Friday, February 5, 2016

Yesterday

morning I reluctantly went to the Project Implicit website to repeat the Implicit Association Test on race. I say reluctantly because I truly dreaded taking that test again. I made reference to this test in a post I wrote just about one year ago. I had taken the test and found that...in contradistinction to every conscious belief and position that I held (and hold) that I had a moderate preference for European Americans ... and by implication ... a bias against African Americans. When I got the results of that test it stunned me.

I was devastated and disgusted. Devastated that I held such biases and disgusted that I had been influenced and manipulated...without my permission or desire or awareness...by my culture (including the media, the omissions and distortions of the institutions of my nation and by my upbringing and my family and my friends) to have, to hold and to be influenced by these out of awareness preferences and biases. David Shih wrote beautifully about aspects of these distortions in a blog post aptly titled "White Happened to You".

The presence of such leanings in me angered and repulsed me...it still does. I was already well embarked on a quest to educate myself about those ugly and monstrous distortions called colonialism and racism and whiteness and white privilege so I used those strong feelings of revulsion to provide energy and motivation for continuing to work at expanding and increasing my comprehension and understanding. I was very upset and...in many ways...I still am.

And yet that distress and upset is somewhat tempered at the results I obtained when I re-took the test yesterday. Lo and behold...the results showed that my preferences now were moderately tilted toward African Americans...and by implication...moderately biased against European Americans. I have to say...I was shocked and elated. My efforts had worked...my out of awareness leanings...as measured by the test were now consistent and in line with where my conscious thinkings and comprehensions and orientations have come to be located.

The grappling and reading and thinking and feeling (including agonizing and despairing) that I have done (and continue to experience) over these past months (years even) have brought me to the understanding that, in general, we white people are dramatically and profoundly flawed and deficient in our apprehension and comprehension of our created society here in the United States. And...that this here society we all swim in is, in general, more accurately and insightfully perceived and understood by people of color...especially women of color.  We do not understand or comprehend ourselves (we white people) and we definitely do not understand or comprehend the experiences and insights of those citizens here who are people of color.

It's impossible for me to adequately express my gratitude to those writers of articles and books and creators of videos that I've read and watched. I've downloaded and printed and read and marked up innumerable articles and essays and blog posts. I've purchased or obtained from the library book after book after book...and read them...and copied pages from many of them. I've made myself seek out people of color and pestered them to talk with me and reflect with me. Making myself interact with people was the hardest because I'm not a particularly social person. But...I have to say...that's been maybe the most enjoyable and rewarding aspect of this journey. And I'm infinitely grateful to those who took the time and had the patience to put up with me.

I recently had the most wonderful compliment from a terrific friend I have, who is socially positioned as a woman and as a Native American tribal member, she told me (and she's over 40 years old) that she had never heard a white person talk like me in her whole life. I felt incredibly honored by what she said and also I felt horribly sad and depressed. How can this be?

I've gotten off my butt and attended workshops and lectures and presentations about diversity and racism and justice and sexism. I joined a local group that worked toward getting local city codes revised to exclude discrimination by landlords (and others) against folks because of their sexual orientation. I attended a panel discussion at the OKC campus of Langston University regarding justice for thirteen women of color who had been raped by a police officer.

In this process of seeking, I've come to be uncomfortable whenever I'm in meetings where there are only white people. I look for the faces of people of color wherever I go...because seeing them is comforting and desirable for me. I've attended presentations about activism for Native Americans and presentations about activism for African Americans and been warmed by being one of the few white faces in the meetings.

Look...if you are raced as white and you're reading this then you have one of the biggest and bestest tools of all...access to the incredible wealth of information and media that's available on the internet. I don't know whether I could have made this shift in my comprehension without it. I'm in awe of those who did it before this phenomenal resource was available.

If you're raced as white and don't struggle and grapple with this flim-flamming that's been crammed into your comprehension and outlook...you don't know what you're missing. There's a richness and depth of awareness that is hidden from you that you would not...and cannot...believe unless you struggle with perceiving it. And...that struggle is not fun...it hurts and it is scarey and uncomfortable. But...the discomfort is a guidepost too...it lets you know you're on what's probably a true path.

What surprised and pleased me this morning about writing this post is that two...not one but two excellent and informative blog posts were just written by two terrific writers that I follow. The first, over on the Sistah Vegan blog, is a mind blower. She included in her post a video of Judge Vonda Evans exemplifying exactly what I'm attempting to communicate here.

People of color...especially women of color...have so much to teach we white people. So very much and yet...as Dr. Harper notes in her writing...we mostly meet those gifts with disdain and ugliness and hatred and ignoring.  And I think her diagnosis of why is exactly correct...we turn away from what is offered because it scares the bejesus out of us. To accept the gifts means coming to comprehend our deficiencies and our warpings...and...yes...our culpability for perpetuating and participating in a horrid and destructive system. One that harms us as well as our victims. And that is hard and uncomfortable and painful...so we all too often turn away.

The second blog post that melds so well with what I'm trying to express is posted over on the Aphro-ism blog. There, Syl Ko, writes a superlative piece about aspects of the deficiencies of the contemporary animal rights movement. It's a humdinger...but...for me anyway...it's one that I will have to read and then read again and then even again to begin to grasp it's meanings. It's always worth the struggle though. Always.

We white people have lots and lots and lots of work to do...but...I'm extremely pleased to be able to tell you that it does pay off...you can influence your own biases...even the hidden ones. Happy Black Women's History Month!




Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Amie Breeze Harper, Ph.D.

was recently featured on the Black Vegans Rock website. The feature notes that her work: "...focuses on how systems of oppression-namely racist and normative whiteness-operate within the USA." Please read the complete article. She's a phenomenal human being.

