Friday, August 26, 2016

I saw on facebook

this entry by Christian Sebastian and thought it was terrific. He wrote:
PSA: Shaming don't work. It didn't work in 1642 for Hester Prynne and it don't work now. Humiliation diminishes. Humiliation fosters defensiveness. And most importantly, humiliation causes people to deny responsibility. How much of your animal activism is rooted in punishment versus creating change? Now be honest.
(Note: PSA is an acronym for public service announcement) 

I have wrestled with aspects of this over a number of years. By that I mean I have gotten angry and upset and said (and thought) negative things to or about people who dismiss or reject or ridicule veganism. And...that's really a piss poor way to go about getting humans to convert to a vegan lifestyle. I've never had anyone that I behaved poorly toward fall down and say I'm sorry and convert to veganism.

Whereas I've been fortunate enough to have several people over the years be open to listening to my non-shaming, non-attacking message about the harms associated with not living vegan and eventually they opted to live vegan too.

It's vitally important for me (and for you too) to remember that all the people who don't live vegan are going to have to eventually come to living vegan if we are to end systematic human harming of our sister/brother Earthlings. And...it's unlikely to further that goal if we attack or shame or humiliate them. They are potential allies in the quest to stopping the harming of Earthlings who don't happen to be human and beating up on them isn't very wise or effective.

Most of us, at one time, were not living vegan and it's important to remember that too.

I would not have wanted someone who was vegan to have attacked or shamed or humiliated me when I was gripped with obliviousness to the harm I was doing...and no one else wants that either.

The fact is...when we approach people that way they almost always focus on defending themselves...not on listening to the message that might be being conveyed. I'm not saying they'll necessarily listen if you don't attack or shame them...but I am saying they are much more likely to be open to an approach that isn't humiliating toward them.

So...don't. Ok?

If you can...pretend that the message you're conveying is being directed to you...if it would offend you then probably someone else would be offended too. Offense usually evokes defense...not receptivity or careful listening.

Christopher said it a lot more concisely and eloquently than I can.



Sunday, August 21, 2016

Help and reward

yourself with a stay on the beach (maybe). If you purchase entries in this raffle. But hurry...the last day to get a ticket is September 2nd.

The link goes to the Heartland Rabbit Rescue website where there is information about contributing to Midnite's surgery fund by entering a raffle that offers...among other rewards...the grand prize of a seven night stay at an ocean side condo in Myrtle Beach, Florida. If you don't want to enter the raffle...you can contribute without buying tickets too.

Help out this charming and handsome fellow (more info about his troubles can be found if you follow the link) and maybe win a stay on the beach...as well as a chance at some other excellent rewards...that's pretty snazzy.

Information can be found on the Heartland facebook page and also in this graphic.


The cutoff date for getting your chance(s) is September 2nd...hurry...and please help and thank you.

Midnite (the magnificent)

Midnite thanks you too. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Eh?

Over at the So I'm Thinking of Going Vegan blog there was a post back in July that featured this image from VeganStreet.com:


The image creators said they were inspired to make it because: "This is a version of those cute little "All I want to do is drink wine, take naps and cuddle puppies" t-shirts for people who really want to make a positive change in the world."
All well and good, right?

Not so fast...if you want to take the time to look at the original offering of the image you can scroll through some of the comments and find that...whoa...a number of people apparently got all riled up over various aspects of the image...which you will note is just a statement that someone wants to end the oppression of the marginalized groups identified as women, people of color (not that separating 'race' and 'gender' is really possible) and animals. What is there to object to? Apparently a lot, judging from some of the comments.

I tend to not engage with (committed) naysayers because I have this (absolutely personal and not empirically confirmed...not systematically anyway) notion (hypothesis) that if someone has a strong enough negative reaction to statements about ending racism and/or patriarchy and/or and/or...to be willing to openly and forcefully state their objections then "engaging" with them is pretty much an exercise in futility that almost invariably causes me much more upset and/or dismay than any gain there might be in jousting with such potent certainty. I've rarely had anything worthwhile (that I was aware of) come out of doing any back and forth with such folks.

Some people seem to enjoy that sort of stuff...I don't. I tend to end up feeling sad and beat-up as a result of such exchanges. When I was younger and a bit less jaded (?) than I am now, I sometimes would get into it with such folks but not so much anymore.

Notice that I'm not saying I'm unwilling to dialogue with someone who might disagree with these sentiments...I'm saying I'm unwilling to engage with those who disagree (resist?) and are so certain of the validity of their objections that they're willing to strongly assert their displeasure in some sort of public or open forum. The important thing isn't the disavowal or skepticism (although that's troubling)...the big factor here is the power of the motivation and the certainty behind those dismissals.

