in a Time of Helplessness
By Paul Shapiro
As I watched the footage of businesspeople jumping
to their deaths, families grieving for their lost loved ones, and all
of the other horrors of the past week, I must admit that I felt a sense
of helplessness. In the face of such atrocity, I wanted nothing more
than to help those in need, if even only in the most minor way. I quickly
realized however, that there was little, if anything, the vast majority
of us could do to alleviate the suffering.
My thoughts then shifted focus to what could be done to prevent future
similar tragedies, and again, I came up short. Despite our presidents
PR-driven assurances that the attacks occurred because the U.S. is a
beacon of freedom, I knew all too well that these attacks
were committed because of specific U.S. foreign policies whichrightly
or wronglyenrage much of the Muslim world.
As I cant do much to comfort the victims families nor do
I feel that Im in a position to change U.S. foreign policy,
I sank deeper into feelings of helplessness. Are we truly powerless
the struggle against violence and terror?
Perhaps on the international terrorism front, there isnt much
average citizens like myself can do. However, while my attention has
understandably been focused primarily on terrorism lately, it was helpful
for me to remember that there is indeed much individuals like myself
can do to make the world a gentler, more compassionate place to inhabit.
By continuing to promote veganism and animal liberation, were
able to contribute to the building of a better world in a very direct
way, thereby giving our lives the meaning were desperately
searching for in this time of helplessness.
A reason for my terror while pondering the recent attacks was [my realization
of] the vulnerability of the American people to these kinds of atrocities.
But, we need to remember that there is no group of individuals more
vulnerable than the nonhuman animals we systematically terrorize and
kill by the millions each and every day, with virtually no one grieving
their losses or even recognizing our status as oppressors in their eyes.
The animals we institutionally exploit all feel pain and suffering
as we do. They care about their lives and the lives of their loved
as we do. To them, there is nothing more important than the creation
of a world where being born into the wrong species isnt
a crime punishable by a lifetime of torture followed by an unimaginable
Each one of us can help create that world. We may not be able to
correct all of the worlds injustices, but having lived in this world,
it is imperative that each of us do what we can to make it a better
place. After all, what reason is there to live if we cant say
that our existence was more helpful than harmful?
Paul Shapiro is the campaigns manager of Compassion
Over Killing. To view their web site, visit www.cok-online.org.