Friday, July 24, 2015

Once again

the eloquent and perceptive pattrice jones has written a piece that must be read by all of us who support and advocate for veganism.

She writes:
Do be the person you were when you let yourself learn things you didn’t want to know about animal abuse. That same courage and willingness to confront discomfort will carry you through and inspire you to learn what you need to learn about racism
However difficult and upsetting it was for you to learn about what we human animals do to our sister/brother Earthlings...diving into learning about the active and ongoing ugliness of white U.S. American racism is just as disconcerting or maybe even more so. can do it. It's painful, it's scary and heart and mind boggling. However, if you're committed to opting out of the oppressions that are presented as "normal"...then it must be done.

If you don't want to do that work...then she tells you what you need to do. Read her post. Please. (Thanks to So I'm Thinking of Going Vegan for linking to her blog too)

Friday, July 17, 2015


is a snazzy sounding word which means...according to this dictionary site: "to remove from a context." It's sort of in the vicinity of another interesting word, deconstruction, which has as one of its meanings: "the analytic examination of something (as a theory) often in order to reveal its inadequacy." Deconstruction also has meaning much beyond the one quoted above that you can find here.

Some time ago I was reading some writing by a young woman who works with survivors of domestic violence. She was noting that one of the arguments that is presented to emphasize how lightly or inadequately this very serious and awful issue is regarded is the statement that there are 3 times as many animal shelters in the United States as there are shelters for women and children who are victims of domestic violence.

I was sort of surprised at that data initially, in the way that such a decontextualed presenting of the information is apparently designed to accomplish. I first thought how unsettling that we have triple the facilities to protect animals as we do to protect women and thinker didn't stop there. And...more digging by my thinker led me to see that there was something sort of hinky and manipulative in making such a statement...even though it was least on the face of it.

A few days ago I was having an exchange online with someone wherein they were asserting something that I was having a hard time understanding, so I wrote them about some of my concerns. In their response they threw that same 3 times statement at me and asserted that it served to confirmed their stance. This time I did a little investigating.

Apparently that statement is based on some data from 1990, that can be found here, where it says there are 1,500 shelters for battered women and 3,800 shelters for animals in the U.S. Obviously 3 x 1,500 is more than 3,800 but this bit of data is close enough for presuming that this source is one basis for the 3 times assertion. More up to date data indicates there are around 5,000 animal shelters and around 3,361 providers of services for domestic violence victims. That isn't even close to 3 x...but...there are still more shelters for animals than resources for domestic violence victims. If you search for that 3x ratio, you find that it is used in many places as some sort of argument that we care more about animals than human victims of domestic violence. For instance, a page associated with Arizona State University touts this "shocking" bit of data.

That's really not the problem with the 3x meme...the problem is that it is thrown around without referencing context. You have to look at the respective size of the populations involved, as well as other factors, for the data to make any kind of useful sense...unless you're just trying to win a dispute and don't really care about accuracy and comprehension. Which, from what I can tell, is most often the context in which that notion is used.

One very important bit of information to take into account is the number of victims of domestic violence as compared to the number of animals who are at risk for violence against them. If we consider this additional information, the 3 x thing starts to look a little strange. For arguments sake let's presume that every female in the U.S. is a victim of domestic violence...that would mean about 150 million females (I'm including both adult and child females into this number) are theoretically victims of domestic violence...if we divide 3,361 (the number of providers of domestic violence services) into the number of victims we can see how many victims there are for each provider. That number comes to around 45,000 victims for each provider. (150 million divided by 3,361)

Of course not all females are victims...I'm using the biggest number possible simply to illustrate the rather fantastic goofiness that's present here.

Ok, let's do the same thing for animal shelters. One source says 10 billion land animals are killed each year in the United States...and that excludes how many sea animals (another 20 billion) are killed each year. If we use the 10 billion figure for increasing our understanding, we would need to divide that population by the number of animal shelters and that would come to 2 million. (10 billion divided by 5,000)

So, using the calculations above, based on a large overestimate of human victims and a big underestimate of animal victims we see that for each shelter for humans there are about 45,000 potential users and for each animal shelter there are abut 2 million potential users. Uh...that sort of makes the 3 x thingee look sort of...well...screwy.

And...that's not all there is to the context. When the term shelter is used for animals, that includes (I'm presuming) all the small and large taxpayer funded municipal and county type operations. Guess what happens to animals that end up there?  Most of them...sooner or later...unless the animal is rescued from the shelter...are killed. Shelter is a misleading term...these are (not all of them, but most of them) actually places where animals are killed for human convenience. And...most of the places included in that 5,000 animal shelters are just that type of death camp...the number of sanctuaries and/or rescues where animals are safe is much much smaller. I looked a little for a breakdown of safe places versus kill places and found that to be rather hard to find. You can do your own investigating of that if you're so inclined.

Maybe the best way to think about it is many taxpayer funded shelters for animals are actually devoted to saving lives versus being devoted to scooping up non-human affiliated animals and killing them? There are none in my area...every tax funded operation around here is a place of death...if no human takes the animal out of the "shelter" then that "rescued" animal is killed.

One source says that 3.5 million of the 5 million "companion animals" entering "shelters" annually (that excludes those beings 'routinely' killed for "food") are executed. That's not much of a far as I know...that's not what happens at places that provide services to human victims of domestic violence. So...not only are the numbers misleading...even the term "shelter" is misleading. Using screwy numbers and screwy language in the same statement...ouch.

I responded to the person who used the 3 to 1 ratio with only the information about population size...I didn't even add that using the word "shelter" for places of refuge for human victims of domestic violence versus that same word for a place of death for animals...and pointed out the error in the statement. The response I got back was...none...they just ignored the information.

Discussions or exchanges or presentations of information can be used to get closer to reality or truth or they can be used to try to get agreement...or both. I'm much more interested in trying to ascertain truths and/or reality than I am (usually anyway) in trying to achieve agreement. My notion is that truth/reality is the important part and agreement and/or disagreement regarding a perspective to that truth/reality is secondary. Agreement is nice...but jeez...if you're agreeing on an untruth that you're pretending is truth or mistaking for truth...well...there's way too much of that going on in human interactions for my liking.

Among other things, propaganda is designed to achieve agreement, marketing is designed to achieve agreement, flimflam is designed to achieve agreement...none of these three things are much interested in truth/reality except as a tool, sometimes, to get agreement. I don't particularly care for any of those three fact...I get sort of offended when I'm subjected to them. 

