Friday, October 17, 2014

Ecofeminism and such.

When I was in graduate school, some of the more memorable times I had were when a bunch of grad students (and sometimes faculty) would get together at a party (while liberally using alcohol) and engage in sessions of trying out the stuff we were learning to solve all the problems of the world (obviously we failed). Bouncing ideas and concepts back and forth in such a setting was usually lots of fun as well as offering a chance to get different takes on perspectives that we were being exposed to in our classes. Looking back, those were some of the best of times that I've had. Trying out concepts on others who can give you feedback or impressions or countervailing thoughts can be lots of fun (some alcohol doesn't hurt either).

Moving into a vegan perspective has been sort of like returning to grad school, but without some of the opportunities to have sessions like I had then so I've sometimes used this blog to explore concepts. Except...it's not quite the same as a great alcohol-fueled session where everyone threw in their two-cents about Freudian repression or existential authenticity or what-not. I can't get y'all together for a session with margaritas and beer...but hey, we work with what we have, right?

I watched recently a talk given by Pattrice Jones (at a conference) and in it she made reference to something called the Logic of Domination. I was really intrigued by this, enough so that I started researching and trying to learn more about these ideas. They came from an area of philosophy called Ecofeminism. The talk is rather lengthy but here's a more concise summation...it's not exactly the same as her talk but many of the same concepts are present.

The originator of this conceptual structure is a philosophy professor named Karen J. Warren. Below is a condensed and truncated version of that which is written in more detail here. She contends there are three components to something she calls oppressive conceptual frameworks.


(1) Value-hierarchical thinking, i.e., "up-down" thinking which places higher value, status, or prestige on what is "up" and less on what is "down" and

(2) Value dualisms, i.e., disjunctive pairs in which the disjuncts (a disjunct is a separation of that which is usually considered contiguous or continuous or as part of a continuum) are seen as oppositional (rather than as complementary) and exclusive (rather than  inclusive), and which place higher value (worth, status, prestige) on one disjunct rather than the other (i.e., dualisms which give higher value or status to one over the other such as mind, reason, and male versus that which has lower or less value such as body, emotion, and female).

So…within an oppressive conceptual framework you frame things in terms of a hierarchical structure with higher/lower status associated with position in the hierarchy and think in terms of oppositional binary type terms with one term valued more highly than the other term, e.g. mind, body or reason, emotion, or male, female and then you stick those hierarchically arranged oppositional (and exclusionary) dualisms into a structure of 'reasoning' called a logic of domination.

(3) A logic of domination is a syllogistic structure of arguing/thinking which leads to rationales for subordination. For example…
 (Al) Humans do, and plants and rocks do not, have the capacity to consciously and radically chance the community in which they live.
(A2) Whatever has the capacity to consciously and radically change the community in which it lives is morally superior to whatever lacks this capacity.
(A3) Thus, humans are morally superior to plants and rocks.
(A4) For any X and Y, if X is morally superior to Y, then X is morally justified in subordinating Y.
(A5) Thus, humans are morally justified in subordinating plants and rocks.

Assertion A4 is the core of this stuff, words in red are the beings/groupings involved and the words in pinkish are the characteristics or qualities (or lack thereof) being specified. You can plug in different groups or individuals and characteristics/qualities yourself and use this structure to identify the perpetrators and victims of various dominations.


The subordinating part (A4) is where supremacies and damaging isms are justified…such as male supremacy (sexism), white supremacy (racism), human supremacy (speciesism), etc.

A conceptual framework is simply an internal way of thinking or a script that we use to arrange or structure our beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviors as well as our view of ourselves and other beings and the world in which we exist. An oppressive conceptual framework then is one where the viewpoint encompasses dominance and subordination and that framework is used to explain, justify and to maintain such relationships.

Connections and Intersections.
There's something about this that is, for me anyway, extremely mind-warping. By that I mean that this way of looking at things seems to offer an incredible tool to clear up many confusions that are engendered by the way I learned to understand the world.

Most all oppressions (dominations and subordinations) are essentially the same...and the only change that happens from one to another is the identity of the victims and the identity of the perpetrators...the structure and logic are virtually identical.

The "reasoning" used to support the dominating of women, non-human Earthlings, indigenous peoples, various "races", nature and on and on is brought into clear and immediate awareness....at least it is for me. I saw it before now but this way of looking at it is wonderfully precise. This notion of an oppressive conceptual framework (and the included 'logic of domination') makes it all jump into astonishing clarity.

This approach to looking at human doings is new to me in many ways...not so new in others. A conceptual framework that isn't oppressive is something similar to the viewpoints that have accreted with me over the years as a result of wallowing around in the swamps and sloughs of human behavior and mental health.

