the family pet. Let me leave with a couple of quotes of wisdom:
"Never trust the admiration of an audience who are made more self important by their admiration." --Ranjit Singh Mathoda "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference." --Elie Wiesel
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