When someone presents an assertion that is misleading and/or inaccurate (I include me in 'someone') and information is presented that invalidates that's time to acknowledge error or inaccuracy and adjust whatever premises are based on that assertion. If such acknowledging and/or adjusting doesn't this case the additional information was's my presumption that whomever I'm in an exchange with isn't interested in truth/reality, they're interested in their stance and they want agreement, reality/truth is secondary or immaterial to their goal. It's at that point that I pretty much lose interest in dialoguing with them.

Victims of domestic violence need places of safety...yes...but trying to garner support for this by using decontextualized numbers is a lousy way to go about it.

And...presenting another group of victims of violence as somehow getting "more" (and in the process spreading misinformation), that's just reproducing oppression, theoretically in the name of providing relief to victims of oppression. We can do better than that. Such stuff just plays into maintaining the astonishing culture of oppression that we all are subjected to...some extra thinking and contexting can sometimes help to opt out of participation in playing one group of victims off against another group of victims and in avoiding being duped by numbers.

So...if you run across the 3 to 1 meme...beware. All victims belonging to marginalized groups deserve protection...but touting misinformation and/or reproducing oppression is a lousy way to try to achieve that. And...anyone believing that more human effort and resources are devoted to "saving" our sister/brother Earthlings than are devoted to humans...well...they're way way way wrong.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

I, racist

is the title of an essay by John Metta that you can read here. I've shared it with a number of people, I've printed out copies so I can hand them to white people when I get into a discussion with them and I see their eyes starting to glaze over as I struggle to explain how all of us white people are complicit in a racist system. I don't have a great deal of confidence that it will make a difference...but...the essay is so piercingly true that it should be shared widely. And...just can help to break through the obliviousness of normality.

Every vegan that I know has had the unsettling experience of having someone get upset when it was pointed out to them that living a "normal" life here in U.S. America meant they were being cruel to animals who weren't human. Most see themselves as non-harmers of living beings...even as they routinely eat "animal products" and "meat". The cruelty has been invisibled and making that cruelty clear is most often experienced as a personal attack instead of an effort to expand perception and comprehension.

Most vegans have learned that truth telling, no matter how gently or kindly or eloquently it is expressed, usually ends up being rejected, ignored, denied or...quite often...with a non-vegan human being upset and angry at the vegan who was audacious enough to point out "normal" cruelty. Exposing this awfulness almost invariably results in hurt feelings because the previously oblivious person feels like you're saying they are "bad". Their feelings get hurt and since you are the one who's sitting across from must be the cause.

Expose awfulness to someone who "normally" participates in awfulness generally means the speaker gets branded as awful. It's as if it is immediately recognized that there's something awful going on and that awfulness becomes a hot potato that has to go somewhere...someone is responsible for it...and the quickest and easiest thing to do is toss it back onto the one who brought it into awareness. It's a variation on the "he who smelt it dealt it" observation.

Each of us can can participate in and support oppression and horror while seeing ourselves as virtuous and kind and compassionate. In fact, that is, horribly enough, what passes for "normal" in any culture where eating our sister/brother Earthlings is accepted. Which is most all cultures.

In addition, the normalized oppression that's meant by the term speciesism, isn't the only routine awfulness we get indoctrinated into here in U.S. America. You get stuck into complicity with sexism too....whether you realize it or not. If you have white skin you get stuck into complicity with racism....whether you realize it or not. And on and on...that's a big part of how the "isms" of oppression just keep rolling along.

Hell, you get stuck into complicity with racism even if you don't have white's just that you have a much greater chance of becoming de-oblivioused to that routine racism if your skin isn't considered to be white because not only will you be a "normal" participant in that'll eventually be a target of it too. noted in this post...if you suffer from an oppression you are much more likely to clearly comprehend and be aware of that oppression.

Please read I,'s one of the most excellent pieces of writing I've ever read. It wonderfully works at "saying it well enough". My thanks to the author of I, racist, he's given everyone a marvelous gift.

Friday, July 3, 2015

I get confused often.

This post is about some confusions that bother me.

Stephanie McMillan is a talented artist/cartoonist who has devoted her efforts to activism opposing imperialism and supporting social justice can read more about this in her bio on her website.

This graphic, which I mostly like, was created by her.

The idea that the graphic is trying to express is that it is incumbent on each of us to de-invisiblize the consequences of our behavior such that those consequences do not...inadvertently...end up furthering or supporting the very thing that we're wanting to oppose.

The mostly qualification about liking the graphic is because I'm sort of perplexed by the military imagery (my notion is that part of human caused awfulness is, way more often than not, driven by our organizing into "soldiers"). It's interesting to consider that maybe her imagery actually lends some support to what she seems to oppose. I say that because imperialism pretty much always involves the organizing of humans into "soldiers".

That's sort of interesting eh? She seems to be someone opposed to imperialism but creates a graphic that seems to support or at least invoke one of the main human roles (soldier) used to support a graphic that argues against not accidentally or unwittingly doing something like that. Sort of cool and sad at the same time. But...obviously I might be totally wrong in my take on the graphic...or...she might be oblivious to the implications.

Maybe I'm just being picky. Here's another graphic she created.

She does many cartoons and drawings and writings wherein she advocates against environmental harm and human-driven climate change and other destructiveness caused by human behavior. Except...oops...obviously Ms. McMillan isn't vegan. The problem presented in the graphic above revolves around how mercury poisons concern is attached to mercury poisoning the fish or the unnecessary killing of the fish for humans to eat.

Apparently her concern stops at human Earthlings when she thinks about social justice...even though this next graphic hints otherwise.

Is she concerned about plants and animals or are they just being used as props for her advocacy on behalf of her concerns about human Earthlings?

There are various other drawings/cartoons on her website that indicate much concern with environmental destruction but the theme that seems to run through all of them is worry about harm or inconvenience to humans in some shape or form. She probably would object to this graphic...or at least be only minimally concerned with the notion of speciesism.

Her bio says she is concerned with "social justice" but...we're sort of left in the dark as to precisely what she means when she uses those words, but it's probably safe to say that only human beings are included.

She's concerned about the environment hence the ecocide part of this graphic would be consonant with what she opposes and...she does say "social justice" maybe some of those other oppressions in the graphic would be repulsive to her. And yet...if she isn't vegan...her universe of concern is, in essence, human Earthlings and, I presume, mother Earth, at least insofar as mother Earth appears to offer something useful to human Earthlings. I'm speculating...I don't know what her universe of opposition entails but predicated on the dead fish graphic apparently the lives of non-human Earthlings don't make it.

Oppression is defined on wikipedia as: "...the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner." Hence, one way to think about racism is as the use of power by one group of humans against another group of humans,  defined by "race", in a way that is burdensome, cruel or unjust. So the above graphic is using words to identify groups (or something nebulously called ecology or the environment) that are subjected to oppression by various groups of humans. The thing or idea (as denoted by the double headed arrow lines) that connects all of the words above is oppression.

