It’s 2016, and there has never in times past been more opportunity, technology, and information that is available at the click of a button. We are no longer as limited in our actions. Those of us who are lucky enough to be students at Santa Clara University and others throughout the world, are able to travel anywhere with ease, consult entire libraries of text to answer our burning questions, and initiate programs to pursue our greatest aspirations.
Why is it then, that so few of us truly believe that we can make a difference in the world? Why is it that so many of us can’t be bothered with the most trivial sacrifices for the greater good? Why is there such a selfish focus on each individual’s life rather than an outlook that allows us to believe in each other, and work to achieve something bigger than ourselves?
This is the major dilemma that has developed, and I believe it can be answered by the youth of 2016. We are so focused on our own day to day lives that we cannot see the bigger issues, and even worse, when we get a glimpse of these issues we refuse to take action. This idea became clear when writing several essays in the Critical Thinking and Writing class here at SCU and from all the supplemental material shown in class.
I found that whether it is the fault of our own, the media, or wealthy corporations, there is so much we are unaware of. This unawareness is leading to more than ignorance, it is leading to the suffering of other humans, animals, the Earth, and ourselves.
David Foster Wallace illuminates the idea of choosing to see a different side of things, choosing to be aware of the positive things in life. He says, “The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.” The rest of his video is below.
When looking deeply into the slaughterhouse industry, I not only saw the gruesomeness of animal cruelty, but I saw the effect that this cruelty had on those unlucky enough to work within these large corporations. Most employees at factory farms like Smithfield Foods are not only unhappy with their jobs/lives, they end up developing crippling physical and psychological damages that affect them for the rest of their days. Under conditions they report as “worse than being a slave,” it is no wonder that many of them become desensitized to the pain they are imposing on these animals (Eisintiz 274). The workers are under immense stress because of the push by their superiors for a level of efficiency, that quite honestly, is unattainable at this time. Many are unable to unionize and are threatened to be fired if they complain about the current system in place (LeDuff). Some employees leave the factory, not being able to handle the hostile environment any longer, but unfortunately continue to inflict violence on others in their lives (participate in domestic abuse or other violent crimes).
Because most of the general public cannot see the disturbing events that occur within factory farms, we are completely disconnected from the suffering that goes on within them. When specifically looking at our cherished Thanksgiving holiday, a day supposedly filled with goodness and love, our center piece is a turkey. Despite the fact that a turkey does not have much actual historical significance for the holiday, it still should not be a focus of the meal because of what eating turkey means in today’s society. Turkeys are injected with hormones until their legs break from the over bearing weight, their genetics are so manipulated that they must be artificially inseminated to reproduce, and they are beaten and bleed to death while conscious (Foer). These practices are almost universalized as “upwards of 99 percent of all animals eaten in this country come from ‘factory farms’” like Butterball, shown below (Foer 12). Unfortunately, all that most consumers can see is a plump and juicy meal, because no one (no factory farm) has ever let them see otherwise.
An example of abuse to turkeys was documented at Butterball (a poultry producer):
“One Butterball employee stomped on a bird’s head until her skull exploded, another swung a turkey against a metal handrail so hard that her backbone popped out, and another was seen inserting his finger into a turkey’s vagina” (Butterball’s).
Outside of the realm of the food industry and its obvious ethical issues, we are unable to see the truth or become fully aware of what goes on around us, even in the aspects of our everyday lives. This is because, in part, of the enormous role that social media has played in popular culture.
Social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter show a demented form of reality to their users, often making these users develop depression or at least damaging their sense of self worth (Nesi). This disconnect undercuts “the development of healthy identities” (James 12) and creates a social norm that teens feel they need to conform to, especially women (Brooks).
Madison Holleran was a smart, beautiful, and talented young woman until she took her life when she was only 19. She was obsessed with social media and the messages she thought it sent. These networking applications made her feel inadequate, and many other young women my age (when surveyed) agreed that they often feel the same way. Had Madison been aware that these sites rarely show accurate depictions of her peers’ lives, her life could have developed in a drastically different way. She could still be here with us today.
The ongoing tragedy of animal abuse, the twisted effects of the factory farm industry on its workers, and the depression and suicide occurring with young adults like Madison are all preventable, but not unless we take action. Unfortunately, nothing can be done if no one is aware of these horrific occurrences. Each day we should dedicate time to achieving a heightened sense of awareness. If we are able to develop such mind-blowing advances in every other aspect of life, the least we can do in the pursuit of becoming happier, more ethical beings, is to take a step away from ignorance and toward awareness.
Brooks, Stoney, and Phil Longstreet. “Social Networking’s Peril: Cognitive Absorption,
Social Networking Usage, and Depression.” CP Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace 9.4 (2015): n. pag. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.
“Butterball’s House of Horrors: A PETA Undercover Investigation.” People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.
Eisnitz, Gail A. Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane
Treatment inside the U.S. Meat Industry. Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 1997. Print.
Fagan, Kate. “Split Image: Life Unfiltered.” ESPN. ESPN, 7 May 2015. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Print.
James, Carrie. Disconnected: Youth, New Media, and the Ethics Gap. N.p.: MIT, 2014. Print.
LeDuff, Charlie. “At a Slaughterhouse, Some Things Never Die.” At a Slaughterhouse, Some Things Never Die. New York Times, 16 June 2000. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.
Nesi, Jacqueline, and Mitchell J. Prinstein. “Using Social Media for Social Comparison and Feedback-Seeking: Gender and Popularity Moderate Associations with Depressive Symptoms.” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology J Abnorm Child Psychol 43.8 (2015): 1427-438. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.
Wallace, David Foster. “This Is Water.” Commencement Speech to Kenyon College. Kenyon College, Gambier. 2005. Youtube. Web. 04 Dec. 2015.