For instance, male and female exist on a continuum, repression always creates rebellion, no one is any better or any worse than anyone else (their behaviors can be considered awful or great but not their beings), nor is anyone any stronger or weaker than anyone else, all life is related, and on and on. The previous post was very much about these same notions.

But I've never seen oppression laid out with such precision. It is all rather disorienting to me...to have things like this be so clear and apparent. I've written about similar things but never so concisely. (here and here and here)

Many of the blog entries on veganelder have been about just this sort of phenomena, the victims of oppression, the dynamics of oppression, the horrors of oppression, the damage to the victims, the damage to the oppressors, the beauty and dignity of the victims and on and on.

Veganism is about not doing oppression, it's about lives being equal in value and worth, it's about apprehending the wonder and excellence of all beings and mother Earth. Veganism is about not being a harmer and it just might be (I have lots and lots of thinking and learning to do about this) that these tools for understanding (oppressive conceptual frameworks and the logic of domination) ourselves and our behaviors are great guideposts for identifying and comprehending detours away from the vegan road and markers to let us know that we're on the path.

It's usually very easy to see when someone is being harmed or oppressed, not always but usually. However it often is much more obscure as to what's behind the harming...the why of it...the justification of it. Maybe these ideas clear some of the fog away. I'm sorta wowed by all this.





Friday, October 10, 2014

The Just World Hypothesis.

I was first exposed to the naming of this fairly common notion when I was in graduate school. I was sort of unpleasantly surprised to become aware that I had some leanings toward explaining happenings in the world to myself based on this perspective. Mostly because of the southern baptist explanations I was relentlessly exposed to throughout my early years.

According to the wikipedia article, the JWH (just world hypthoses) is: "... the cognitive bias (or assumption) that a person's actions always bring morally fair and fitting consequences to that person, so that all noble actions are eventually rewarded and all evil actions are eventually punished. In other words, the just-world hypothesis is the tendency to attribute consequences to—or expect consequences as the result of—a universal force that restores moral balance."

Ouch. That's a pretty tough approach to life. By the way, I simply insert "being" in place of the term "person" to make this view applicable to all of more simply mean any living sentient being by the term person.

There are some sad things associated with this viewpoint (victim blaming, wealth is deserved, poverty is deserved, etc). I have a difficult time looking at our harm to other Earthlings (as well as human Earthlings) as having anything to do with some form of a "just world". On the other hand, not viewing the behavior of living beings as havings some inherent justice places us in the position of living in a seriously spooky place where horrid things happen to undeserving victims and random awfulness occurs, often for no discernible rhyme or reason. Scary.

One study found that: "...people who have a strong tendency to believe in a just world also tend to be more religious, more authoritarian, more conservative, more likely to admire political leaders and existing social institutions, and more likely to have negative attitudes toward underprivileged groups. To a lesser but still significant degree, the believers in a just world tend to "feel less of a need to engage in activities to change society or to alleviate plight of social victims.""

Check out your own notions about whether the world is just (defined as actions bringing morally fair and fitting consequences) or not. Is being mugged or raped or victimized in some other way just? Is having a short life filed with misery and ending in pain and terror just (which is what happens to most "farmed" animals)?
A 'just world'?
Is there some karmic umpire calling fair or foul and enforcing consequences for all? In other words do bad things happen to good people (beings) and good things to bad people (beings)?

Existentialism is a term used to encompass a number of philosophical viewpoints about living a life. I probably attribute more validity to some of the notions associated with the Existentialists than any other particular grouping of ideas. A couple of viewpoints from this school of thinking seem quite potent.

One is the idea that we define ourselves by our actions and the other is the idea that living inauthentically (not in accordance with our genuine selves) is destructive and corrosive. There is no belief, in the existential approach, in a 'just world'. Indeed, something nearly the opposite is thought to be true...that life has no inherent meaning and the only meaning there is to life at all is that which we bring to it. In other words, we don't experience suffering because we're 'bad' nor do we experience happiness because we're 'good'.

Anyone interested in an easily understood expositon of some of these ideas might want to read a snazzy little book written by Sheldon Kopp titled: "If You Meet Buddha On The Road, Kill Him". His application of existential ideas to living had (and continues to have) lots of influence on my ways of thinking about and apprehending the world. At the end of this book you will encounter his Eschatological Laundry List which has lots of brief yet profound little gems in it. I like most all of them, for example number 15: No one is any stronger or any weaker than anyone else or number 29: Love is not enough, but it sure helps.

That first point...that we define ourselves by our actions...helps explain (for me anyway) why veganism is deceptively profound. It's genuinely not a "diet"...it's a defining of that which is me. I choose to define myself by refraining from harm to those who are not harming me. To tell you the truth, I can't perceive any other way of living in this world without behaving like or being, quite simply (and admittedly crudely), an asshole. I know that's sort of harsh sounding...but I don't know how to dance around it or to finesse it. Deliberately hurting or harming those beings who aren't harming you is about as bad as it gets (in terms of living)...as far as I can see. And...I lived behaving like (being) an asshole for many many years...but (thankfully) I don't anymore.