If, as Ms. McMillan seems to do, we exclude any who aren't human Earthlings from our area of concern then we are saying that oppression is acceptable if the target of those oppressive activities does not belong to that group we define as the human species...and maybe the sort of nebulous thing we call the 'environment'. I suppose that's what she's saying...I don't know because I haven't conversed with her...I'm speculating based on my poking around on her website and looking at her graphics.

For me, the problem is with those activities encompassed by the notion of oppression, there's where I see wrongness. It's the oppressing that's the bad stuff...otherwise you're just getting into a stance of deciding which groups (or areas) are ok to behave cruelly or unjustly toward and which ones you shouldn't act that way toward.

Maybe this could be made more visible or understandable if instead of the word oppress I use the word rape (or murder or set on fire...any term that is pretty much immediately understood as destructive and awful). If I then say the problem is not with raping (or you plug in your own word for some invariably awful doings) but with picking acceptable rape victims or conversely picking those who shouldn't be raped.

To take this further...I say that it's ok to rape humans named Mary or William but all others are off limits or I say that it's ok to murder all humans named John or Carmen but all others are off limits. Does that make me an activist or supporter of "social justice"? Or...does that just make me one more voice in the chorus that seems to say hooray for me (and who or what I think is important) and to hell with everybody else and the rest of everything? I dunno...this stuff makes my head hurt sometimes.

Do you get what I'm driving at? In the end, I'm simply not smart enough or sophisticated enough or whatever it might take to sort out who or what it is ok to behave horribly endeavor is to work on not behaving horribly...not working on figuring out who or what it is ok to behave horribly toward. my efforts to de-horrify my behavior I must...absolutely...take into account the risk that de-horrifying my behavior toward one set of victims doesn't accidentally or inadvertently visit horror on another set of victims...or worse, even support or bolster that which I think I'm opposing...because I'm then defeating myself. Shucks, if, in my efforts to stop acting horrible I act horrible...ouch...not cool.

The message in her graphic with the dead fish is that we ought not to put poisons into the environment because they come back and hurt us. It is focused on de-horrifying activities involving the environment and the rationale is that it eventually ends up being horrid toward ourselves. Notice though...that the fish are victimized too...twice...once by the poison and then the second time by being killed by humans for 'food'. Jeez.

Don't get me wrong...I agree with many of the apparent concerns that Ms. McMillan has...but...she's obviously much wiser or whatever than me in that she seems to be saying it's ok to act like a destructive asshole as long as you do it right (depending on how she defines 'right') or pick the correct victims.

That's beyond my abilities...I'm not equipped to figure out where it's ok to be horrid and where it's not...that seems way too hard and tricky to'll muddle along with working on de-awfuling my behavior instead of trying to pick who or what I act awful toward and who or what I don't act awful toward. Or maybe I'm missing something?

Friday, June 26, 2015

These were the facts of their lives...

Here are some paragraphs written in a 2010 book by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson. The book is titled The Warmth of Other Suns. It documents the great migration that occurred in the United States between 1915 and 1970. During this period it is estimated that some six million black southerners left the south and fanned out over the country. Historians have come to call it the great migration. It transformed the United States and yet it is mostly unknown and may be the most under-reported story of the twentieth century.

She wrote these paragraphs about segregation, which was perfectly “legal” in U.S. America until the civil rights laws were passed in the 1960s. It’s worth considering that the kind of thinking and the kind of attitudes that produced these laws and expectations were totally untouched by the passage of the civil rights legislation. The ideology that resulted in these strange and sad “laws” and “customs” did not evaporate after the civil rights legislation…only what was legally allowed changed…the mindsets and viewpoints were virtually untouched.

It became unacceptable to openly express such awfulness, but that mostly meant that this crap went underground instead of disappearing. If you haven't noticed it by now...destructive disconnects from reality usually don't just evaporate when they're confronted and exposed. They either just continue (if the opposition isn't strong enough to counter them) or they morph and metastasize into a form or configuration that isn't immediately recognizable. Often they will latch onto a challenging idea or phrase and distort it enough to use it in service of destructiveness. Racists fastened onto the "colorblind" meme and it's primarily used as code to further racist ideology.

It’s absurd to think that such thinking, which was powerful enough to produce these bizarre and demeaning ordinances and laws, simply dried up and blew away as a result of the civil rights acts. We would like to pretend that’s the case….but…it isn’t. If you don’t think that’s so…go read about the Charleston massacre.

Ms. Wilkerson wrote:

These were the facts of their lives.

There were days when whites could go to the amusement park and a day when blacks could go, if they were permitted at all. There were white elevators and colored elevators (meaning the freight elevators in back); white train platforms and colored train platforms. There were white ambulances and colored ambulances to ferry the sick, and white hearses and colored hearses for those who didn’t survive whatever was wrong with them.

There were white waiting rooms and colored waiting rooms in any conceivable place where a person might have to wait for something, from the bus depot to the doctor’s office. A total of four restrooms had to be constructed and maintained at significant expense in any public establishment that bothered to provide any for colored people: one for white men, one for white women, one for colored men, and one for colored women. In 1958, a new bus station went up in Jacksonville, Florida, with two of everything, including two segregated cocktail lounges, “lest the races brush elbows over a martini,” The Wall Street Journal reported. The president of Southeastern Greyhound told the Journal, “It frequently costs fifty percent more to build a terminal with segregated facilities.” But most southern businessmen didn’t dare complain about the extra cost. “That question is dynamite,” the president of a southern theater chain told the Journal. “Don’t even say what state I’m in.”

There was a colored window at the post office in Pensacola, Florida, and there were white and colored telephone booths in Oklahoma. White and colored went to separate windows to get their license plate in Indianola, Mississippi, and to separate tellers to make their deposits at the First National Bank of Atlanta. There were taxicabs for colored people and taxicabs for white people in Jacksonville, Birmingham, Atlanta, and the entire state of Mississippi. Colored people had to be off the streets and our of the city limits by 8 p.m. in Palm Beach and Miami Beach.

Throughout the South, the conventional rules of the road did not apply when a colored motorist was behind the wheel. If he reached an intersection first, he had to let the white motorist go ahead of him. He could not pass a white motorist on the road no matter how slowly the white motorist was going and had to take extreme caution to avoid an accident because he would likely be blamed no matter who was at fault. In everyday interactions, a black person could not contradict a white person or speak unless spoken to first. A black person could not be the first to offer to shake a white person’s hand. A handshake could occur only if a white person so gestured, leaving many people having never shaken hands with a person of the other race. The consequences for the slightest misstep were swift and brutal. Two whites beat a black tenant farmer in Louise, Mississippi, in 1948, wrote the historian James C. Cobb, because the man “asked for a receipt after paying his water bill.”