I've been following Dr. Harper's online writings and videos for a number of years now and have found her work to be incredibly useful and informative. Her book Sistah Vegan occupies an important position in my small library of writings about veganism and oppression. 

Dr Harper's website and blog, The Sistah Vegan Project, is a great resource and more information can be found there.

I was really happy to see a feature devoted to Dr. Harper on the Black Vegans Rock site because she has been and continues to be an inspiration as I grapple with that culturally conditioned obliviousness which Charles W. Mills  aptly termed "White Ignorance".

I recently read something by bell hooks that made me think of Dr. Harper. The book is titled "Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black". She wrote:
Surely, the absence of a humane critical response has tremendous impact on the writer from any oppressed, colonized group who endeavors to speak. For us, true speaking is not solely an expression of creative power; it is an act of resistance, a political gesture that challenges politics of domination that would render us nameless and voiceless. As such, it is a courageous act -- as such, it represents a threat. To those who wield oppressive power, that which is threatening must necessarily be wiped out, annihilated, silenced. p. 8
The reason this passage brought Dr. Harper's efforts to mind is because of a blog post on The Sistah Vegan Project about recent silencing efforts that have been directed at her. It is an inspiring and uplifting bit of writing and I urge you to read it completely...maybe even several times...because it is both powerful and thought provoking.

Part of the writing in that post says: "We are all racialized subjects with racialized consciousnesses that have been born out of a white supremacist racial caste system; the way we are socially and geographically located in that system affects how we frame, perceive, experience, everything. This includes ethical consumption."

I would have not had the same understanding of those words two years ago that I do now. I would have read it...thought I understood it...sort of...and simply gone right on. Being able to grapple with the reality that my life experience based on being socially positioned as a white cisgendered male ill-equipped me to grasp the meaning of those words simply was not where I was then. I likely don't fully apprehend them now...however my current understanding is much richer and deeper than it was earlier. And I'll keep struggling...

I recently ran across this graphic featuring a quote from Angela Davis. It seemed to provide a good summary of some of the reasons that Dr. Harper is such an inspirational treasure for everyone.

It is the case that most (not all, but most...ok?) of the transforming comprehensions that have impacted me over the past couple of years have been stimulated by the writings of some black women and also by my being able to dialogue face to face with other remarkable black women.

I've never met Dr. Harper in person (nor have I ever met Dr. Davis, who also lives vegan) but her writings, and the examples provided by her lived life, as a scholar, as a resister of oppression, and as a vegan has immeasurably enriched my comprehensions and understandings.  Thank you Dr. Aime Breeze Harper.

(Note: If anywhere in this post I've been tripped up by my 'white ignorance' and written something goofy, please call me out and I will endeavor to become less oblivious and do any correcting that is required. I would ask that you do the calling out gently since I'm pretty elderly and more frail than I used to be. Thanks. :-) )

Friday, January 22, 2016

Faces

Bunny faces are pretty nifty.

Cutie.

This pretty female is Cutie. She's been at Heartland for several years now and owns a big chunk of my heart. Most days when I go to Heartland I check to see if she's in a mood to let me have a head rubbing session with her...and if she is I sit her on my chest and pleasure myself by stroking her head...she seems to enjoy the contact too.

The little dynamo pictured below is named Fiona. She's gifted with enough attitude for 4 or 5 bunnies and recently was adopted by one of the terrific folks who volunteer and support Heartland. She and Fiona are a perfect match. I was really happy for Fiona when she was presented with her very own pink house.

Fiona and her house.
She's a very small beauty...and...as is often the case with bunnies...her attitude is much bigger than her physical size. She generally greets most humans with a growl and a slap...but then often sort of melts into enjoying a head rub if it is offered.

Earthlings who happen to be bunnies...wow...they are simply terrific.

This graphic knocked me out because I suspect that the message is true.


You can contribute to the battle against evil in this dimension by opposing oppression every time you can. Living vegan is one part of that battle.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Martin Luther King Jr.

The third Monday in January is a federal holiday marking the birth of Martin Luther King Jr....he was actually born on January 15th, 1929.
The Wikipedia entry that I linked to above notes that only two other individuals have U.S. national holidays that honor them. What the entry doesn't do is point out that one of those individuals, George Washington, was an "owner" of enslaved African American humans and the other individual honored with a national holiday, Christopher Columbus, murdered and enslaved Native American humans.

I don't have any coherent way to wrap my mind around the fact that here in the "land of the free" we honor only three individuals with a national holiday and two of those individuals enslaved human beings. That sort of makes a pretty telling statement about the dominant group (white people) in the U.S.

Martin Luther King Jr. is the only one of the three who didn't enslave anyone. He is also the only one of the three who was murdered...and he was murdered because of his efforts to increase freedom for people.

That makes me shake my head. It also makes me a little disgusted with myself because I didn't start to more thoroughly comprehend many things until a year or two ago. I am a prime example of someone floating in the ignorant obliviousness of the white racial frame. Jeez. 

Dr. King was a serious thinker who wrote and gave voice to many thoughts that were profound and provocative. Abagond's blog post has a number of quotes by Dr. King that are excellent. I especially like this one:
When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Dr. King was not only one of the best humans that ever lived in this nation...he was one of the best that ever lived anywhere.

Here's another quote from Dr. King that comes from a beautiful bit of writing that he did while he was in jail in Birmingham, Alabama.
I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action'; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a 'more convenient season.' Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
You can read the full text of the letter here...I urge you to do so...it is a profound and important document.

One sentence from the excerpt above stuns me with its insight: "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will."

Just wow.

For one example of "shallow understanding from people of good will" you can read this.

I was a young man when he was murdered...and I knew we all had been diminished. Shame on us...and the "us" I mean is we white people.