Well...probably there are many (including, sometimes, my wife) who would say wait a minute...I know that guy and he can be as big a jerk (or asshole) as you could wish for. That's probably true...but...no one can say I'm being an asshole of the type who deliberately hurts those who aren't trying to hurt him...how's that? That's not how I behave now, hence that's how I'm defining myself (in existential parlance) now.

Veganism is a defining of ones way of being...and...it is a step (a really really big one actually) toward bringing some justice (fairness) to what is not...in my experience or perspective...a "just world". And remember...number 36: You can run, but you can't hide.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Groovefest 2014

Strangely enough (hey...it's Oklahoma, right?) there is a gathering each year in Norman devoted to human rights. You can read all about the history of the event here and you will learn that it started in 1986 and is loosely affiliated with Amnesty International.

Various musical groups perform, sometimes politicians or candidates speak and other groups and/or vendors dispense information, food, face-painting, massages and even acupuncture.

This year's Groovefest marked the public debut of the Red Earth Vegans tabling effort. I've written about this local group of vegan supporters here. The group was formed as a result of several like-minded folks meeting while engaging in some animal advocacy at a circus protest. We had the opportunity to introduce our new banner to the public and to pass out information about veganism to those who were interested.

REV members Sandy, Amanda and Angie.
The weather was nice and there was a good showing of curiosity about our literature as shown by the rather surprising number of people who stopped by to chat and/or take copies of information that interested them.
REV members Brandon, Amanda, Sandy and Sherree.
I admit to opting out of hanging around most of the all day event. My musical taste sort of ossified back around the time the Beatles broke up, so I wasn't really looking forward to listening to the various sorts of genres served up by the different bands or performers (plus seriously loud music mostly doesn't appeal to me anymore).

So, I helped set up and sort of played back-stop in terms of making sure there were enough vegans available to be present at the booth throughout the day (I would have filled in for any gaps). Once the booth was up and going, I went home and did what all wise old humans do...took a nap...and then returned near shut-down time to assist. There were lots of folks willing to volunteer their time so the whole thing went quite smoothly and was a pretty pleasant experience.

What is, to me anyway, sort of intriguing is that there were other instances of vegan inroads into Oklahoma as shown by a booth offering vegan baked goods by Mim's Bakery.
Mim's baked goods.
There also was a food truck called the Loaded Bowl which serves up only vegan dishes at the festival.
Loaded Bowl Truck.
Loaded Bowl Sunday Menu.
The increased interest in veganism and the much more common availability of vegan foods in this area is really rather stunning. This has just sort of exploded over the past few years.

It is gratifying...as well as almost dizzy making. For example, the Red Earth Vegan group on Facebook now has over 150 members. It has grown way beyond expectations and such increases in membership can't help but provide hope to anyone despairing over the plight of our fellow Earthlings. If a group focusing on eliminating harm to all Earthlings can attract that many people in central Oklahoma...well heck. We humanoids just may eventually pull off the trick of behaving as if we were desirable members of the community of life on planet Earth.

If you're living vegan, thank you...if you aren't...it's never too late to start.

Friday, September 26, 2014

New family member.

When we first started doing some volunteer work at Heartland Rabbit Rescue, a teenaged bunny named Gwendolyn had just recently been rescued. Animal control had found her running the streets in a small town near Norman.

She was the first youngster we met and she immediately captured us. When we decided to bring a bunny into our family she was the first one we thought of but we wanted to take someone who had been at the rescue for a long time and hadn't had much of a chance to have a home of her own and that's part of the reason Nessie Ray ended up living with us. Nessie lived to be about 13 but she died back in November. She took part of me with her when she left.

In the meantime, about 18 months or so ago Gwendolyn met the guy bunny of her dreams and she had bonded with Barney...who was just an absolute sweetheart of a fellow and together they made easily the most loving and carefree couple at the rescue. Well...several months ago Barney suddenly died and Gwendolyn was left alone. It was very apparent that she was depressed and heartbroken.

Gwendolyn
I had been thinking about bringing her to live with us because we had always been attached to her and when Juli visited and saw how stricken Gwendolyn was...she came home with us the next day. She has some weakness in her left rear leg because of the aftereffects of a parasite but she gets around fairly well. It has been very happy making to see her adjust to living in a human house (she has never done such before) and to see the sparkle return to her eyes. She has always liked both of us and since, for most of her life, all she has known has been kindness from humans...she is a seriously affectionate being. If one of us gets down in front of her and tells her how she beautiful she is we are rewarded with  bunny kissing on the nose or cheek or wherever she can reach. She loves headrubs and responds with teeth chatter and kisses all over the place.