 It was against the law for a colored person and a white person to play checkers together in Birmingham. White and colored gamblers had to place their bets at separate windows and set in separate aisles at racetracks in Arkansas. At saloons in Atlanta, the bars were segregated: Whites drank on stools at one end of the bar and blacks on stools at the other end, until the city outlawed even that, resulting in white-only and colored-only saloons. There were white parking spaces and colored spaces in the town square in Calhoun City, Mississippi. In one North Carolina courthouse, there was a white bible and a black bible to swear to tell the truth on.” P 44-45
That's all in the past, you say? We fixed that, you say? Nope...we didn't fix it nor is it 'all in the past'.

I've been reading a memoir by Melba Pattillo Beals who was one of the children who volunteered to be among the first black students to attend Little Rock's Central High School in 1957. It's a humbling and dismaying book to read. These were 15 year old children who were subjected to unspeakable and disgusting demonstrations and pressures and violence from white U.S. Americans simply because they wanted to attend school with white children.

Look at the white people harassing and shouting at this adolescent.

The young black girl, Elizabeth Eckford, hadn't been notified to meet the other black students at a prearranged place because her family didn't have a telephone. She was alone...and the white people surrounding her are screaming racial slurs and insults at her. She's 15 years old. If you think that the attitudes and mentalities that produced this behavior by white people is over...or in the're deluded.

Go watch this video that shows the behavior of a white police officer toward black teenagers at a McKinney, Texas swimming pool. The video was taken in June of 2015...watching his behavior, especially his assault on a 14 year old girl, makes clear that the thoughts and beliefs that motivated the white people in the photo above are still powerful and prevalent in white people in U.S. America. It's not just a few "bad apples" who harbor these delusions...if this is news to you...go take the implicit bias test and find out for yourself.

Melba Pattillo Beals wrote these words in her book that serve to remind us that children are smacked in the face with racism...and then spend their lives being smacked over and over and over again.

"Black folks aren't born expecting segregation, prepared from day one to follow its confining rules. Nobody presents you with a handbook when your teething and says, "Here's how you must behave as a second-class citizen." Instead, the humiliating expectations and traditions of segregation creep over you, slowly stealing a teaspoonful of your self-esteem each day." p. 3

Instead of the word segregation (although segregation continues, albeit not legally) simply substitute the word racism and that paragraph describes the current milieu for people of color here in U.S. America.

If we can't wrap our minds around the fact that all humans are equally deserving of respect and freedom even though they may have a different shading of skin than we have...what chance do we have of according respect toward beings who look and behave very differently than we do? My god, if we can't recognize that someone is the same as ourselves who looks just like us and speaks our on earth are we going to get to a place where we acknowledge that all Earthlings have just as much right to their lives as we do even when they look dramatically different than we do?

Most who read this blog are vegan...they "get it". I would guess that most who read this blog think they understand racism and don't harbor racist notions or ideology (whether consciously or unconsciously). That's unlikely. If you disagree, put it to the test...go take the IAT and let me know your results. Mine showed that I've been infected by the propaganda against people of color and even though I abhor and reject conscious notions of racist ideology...that ugliness has influenced my out of awareness associations. We swim in a sea of racism...and to think we can do so without getting wet is both naive and dangerous.

I don't know of an IAT regarding speciesism...I do know that I struggle daily against the propaganda I've been subjected to all my life...the propaganda characterized by the phrase: "I am not an animal", by the propaganda that says "animals" are...stupid, dirty, plug in the derogatory idea. I will have to fight against that poison for the rest of my days. Let me assure you that the poison of racism is just as prevalent and just as ubiquitous. No matter what you think. is is spirit and soul corrosive...for everyone.

We humans who live in the western hemisphere, excepting those who are Native Americans...are all immigrants. We are (except perhaps recent immigrants and other small numbers brought here for their near enslaved labor like Asian-Americans) the children of "conquerors" or we are the children of those who were enslaved. If we are the children of the harmers...what we some measure or other...came at the expense of Native Americans and of enslaved African Americans or other peoples of color. We have no other history than that. And it is staggeringly large and all encompassing. For some enlightenment, take a look at this horrifying animated graphic.

We white people have an obligation to fully understand this, we have an obligation to begin...and I mean begin because we haven't done incorporate this into our everyday consciousness and to begin to figure out ways to deal with this in truthful and respectful and genuine and non-harmful ways. The mentality that drove this horror still drives us. We've never come to grips with it. People of color understand this much more clearly than we do...even though many of them suffer from internalized oppression...many do not.

None of us had a choice about what went on before us...but we have the responsibility and the power to change what goes on now and in the future...and we can't do that unless we come to awareness about the ideological forces and their consequences that shaped the society we live in....that we swim in...that shape us and our weltanschauung.

Monday, June 22, 2015

I didn't do a post on father's day...

because, aside from the donation of genetic material, human "fatherhood" is profoundly associated with social construction...and socially constructed stuff makes me nervous.

I was also vaguely aware of this bit of information taken from the wikipedia entry:

In the 1930s, Dodd returned to Spokane and started promoting the celebration again, raising awareness at a national level.[11] She had the help of those trade groups that would benefit most from the holiday, for example the manufacturers of ties, tobacco pipes, and any traditional present to fathers.[12] By 1938 she had the help of the Father's Day Council, founded by the New York Associated Men's Wear Retailers to consolidate and systematize the commercial promotion.[13] Americans resisted the holiday for its first few decades, viewing it as nothing more than an attempt by merchants to replicate the commercial success of Mother's Day, and newspapers frequently featured cynical and sarcastic attacks and jokes.[14] However, said merchants remained resilient and even incorporated these attacks into their advertisements.[15] By the mid-1980s, the Father's Council wrote that "(...) [Father's Day] has become a Second Christmas for all the men's gift-oriented industries.

I really don't care for anything having to do with "consuming".

But...I ran across this excellent post over on the Vine Sanctuary blog and wanted to refer everyone to this wonderful and informative writing.

In patriarchal cultures, “father” is king, the owner or at least ruler of women, children, and animals. The whole system crumbles if fatherless families are allowed to flourish. Many of the cultures steamrolled in the process of European imperialism and colonialism structured their communities and families differently than the patriarchal coupling prescribed by Christianity. Oftentimes, these differences in parenting practices were cited as justification for dispossession and genocide.
So, while Father’s Day is a fine time to laud the care-giving of folks like little Mighty Mouse — a rooster at the sanctuary who, for many years, adopted and parented motherless chicks who often grew to be many times his size — I persistently wish that those of us who question everything else might seize this day to challenge what, exactly, we mean by “father” and why we think that social role is so important.