My speculation is that when a strong pushback like that is encountered...it is most likely driven by great fear and/or pain and dealing with such stuff is not likely to be resolved in any kind of online doings. Very often when you encounter strong anger or outrage the underlying factors include a great deal of fear/threat/pain. Folks who attempt to deal with those personal factors by angry attacking or dismissal of what scares them usually aren't inclined to do much exploring and/or thinking. They're interested in obliterating that which disturbs them...not in exploring issues and/or experiences.  

Glancing over some of the comments associated with the image above shows that there are a number of folks who figure that they know all they need to know and exposing them to some broader picture about manifestations of oppression is unwanted and even offensive to them...i.e....it upsets them and they're motivated to attack/destroy that which bothers them. That might mean attacking the notions that spook them...or...it might mean attacking whomever offered such notions.

I'm reminded of the phrase "often wrong...but always certain" when I read some of those comments.

I am frequently uncomfortable when I feel tentative and uncertain about what I think I know...however that discomfort seems a small price to pay for striving to not be oblivious to the amazingly devious and subtle ways that oppression permeates western European societies and manifests itself here in the USA.

It seems astonishingly obvious to me, now anyway, that resisting and interrupting harm to those with little or less social power is an often difficult and complex task. I didn't used to be aware of that...which, by the way, is exactly how societies drenched in oppression want you to think. Nope...I don't think that way anymore but that doesn't mean I don't get fooled by subtle (or obvious) presentations of oppression...I do...and often...but...hopefully not as much as previously. That's an improvement...I think.

Tell ya what...go read the excellent blog post and then go poke around in the comments about the image and see what you think.

I've come to accept that striving to decrease and/or end my harming of other living beings is a difficult and demanding journey and anytime I think I've "arrived"...that's when I'm most likely to be full of crap. I know for sure though that I really don't want to be as obtuse and filled with fear driven oblivious certainty as some of those commenters seem to be.

It's unlikely any of them would don white robes and burn crosses and/or assault women...but...those who reject the pervasiveness of oppression in this society are exhibiting and participating in the core of obliviousness that supports and upholds such awfulness and perpetuates the "normal" systemic and institutional oppression and harming of living beings who are are identified as members of marginalized groups.

Such denial facilitates and is complicit in harm...whether intended or not...and that's just not ok.

We are all in this together no matter how much we might pretend we are not and harming others is both unnecessary and repugnant...and...because we've been socialized to not notice it or recognize it...it's often disgustingly difficult to detect and comprehend.

We can do better than that. I know that to be true simply because my understanding has expanded over the past couple of years...and...if a really old white man can become more aware (and hopefully less inadvertently hurtful)...then so can we all.       



   

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Women's Resource Center

is a community based (not government associated) organization that provides: "...specialized services catered to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking,..." for the Cleveland County (Norman, Oklahoma) community. All their services are provided at no cost to those who seek them.
I've been attending training there for the past few weeks so I could serve as a volunteer for them. I was the only male (shocker) out of a group of 11 or 12 people who were wanting to volunteer. (I'm basing that notion of 11 females and 1 male on external appearances only)

I was a little apprehensive about doing this mainly because I figured that few men volunteered. My apprehension partially had to do with the "real men don't do this sort of thing" nonsense. Sadly, just because I have some limited awareness about societal messages about masculinity doesn't mean I'm not still influenced by them. That's one of the paradoxes (whee) of recognizing some of the goofy and harmful socialization messages we get...I see that they're crap but they still can make me shaky or uncomfortable or apprehensive. Jeez.

And...I'm also aware that this is a shelter/organization for victims who are almost always females who have almost always been harmed by...guess who...males.

So...I was, in part, reluctant to attempt to help because I am conscious of being a member of the group (males) who are almost always the source of the violence that harms those who seek help there and I didn't want my presence to create or invoke fear or discomfort from victims.

The training is finished now and I think we've figured out some ways that I can sometimes assist WRC as well as avoid making folks who use their services be uncomfortable. (and those ways of assisting appeal to me)

A number of things from this effort has helped my comprehension. Most especially is some increased awareness that we all swim in a rather nasty ocean of what is called the "rape culture". I hope you'll take the time to read about it if you're unfamiliar with what's meant by that phrase.

If you do some investigating you'll notice that it (rape culture) has to do, in part, with "normalizing" violence toward and domination of a less powerful group. Does that sound familiar?

I'm going to summarize something here and in doing so I'm cognizant that summarizing is...in a number of ways...risky and misleading (maybe it even can be thought of as violent). Because when we summarize something we obliterate details...and...in the end...the details are pretty much everything.

Think of it like forest and trees. The old saying about not seeing the forest for the trees has to do with getting so focused on the details (trees) that we don't see a bigger picture (forest)...well that works the other way too...we can get so focused on the bigger picture (forest) that we neglect to comprehend that it is the details (trees) that are the sole makeup of the forest. Always remember (and I'm reminding myself here too) that you can have details without a bigger picture but you can never have a bigger picture that doesn't consist of details.