She's able to thump because when she spotted Gracie Ray for the first time we were treated to several thumps...Gracie was the first cat that Gwennie had seen and she didn't quite know what to make of her. Yesterday they had their first nose to nose encounter and there was no hostility so that will all work itself out.

Gwennie's disposition is very sweet and affectionate and she will often, if you get down in the floor and rub her head, do a flop and soon go to sleep with her head in your hand (as long as you keep rubbing). She falls completely unconscious, laid out and totally relaxed. She's an absolute treat and I fall more in love with her daily.

After Nessie was gone, the house was bunnyless and it felt rather empty. Once you've lived with a bunny, it becomes apparent that they bring a magic to wherever they are and with Gwendolyn...bunny magic is back.

If you can...share your home with someone of another species.  The rewards are amazing...and...if you do that and live vegan...well...just wow. If you can't share your home...the living vegan part brings lots of wow all by itself.


Friday, September 19, 2014

It's time for you...

...to watch the documentary Cowspiricy. There are a number of reasons for you to do so, but to me a primary one is that it does an excellent job of illustrating the power of intersectionality. Wikipedia says: "Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society."

The documentary isn't about animal liberation or animal rights or veganism...it's about the fact that animal agriculture is one of the primary driving forces of global warming and environmental destruction...and...none...absolutely none of the national and international "environmental" organizations make this driving force a focus of their efforts. It seems, even, that some of these organizations (e.g. Sierra Club, Greenpeace, etc) are either oblivious to this fact or they are aware of it but choose not to do anything about it. The documentary goes into more detail about the probable reasons they avoid pushing against animal agriculture.

One of the delightful things shown in this film is the total cluelessness of those who promote "sustainable" animal agriculture. There's no such thing and the hucksters who are pushing it are simply liars or ignoramuses.

One rather poignant interview with a spokesperson for Amazon Watch (if I remember the group correctly) resulted in the woman speaking for these folks admitting, after being pushed a little, that one of the reasons they avoid addressing the problem of animal agriculture is that in South America over 1,100 activists have been murdered over the past 20 years...mostly those who spoke out against the devastation caused by animal agriculture.

Veganism is the basis for human animals living in harmony with other Earthlings...it also offers a massively effective way for us to counter the forces that are disrupting the climate. The intersection here is between animal harm and climate change. One of the most effective ways to ameliorate the forces harming the Earth is to quit farming (harming) her beings. That's called a  "win-win".

One group...and only one...of all the groups out there who are soliciting money to combat climate degredation makes the effort to point out that what you eat can harm mother Earth....only one. Their name is Rainforest Action Network.

Watch this documentary (caution there are several instances where extreme violence and brutality toward animals is shown...not many...but it is present)...preferably in a setting where you can fast-forward past some scenes of horror (if you wish). But watch it...and if you're like me...any luster and or respect you might have held for most of the big environmental organizations is going to evaporate into the warming climate. We're being flimflammed by the very folks who say they are trying to help our planet. It's a very disheartening thing.

In the meantime, go vegan, for the animals, for the planet, for your own integrity and well-being. And watch Cowspiricy...and get your friends who claim to be concerned about the environment to watch it too. You'll be doing everyone a favor.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A letter unpublished...

My last three letters to our local paper (Norman Transcript) have gone unpublished in their print edition. I've presumably exhausted their willingness to allow anyone to speak up for our fellow Earthlings. Prior to this they had been publishing about every 2nd letter I sent. I was really upset by the photo that prompted the letter and wanted to present a different take on what appeared, at first blush, to be a seriously cute and wonderful scene. They did stick it onto their website edition where few look and even fewer can find anything. It is one of the more confusing conglomerations I've ever seen.

You might want to read the comment below the electronic edition wherein I'm characterized as having "gone off the deep end" but maybe it was Disney that did it to me. Such is the mentality of many in central Oklahoma.

Well, at least I can publish it here.

Dear Editor,

This past Saturday, Sept. 6, the front page of the Transcript featured a color photo of a fuzzy yellow baby duck being petted by an apparently awestruck and delighted young human child. Dominant cultural narratives (made-up stories we tell ourselves to justify our behaviors and perceptions) are rarely examined, indeed much of their power derives from their invisibility. This photo was captioned “Petting Zoo” and presents us with an image of two babies, one a duck and one a human, both who are beautiful in their youth and innocence. We are also presented with some untold life stories.