To honor him on this holiday you can watch some of his speeches here. You also can read this entry on the Vine Sanctuary Blog for some thoughtful suggestions.

He's the only human that this nation honors with a holiday who was a genuine friend of and advocate for "freedom for all". That's scary and sad...but a little hopeful too. At least there's one. Happy Birthday Dr. King.

As I was writing this it occurred to me that it isn't terribly unfair to characterize Christopher Columbus and George Washington as being strongly motivated by trying to make money and Martin Luther King Jr. as being strongly motivated by the pursuit of justice. Good grief. Like I said, scary and sad.



Friday, January 15, 2016

Images and ...

thoughts.

Some combinations of words and images are wonderful at being able to provoke thought and/or comprehension. Here's one that is quite powerful.


The second poem in this previous post presents a variation of the above message.

When we "otherize"...we create invisibility and distortions in our ability to accurately and comprehensively experience reality. 


Notice...it is more accurate and inclusive to modify the second sentence of Dr. Einstein's quote to this form. "They experience themselves, their thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a - kind of optical delusion of their consciousness."

Dr. Einstein, like most of us, couldn't escape the conditioning (in this instance...patriarchal propaganda) that permeates European human culture. Even really really really smart humans get flim-flammed by that stuff. It's pervasive and insidious.

So suck it up and get to work decolonizing your mind. In general...the more powerful and influential the group(s) is/are that you were assigned to...the more distorted is your comprehension of yourself and the world around you and the more work you have to do to correct the optical delusions of your consciousness.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Black Vegans Rock

website is now live. Go visit.



Read the mission statement which says, in part, that:
Black Vegans Rock is a digital space that seeks to spotlight everyday Black vegans who are looking to get their work, art, music, restaurant, book or other projects in front of other vegans. We seek to specifically cater to Black vegans considering we are regularly excluded or erased from mainstream spaces that deal with animal rights, food justice, feminism, and anti-racism...
On their blog they feature profiles of different black vegans. The first feature was about a young woman by the name of Seba Johnson who made history as the first Black female to ever ski in the Olympics. Wow!

Robin DiAngelo wrote: "Most whites live, grow, play, learn, love, work and die primarily in social and geographic racial segregation. Yet, our society does not teach us to see this as a loss."

The first time I encountered that thought it resonated with me...over time it has evolved to be so much more meaningful to me...and tragic. This loss is one that I'm committed to struggling against and...with terrific spaces on the internet like Black Vegans Rock (among others)...there are resources that are easily accessible that can serve to interrupt and remediate some of that loss. I'm grateful that such spaces exist and am happy to share them.  My deep thanks to the creators of the Black Vegans Rock website.
 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Ruby Hamad writes truth.

You can access more writings by Ruby Hamad here or on twitter or facebook.

The quote above contains a perspective I've thought about often in the past few years...for instance I can recast it into consideration of families. There is the human family and the cow family and the dog family and the woodchuck family...and so on. Being complicit in practicing oppression (whether knowingly or "unknowingly") in your own family (the human one) while spending effort and time advocating against oppression toward the woodchuck family (and other families) seems a little, well, warped, when you think about it.

For more clarity...let's imagine my family. We'll pretend I'm a young man (actually I'm way past young) who's married and has a wife and two children (this is imaginary). I am a tyrant at home (whether a nice one or a jerky one) and dominate and oppress my wife and the two children but...I'm vegan and advocate against oppressing living beings who do not belong to the human family.

See the problem? I'm not resisting oppression or domination or the horrible treatment of living beings...I'm just being against the bad treatment of certain groups of living beings. I'm not objecting to a**holey behavior...I'm just against it when certain beings are targeted by it. I'm not seeking to interrupt the oppressive framework itself...I'm just saying be selective in picking those who are targeted by oppression.

Which is pretty sad when you think about it. I'm saying to my family (humans)...hey...I don't really much care about you...and that is...when you consider it...probably a pretty poor way to get humans to join in the cause of ethical veganism.

All I've written sounds reasonable and true, at least it does to me, but there's a problem...a big problem. And that problem is, in a way, exemplified by the graphic I shared in my last post. It's a recognition problem. It's the problem of "good" intentions. It's the problem of obliviousness. Way too many of us who advocate for veganism attempt to avoid complicity in human oppression by believing that all we have to do is not wear white sheets and pointy hats and we're good to go. I can assure you, especially for we white identified people, that it is much more difficult than that.

I'm struggling to write something that's been much more eloquently written in many places by many authors....here's one:

"It is virtually impossible to view one oppression, such as sexism or homophobia, in isolation because they are all connected: sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, ableism, anti-Semitism, ageism. They are linked by a common origin-economic power and control-and by common methods of limiting, controlling and destroying lives. There is no hierarchy of oppressions. Each is terrible and destructive. To eliminate one oppression successfully, a movement has to include work to eliminate them all or else success will always be limited and incomplete."

Those words were written by Suzanne Pharr who has spent her life struggling against oppression. Anyone notice an "ism" she neglected to include? This past year has taught me one thing for sure...and that's that this oppression or "ism" stuff is insidious and smart and slippery and able to morph into invisible forms almost instantly. It can be right in front of you (me too) and not be comprehended. Read what this excellent human writes about it.

To be continued...

Friday, December 18, 2015

Winter Solstice 2015...

will occur at about 10:49pm on December the 21st here in Oklahoma. The internet makes it easy to find out the precise time of this event in your local area.

Were you aware that some human cultures divide the year into 6 seasons instead of the usual 4 that we colonized folks are used to? I bet most of you weren't...I wasn't. Now we can all begin this new time of more lengthy daylight (if you're in the northern hemisphere) with a bit of new knowledge.

