The Primacy of the Human Animal

Due to being busy with several projects, I haven’t been contributing to my blog a lot. I will naturally return soon. But until that moment, I will share with my readers an excerpt of my an article I wrote some time ago ”Seven reasons why Blade Runner is more relevant more than ever.” Of all my Taste of Cinema articles, I’m most proud of this one. Hope you enjoy this. You can find the whole article here:

The primacy of the human animal 

In Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”, which was the inspiration for “Blade Runner”, nuclear warfare has caused the extinction of most of its animal species. Animals that did not perish from radiation poisoning have become status symbols, not just in terms of wealth, but as a signal that its caretaker is filled with empathy.

In this post-apocalyptic world, empathy has become a precious commodity. It’s in such short supply that humans, under the guidance of a modern technology-based religion called Mercerism, have created a virtual reality machine called ”empathy boxes”. This machine causes them to experience a fictional narrative where they experience the suffering of a martyr. In the old days, people went to church and could only imagine the suffering of their savior. Now, they can experience his pain and therefore feel a greater connection.

This is all well and good, but it’s naturally far too late, as the damage has already been done. In “Blade Runner”, the subplot of Rick Deckard desiring a real sheep instead of an electric sheep has been omitted, but several references are made about the rarity of animal life. ”Must be expensive,” Deckard notes about an artificial owl flying past him, a nice reference to the novel as the owl was the first animal to be wiped away in the novel after the fallout of nuclear war.

Right now, many species in the cold Arctic as well as in sunny Africa have become endangered due to human interference. Many of our favorite Disney characters, which we used to watch as kids, have become a rarity on this planet.

We can mourn this, as we should, but it has always been like that. Our dominion on this planet has caused disastrous effects on its ecosystem and thus many beautiful animal species, whether through ignorance or mere indifference, were wiped away. This is simply an inevitable consequence of our reign on this planet; we demand more and more room, and thus it’s only logical that many animals will eventually have nowhere to go.

Much of it can be blamed on our callous disregard for our fellow mammals. In the past, theists used the word of god to justify the subjugation of the animal kingdom. Many critics of religion cite its combativeness against scientific inquiry, but many forget that if it were not for theistic principles, the human race would never be as powerful as it is now. We would never have reached the scientific revolution if God didn’t convince our ancestors of their superiority. It was biblical revelations that made the agricultural revolution as powerful as it was.

But that was only a small step; the revolutions that followed, the industrial and (most of all) the scientific only increased our dominance until we didn’t need God telling us that we are superior. We could just tell this to ourselves without any shame or fear of blasphemy. But the price that the non-human animal kingdom had to pay for this is more often than not mentioned by the proud human.

Even though there’s an increasing awareness of animal rights, the future still seems bleak or rather nonexistent for various species of animals, whether they are roaming the land or swimming the oceans. The film may have deleted the animal subject, but its passing mention, as well the seemingly visual absence of many animals, gives the viewer enough to go by. It makes them wonder about our destructive presence in this world, the unforgivable price that needed to be paid just so we could be here now.

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