Knowing more is generally a good thing...although the learning can be discomforting. I hope you'll read the whole blog post quoted is thought provoking. In the meantime...if you're a male vegan, oppose all systems of oppression and help all beings...that's good enough "fathering".

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Exposing wrong.

Last week I wrote about the notion that those who are oppressed and/or dominated are going to have a more comprehensive viewpoint from which to perceive what's actually going on.

It should be remembered that, usually, those who have the most comprehensive viewpoint also are also those who are most denigrated and the least likely to be listened to. Penalties are often enacted against them if they speak out...penalties can also be implemented for those who witness wrongdoing against the oppressed.

I ran across this post over on the blog called Green is the New Red that gives some details about a new law recently enacted by the North Carolina legislature that makes an employee liable for being sued by a business if that employee exposes what happens on the job...even if what is exposed is illegal.

In this bit of writing the author says: "In short, this ag-gag bill isn’t just about agriculture. It’s a sweeping attack on any whistleblower who speaks up for the most vulnerable."

Apparently there's enough public resistance to targeting groups or individuals who are attempting to interrupt animal cruelty that anti-whistleblower legislation is now being written to which doesn't mention agriculture specifically...hence it applies to all businesses.

I haven't read the bill itself and am relying on the blogger who is writing about the bill.

One aspect that's rather amazing about this bit of legislation is the proviso that risk is incurred by the employee even if what is reported by them is illegal. That seems to say that what is done at a business is "protected", including illegal activities. That's a pretty stunning concept when you think about lends weight to the notion that what's important is "business activity", not legality or illegality.


Businesses...which can be seen as activities devoted to making money...appear to be gaining enough power to trump legality. That seems make a very clear...and scary...statement about our values. The ugliness that underlies much of what we do for profit is gaining enough strength that it doesn't seem to be too worried anymore about disguising itself. One "positive" about this law is that it makes it difficult to deny that the goal of commercial activity is to make a profit...and it really doesn't matter how. The fiction of "ethical" as applicable to business is withering least in North Carolina.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Life from below.

I recently read a fictional account of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, described on the jacket of the book as a "German theologian and Nazi resistor". The book, Saints and Villains, was written by Denise Giardina. I enjoyed the book, especially the parts which addressed his time spent studying at the Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he studied under Reinhold Niebuhr.

Union Theological Seminary was familiar because of Dr. Niebuhr and two notable figures who studied there, Carl Rogers and Paul Tillich. Dr. Rogers was a very influential psychologist whose works on client-centered counseling had great impact on me when I was in graduate school and throughout my professional career. Paul Tillich was an influential existential philosopher.

Dr. Rogers promoted an approach to counseling/therapy that was seemingly very simple yet if it was implemented as he was also seriously radical. His client-centered approach demanded authenticity on the part of the counselor/therapist...he also wrote that the therapist must possess "unconditional positive regard" toward the client. In other words, if you can't really really like shouldn't be doing therapy with them. I can assure you that these two factors can be very demanding for a therapist to follow.

Often his approach was glommed onto by beginning therapists and only vaguely implemented because some of the techniques he suggested are both fairly easy to learn and very unlikely to cause harm to those receiving counseling. And yet...if the practitioner goes deeply enough into his can be transformative both for the therapist as well as the client both because of the requirement for authenticity and because of the unconditional positive regard. No phoniness or falseness or manipulation allowed.

Roger's approach was (and still is) an incredibly difficult way of being a therapist and one that, more often than not, resulted in therapists who borrowed some of his techniques but left out the core requirements of practitioner authenticity and unconditional positive regard toward the client.

It's important to note that we can never "arrive" at authenticity, it is always only partial, it is a striving...not a state of being. Authenticity is just a fancy way of saying that we must always and ever be honest...we must only express what we genuinely feel...not that which is expected of us or is considered "appropriate" at the moment. Authenticity is each of you know from your own experience.

One side effect of striving for this way of being is that you become a quieter person...because often what you genuinely feel would...if expressed...result in lots of upset and dismay from those exposed to it. Instead of saying meaningless you chose not to express what you genuinely feel...stay quiet. And...keeping your mouth shut is usually (not always...but usually) a good thing to do for a therapist.

Dr. Bonhoeffer was imprisoned by the Nazi Regime in 1943 and was hanged by them shortly before the end of WWII. His "crime" was resisting and objecting to the totalitarianism and the antisemitism of the Hitler era. Take a look at this passage attributed to him from Giardina's book:
We have learned to view life from below, from the perspective of the outcast, the transgressors, the mistreated, the defenseless, the persecuted, the reviled. It is important that we are not bitter or envious. For we have learned that personal suffering unlocks more of the world than does personal good fortune. p. 356-357
This idea was expressed in a letter written while in a concentration camp. The Wikipedia entry quotes him this way:

There remains an experience of incomparable value. We have for once learned to see the great events of world history from below, from the perspective of the outcasts, the suspects, the maltreated — in short, from the perspective of those who suffer.
This seems to be an earlier version of one of the axioms of analysis I referenced earlier. In writing a post about Ruth Frankenberg, her three principles of analysis, were given and the third one was expressed this way:
Axiom Three: Those who are being harmed and/or oppressed by a system of domination are going to have the best location for detecting, apprehending and comprehending those domination activities. In other words, those who are being hurt by domination/oppression are going have the most comprehensive viewpoint. If you want to know what is going on...listen to the victims of oppression...they know more than you.
It's always exciting and interesting to see similar insights pop up in the thinking of different individuals and systems of thought. Here we see virtually the identical notion coming from a theologian who was executed by the Nazis and from a feminist theoretician who may have never encountered the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

What's even more interesting to consider is that this idea can be thought of as one of the principle comprehensions I remember from my involuntary immersion into christian dogma when I was growing up. The passage in the christian bible that's relevant here is from the book of Matthew, 18:3 which says:
"Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven..."
Many look at that bit of the bible and interpret it as referencing some sort of state of innocence...note that it can also be seen as advocating a return to a position of powerlessness or helplessness and that position can perhaps expand and transform our perspective. Maybe returning to that time of being without power offers an enhanced perspective both for understanding and comprehending domination activities but also offers a guide for how to behave toward others.

Position profoundly influences power and perspective. According to this passage the position necessary to achieve the 'kingdom of heaven' is one where we have little power...which means we don't/can't dominate/harm others and that lack of domination/harm additionally ensures our innocence as well as positions us to see domination/harm activities with more clarity and comprehension. Positioning ourselves in the location of the oppressed allows us to perceive and comprehend "from below".