I know the human calendar doesn't identify this transition from shorter hours of sunshine to longer hours of sunshine as the beginning of a new year...but it actually is...at least it is to me. So...this will be my last post before solstice and I'll share a couple of graphics that I really like.

This first one has a statement from Maya Angelou...a wise human. She was a delightful being and a treasure.


She was a wise woman.

This next graphic took me a while to fully appreciate...and I still discover new thoughts whenever I view it. I had to look at it for some time before some of the complexity of it became apparent to me. It is rich in meaning and one that is worth revisiting repeatedly because...like the statement by Dr. Angelou...it offers both wisdom and guidance.



I'm often lousy at implementing the wisdom so well presented in this bit of visual and verbal information. What we can comprehend or understand or see as being true is profoundly influenced by the position from which we are observing a truth. One of the big impacts I've noticed in how I behave (in part because of the veracity of the information in this graphic) is that I'm much slower to react to a number of things I encounter because I attempt to dig deeper into my perspective...and...to make a concentrated effort at trying to grasp what might be true from a differing perspective. I am clumsy and inept at this but I try much harder to do this than I might have earlier in my life.

There's a difference between my comprehending something from my perspective (or location) and my trying to imagine how something might appear from a different perspective. In other words...I can only fantasize/imagine what might appear to be "true" from a perspective (or location) that I don't occupy. Someone who actually occupies that location (or perspective) that I am imagining/fantasizing is going to have a much more concise and precise grasp of what things are true from there than I do (or can) simply because they actually are in that position whereas I can only be there in an imaginary sense. They are the authority about what is true from that position...not me...because I am not located there...and they are.

Please note that it generally is the case that power strongly influences how skilled/practiced folks are at being able to shift their comprehension from one perspective/location to another. It's pretty much the case that folks with less power tend to have greater understanding/comprehension. 

For instance...my position, partially anyway, is that of a white, elderly, male, English speaking, well-educated, relatively able-bodied, cisgendered, and so on. What that means is that my lived experience is from those positions/locations and any comprehensions or understandings I have of what life feels like to someone occupying different positions/locations will be a function of my imagination...not a function of my lived experience. Hence...their grasp on what is true from those positions/locations will be more authoritative than mine.

This is a very simple truth that has eluded me at various times and it is a truth that many of us humans...especially those of us with white skin...seem to be oblivious to way way too often. I deplore my obliviousness and spend effort every day trying to decrease it. Sometimes more successfully than others. I will endeavor to be less oblivious as this new year unfolds.

What's really snazzy (well...one thing that's snazzy...there are many) about these two graphics is that both of them are saying the much same thing...they're just expressing it differently. Consider these two images my solstice gift to you.

I will likely write more about them and the lessons in them in 2016...because they are rich in meaning and usefulness.

Enjoy...and happy New Year to you and to mother Earth and all her beings. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

A New Online Vegan Resource

is scheduled to appear in January and that's exciting.

Read about this in more detail over on the APHRO-ISM site. This graphic offers a brief summary.


I'm really eager to see this effort get underway and am looking forward to the content that will be presented. Excellent!!

Context is necessary for understanding why works like this are absolutely critical and for that some reading will be required. First you should read the piece called "#BlackVegansRock: 100 Black Vegans to Check Out" written by Aph Ko. It is a tremendous resource and one that I will be continuing to reference and learn from for a long time. It is an amazing piece of work. The comments located on the page include additional useful information and references to more black vegans and their efforts. 

Once you've spent some time with that article you should read a follow up piece that was written by Aph Ko regarding some of the reactions that followed the sharing of her article by The Vegan Society on their facebook page. While Aph Ko references this bit of writing in her follow up...I'm linking to it specifically because I think it is an important bit of elaboration about some aspects of these sorts of efforts...especially if you struggle with the mystification engendered by memes like "post-racial".

I'm really looking forward to the launching of this new website and I'm grateful for the efforts of all who are contributing to it.


 

Friday, December 4, 2015

A big thank you

is way overdue. It is my suspicion that the U.S. is approaching a tumping point in terms of making some positive changes about a number of things but most especially in the direction of decreasing injustice and oppression for mother Earth and all her beings. Something is coming...and it is big...and I think it will be a good thing.

The thank you is for the internet. It is questionable whether I would have become aware enough to start living vegan without it. The horror depicted in a little video called Meet Your Meat that I watched...via the internet...smacked me hard enough to make me vow to avoid and/all "animal food" forever more. Would I ever have seen it without the internet? I don't know. Maybe...but it might have been years until I did...or maybe never.

There's a phrase that has been used in the past, information revolution, which somewhat describes what I'm attempting to specify in this post. The internet offers ease of access to viewpoints, knowledges, thinking, perspectives and ways of comprehending mother Earth and all her Earthlings that simply were almost impossible to have prior to the advent of the internet. This is such a profound thing that words are inadequate to describe it.

One of the more useful skills I learned in the latter part of my undergraduate education and that I honed during my graduate education was how to access and to evaluate sources of information.Then...that meant going to the library and spending lots and lots of time tracking down references and cross-checking those references with other sources. It was tedious and tiresome and exhilarating. It took a lot of time and it was a pain in the butt and it meant wading through much un-useful material to find occasional gems that were worthwhile.

The internet has made that so much much easier and so much information easily accessible that it is indescribable. I've been thinking about this off and on for a few months now. What brought me to realize how revolutionary this internet thing is was my efforts to dive deeply into comprehending oppression of our sister/brother Earthlings.

At first much of that effort was focused on learning more about how we behaved toward those Earthlings we call animals. A couple of years ago I started trying to piece together how that oppressing of them related to how we human beings interacted with one another. The internet made that doable...without having to devote incredible amounts of time and effort to the task.

