Category Archives: Philosophy

Photo Credit: Google Images

Pope Francis: Time Magazine’s Person of the Year, 2013

While many (even most) people look at Pope Francis as an important world leader, my hunch is that he understands himself to be primarily a follower, not a leader.  Like all Christians, Pope Francis is a disciple of Jesus Christ, and the meaning of the word “disciple” is one who follows.  And as a disciple of Jesus, Pope Francis strives every day to become more like Jesus in what he says and does, and in how he speaks and acts.

Each day, Pope Francis prays and reads (and rereads) the stories of Jesus in the Gospels.  Each day we witness this humble person speaking and acting very much like Jesus did.  Facing such overwhelming responsibilities every day, Pope Francis is a model of Gospel simplicity.  He shows us the meaning of the Beatitudes through his poverty of spirit, his meekness, his thirst for justice.  He also clearly displays how one can perform the corporal works of mercy no matter who you are, no matter where you are.  As we read in Matthew 25:35-36, every disciple is charged to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty; to clothe the naked and visit the lonely and imprisoned.

Photo Credit: Google Images

Photo Credit: Google Images

As Pope Francis performs these very simple and humble actions, they shine brightly before all who see them, or hear about them, or read about them.  Like the sun’s rays warm our faces, these acts of mercy warm our hearts and souls.  Like Jesus feeding the multitude with bread and fish, Pope Francis feeds us – and the world – with hope.  In the midst of the darkness of evil that too often blankets our world, Pope Francis shines as a beacon of light, reminding us of Jesus, the Light of the World.

As we continue to pray for Pope Francis, we should also learn from his example.  Each Christian is a disciple, a follower of Jesus.  Each of us is called to be a person of the Beatitudes, a person of the corporal works of mercy.  Each of us is asked to bring the light of Christ into the world in our own way.  This is especially relevant during the Advent season, in which we recall the coming of Jesus, the Light, into the world.  May our light join the brilliant light of Pope Francis in bringing mercy and hope into the world during this holy season and throughout the coming year.  Amen.

George S. Matejka, Ph.D. is the Chair of the Philosophy Department at Ursuline College. 

After the Lecture: Urgent NYC – The Protest

On June 22, 2013 people from all over the world attended a historic protest for pets in New York City. you might ask what could New York City possibly be doing with pets to attract the attention of people in England, New Zealand, Australia, and a philosophy professor from Ursuline College.  The fact is that the Animal Control policies in NYC are outrageous. Hundreds of perfectly healthy, happy dogs and cats are held in areas where the public cannot see them and are killed regularly. Demand by a volunteer organization, Urgent NYC, have forced changes into these policies and these volunteers, including myself, have saved over 16,000 dogs and 11,000 cats since the beginning of the Urgent program. We still say that this is not good enough.

The goals of this protest were to demand that the mass killing of pets in NYC stop immediately and that city leaders  implement no kill policies for shelter pets, to demand that shelters are built in Queens and the Bronx, to demand a repeal of breed based dogs bans in the city and an end to the targeting of some breeds for death, and, finally, to demand a criminal investigation into the practices of the ACC officers who work inside of the existing shelters in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island.

This protest is the first of its kind because of the kinds of demands that were made as well as because individual pets who fell victim to the shelter rules were honored. Another important difference this protest made was to change the image of protesters. When many people think of protesters they think of the young people who did much of the protesting during the 1960’s. Kate Riviello, the founder of New York Animal Rights Alliance, believes that it is important to update the ideas about protesters to meet the current conditions and to change the way that protesters are thought of. To that end many protesters wore protest T-shirts with dress pants or with red suits. Kate believes that stereotypes of protesters often keep many people from taking us seriously and from joining in for causes that they otherwise would join.

While our demands have not been met the protest was still a success because it was very well attended and because we raised awareness of the plight of shelter pets in New York City. More people have joined in the effort to save the pets and more and more pressure is being put on Mayor Bloomberg to keep his campaign promises to the pets in the Bronx and Queens. In any case, everyone knows that the world is watching.

After the Lecture: A Night in the Life of an NYC Urgent Activist

My first blog entry was supposed to focus on the large-scale protest of New York City Animal Control practices. This, however, seemed to make no sense out of the context of the nightly war that activists for New York City’s pets wage every day of the year. So, this entry will, instead, show you how I have spent my nights since I began to work for the pets of New York City. philosophy13

Animal activists engage in rescue work because each year in the United States about four million pets are killed in shelters, that is about 10,000 a day or one pet every ten seconds or so. In thirty-one states, including our own, gas chambers are still used . The vast majority of the dogs killed are either American Pit Bull terriers or Chihuahuas. Many places, including Cleveland, have implemented many No Kill policies but some cities, such as NYC, are far behind in their treatment of shelter pets.  philosophy12

Activists have created a network of posting and cross-posting pets on Facebook and other social media. This allows us to save thousands of pets everyday across the U.S. NYC activists use this network to reach out in order to find foster homes and adopters for the pets each night.

