Mason, Jim. An Unnatural Order
New York: 1993. ISBN 0671769235
Essentially, stewardship advocates are apologists for dominionism, for they argue that dominion does not mean what people have thought it has meant over the past several thousand years. Now they tell us it was never supposed to have meant that humans should behave as ruthless lords over nature. They argue that we are supposed to act as gentle, humane shepherds and gardeners tending, pruning, fertilizing, and cultivating the other life on earth. All that would be very nice, but it is too late. The dominionist dirty deeds have already been done.
In fact, dominion means just exactly what it has been taken to mean all these thousand of years: a license for boundless human exploitation of the rest of the living world. The task today is to get away from it now that we see how it destroys not only the living world but our quality of life within it....
Cicero’s summation of the Roman view is surprisingly modern: “We are absolute master of what the earth produces. We enjoy the mountains and the plains. The rivers are ours. We sow the seeds and plant the trees. We fertilize the earth. We stop, direct and turn the rivers; in short, by our hands and various operations in this world we endeavor to make it as it were another nature....”
In his Novum Organum, Bacon bragged that “the legitimate goal of science is the endowment of human life with new inventions and riches.” According to Lewis Mumford, “indeed the idea of riches and material abundance pervaded his thinking about science.” These were rapidly becoming legitimate ends in European society as an increasingly urban and commercial world displaced the medieval emphasis on faith and church. Bacon’s ideas succeeded because they paved a moral road for the materialism and obsessions with wealth that were to come with capitalism and industrial revolution.
Secularist and materialist as Bacon was, he gave up none of the human supremacy and dominionism expressed in Genesis. If anything his human chauvinism was even more swaggering than the Hebrews when he wrote: “Man, if we look for final causes, may be regarded as the centre of the world, insomuch that if man were taken away from the world, the rest would seem to be all astray, without aim or purpose.” Such a supremacist view gave humans virtual ownership of nature with a secular kind of right to do anything they pleased with it—as a slaveowner might do with his slaves. Indeed, Bacon had a master-slave model in mind when he wrote: “I am come in very truth leading to you Nature with all her children to bind her to your service and make her your slave.”
Every few miles, the road is shrouded in a breath-stopping, rancid smell from some nearby animal factory. It is a sickly, deathly smell (if you have been around healthy animals fed on hay or pasture you know the difference), like the smell of a concentration camp. Which, of course, the factory farm quite literally is, because it concentrates a large number of animals indoors and feeds them a steady diet of grain concentrates (the agribusiness word for corn, soybeans, and the energy-rich seed parts of other plants). In addition, it is a factory in which energy and nutrients from the sun and soil are concentrated by animals and turned into meat, milk and eggs....
Animal domestication has brought spiritual bankruptcy, if not poverty, to Western culture; it has spread, unfortunately, along with Western influence.... Herders were the father and planters the mother of agrarian culture in the Middle East. There, the herder culture’s aggressive, expansionist, make-centered ways were integral to the gestation and birth of agrarian society. Its arrogance, toughness, and ruthlessness put a hard, cruel edge on Western agriculture and enabled it to dominate other societies a great distance away. Western agri-culture was born domineering, and it grew up to swagger around the world conquering other lands and peoples.
This military edge, unfortunately, has often been mistaken for superiority. While the other agri-centers also fostered values on controlling nature, they did a relatively better job of resolving the conflicts it stirred up within the human soul. Most would agree that Hindus, Buddists, Jains, and Taoists of India and the Far East see human supremacy as much less certain, much less absolute than do Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The latter come from the longest tradition of animal domestication from the source of it, in fact. They “resolved” the conflicts by denying them. Their theologies put forth the idea that human beings are separate and apart from the rest of the living world.
Thus there is no kinship, no continuity; consequently, there is no conflict in appropriating other life for human benefit. Indeed, it is according to God’s plan. Therefore, exploitation is not just moral, it is godly. What other agri-cultures see as slightly sinful, Westerners see as wholly righteous.
And it must be emphasized that the hard, aggressive, domineering traits that characterize Western heroes (and thereby the Western value system) oppress a great many kinds of living beings. Sheep and cattle were not the only victims, They were merely the first in a long line of manipulated lives that include many members of the human species as well. When empathy for fellow beings was blocked, when kinship with them was denied by the Middle East’s animal-domesticating, agri-culture, all life, including the human variety, would suffer all the more. After their God told them “the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth,” they could more easily treat Others—human beings different from them—as beast.