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Human-being Ignores "Others"

paddington's picture


“The point of living in the epoch of Anthropocene is that all agents share the same shape-changing destiny, a destiny that cannot be followed, documented, told, and represented by using any of the other traits associated with subjectivity or objectivity” (P15).

Latour insists on his conception that what exists in this planet is all animated and we are all protagonists of a geo-story. However he claims that this geo-story has been ruined by human-beings, who are deanimating the whole organism. If we as human-beings ignore other species as “others” those others will be killed, however if we care about them as our “peers” we could progress the way to maintain this ecology.

In Japan, we say “Itadakimasu” before having food and “Gochisousama” after finished it for every meal. These phrases are to express gratitude to plants and animals, which became food. Nonetheless, many people misunderstand that these are phrases to express thanks to people who cooked those food. Hence some people do not say those phrases, for example, when they have food from a supermarket because they do not see the specific people who cooked it.

This misunderstanding comes from a very human-centered way of thinking. We tend to regard organisms besides human-beings as objects. We have become the only subjects of this planet for a long period and have always fiddled with ecology in our own way. What occurred as a result of our selfishness is environmental destruction. Ignorance of “others” injured them, killed them.

Saying “Thank you” to something or ignoring it will bring a very different reflection. There was an interesting experiment for a summer holiday project done by a boy in the first grade of elementary school. He examined what would happen to rice if he said “thank you” to it everyday and if he ignored. He put freshly cooked rice into two small pots and put lids onto both of them. He wrote “thank you” on one pot and “ignore” on another. Twenty days later, the “thank you” rice maintained its appearance and the “ignore” rice was rotten. A month later, the “thank you” rice was still had the same appearance while the “ignore” rice was like goo. Forty days later, the “thank you” rice almost had not changed while the “ignore” rice had become a liquid. As the summer vacation ended, he stopped this experiment but his mother continued it instead. One day, accidentally both pots dropped on the floor. Then “ignore” pot cracked and terrible smell came out but “thank you” pot did not crack. Five months later, she opened the pot and it was still not rotten but had merely changed its color from white to ivory and fermented. Finally, she buried it into ground. This boy came to the conclusion that “Thank you” is an important word to say and how cruel ignorance is.

Applying what we learnt from this experiment to environmental destruction, species ignored by human-beings, who have regarded other species objectively as “others”, are being killed. Human-beings have been the only subject of this planet for a long period of time. Through this period, we have destroyed ecological system entirely. What has been done is act of “ignorance” of “others”. We continue cutting off trees until forests have become deserts, we create genetically modified food and we spread pesticide in order to feed ourselves effectively. When bears came down from the mountains to our streets because we deprived them of their shelters, we killed them in order to protect our daily lives. As long as we continue to ignore the existence of “others”, environmental destruction will continue to accelerate.


Works Cited

Latour, Bruno. Agency at the Time of the Anthropocene. New Literary History 45, 1 (Winter 2014): 1-18.

yuko. “Thank you and Ignorance”. Gifted. Cyber Agent, 15 Sep. 2015. Web. 4 Dec. 2015.


Anne Dalke's picture

I'm liking very much the two concrete, culturally local practices that you evoke here as examples of ecological intelligence in action: first the Japanese practice of saying “Itadakimasu” and “Gochisousama,” which has been misunderstood as human-centric ("thanks to people who cooked those food"), rather than as "expresing gratitude to plants and animals, which became food"; and secondly, the extended experiment with "thanking" the rice, conducted by the little boy and his mother.

My question now would be whether you'd like to revise this paper to consider the application of such practices @ Bryn Mawr: how might we practice less “ignorance” of “others” on campus, acknowledging instead our shared "shape-changing destiny"? Might your decision to live off campus next semester an example of such a practice? If so, in what ways?