A Journal for Western Man
A Columbia, Maryland, neighborhood has been invaded by vultures. Not lawyers, politicians, and others to whom this description is often attached but the real, flying, circling-the-dead, feeding-on-decaying- corpses ones.
They are damaging the roofs on which they perch. The droppings of these fowl foul houses, cars, sidewalks and streets, exposing the children whom they frighten to diseases as well as nightmares.
Non-violent means have failed to chase away the pests. In a more enlightened age, the answer to the problem would be simple. The adults might pack off the children for a Saturday afternoon, get out their rifles, have a neighborhood shooting party, take away the dead bird bodies for sanitary disposal, do a final cleanup, and spend a peaceful Saturday night, kids safely back to home and hearth.
But we live in the bizarre politically-correct age in which that isn't possible. Most communities have local ordinances against discharging firearms, a generally sensible idea unless you're shooting at burglars in your home or vultures on your chimney. Then there’s the question of federal laws that prohibit killing certain migratory birds.
Yet even if these regulations can be circumvented for the sake of public health and safety, a greater problem than the vultures is the attitude of many of the people in that neighborhood. The head of the homeowners' association said, "We are a community that is going to respect the fact that the birds have a right to be here." Opined another resident, "We're the intruders."
What? Do these people really put the interest of vultures ahead of humans? This type of Drudge Report material certainly has us shaking our heads both at the utter foolishness of continuing a serious situation that has a simple solution and at the fact that what the vultures are depositing on windshields seems to be in the brains of some of the folks who own those cars.
But there is a moral matter here that's much more serious than the situation in Maryland. If the morality of those confused, pathetic people, who would literally rather wallow in bird feces than to dispatch the critters with a 22, were confined to their own cul-de-sac, we might just laugh it off. But it is not. This immorality has created harm a thousand-fold in this country.
We can't drill for oil to heat and light our homes on a few miles of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, an area larger than ten American states, because we might disturb a few caribou and some frozen dirt. We can't dig trenches in California to prevent the spread of wildfires because we might disturb some rats. We can't drain putrid, mosquito-ridden, disease-spreading mudholes because we slapped on them the nice-sounding name, "wetlands."
So let's step back and get our values straight. The measure of all values is individual human life, well- being, and happiness. This means that trees are of value to us because we can cut them down for lumber to build our houses, climb them for fun, or walk among them to enjoy their beauty. Animals are of value to us because we find them tasty and nourishing to eat, majestic and intriguing to observe and study, or fun to have as pets.
Trees, animals, bugs, mud, grass, and the like do not have "rights." Rights are the political-social recognition that we humans are rational, thinking creatures who live and flourish by our own judgments and actions. Rights mean that, in society, we must be free to think and act so as long as we do not violate the rights of others by initiating the use of force against them.
That means we can have tress in our backyards to climb or cut them down if they threaten to fall on our houses. And that means we can own talking parrots as pets or shoot vultures off our roofs if they are destroying our chimneys.
So whenever you read about vultures in Maryland, mud in Alaska, rats in California or mosquitoes anywhere in this wide land, remember that it is their value to humans by which we must judge them. If we want our culture and political system to truly serve our interests, we must declare loudly and proudly the need for putting humans first!
Dr. Edward Hudgins is the Executive Director of The Objectivist Center (http://www.objectivistcenter.org) and its Atlas Society, which celebrates human achievement.
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