The baby duck is a prisoner, held in captivity by humans and her (or his) future is likely very bleak. Soon the duck baby will grow and not be a baby. What will happen to her, what does her future hold? One source indicates ducks are killed for food at around 7 weeks of age (ducks can live 10 to 15 years). Petting zoos feature babies of various species; they obtain their attractions by buying or breeding babies. Those youngsters don’t remain babies for long and most zoo operators then either kill the older residents for food or sell them to be killed elsewhere.

So, the photo most likely shows a soon to be dead victim of human willfulness (it isn’t necessary to eat animals for human survival or health) and a small human female who will probably, statistically speaking, grow up to be someone who eats animals. We can now look at this image of two innocent and charming babies and realize that we are seeing a future killer (probably a killer by proxy) looking, with delight and awe, at her future victim. The photograph takes on a whole different tone when we consider what the probable fates are of the two beautiful babies. The photograph loses some innocence and attractiveness once we consider some context.

Someone once wisely said that compassion alone stands apart from the continuous traffic between good and evil proceeding within us. Compassion is the antitoxin of the soul. Where there is compassion, even the poisonous impulses remain relatively harmless. Readers might want to remember this next time they’re presented with de-contextualized photographs of currently innocent babies who are future victims and victimizers. We don’t have to harm others or to make our children into those who do harm.


If I'm off the deep end by living vegan...then hooray for the deep end.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The cherished illusion.



Unless and until we come to accept and appreciate the unity we share by virtue of being the remarkably fortunate children of mother Earth, we will persist in feeling unsettled and lonely and to behave abysmally. As long as we cling to the notion of alienation from and superiority to our relatives, we will act to confirm our depravity. It is the cherished illusion of "specialness" which creates and ensures "awfulness".

Only those who've come to embrace all living beings as their kin can fully feel at home, surrounded by their family. Only by living vegan can we be desirable and worthy kin for our relatives.

I miss Carl Sagan...and I miss my sister.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Sometimes...

things pop up on Facebook that provoke some serious thinking. I previously posted a bit about Red Earth Vegans. Membership has expanded in size way beyond what was envisioned...right now it is well over 100...which is a bit stunning to those who started the group. Most (guesstimated at 80% or so) are individuals living in Norman or the OKC area. Who would have thought?

Those joining range from having been living vegan for decades to some who are only exploring veganizing their lives. As a result, contributions to the page are varied.

A recent post asked: "Thoughts on Vegan dog food?..."

There were something like 65 comments made. At one point I inserted an observation that occurred to me as I looked over what other folks were writing...because it seemed to me some conflating of two different things was happening. I wrote: "There seems to be some degree of confusion presented between living with "domesticated" animals versus "breeding" domesticated animals. Literally millions of "pets" are killed annually in the US because they have no human who will provide them a home. I spend lots of time working at a rescue and also have several animals living in my home. Adopting someone to save their life and provide them with a setting where they will be cared for is a terrific thing..."breeding" more animals while others languish and are executed for being homeless, to my mind, is a different issue altogether."

Right afterward another member commented: "I have had dogs as pets all of my life - none were adopted, none came from a store or puppy mill, none were euthanised (which is a whole other debate) or otherwise disposed of but lived long good lives with my family. While we can be empathetic, protest mass killings of pets and work with shelters, that does not mean we are responsible for taking in the homeless. The responsibility lay at the previous owner who failed to be a good pet guardian. For some that say (no one has here) we should all get pound dogs is not too far off from saying folks should only adopt children..."

One of my thoughts was...well...from where did these dogs he has had as pets all of his life come from? The commenter is more than a few decades old so several generations of dogs must be involved..."none were adopted, none came from a store or puppy mill"...  We're left with speculating...we notice he didn't say none were purchased, he just ruled out purchasing from a store or puppy mill.

Or is the commenter saying that the family allowed their dogs to reproduce? I can't tell from the information provided. That none were "otherwise disposed of" I take to mean the family kept all the babies and cared for them? Again, this is unknowable, I'm speculating here because the comment was not specific about this. We're told none were euthanized or "otherwise disposed of" but lived "long good lives" with his family. That suggests (but ambiguously) that this is a family with a (large) number of dogs?

The comment goes on to say "we are not responsible for taking in the homeless." There's where my thinker kicked in. Then my thinker went into overdrive as a result of this statement: "The responsibility lay at the previous owner who failed to be a good pet guardian. For some that say (no one has here) we should all get pound dogs is not too far off from saying folks should only adopt children.

Hmmm...thinks I. "We are not responsible for taking in the homeless." Hmmm. Since some members of the human species "bred" (made them exist in the form they have) these "domesticated" animals that we usually call "pets" (dogs, cats, bunnies) they're responsible for them being here. Not the commenter, not me.