We know which pets to share each night because the demands of the Urgent volunteers have led the shelter administration to provide us with lists of the dogs and cats that are to be killed the next day; a barbaric practice, indeed. For NYC pets, however, it is progress. Many of the pets on the nightly list come from the hundreds of dogs and cats who are not available for the public to see when they come to the shelter to adopt. The Urgent Facebook page is the only place from which these pets can be seen. To date, NYC Urgent activists, including myself, have saved the lives of over 16,000 dogs and 11,000 cats. Here are tonight’s lists:
philosophy9
philosophy10

Every evening the to be destroyed list is posted, sometimes as early as 6 PM, sometimes as late as 9 PM. and we spring into action, sharing each pet on our own networking pages and in the many cross-posting groups on Facebook. We only have until 6 AM to save all of the cats and dogs who are on the list. Some of these pets can be reserved for adoption online, prior to 6 AM, others have been rated for New Hope rescues only. These pets can only be pulled by approved rescue groups. Pets end up with a New Hope rating for being very young, very old, sick, frightened, or for not being happy with the SAFER evaluation. SAFER evaluations consist, in part, of pinching the pet’s paw, poking the pet with a large plastic hand, giving the pet food that is then taken away by the large plastic hand, and giving the pet a toy and a raw hide that are then taken away by the plastic hand.

Each night we have to find donations to cover pull fees and vet bills for the pets who are pulled by rescues as well as fosters and adopters for each pet. While other shelters allow long distance adoptions and links to transport services, the NYC ACC does not. Pets generally cannot travel more than three hours away from NYC. This makes our work more difficult and can be very frustrating for those who want to help the pets. Tonight there are eleven dogs and puppies ranging in age from six months old to ten years old and thirty cats and kittens whose ages range between four weeks old and fourteen years old. While some of these pets were brought to the shelter because they were lost or homeless, many were brought here because of the breed ban in public housing or because their people were evicted or arrested or because they became sick or died. Many pets are also brought here by their guardians. The most common reason stated in NYC is that the person had “no time” for their pet. Some pets are kept at the shelter for months while some are added to the to be destroyed list after only two or three days.

We start by figuring out what each pet needs. We see who is rescue only and who can be adopted. We add up any pledges that each pet already has in place and check to see whether anyone has shown any interest in the pet. We post each and every pet to our own pages and to many groups as well, in hopes of attracting fosters or adopters for them, as well as pledges to cover the rescue costs. Activists and rescue workers get little sleep since we only have until 6 AM to find a place for each pet to go later in the day. Many times, particularly in Brooklyn, workers begin to kill the pets as soon as the deadline has passed so time is of the essence for us.

If we find someone who will commit to fostering a pet we have to also have each foster fill out applications for at least three of the approved rescue groups. This means that we also spend much time assisting prospective foster parents in choosing which rescues will be most likely to help that particular pet and with filling out the applications. If we find adopters for pets who are available for public adoption we assist them with the process of reserving the pet, paying the deposit, and filling out shelter applications. We also have to communicate with the rescues and entice them to help with the pet by showing them that we have raised enough money for the pet and that we have a committed foster or adopter available.

We often become attached to a pet, even over the internet. All together we have succeeded in saving the lives of over 27,000 pets just in NYC. One of my very favorite rescues was a Pit Bull terrier named Thomas who was the last lost pet from Hurricane Sandy. Together activists shared Thomas’s picture and story over 16,000 times before we found him a home in Baltimore.

THOMAS!

THOMAS!

The loss of our sweet Chopper was devastating for all of us and many people stopped their activism after he was killed. I’ll never understand how, in a city with over eight million people, not even one person would foster sweet Chopper, even for a few weeks.

Chopper

Chopper

Jake was another devastating loss for us. Sweet Jake had been shot by a policeman in his own apartment while his human was being arrested. He progressed with the volunteers and, by the time, he was gone, had taken to crawling on their laps and giving them kisses. Because Jake had lunged at the policemen who broke down the door to his apartment and forcibly took his human away, he was labeled aggressive. No pictures of videos of him snuggling with volunteers would change the minds of the shelter workers and, after having kept Jake in a cage for 23 ½ hours of every day for months, they killed sweet Jake with no warning to us. Many rescues had let the workers know that they were willing to pull Jake. When Jake came to the shelter he looked like this:

Jake1

Jake1

At the end he looked like this:

JAKE2

JAKE2

It is harder to save a pet then one would like to think. Before I began to engage in this kind of activism I thought that you could just show up and adopt. It is rarely so easy! I do, though, know that, while I can’t save the world, I CAN save the world for at least ONE pet! For now, as our sweet Emmit says ADOPT, DON’T SHOP!

EMMIT!

EMMIT!