Consider that one of the common experiences that every living Earthling has is that of the relative powerlessness of childhood. It is the fact that we all (and by all, I include rabbits and donkeys and and and) have a time in the beginning of our lives where we are relatively powerless and helpless, especially in comparison to more mature and grown-up beings. We all know what it is like to be at the mercy of others (dominated) because we all share that same experience.

To be subject to the whim of those who are bigger than we are, who are stronger than we are, who can help or hurt us is a common and shared state. Every one alive has lived the experience of being "like little children".

Most can well remember those with more power who treated us with kindness and acceptance and care just as we can remember those who weren't so kind or behaved cruelly toward us. You, me and every other living being has had the experience of being helped or harmed by those who were more powerful. That's part and parcel of being a child...of being an Earthling.

Maybe I can't know what it's like to be reviled or ignored or demeaned because of having a skin color different from the group in power, but I can know what it's like to be powerless and/or to be dominated/harmed by those with more power. Maybe I can't know what it's like to be reviled or ignored or demeaned because of being a female, but I can know what it's like to be powerless and/or to be dominated/harmed by those with more power. Maybe I can't know what it's like to be reviled or ignored or demeaned because of not being heterosexual, but I can know what it's like to be powerless and/or to be dominated/harmed by those with more power. Maybe I can't know what it's like to be reviled or ignored or demeaned because of belonging to the wrong species, but I can know what it is like to be powerless and/or to be dominated/harmed by those with more power.

Important and critical specifics and details will be unavailable to me...but...the experience and accompanying perceptions of being dominated/harmed by those with more power than me is available if...and only if...I allow myself to revisit and remember and relive being a little child.

That path, reliving being relatively weak/powerless (like a small child), is available to each of us, if we're willing to take it. And...that reliving...offers us the opportunity to perceive life "from below" and there we might use our enhanced perceiving and comprehending as a guide to figure out how to behave.

Becoming 'like a small child' offers us the opportunity to escape the obliviousness induced by power and position. We can partake of the perceptions of the powerless because we all have some experience of that...if...we're willing to do it.

Maybe that's not easy...but if the alternative is to be oblivious and to oppress others...well...hey...nobody said being a grown-up was going to be without struggle.

It's interesting to consider that maybe the way to be a decent grown-up is to never forget what it was like to be a small and helpless child and to use that knowledge and perspective to guide grown-up behavior. How cool is that?

In that earlier post I noted that power...or being positioned to dominate...creates obliviousness (I called it being stupid) and that weakness...or being positioned to be oppressed offers awareness or enhanced perception. Dr. Bonhoeffer observed that being able to comprehend "life from below" means we must view life from the perspective of those who suffer...which is being equated here to those who are oppressed...which is being equated here to those who belong to the groups targeted by the oppressions exemplified by speciesism, racism, sexism and so on.

While I was working on this post I came across something called Standpoint Theory. These two sentences in the writing on this theory caught my eye:
Emphasis on the relationship between power and knowledge is crucial in defining the terms the standpoint theory sets forth. Perspectives of the less powerful provide a more objective view than the perspectives of the more powerful in society.
Sound familiar?

One thing in that quote that makes me a little nervous is the use of the term "objective". It's important to remember that objectivity is like's not an end state...there's no such thing as pure objectivity anymore than there is pure authenticity. It's a more or less thing, not an either/or thing. It may even be totally bogus...objectivity, I mean...I'm not sure about it as a concept because it implies some sort of position that is outside of all social/human influence and that's problematical...especially if it is in reference to the activities of living beings. All that's another whole bunch of thinking and writing though. Just remember to be a little bit cautious when you hear the term "objective". 

This post has become rather lengthy, I'll stop now but there's much here to think about and I'm still churning all this around. There's a lot to this power and position and perspective stuff. It's really rich and dense and I have to do a lot of wallowing around with it to gain some semblance of comprehension.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

About five years...

that's how long the veganelder blog has been around. That's about 360 posts.

A big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read and comment. The encouragement and support and observations and information have been valuable beyond what words can express. Thank you.

While I've been maintaining this blog I've also been doing something else. Helping the bunnies out at Heartland Rabbit Rescue. It will soon be five years since I started going there and hanging out with the rabbits.

This is Nikki Blue...she's a baby and the newest resident at Heartland (she was abandoned because some human didn't "want" her). Right now she is pretty impressed with humans which means she really enjoys being held and getting headrubs...she'll often fall asleep while getting those human hand operated strokings.

When I go out, the first order of the day is to pick up Nikki and give her some good morning petting. I assure you that it is a two-way exchange because few things feel as good to a human as does having a bunny enjoy your hand rubbing their head.

I was thinking about some of the numbers from my five years of regular visits to Heartland. I'll do a few of them here and they will all be conservative estimates because I want any errors to be on the low most of these are actually a little bigger than shown here.

An average of 10 potty boxes cleaned each day times 5 days per week times 50 weeks per year times 5 years means: 12,500 potty boxes cleaned. That's lots of bunny poop.

Pretty much each time I clean a potty box a bunny gets picked up and head rubbed a little. That's 12,500 bunny heads rubbed. I do head rubbing on an ad hoc basis too so this number is really very low.

About 3 hours per day for 5 days a week for 50 weeks a year for 5 years means about 3,750 hours spent at HRR as well as driving 25 miles round trip to get there which means about 31,250 miles driven.

The past five years have been the most satisfying and enjoyable ones of my life...absolutely so. Hanging around with the bunnies...and with Jeannie who founded HRR and with her husband Brad...has been and is....seriously fulfilling. efforts are miniscule compared to theirs...they are at the rescue 24/7 every day of the year.

I'm not putting up the numbers to toot my own horn...I want to show how much can be done by people who are retired and who chose to devote a little time and effort to helping. I would urge you, even if you aren't retired, to spend a few hours a week (more if you can) helping out Earthlings who don't happen to be human and are victims of our callousness and obliviousness and cruelty and neglect. It's a truth that quite a bit can be accomplished just by doing a little as long as you keep on doing that little bit for a long time. Every little bit helps...especially if it is persistent and consistent.

Some people who want to help the harmed Earthlings are, for various reasons, unable to do so. It's sort of up to us who are able to help to carry the load for those who can' addition to making our own contribution. So...when you go help...remember that you're doing some helping for those who can't...too. Ok? 

I assure you that whomever you help will appreciate it and I also assure you that you will get much much more out of it than you can ever imagine.

And...if you're of a mind a is an adventure.

