Corruption Can Never Penetrate the Place From Which Empathy Originates

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Corruption Can Never Penetrate the Place From Which Empathy Originates

By Alison Banville, response to Crackdown on Anti-Corporate Dissent: The Animal Rights Movement

Great stuff on the crackdown on activists. Itís the same strategy the Austrian authorities used last year. Itís frustrating yes, but also a sign of the desperation of governments in response to the success of the movement. What they will never understand is that when someone is motivated by moral principle, a felt sense of compassion fuelled by outrage about the exploitation of the defenseless, they will never give up their cause because it runs in their veins like blood; itís who they are on the very deepest level and only those who have no capacity for such empathy would ever believe that prison walls could imprison the heart. That well of compassion canít be tainted by repression because it springs from a place of such purity it is an incorruptible and inexhaustible source; it is the stream that will never run dry.

How to explain this to the likes of our politicians with their mere facade of morality, their paper-thin pretended concern, their total lack of ethical integrity. To devote oneís life completely to the wellbeing of others without thought of reward or compensation, to be motivated by selflessness rather than self-interest, are concepts utterly beyond their grasp, and so they use only the tools they have as dictated by their limited understanding Ė corruption, misuse of power Ė which can never penetrate the place from which empathy originates; it will be forever out of reach, and that is why no matter how many activists are jailed there will always be more taking their place.

I canít remember if I mailed you the extracts from Thoreauís Civil Disobedience that I sent Sean Kirtley:

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. The proper place to-day, the only place which Massachusetts has provided for her freer and less desponding spirits, is in her prisons, to be put out and locked out of the State by her own act, as they have already put themselves out by their principles. It is there that the fugitive slave, and the Mexican prisoner on parole, and the Indian come to plead the wrongs of his race, should find them; on that separate, but more free and honorable ground, where the State places those who are not with her, but against her ó the only house in a slave State in which a free man can abide with honor. If any think that their influence would be lost there, and their voices no longer afflict the ear of the State, that they would not be as an enemy within its walls, they do not know by how much truth is stronger than error, nor how much more eloquently and effectively he can combat injustice who has experienced a little in his own person.

I have paid no poll-tax for six years. I was put into a jail once on this account, for one night; and, as I stood considering the walls of solid stone, two or three feet thick, the door of wood and iron, a foot thick, and the iron grating which strained the light, I could not help being struck with the foolishness of that institution which treated me as if I were mere flesh and blood and bones, to be locked up. I wondered that it should have concluded at length that this was the best use it could put me to, and had never thought to avail itself of my services in some way. I saw that, if there was a wall of stone between me and my townsmen, there was a still more difficult one to climb or break through, before they could get to be as free as I was. I did not for a moment feel confined, and the walls seemed a great waste of stone and mortar. I felt as if I alone of all my townsmen had paid my tax. They plainly did not know how to treat me, but behaved like persons who are underbred. In every threat and in every compliment there was a blunder; for they thought that my chief desire was to stand the other side of that stone wall. I could not but smile to see how industriously they locked the door on my meditations, which followed them out again without let or hindrance, and they were really all that was dangerous. As they could not reach me, they had resolved to punish my body; just as boys, if they cannot come at some person against whom they have a spite, will abuse his dog. I saw that the State was half-witted, that it was timid as a lone woman with her silver spoons, and that it did not know its friends from its foes, and I lost all my remaining respect for it, and pitied it.


Alison Banville, Thomas Paine Corner's UK editor of total liberation, is a long-term campaigner on rights for human and nonhuman animals, the environment, and political issues. She is committed to showing how they are all interconnected. Alison is also a singer, lyricist, and teacher, and she has a keen interest in vegan health and fitness.

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