But...no one is making those responsible rectify their harm. So...the homeless animals are just sucking wind, right? According to the commenter, such is the case. It's not his problem and tough noogies for the dogs or cats or any other homeless animal who is unable to live (at least not very well or long) without human assistance. If they were unlucky enough to be associated with lousy "previous owners" then too bad little doggie.

I suppose the disavowed (but implied) statement that humans should adopt instead of reproducing was some sort of attempt to denigrate my comment...but actually it is (to me) a fairly good idea. Paul Ehrlich once wrote: "The mother of the year should be a sterilized woman with two adopted children." Sounds pretty good to me...given the current size of the human population. We've overused the "freedom" to reproduce to the point of absurdity.

Speaking of freedom...it's a nice word...all sentient beings aspire to have lots of "freedom" but...what is often forgotten is that freedom is loosely inversely related to group membership and group size. You are free to do things when you're all alone that become problematic when you aren't all alone...freedom's meaning and value changes depending on context as well as on outcomes.

If we as a group of animals tolerate or ignore harmful behaviors by members of our group...if we don't seek to stop them and hold them accountable for their actions...do we then put ourselves on the hook to remedy the harm? If we don't intervene, require them to rectify their errors...then who's going to do the rectifying? No one?

We do almost nothing to hold people accountable for their behaviors toward our sister/brother Earthlings (or the planet). Hey...it's freedom, right? Well, enjoy the party...but who's going to clean up the mess? Who's going to take care of the homeless? Who's going to care for the sick and the hungry....the scared and the innocent? Victims are victims, right? Not my problem if I didn't do the victimizing. We can feel bad and gripe about it and help the shelter but we're not responsible for the mess so we have no obligation to pitch in and help clean it up.

The problem is...unless you've lived your whole life as a vegan...you're responsible for misery, for oppression, for the death of innocent beings. Yup, we're (all who've not lived vegan all their lives) all victimizers. Every single one of us. But hey...who's going to hold you responsible...and if no one does...then you're off the hook...right? That's freedom, right?

Freedom is wonderful, isn't it? The problem is that it makes my thinker hurt and all that freedom has millions (billions actually) of victims. We live in dark times and the darkness is of human making. One of the factors of that darkness is all the "freedom" that we've gleefully exercised and clung to. Freedom to kill, imprison, "breed" (both in the sense of increasing the number of humans and in forcing...via forcible rape or otherwise the number of the other Earthlings), torture and terrorize. Freedom to destroy plants, animals, ponds, lakes, oceans, freedom to pollute the air, destroy mountains (for "resource" extraction)...whee....freedom is great...yee haw.

We've been on an orgy of "freedom" and our sister/brother Earthlings have lived in dark times for a long long time because of it, now the whole planet is entering dark times because of human animal "freedom". And now...we humans are beginning to feel the effects of the dark times.

I don't know what we're going to do about this...I'm pretty sure though that thinking as exemplified by phrases like "we are not responsible for taking in the homeless" is not going to withstand even minimal scrutiny. The option to turn our back on the behavior and the effects of the behavior of other human animals is rapidly disappearing and...it likely is that our closing our eyes and turning our backs on the behavior of other humans has been and is profoundly contributive to the rapidly approaching planetary environmental disaster.

I'll take care of me and mine, you take care of you and yours and all will be well...sounds good in the abstract...but since all that "taking care of" has included perpetrating the horrors we've inflicted on the other Earthlings and on mother Earth herself...well...maybe it's time to do some serious and radical transforming of what is meant by "taking care of". Like it or not.

Live vegan, minimize your hurting of the innocent...that's a good thing. But remember...there are still victims out there and...unless you've always been vegan...there are victims in your past (and in mine). And...those not living vegan are perpetrating new victims everyday. But, since no one is calling us out about that (or maybe we didn't do it), it's no problem....right?

If you (or I) have been doing harmful and destructive things but one day we decide to foreswear (as much as possible) doing destructive things anymore...does that mean we're free and clear? Does that alleviate us from any responsibility to attempt to ameliorate or rectify or repair the harm we've already done? Let's say I destroy your house and kill your family...later I say "sorry" and don't destroy or kill anymore. Does that bring a smile to your face? Does that do anything about the loss of your family or your house? Does that make it all alright?

What I'm getting at is that there is no position of innocence and/or not being responsible left for we human animals to retreat toward or to occupy. Both our personal history (if we haven't always been vegan and a profound environmentalist) and the history of our species has left us with a trail of death and destruction so profound and so extensive that I suspect we are all going to be cleaning up and/or attempting to make better that which has already been done for a long long long time...probably many human lifetimes (and that's only if any fixing is even possible).

Nope, I fear sentiments like "we aren't responsible for the homeless" are passe. Those days are long gone whether we realize it or not...in fact they never were. It's thinking and behaving like that that helped create the mess we face now. And...we've known it for a long long long time.