I think it was somewhat legitimate oftentimes to simply be ignorant about things prior to the internet. Access to information was harder. It still is hard for many...don't think that it isn't. But...access to information is infinitely easier for many more now than it was back then.

The various ways we have available now (if we're fortunate enough to be able to access the internet) to be exposed to the writing and thinking and perspectives of others is stupendous when compared to twenty or thirty years ago. One of my favorite sources for academic papers is a site called Academia. Signing up there offers access to papers written by dedicated researchers and thinkers from across planet Earth. It's a treasure trove. Most local libraries offer access to subscriptions to journals and databases that would have been almost unheard of earlier. For people who don't have internet access at home...many libraries also offer computer stations which can be used by the general public.

Because of the internet I've discovered concepts and ways of apprehending like the white racial frame...which is an attempt to specify how we white people distort and skew our perceptions and understandings of human beings. I've encountered the notion of Racism Without Racists...which again was made possible by having the internet. Because of the internet I can easily link to writings about those notions that allows readers of this blog to go and read the material themselves. Think of how difficult, if not impossible, such open access to information would have been without computers and the internet.

And...it's not just computers and the internet...it's a confluence of various technologies like cell phones and their ability to capture video of events and then the ease with which those recordings can be shared that has and is creating this phenomenal ability for access to information. Want to know what happens inside a factory farm or a slaughter house or or or. All of that can be easily found on the internet...I'm not linking to such atrocities here simply because it is too painful but you can go find videos of such dismal scenes...if you want.

Anyone with internet access can find interviews with such intellectuals as James Baldwin or they can find lectures by professors like Robin DiAngelo or Joy DeGruy. A full blown world university education is accessible because of the internet...and it is available to anyone who has a computer hooked up to the internet...or to anyone who can visit a library.

It has taken some time for the information base to build. Twenty years ago there wasn't nearly as much that had been converted to electronic format...the ease of recording wasn't available...and on and on. What's accessible has changed, it has grown and matured and the internet now is not the internet even of five years ago.

Along with information that can help us grow and access the efforts of the best of us, the internet also provides the opportunity for exposure to the efforts of the worst of us. You can find videos and writings by people who defend and support horror and oppression. It's all there...the best and the worst. It's exhilarating and stunningly awful simultaneously.

Charles Dickens wrote in the beginning of his book A Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,....".

He wrote these words in 1859. I would suggest to you that the internet offers us the opportunity to be exposed to much of the best of humans and to the worst of humans on a scale that is unprecedented in the history of human beings.

Most especially it is unprecedented in terms of the ease with which anyone can access the viewpoints and comprehensions of those who are not considered to be members of the dominant human groups. These are the sources that offer profound opportunities for consciousness raising. If you aren't delving into their writing and thinking I fear you are likely continuing to be trapped in viewpoints limited by comprehending human society and behavior through the white racial lens, through the constrictions of the colonized mind.

The internet offers opportunities to expand and deepen your understanding...use it...and consider how very remarkable and potentially transforming this is. Be grateful...never before have so many humans had such a widespread chance to learn and grow. And...remember...while growing and learning can be exhilarating...it is often also uncomfortable and painful. That's all part of growth. Be grateful for your discomfort...and your pain...and enjoy the exhilaration. Be thankful for the internet.


   

Saturday, November 28, 2015

I did not create...

the social systems that I was born into. Nor did you. I created no system that included such awful ways of behaving as exemplified by sexism or racism or speciesism (or any other "ism" of oppression). Nope...I didn't do that (nor did you). Whew...we're off the hook then, right? Wrong. (Note: while systems of oppression have similarities in their structures and ways of operating, they also differ, and therefore because of that and because the characteristics of targeted groups differ then that means that the targeted groups have differing experiences when they are oppressed. Oversimplifying the impact is both disrespectful to those who are oppressed as well as misleading and confusing.)

When I write or think about racism or sexism or speciesism or other systems of oppression...please understand that this is done to examine and comprehend more accurately such harmful systems. Any comparisons and/or similarities are from one system of oppression to another...they are NOT from one targeted group to another. Understanding aspects of a system of oppression does not mean that the effects of that system on the targeted group is comprehended. Each iteration of the oppression of a particular group differs somewhat and each group targeted by oppression differs in their experiences of those oppressive systems.

Just because I didn't create social systems doesn't mean that I'm not responsible for my activities in them. It doesn't mean I'm not responsible for doing my part to understand and stop them if they're harmful. And...since I'm in them...my good intentions aren't adequate...I have to actively work at comprehending and resisting these systems of oppression or...I am complicit in them.

No one gets to opt out...there is no "out"...we're all in the system(s). Having a pure heart and good intentions simply is inadequate...you have to actively work against the bad stuff or you're supporting it. This sucks...I know...but that's the way it is. If our ancestors had done their work then we wouldn't be faced with what we have...but they didn't so we must. None of us gets to sit on the couch and watch the world go by and be innocent...if we're living in a society we're either opposing oppression or we're helping oppression...no one just gets to be "nice" and thereby avoid hurting others. (being "nice" and thinking it confers innocence is an insidious sham because it ends up maintaining and preserving oppressive systems...more about this later)

If you aren't actively working to take apart the systems of oppression...you're supporting them. That's hard to comprehend and hard to accept...but...that's the way it is. I didn't make it that way nor did you. I don't like it and it's a pain...but hey...that's what we've got.

Keep this in mind...the discomfort that happens when you work to dismantle oppressive systems is minimal when measured against the pain of the victims of those systems of harm and destruction. Look at the discomfort you might feel in your work against oppression as your dues for being alive and endeavoring to avoid harm to others. If you aren't feeling uncomfortable...then you're probably failing to work toward interrupting the human horror story that we inherited. 