Thanks for reading and commenting and thank you for any and everything you do for our sister/brother Earthlings.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Next week...

in New York City is a forum that brings together social justice activists from around the United States. The Vine Sanctuary has an informative post about this event on their blog.

What's especially interesting about this event is, as the Vine blog post notes, there will be several panels devoted to animal issues. Vine Sanctuary's pattrice jones will be presenting on the topic of "queering" the notion of human rights by considering them as a variant of animal rights.

Rarely do I ever wish I lived near a large city...but...this is one conference I would really like to attend. Hopefully there will be videos available of the various presentations once the event occurs.

If you're able to setting where both pattrice jones and Karen Davis present would be a real treat.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Why all this stuff about human animals?

Well, let's start with a video I ran across that does a good job of summarizing some of the issues about racism. I say some because the video is lacking mention of a number of groups of humans who suffer from the impacts of racism, most notably the original human inhabitants of the western hemisphere. But...the fact is that if you are identified as a person of color in the United States, you are targeted by racism in some form or fashion. Also keep in mind that this video only provides partial information about racism directed toward black people (it's even worse than she notes in her presentation). Nevertheless...even with the omissions of information and targeted is an eye-opening introduction to invisibled information.

Now, consider these words from Mickey Z, who's a long time vegan and social justice activist.

If we do not connect our struggle against speciesism to other anti-oppression struggles, we are failing ourselves, failing our fellow humans, and failing the non-human animals in a major way. Unless we do the work to meet other activists where they are, we’re doomed.
Ok? He's telling us that we must reach out to our fellow humans, especially those who are suffering oppression, and engage them in meaningful ways. That means taking their struggles seriously and making their issues our issues.

Here he talks about this in a brief video.

It doesn't take much thinking to make sense of this. If you or some human important to you was being abused...that's what would be uppermost in your mind and you would be most concerned with making things better for yourself or for them.

Ask yourself...would you be likely to be particularly interested in making things better for other Earthlings while this situation was going on? Who would you be more likely to listen to...someone who allied with you about your concerns and tried to help or someone who ignored your situation or, at best, expressed sympathy but offered no assistance...or someone who pitched in and expended time and effort to make things better for you or those who were important to you?

If you have a stick poking you in the eye and someone comes along and asks you to quit eating animals...and then says...sorry about that stick in your eye...or says nothing about it at all...versus someone who comes along and is genuinely concerned about the stick in your eye and takes steps to try to help you remove the stick and treat the damage...and then asks you to consider stopping harm to other Earthlings...which of the two someones are you more likely to give some credence?

I've been deplorably under concerned about this previously (and I'm profoundly disappointed in myself) and I'm certainly aware that many (maybe most) vegan/animal liberation advocates are guilty of this comprehension void also. There's a real tendency, on my part and on the part of others, to confuse the word for the deed. Vegan groups or individuals will pay lip service to the notion of no racism, sexism, abelism and so on...but then do nothing about these odious implementations of oppression and/or exploitation. The sad sad truth is that if we aren't actively working against this crap we're (inadvertently or not) supporting it...either passively or actively.

If you oppose oppression...and then focus your efforts solely on preventing harm to one group of oppressed beings while ignoring other instances of oppression...or only paying lip service to being against those other're sort of exposing yourself as not being real serious about ending oppression.

There are lots of cliches...that actually have meaning...about this. If you want to have good friends, be a good friend...if you want to have good neighbors, be a good neighbor...injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere...and on and on. It isn't that we don't know these's that we tend to have allowed the import of them to have been obscured by their familiarity. These are genuine and vital truths but they must be lived in order for them to manifest their power and strength...spouting words just won't cut it. We have to live them.

I'll end this with a cautionary note...if you decide to get off your tush and start to put some of this into prepared for some shocks. You may find that the humans you think you know aren't quite who they seem to be. I recently experienced a surprising and disappointing situation because of some differences between appearance and reality. I'll eventually write about that the meantime you can get some inkling of this by reading about a talk that didn't happen in this essay.

We can be a strange bunch of beings.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Ruth Frankenberg

wrote these words in the introduction (page 5) to her book titled: "White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness."
Socialist feminism had also given me an analytical commitment to three axioms: first, that in "societies structured in dominance" we, as feminists, must always remember that we act from within the social relations and subject positions we seek to change; second, that experience constructs identity; and, third; that there is a direct relationship between "experience" and "worldview" or "standpoint" such that any system of domination can be seen most clearly from the subject positions of those oppressed by it.
Axiom One: We're in the system we're trying to comprehend (there's no place to stand outside of it). Hence...everything you think you perceive will be influenced by your position.

Axiom Two: The place where you're standing is going to determine how you understand and perceive yourself (as well as influence what you're able to be aware of), i.e., your 'identity'.. Therefore, who you think you are is a function of the social system in which you exist and the experiences and perspectives associated with your position.

Axiom Three: Those who are being harmed and/or oppressed by a system of domination are going to have the best location for detecting, apprehending and comprehending those domination activities. In other words, those who are being hurt by domination/oppression are going have the most comprehensive viewpoint. If you want to know what is going on...listen to the victims of oppression...they know more than you.

Axioms one and two are fairly self-evident...obviously no one exists outside of a social system and obviously your position is going to determine that which you are aware of and experience. That's fairly apparent...what might be new to consider is that you will likely be oblivious to or only vaguely aware of things that someone positioned differently will know.

We tend to think our position offers us a perspective that allows us to know all that is going on...that's simply untrue...part of the seductive insidiousness of our identities is the fact that the more social power we have the less genuine awareness we have of the experiences and knowings of those with less power. It's sort of interesting actually, almost as if the universe says...ok, you get lots of power but you also get lots of obliviousness or...ok, you get lots of helplessness but you also get lots of awareness. Powerful but stupid, weak but perceptive.

Axiom three, however, seems to be the area that we often see dominators engaging in bamboozling and obfuscation...both of others and of themselves. Remember, we're talking about comprehending social systems and what goes on in social systems.

Think about it...if you wanted to know what went on in Auschwitz (for example)...would you pay more attention to what the official Nazi version or would you lend more credence to those who were incarcerated there? If you wanted to know what went on in domestic violence situations would you pay more attention to the perpetrators or to the victims? If you wanted to know what occurred when a bombing raid was carried out on a city...would you listen to the officials who planned it or would you listen to the survivors of the raid?

If you wanted to know what slavery was like, would you listen to the slave owners or the slaves? If you wanted to know what happened in a factory farm, would you listen to the factory farm owners or to those who were trapped there...if they could speak in a human language wouldn't you lend more credence to their experiences over those presented by the owners?