By now you've probably spotted the similarity in the content of the "we aren't responsible" comment to the story of the Samaritan reference in the book called the bible. There is lots of strange and peculiar stuff in the bible but, ever since I was a little kid, that particular story resonated with me. There are some important truths in it. One of them is about passing by and avoiding the victims. That was a foolish and untrue option that we've used for way way too long and now the consequences are all around us...as are the victims. It's way past time for a change. Going vegan begins the change...but there's much more involved.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Image speak...

I recently posted about a book for children by Ruby Roth. Afterward I came across a captioned image featuring her that caught my eye...and my thinking. This image and captioning pretty much takes care of the silliness being presented by the media 'psychologist' who was criticizing her book in the interview referenced in that post.


These next two images do a masterful job of illustrating the experience that many of us who've opted for living vegan. First the down (and no...vegan isn't a diet...it's much much more), then the up.

The downs.
The down can be alleviated tremendously when the 'up' finally happens.

The ups.
My thanks and gratitude and deep respect to all who're living vegan, my consolation on your 'down(s)' and I hope you've had at least one, if not many 'ups'.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Quotable quotes...

I stumbled across two quotations that are well worth sharing. The first is sort of zany and almost zen-like in the simplicity and profundity offered by it.

“I look crazy but I’m not. And the funny thing is that other people don’t look crazy but they are.” – eden abhez

What I especially like about this quote is that anyone opting for ethical veganism can appreciate the thought...since it applies not only to appearance but to ways of living and of seeing the world. Most who are vegan have likely been accused of being "crazy" or "weird" or "extremist" by people who are routinely living in ways that support and advocate for unprovoked violence and destruction. Who's disconnected (or "crazy")?

If you ever wondered about the cultural roots of the hippy movement, here ya go. George Alexander Aberle, known as eden ahbez (15 April 1908 – 4 March 1995), was an American songwriter and recording artist of the 1940s to 1960s, whose lifestyle in California was influential on the hippie movement. He was known to friends simply as ahbe. The blog tells us: "He slept outdoors with his family and ate vegetables, fruits, and nuts."

This second quote came from Ladan V. Cheybani, a woman I sometimes see posts from on Facebook. It is exquisite both in poignancy and accuracy.

"Everyday I must struggle to explain to someone why vegan is the answer to a world gone dark. It is so sad, that I must even defend love and compassion. When I went vegan, I thought I found the biggest treasure, I thought I would share with everyone and everyone would be happy to change. I never thought I would have to beg people to be loving and compassionate..... I never thought that...".

From her quote I can see that she had much the same reaction from others to her discovery of the excellence of veganism as I did (as have many). Her expression: "...I thought I found the biggest treasure, I thought I would share with everyone and everyone would be happy to change." ...says exactly my first take on living vegan. I was (and still am), just as she was, staggered and shocked and saddened at the reactions from most others. But not all, some few embraced that gift...and there's where the hope lies...some eagerly embrace avoiding harm to others.

The majority do not though...and her lovely statement beautifully summarizes that sadness. There's much work to be done...and if you're living vegan...you're not alone...others do recognize and embrace that 'biggest treasure'....and many more will.



Friday, August 8, 2014

Ruby Roth...

is the author and illustrator of two children's books that provide information about veganism, animals and how they are abused, environmental degradation and how to eat and live more healthy and less harmful lives. The second book "Vegan is Love" was just published and she posted a video interview on her blog wherein a "child psychologist" decried her book and flatly admonished people to "avoid this book" because it was about "fear and guilt" and that it would be "disturbing" for children. (apologies, you'll have to watch the video on another site, I couldn't get the embedding code to work)

Well, that sort of intrigued me so I went to the library and...there was the book over in the children's section so I decided to take it home and review it. Then I thought, heck, it's a kids book with lots of illustrations, how long could it take to read? Poof, five minutes and I was through. After reading it I was even more disappointed than initially.

Not about the book or its message...it was a nice book with well done illustrations and text. My disappointment was with the "psychologist", his 'performance' was rather pitiful. He started off talking about "restrictive diets" and sweets...which was totally irrelevant to the book's contents and ended up urging people to not let children see the book. After reviewing the book myself I question whether he had even read it.

I visited his website and discovered his touting that he's written over 200 articles and 15 books. I haven't read anything by the psychologist in the interview, nor will I. My impression is that his primary activity is writing and interviewing and maintaining his website. Learning about people and children and families is hard and time consuming and emotionally draining. I'm seriously skeptical that anyone actually knowing very much about these things has time to write 200 articles and 15 books.