Allan G. Johnson is a sociologist who has written about sexism and racism in several books. One of the analogies he uses to try to illustrate how social systems work is by referencing the game of monopoly. I recently found a video of him explaining this analogy and while he is referring to racism as a system of oppression in his talk...he points out that structures of oppression are quite similar from one iteration of it to another. Again...this doesn't mean that the group targeted by a system of oppression has the same experiences as a result of that oppression (for the reasons I noted previously).

I'm posting the video here, it is about 30 minutes long and if it doesn't work or show up for you here you can access it at this link.



I'm a little uneasy about sharing this video because it features a white man and thereby might, even though I don't desire it, serve to re-inscribe the notion of white male authority. Not that Dr. Johnson is a bad guy...he seems to be working hard at dismantling oppression.

I think the message he's presenting is sufficiently useful to counter balance the implied presumption of white male knowingness. At least I hope it is. Do be aware that. Dr. Johnson is building on and utilizing knowledge and insights that originated from many women and men of color.

He's a bright guy and he's a scholar and academic and no scholar or academic stands alone in terms of what they know and/or understand. Like all of us he draws on the efforts of others to understand and comprehend and like all of us his position influences his viewpoint. But he seems to work at trying to de-center his whiteness and his maleness.

However...as far as I know...he doesn't live vegan hence, like all of us, he still has a ways to go on his personal journey of trying to  interrupt harm to his sister/brother Earthlings. If you want to see why...you can read this post by Syl Ko on the APHRO-ISM site...which is dedicated to black feminist thought and critical analysis. The authors there do some terrific and powerful writing.  

The primary reason I chose this video is that he ties oppressive systems to capitalism and that often is omitted when folks write or speak about these topics.

I've been grappling with comprehending the operation of oppression for a while now and each time I find some path that seems to provide some illumination for me...it always seems to end up implicating the economic system that we're all enmeshed in...capitalism.

Oppression can exist (and does exist) outside of capitalistic economic systems...but...no capitalistic economic system exists that isn't conducive to and supportive of and rife with...oppression. In other words...as far as I can comprehend it at this point...you can't have capitalism without oppression. It is a core component of that system. Large systems of capitalism require/encourage exploitation and oppression can be understood as a manifestation of exploitation.

This is a video that, in the last 10 minutes or so, addresses various features of capitalism and how they are inextricably intertwined with the "isms" of oppression and trying to comprehend these various structures of oppression without also paying heed to the overarching economic system that supports and encourages them is, at least for me, incomplete.

I'm sharing his talk because I find his insights and analogies to be helpful. Maybe they will be for you too. I would appreciate any observations and thoughts you might have about it. If you know of videos you have found useful in understanding oppression...especially if the relationship of capitalism to oppression is elaborated upon I would be very grateful for links and/or sources. Thank you.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"Instead of Shopping...

Volunteer!"

This is the title of a timely and excellent post by pattrice jones over on the Vine Sanctuary Blog. I'm writing this primarily as an encouragement to you to visit that post because it is so very very truth full and so very very important. Please go there and read it.

My thanks to pattrice jones for writing it.

Some excepts from that post include:

"...the festival of carnivorous gluttony known as Thanksgiving followed by the carnival of consumerism known as Black Friday offer a case in point of the intersections among colonialism, capitalism, animal exploitation, and environmental degradation..."

"PS — This isn’t meant to discourage folks who use holiday sales to save money on things they need and would have bought anyway (though we do hope that anybody who shops over the Thanksgiving weekend will be mindful of the second annual #BLACKOUT Black Friday boycott by choosing independent and Black-owned businesses rather than big box stores.) This is about resisting the enticement to squander hard-earned funds on unnecessary products that deplete the environment along with your pocketbook, all in the service of amoral profiteers. This is about finding much more substantial pleasure in volunteer work or playful activities that contribute to your own well-being while helping to heal our communities and ecosystems."
I can't go to the Vine Sanctuary but I can go to my local sanctuary, Heartland Rabbit Rescue, and give my time and effort to helping the victims of human callousness. I can go there and my presence lets the humans who are there 24/7 how much they are admired and appreciated. If you can...go to Vine Sanctuary...if you can't...find a local organization in your area that helps our sister/brother Earthlings and give them your time and effort. Please.

If we want human society to operate differently...we have to change how we behave...and doing "holidays" differently can be a step towards having a society that respects and cares about mother Earth and all her Earthlings. Engage in healing, not harming.



Friday, November 20, 2015

Commodification...

is sometimes defined as the changing of social relating into one of an exchange or the buying and selling of feelings. Wikipedia says it is the changing of goods and/or services and/or ideas and/or anything else that isn't usually considered to be a commodity into such a form. Ok...so what's a commodity? Wikipedia says it is "...a substantially fungible marketable item produced to satisfy wants or needs." Hmmm...what the heck is "fungible"...one definition is that it means the property or essence of goods that are capable of being substituted in place of one another.

So...commodification is making something not usually considered to be able to be bought or sold into a something that can be bought or sold. Commodification is closely related to privatization...which essentially means transferring from public control or ownership to private or individual ownership something that's been commodified.
In the book titled A Brief History of Neoliberalism, the author writes: "Commodification presumes the existence of property rights over processes, things and social relations, that a price can be put on them, and that they can be traded subject to legal contract. The market is presumed to work as an appropriate guide -- an ethic -- for all human action." p. 165

Yikes!

We are in deep doo doo. This article might assist in heightening your alarm...if what you're reading hasn't already done so. You're currently getting slammed with all kinds of phenomena related to commodification because of the year end frenzy of buying and selling that has become synonymous with the "holiday" season.

The market as a guide for all human action? Wow. There's a seriously profound demeaning ugliness in that idea. Look around...you can see what happens when such ideas are put into action all over the place.

