13th September 2011 (taken from my personal journal)

In the past I have said that there is no right and wrong; it is only in the eye of the beholder.
I have said that Adolf Hitler must have believed in what he did, so he was right… in his eyes. But now my view has changed.

After watching the BBC series ‘Ocean Giants’ with the observed behaviour of dolphins and whales, and thinking back to other documentaries where primates appear to show a compassionate side to their nature, I now think that compassion and empathy are a fundamental part of what makes up mammals, and so the phrase ‘the eye of the beholder’ now has a much much wider scope because the ‘eye’ is now what is seen as acceptable behaviour by mentally stable (i.e. the majority) mammals… the meaning of the phrase now seems to go further than only humans. *

So, what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ is now guided by that which is socially acceptable at the level of nature, not at the level of culture and of indoctrinated, dogmatic conditioning.

To clarify; to me it seems that those we would consider mentally stable are those that can interact in the normal manner (yes, this is subjective!) with the world around them, and it is those who’s actions are only rarely to the detriment of others, and even then it is an action that they would consider as acting for the ‘greater good’.
I apply this to forms of life other than solely human. 

* (added 16th Sept ’11)
…perhaps we, the human race, should start to consider ‘family’ as being beyond the human species, i.e. perhaps we should also include most, or all mammals.  I have often wondered why we see baby animals as ‘cute and cuddly’, but in my experience that applies even more so to baby mammals… and I have thought that this must be because we can identify with mammals more readily than we can with, say, baby crocodiles.

So, where we see baby dolphins and whales in the program mentioned above; and where we see baby monkeys, cats, dogs, horses, cows, chimpanzees… and we find them ‘cute and cuddly’ it is because we can identify with their mannerisms, their curiosity, their fears, and ultimately, their mental development as they seem to see the world in a more similar way to us than a baby crocodile. They also have a more familiar need for empathy and compassion and a sense of belonging and of acceptance.

They say that one can see into the soul of a man by looking into his eyes.  I think that we see something similar (maybe the same thing?) when we look at a baby mammal.
I specify mammals, because for me, I don’t get the same feeling if I look into the eyes of a baby reptile, bird, fish, spider, etc. I only get the feeling of cold detachment… like their soul is missing… like they are biological robots without feelings… maybe not so much with a bird, but the coldness is still there.

I’ve had one profound experience that would suggest the opposite to this though.  Whilst on holiday with Karen in Turkey in 1994 I went snorkelling around the submerged part of an old Roman building, and hiding in the place of a missing stone there was an Octopus (incidentally, this is a mollusc, not a mammal) with its legs wrapped protectively around itself leaving an eye looking out. I looked into its eye and made a connection with this creature.
I remember it feeling as if it was looking not at me, but into me. There was an intelligence of a high level. The experience was profound enough for me to promise the Octopus that I would no longer eat another one of its kind.

I’ve had one other very profound experience that would suggest the above connection with mammals is possible. I was visiting Bristol Zoo where a large silverback Gorilla was seated within easy sight of the visiting hordes. I was stood at the back of the crowd already feeling that I was doing the wrong thing and in the wrong place, when he and I made eye contact. The impact was immense and for a moment there was only he and I… then I walked out of there holding back the tears.  It was if this great magnificent creature had communicated the following to me;

I’m supposed to be the big strong one here, dominating everything around me, yet because of a little bit of glass I can’t get at those who jeer and point and laugh and make fun of me. I feel depressed and dejected and that I’m in the wrong place, and I know it, but I’m trapped and I can’t do anything about it.

… I haven’t been able to go in there since…