It is important to realize that, quite often, domination is carried out by those who are perceived as the "authorities". We here in U.S. America are strongly socialized to lend credence to "officials" and "authorities" and "corporate spokespersons". And yet, according to axiom three, the sources positioned to know the most about what is going on are not authorities or officials or those engaging in domination activities but rather those who are on the receiving end of those activities. Hmmm....

This is all associated with what Audre Lorde wrote and with invisibling. Notice that the title of Ms. Lorde's book is "Sister Outsider". She's referencing her position of being an outsider to those engaging in domination activities.

Struggling to break out of cycles of domination and oppression means struggling to find new ways of comprehending and wonderfully useful tool is to begin looking at events with the goal of determining oppressors and their victims and evaluating information from the perspective that those with the least power are likely to have the most accurate and/or comprehensive perceptions. This essay presents a variation of this way of thinking in the language of christianity

Here's a thought interview 50 men who raped women...then you interview the 50 women victims....and let's say you magically could absolutely "know" what happened. Then you compared the 50 versions of the perpetrators and the 50 versions of the victims to the "real and absolute truth". Which group of versions do you think would most closely correspond to what "really happened"? (I used all the quotation marks because no one can absolutely know real and absolute truth...that's not possible...we only get approximations of such fantasy constructs as real and absolute truth.)

Always always always remember that those who are doing harm (or oppression or domination or exploitation) have a greater motivation to obfuscate, distort, deceive, hide, euphemize or make invisible their activities than do their victims (or, usually, than do outsiders who aren't perpetrating the harm).

For example...we U.S. Americans often use the term "Conquistadors" for the Spanish people who came to the western hemisphere and plundered and destroyed societies
. That's a fairly straightforward term that indicates aggressiveness and dominance. Conquer...that's what they did to the humans who lived in this hemisphere. What do we call the English speaking people (our U.S. American "forefathers") who came to North America and did the same thing? See how we make ourselves sound much more innocent and innocuous by using euphemisms like 'settlers', 'explorers', 'refugees from oppression' or 'immigrants'. 

If you don't think that the victims, in the thought experiment of the rapists and victims, are most likely to present versions that are closest to "real and absolute truth" you probably don't want to read this blog because all of my life's experiences (including years of doing psychotherapy and listening to the stories of perpetrators and victims) have taught me that those who do harm are most often motivated to hide that harm and those who receive harm are primarily motivated to tell what happened to them.

These axioms present by Dr. Frankenberg are useful tools for comprehending (and possibly interrupting) systems of dominance and oppression...and that's the essence of what veganism is all about. Right?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

One graphic

makes clear the silliness of the "but we're predators" argument.

We get confused really really easily. If we omit technology, including fire for cooking, then humans eating other animals sort of disappears as a viable survival method. We don't "naturally" kill and eat living beings any more than we "naturally" drive automobiles.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

We Earthlings...

are much more complex and varied in our behaviors than we human animals comprehend.

This graphic illustrates quite well something that I was lucky enough to learn about my sister/brother Earthlings a long time ago. The fact is though, that many human type Earthlings do not know this. Well, for those who didn't ya go.

Remember...we human animals have a strong tendency to next time you run across some human spouting nonsense about homosexuality being "unnatural" might be instructive, for everyone, if you can engage them in a dialogue about the meaning of the word "unnatural".

Always remember...our ignorance inevitably exceeds our knowings and forgetting that usually doesn't work out well...for anyone. I wrote earlier about the fact that most "knowledge" is socially other words...some human(s) somewhere made it up. In the graphic there are three terms (homosexual, homophobia and unnatural) that are easily identified as socially constructed notions. I would urge you to always be cautious when fiddling around with socially constructed stuff. It's tricky.

Here's another FYI...we mammalian Earthlings are also much more peaceful than many of us realize. Of all animals classified as mammals, this source estimates that only about 5% are considered to be carnivores. I've seen other estimates that were a little larger, but not much larger. In other words, most (95%) of our sister/brother mammals manage to live (when we humans leave them alone) quite well without routinely hurting one another.

We human mammals could probably live that way too, if we put forth more effort in that direction. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Vegan advocacy can be tricky

and figuring out how to do it, with justice, can be difficult. I ran across this little video recently and while it might seem elementary...sometimes that's the best place. Definitely it is the case that when complexity becomes so extensive that confusion exceeds clarity...retreating to the elementary can often be illuminating.

Everyone has a different set of experiences and capabilities. You haven't lived my life nor have I lived yours. We may both want to get to the same place but...that doesn't mean that we can automatically follow the same path...note the two individuals in the video. If we want to travel together...we have to take into account our differences and sometimes put forth the effort to find a path that works for both of us.

I can quit harming animals, but if I want you to do so too, I have to take into account which path(s) might be available to you. For us to travel together we'll have to find a way that works for both of us.

I can be oblivious (just like the caterpillar) to difficulties and experiences and knowledges that someone else might have that I don't...and vice versa.

This phrase compresses a tremendous amount into just a few words: "positionality biases epistemology." Which is a fancy way of saying that your location in terms of membership in various dominant or oppressed groups has profound implications in terms of what you know and what your experiences might be...and what your unknowings might be.

The article I linked to in the last paragraph contains a quote that tries to express something that is quite important. The quote:
"the narcissist sees the world--both the past and the present--in his own image. Mature historical knowing teaches us to do the opposite: to go beyond our own image, to go beyond our brief life, and to go beyond the fleeting moment in human history into which we have been born. When we develop the skill of understanding how we know what we know, we acquire a key to lifelong learning."
The snail knows things that the caterpillar doesn't, the caterpillar knows things that the snail doesn't. Each has to struggle with issues/situations that the other may not. Each, as a result of their struggles, may have competencies/awarenesses that the other does not. 

Saying all that to say...whenever I end one of these posts with the exhortation to go vegan...that simple urging can be seen, depending on someone's position, as achievable and admirable or as profoundly goofy and clueless.

This article does a good job of wrestling with some of the issues that are often glossed over and discounted by those of us who seek the ending of oppression for our sister/brother Earthlings. Ignoring issues doesn't help when those issues prevent some of us from achieving what we desire for all. As the author writes: "We can advocate for animals in a way that does not point the finger at underprivileged people."

Think about the video, the caterpillar and the snail both had to do some thinking. Advocating for veganism...necessarily...requires more thinking than the simple sounding admonition: "just don't hurt animals".

Hey...did you imagine that this was going to be simple? Never forget that veganism is about human behavior and we human animals are superlative at complicating the simple (and oversimplifying the complicated).

But...I just want to help the animals you say? Me too...the problem isn't so much helping the animals...the problem is how to do that without creating harm or barriers or ignorings for others and figuring out paths that we can all follow. That's the tricky part.