The source for the above cartoon is here. Apologies for the "leather" reference.

My last years of participation in 'formal' employment put me in a job wherein I had to attend many meetings. I began to notice that the folks who were often given the most attention were those who talked a lot and who sounded like they knew what they were talking about...even when they didn't. Their ideas and notions sounded plausible...and seemed to make sense...unless you really really thought about how people actually behaved and the implications of what they were promoting. These snazzy sounding notions sort of glided over or ignored the sticky parts.

It seemed as if these "good talkers" (and many who listened) were entranced by their words and ideas and they had lost sight of the fact that words and ideas are not living beings or the behavior of living beings or mother Earth and words or ideas don't necessarily correspond accurately to what they purport to reflect nor does the 'logic' of the words or ideas always correspond to reality. But...they sure sounded sensible and/or 'good'.

I had mostly always been a little uneasy with eloquence...not that humans who aren't eloquent can't be full of crap...but crap wrapped up in eloquence is often more difficult to recognize. I appreciate well written things and well spoken folks...but. I've noticed many of us (and me too sometimes) get trapped by that fallacy of confusing a map with the territory. Territory is reality...maps may or may not accurately correspond to that territory. Just because a map looks good doesn't necessarily mean it is true. Symbols are not the things they represent...words are symbols and using language puts you at risk of reifying the symbol and thereby distorting or ignoring reality.

When we use words like "market" we tend to flatten or ignore or invisible the activities that are required for such things to exist. Just like when you go to the supermarket and buy lettuce...the human labor and activities required to prepare the soil, plant the lettuce, water the plants, harvest and package and transport the lettuce are all made invisible. All you see is the end result of a large number of activities which may or may not have included child labor, inadequate wages, toxic chemicals, stolen land...and often that end result is wrapped up in a shiny package and offered to you as a "bargain".

And you buy it because it's "cheap" or you just wanted it. Congratulations...you just provided support to environmental destruction, child or enslaved human labor, exploitation of women, the racialization of objects and people (and your implicit thinking patterns), war and militarization, and on and on and on.

You just sided with the ideological argument that "markets" should guide your behavior and thinking and feeling...and it was easy...nor did you even realize you were engaged in an argument, did you? 

This process of invisibling makes supporting the monstrous destruction of mother Earth and her living beings "normal". Commodification, privatization, markets, profit...words that mask complex and often destructive activities (and unspoken ideological arguments)...be afraid...be very afraid.  
 





 




 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Racist animal activism?

To contextualize this post you first need to read this writing by Lauren Ornelas about a recent experience she had while doing some animal activism. She writes on her blog called Appetite for Justice by Food Empowerment Project. A note on Dr. Breeze Harper's blog led me to Lauren's entry. 


What happened during her activism efforts makes the statement on the graphic: "Proud to be an animal activist" a little dubious.

Lauren ends the piece she wrote on her blog with these poignant words: "I can’t imagine the animals truly wanting us to be so cruel toward one another because, if nothing else, if we can’t live with solidarity among our own species, how can we save them?"

It's a great question. If we think of human animals as if we were a family and the other beings that we share mother Earth with as other families...do we really think that we can behave horribly toward our own family members but pull off the trick of behaving well toward those who aren't in our family?

Readers here are members of the human family, there is also the pig family and the cow family and the sparrow family and so on. It's bizarre to imagine we humans can operate out of a racist framework and/or a sexist framework and/or an abelist framework and/or a heteronormative framework and so on...in terms of our interactions with one another and...while doing all those harmful things and thinking in all those harmful ways...also be able to avoid harm to beings who belong to other families?

In other words do we think we can behave destructively and harmfully toward those we're most closely related to...but be respectful and non-harmful toward those who are relative strangers to us? Maybe so. Maybe we can...but it seems deranged to me to believe something like that. Deranged is actually a kind way to describe my thoughts and feelings about such ugly absurdities.

Wouldn't it be more reasonable and consistent to practice non-harm and respectfulness both with our family and with those who aren't in our family? Why would we want to act like a**holes toward those who are closest to us but be kind and compassionate toward those who are (relatively speaking) strangers to us?

I feel terrible for Lauren. She does good and honorable work with her organization...she's been advocating for animals for nearly 30 years and it is sad that she was exposed to such hateful obliviousness. This white supremacist stuff is ugly and painful...for everyone...and it has tainted all of us. We can do better than this...and we must.

I've come to think that one of the major problems we humans have is the idea that it's acceptable to behave horridly toward one group of beings or another or think one group or another is "superior".


Lauren's post provides much to consider. She questions whether she was correct in speaking out by asking: "But did I do the right thing by speaking up?"

Silence implies complicity. It isn't a neutral stance...if we are in the presence of wrong (pretty much no matter what sort of wrong) and we do not object or interrupt that wrong...then we are...whether intending to or not...supporting that wrong. None of us are exempt from that truth.

Thank you Lauren for speaking up.Your courage and compassion exemplify how we all should behave.

A few months back I wrote about my encounter with the white supremacist mindset that taints many vegan animal activists and about my banishment from a vegan group I helped start up because I objected to "activism" for animals that was racist in nature. I put the quotation marks around "activism" because I have difficulty seeing anything that reproduces oppression as legitimate "activism". Being hateful and harmful toward others, whether obliviously or not, isn't "activism".

Doing harm to the innocent in the name of stopping harm to the innocent is ridiculous. It's just this kind of oblivious recreating of damage that drives much, if not most, human destructiveness.

Please read Lauren's post...it has so much in it that needs to be known to anyone who's vegan...and anyone else, for that matter...who's struggling to escape a colonized viewpoint.  


Friday, November 6, 2015

The Acoma village

and the peoples who live there were one of the sites we visited on our recent trip to New Mexico.

