Thursday, September 9, 2010

Morissey's Subspecies Comments

Morrissey made news and reignited claims of his supposed racism recently with a comment he made in an interview with the Guardian where he called the Chinese a, "subspecies". Putting the quote into context, I would be more inclined to treat the incident as a slip of the tongue rather than a confession of blatant disregard for the distinction between national origin and biological classification. "Did you see the thing on the news about their treatment of animals and animal welfare? Absolutely horrific. You can't help but feel that the Chinese are a subspecies." Said Morrissey.

The actual biological meaning of this insult is fairly moot. We are all equally subspecies as well of Homo sapiens (Generally all modern humans are considered Homo sapiens sapiens). The context of his statement however seems strange in light of the fact that he is attempting to fight against discrimination, not just for subspecies, but regardless of the species to which an organism belongs entirely. What he may have meant as, "the policies with regards to non-human animals that he sees coming out of China are atrocious," has come out instead as language that reinforces our human-centric views of ethics.

In addition to this, Morissey's attitude seems to consistently be one that is unlikely to win people over. As Jon Camp of Vegan Outreach has repeatedly emphasized, we are more likely to win people over with honey than vinegar. While Morrissey's outrage over animal rights issues is entirely understandable (He walked off the stage from one of his concerts last year saying, "It smells like meat;" I often find myself wanting to do the same at family meals.) he isn't going to win people over by appearing constantly bitter over the issue.

If I were in Morrissey's shoes at this point I would clarify the statement I made to the Guardian saying something along the lines of, "Clearly China is a diverse country and no statement can speak for the ideas of all it's citizens. I think all people should find the policies coming out of that nation with regards to non-human animals to be unacceptable, and that was the sentiment that I had intended to express with my original statement." Additionally I think he should use his music as a positive opportunity to raise awareness about veganism. While I love his song "Meat is Murder" that he put out with the Smiths, perhaps he could add a brief statement beforehand such as, "This next song is about one of the greatest injustices that still exists in our world today, but each of you can do something to save dozens of lives every year through your own actions, just by choosing to eat less meat."

For the rest of us, perhaps this can serve as a warning about the power of both the language we use, and the attitude we have when communicating, over how our message will be perceived by others.

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