In 2019 we are introducing a new monthly feature; The Playwright’s Think Piece. We are inviting individual playwrights from across the country to write a few words on what is currently keeping them up at night and coursing through their mind. They can write a rough and ready piece on anything other than theatre.
This month, the brilliant Kathryn Marquet, on animals, the environment and how humans relate to them. It is utterly forthright, a genuinely wonderful read.
Queensland recently took an extraordinary step and banned single-use plastic bags. On the appointed day, I skipped through the shops, gazing at the recyclable totes: a seeming revolution overnight. I nearly cried with happiness. And surprise. It was a touch pathetic: a sign of how desperate and hopeless I had become. Over the course of the next few weeks, however, my hopes tumbled: many shoppers bitched and moaned their way through the checkout, horrified that their right to a free plastic bag had been removed.
Now, it seems to me that a touch of memory recall and a handful of coins is a small price to pay to put a halt to our narcissistic destruction, but I’m increasingly aware that many of our great Aussie battlers feel entitled to consume endlessly, without any thought to the consequences, driven only by price point. I linger among the eggs in the supermarket, hoping my pointed, judgy looks will be enough to deter the cage-egg shoppers. I’ve written little notes of encouragement to put on the free-range, much to my husband’s embarrassment. I’ve even offered to buy the entitled complainers their bags.
Anthropocentrism (the belief that human beings are at the centre of the universe, chosen by God) is destroying us. It’s an interesting truism that some of the greatest artists and thinkers of our species have rejected violence towards animals, because they see it as the dark heart of our destructive and violent nature. We belong to the earth. We belong within a complex and endlessly diverse ecosystem that we are only beginning to understand. National Geographic predicts human beings have yet to classify 86 percent of earth’s species. Make no mistake, our selfishness is subversionary. We are annihilating that which could save us: our medicines and food come from the bounty of nature.
I get very low about human beings, but hating your own species is like chopping off your nose to spite your face. In my darkest moments, I believe that we would be better off fading away into extinction. That fate may be before us, and we have only ourselves to blame. But, here’s the other side of the coin, to which I have recently learnt to cling: human beings are unique. As far as we know, at this point in time and space, we are the most intelligent beings in the universe. We have the potential to do great good, to create masterful works of art, to heal pain. We could, in a moment, feed, clothe, and educate every human being — if we had the will — an action that would revolutionise deforestation and poverty-related wildlife crime, not to mention eliminate much of human suffering.
We know animals have a consciousness. We know they suffer. We know they deserve better than to be tortured, mutilated, executed, and struck off the face of the earth at our hands. If we wait for the bureaucrats in government to act, it will be too late. We all have to do better, day by day, minute by minute. It is community that will save us: the community of planet earth. We must teach our children to love and respect animals, and all human beings, to honour them as individuals with their own right to life. As Leonardo Da Vinci, a proud vegetarian, stated over 500 years ago (I trust he’ll forgive me for altering the gendered language): “The time will come when people, such as I, will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of human beings”. For now, we wait. We hope. And, we remember our recyclable bags, lest hope turn once more to despair.