Ironically his website has a list of topics and included are "love" and "peace". Hmmm....he's bashing a children's book about love and non-violence (veganism) but thinks those things are important enough to list on his website. On the "peace" link he calls for a one day worldwide armistice...good...and yet he bashes a children's book calling for non-violence toward animals. Since the interview was conducted on Fox "news" I presume he's some sort of hired gun they stuck up there to shoot down the book The woman doing the interview sadly brought new meaning to the term vapid.

The best part of the interview, and what I found to make it very much worth watching were two points made by Ms. Roth. She made the observation that it was curious that upset was being directed toward her book rather than toward the treatment of animals that is pointed out in her book. She also made the point that she hasn't seen any child get upset about the book rather it is the adults who get upset about the book.

Here's an excerpt from a comment about the book I found here. "If I want my kids to be able to see a giraffe or a zebra, I'm not going to shell out $6000 to go to Africa, I'm going to spend $8 for a ticket to the zoo. I'm sorry if those animals are sad, sick and angry. It's cheaper than going to Africa. I need to protein, so I do eat meat, cheese and other dairy products. I can't eat peanuts all the time....".

My thought is that if you write a book and it doesn't upset people with the mentality exhibited by that comment...then your book is probably not worth reading. Indeed, if professionals of the caliber of this 'psychologist' aren't upset by your book, you ought to rethink what you are doing.

Hey, if you're looking for a gift for a child, go buy the book and present it. You'll be doing them a favor and maybe helping our sister/brother Earthlings too. You will at least be exposing the child to some accuracy and truth instead of distortions and omissions. And...doing that is almost a guarantee that someone is going to get upset. Thank you Ms. Roth.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Rights versus 'welfare'.

It all comes down to avoiding doing harm and leaving other beings alone (where possible) as opposed to harming or not leaving other beings alone without being real 'mean' about it, doesn't it? (beings here references living entities who are sentient)

The longer I view the world and her beings through vegan eyes, the crazier and stranger a "welfare" position seems to me. By the same token...a rights position (vegan) probably looks just as strange and crazy to an occupant of the welfare position. I don't know if it works quite that way or not...maybe it does. ("crazy" here used as a substitute for the phrase "disconnected from reality")

It is generally true that vegans...humans who take the position that whenever possible no one should harm anyone else ("anyone else" = any living sentient being)...are considered to be "crazy" or "extremists" or "wackos" by the dominant human cultural narratives. Anyone who is vegan and is reading this knows this...and...anyone who is not vegan and reading this also knows this to be an accurate description of how most human animals view those who are vegan.

But...when comparing the two stances like this:

Welfare: "Well, I'm going to use or kill you (or whatever horrible exploitative thing is being done to an Earthling) for my own purposes but I will try to do it in the least awful/painful way possible."

Vegan (honoring an Earthling's right to their own life): "I won't imprison, exploit, use or harm you. You live your life, I'll live my life."

The first one looks bizarre and insane to me...and the second one looks pretty decent. Harm or no harm...simple, right? Oops...not true.

The distance between those two positions is, in many ways, very immense...especially if you consider what must be waded through (engulfed in) to get from the first one to the second one. Guilt, shame, horror at what one has done...all these awareness invoke unsettling, painful and disturbing feelings. Yet...these are the necessary emotional working-throughs that must be accomplished to journey toward genuine comprehension and persistent implementation of ethical veganism.

Without that working-through, I fear that any "vegan" stance is simply a role, a behavior with no heart and/or substance that can be jettisoned at any time with minimal or no emotional consequences. An example might be someone who sometimes "cheats" on their vegan "diet" because "cheese tastes so good".

If someone has done their feeling/comprehending 'homework' however...then vegan is a way of being and not one of simply acting. Being vegan is a transformational process that changes not only the individual's behavior but their way of seeing and apprehending and experiencing Mother Earth and all of her children...and how those children behave.

Apprehending and appreciating and affirming that all beings are equal in their 'right' to their own lives and to live those lives how they want (taking into consideration that all beings must co-exist together) is a breath-taking and incredibly profound comprehension shift vs the worldview engendered by the conventional cultural narrative about human and non-human beings. That shift, for me anyway, has changed how I see and experience so many things beyond that modest sounding phrase "concern for animals".
I am fairly sure it is a truth that if you haven't embarked on it...the working-through journey...then you will have, at best, only a faint and inevitably distorted and inaccurate notion of what I'm writing about...and...if you have begun that shift...you know exactly and precisely what I'm referencing. It's not, in the end, a word thing.

Going vegan is a journey involving behavior change and in how you see and experience both your inner and your outer world...and all living beings. It can't be described accurately, it has to be lived...and in the living of it not only does one begin to think and comprehend differently...one also begins to experience Mother Earth and her Earthlings (all of them) very differently. And it is a journey that doesn't end...there is no "I'm there" moment because there are (potentially) always new understandings and perceptions and behavior changes arising.