I wanted to provide some elaboration of my reason(s) for refusing to enter the San Estevan del Rey Mission church which is located in the Acoma homeland.

I  placed this photo of that structure in my previous post.


It's a rather pretty building...but seeing it with some knowledge of how it came to be built makes it not look so pretty.

When I was there it was with a group of European appearing women and men who all followed the guide into the interior and oohed and aahed at the appearance of the place. I stayed outside. From the view of the building in the photo...to the left out of sight of the mission is a graveyard containing the remains of Acoma peoples. Some of those who are buried there were killed by the by the Europeans (Spanish) to get the mission constructed.

It was built by Acoma people who were forced (under threat of being whipped or killed) to carry logs on their shoulders from mountains located some 40 miles away. If a log was dropped...it was considered to be not usable any longer and those who dropped it were whipped and forced to go back and get another log. All of the earth and stone and wood that was used in the building was carried up onto the mesa by the enslaved Acoma peoples. No one knows how many were killed during the building of this church. It is a monument to slavery and suffering and death...but...mostly all anyone sees when they look at it is a pretty building.

The guide briefly related the history of how the mission came to be built to the tour participants...but none of them said anything about the horror (that I heard anyway) and none joined me in not going inside. My avoidance of seeing the inside was a paltry protest...but it was (at least to me) better than nothing. I felt sad seeing that building and comprehending the misery and suffering it represented.

The young Acoma woman who was our guide related some of the history of the building in a matter of fact way and the only comments I heard from the tour participants were statement about the impressiveness of the building.

I don't know what the guide thought about it all...and I never said anything to her about it. I couldn't think of any way to say anything without maybe sounding like I was trying to present myself as a good guy or something. So I kept my mouth shut.

When the Spanish came and started exploiting the Acoma...eventually the Acoma rebelled...several times. The Spanish, in one instance of reaction to the resistance of the Acoma murdered more than 600 men, women and children and all of the men who survived and were over a certain age had their right foot cut off. This is one, and only one, example of how Europe "civilized" the "new world".

If you take the time to read the wikipedia entry about the construction of the mission, you'll see that the authors of the entry say that Father Juan Ramirez "oversaw" the construction. "Oversaw" is a nice word that sort of leaves out the whippings and suffering and death involved in the enslavement of the Acoma people who were forced to construct the place. "Oversaw" is one of the words we Europeans use to sort of elide or smooth over our history of violent murder and enslavement and subjugation towards Native Americans and all people of color. 

In my only overt act of subversion against my European ancestry, I talked to one of the Acoma women who arrange the tours and asked her if the guides had ever written a book about the tours. She looked very serious and said no, because some of the ceremonies and activities of the Acoma people were sacred and not to be shared with those who weren't tribal members. I explained that I wasn't talking about the practices of the Acoma...but about whether the guides had ever written a book about the ignorant and clueless questions and comments the white people made who came for the tours.

She looked shocked and stunned for a moment and then she started laughing and laughing. I felt a little bit of warmth that she was so delighted. She said no, but that was a terrific idea and then she laughed some more and thanked me for the suggestion. Her laughter was the nicest part of the visit.

Most of us who are white skinned do not realize that, in Jane Elliot's phrase, the brown eyed people (many/most of them, not all of them though) look at us white people with skepticism and dubiousness. Rightfully so, given our history. They know how we white people think and comprehend but they also have their own comprehension and thinkings. Very few white people understand this and even rarer are the occasions when white people, in person at least, will be directly let in on these different comprehensions and thinkings. I was gifted with an unspoken acknowledgement of these differences by the laughter of the Acoma woman. I greatly appreciate that she shared her laughter with me.

I doubt that any book will ever be written about the oblivious white people who come for a tour. It would piss off white people and do damage to the Acoma people...even though it would be true...and probably funny in a sad sort of way. But I wish we lived in a human society where such a book was possible. Maybe someday. Other Native Americans have written about their views of white people. If you're interested you can read "Custer Died For Your Sins" by Vine Deloria, Jr. He's a delightful and insightful author.

This "double consciousness" isn't a secret...it's just mostly invisible to white people. We (European ancestored people) don't see it because we are taught not to...our victims have been trying to tell us about this for a long long time...but it evades most of us with white skin because it is uncomfortable and scary and painful...so we mostly pretend it doesn't exist. And we pretend so well that we don't realize we are pretending. It is, in part, what is meant by invisibling.

But...many/most brown-eyed peoples are aware of the pretense and don't buy into the invisibling. They are generally, very wisely, reluctant to let white skinned people know that they comprehend things differently than we do...at least not in person. Because we mostly don't want to hear it and get upset when we do hear it. And...we're dangerous...and if you don't understand that white skinned people are dangerous...go back in this post and read again how that mission was constructed. It's a pretty building that is a monument to European arrogance and violence. In fact, any areas of the planet unlucky enough to have experienced European colonization are invisibled monuments to horror and violence.

That's a long time ago, you say? Well...if that makes you feel better...good. Just don't read anything about Ferguson, or Baltimore or Wounded Knee or or or any of the myriad recent instances of white people harming those they saw as "different". William Faulkner said it best: "The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past." But...that makes us uneasy so we white folks ignore it and if we can't ignore it we'll lie about it or minimize it or make excuses for it...anything to avoid taking responsibility and maybe working toward some sort of redemption or rectification. 

I didn't start out to write this much about the Acoma visit. But...it just came out. Acoma is a beautiful place but it was mostly sadness and sorrow that I felt while I was there. I'm happiest that I was able to bring some laughter to the young woman. That was the nicest part of it all, along with the beauty of the land and the plants and the animals and of New Mexico.

Taos trees and mountains, October 2015