Sorry for the pedantic sounding digression (I probably was a teacher for too long) but I wanted to give some context before I made a summary.

The summary is this...our culture (the USA) is structured...and very much so...maybe even almost totally...on the dominance of various less powerful groups by other more powerful groups. And we all participate in this stuff in one way or another...but...since being aware of this ugliness would be upsetting and uncomfortable (and maybe awareness would result in change so dominance depends in part on not being comprehended) we are all socialized to see this dominance/subordination as "normal" or to not see it at all because it has been made invisible.

This "normalizing" or "invisiblizing" of dominance (and the violence or threat of violence that supports and upholds it) is a necessary part of maintaining all this stuff because (in part)...we don't want to see ourselves as a**holes. We all want to believe we're "good people" and good people don't hurt others or dominate others or harm others or threaten to harm others. So...we hide truth from ourselves...we "normalize" violence...we make it invisible. And..."rape culture" is a way of naming and identifying an aspect of that "normalized" violence.

Part of the training for WRC included screening a documentary called "Tough Guise 2". It was a painful and enlightening look at the fact that most human originated violence is generated by...guess who...males (mostly white, cisgendered heterosexual males). We have a problem...and the problem touches all of us...some more hurtfully than others and quite differently depending on whether we're positioned as victims or perpetrators...but make no mistake...we all get harmed.

My last blog post touched on the fact that little boys get harmed and that harming often shapes them into adults who then tend to harm others. Arrrgh...it makes my head hurt to try to wrap it around all this...but slowly slowly I do think it is becoming more clear to me. Somewhat anyway. Maybe.

And...it isn't a pretty picture. One thing that is of utmost importance...and...that is I must always retain awareness of is that seeing the "bigger" picture is only a tool and only useful if it can help in interrupting this stuff. And the interrupting of it always has to do with reducing or eliminating harm to members of marginalized groups...and most importantly...without doing harm to different marginalized groups.

Maybe that's the useful thing that trying to get a bigger picture view allows is that it can sometimes assist in avoiding or stopping harmful stuff without inadvertently or accidental recreating harm. Hmmm...maybe that's a useful way to think of it...big picture stuff helps not recreate oppression and attending to the "details" means consulting victims and following their lead in terms of how to reduce and/or stop harm to them.

PETA serves as a wonderful example of how not to do activism because PETA often opposes harm by recreating harm. Routinely they oppose harming animals but their efforts often include making women into sex objects which in turn upholds aspects of rape culture or their efforts sometimes uphold racist notions. They seem to see the trees (they seemingly try to stop harm to victims) but are often oblivious to the forest (shifting harm to other groups of victims).

We can do better than that, I think. But...it's often not easy because we've all been thoroughly and totally socialized to not think this way. We see harm to living beings who have little power and we want to make it stop...but...way too often our efforts to stop the harming often simply shifts harming to a different group of victims. It's a trees and forest sort of problem and too often we leave out one factor or the other when that's exactly the way to not do it.

Here's where I console myself with something that seems really hopeful...and that is...we humans created this oppressively structured culture and that means we have the power to change it...we don't have to operate this way...it didn't just fall out of the sky onto us. We humans made it this way and that means we humans can unmake it.

I'm trying to get some useful (and accurate) comprehension of this stuff...if you can help...please chime in.

 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

I thought this statement

by bell hooks was pretty accurate. It certainly corresponds with a number of experiences I had when I was growing up and and also after adulthood. It also reminded me that I had made up some rules for myself as I went along in life that served to guide me in my behavior and I created those rules because of my fear of what might happen to me if I didn't behave and speak in certain ways...or avoid behaving or speaking in certain ways.

What I hadn't thought much about was the violence (or threat of violence) associated with those rules. But once I read this I remembered that hints or threats of it were always sort of floating around as these "acts of psychic self-mutilation" were taught.

When I began the journey of learning to do psychotherapy I ran smack into one of those rules and had a big struggle...that continues, from time to time, to this day.

That's the rule that "men don't cry". Guess what...you can't do psychotherapy effectively unless you can cry...because to be able to authentically cry you must be in touch with your feelings...and there's no way to effectively perform psychotherapy unless you're in touch with your own feelings.

Patriarchy (USA style) has to first be violent or threaten violence toward those little children called "boys" in order to train/create the adults who enact and perpetuate that patriarchy. Mostly (but not always) that violence (or threat of violence) comes from adults called "men" and is directed toward young humans who are called "boys".

In addition...and this is not a small thing...the rules of patriarchy are often also taught by women. Which means that little boys (I'm writing from my perspective as a white man who was once a little white boy...so I'm only able to have experienced being taught the rules of "being a man" from the perspective of being white) often have no adults around them who aren't encouraging and/or teaching and/or enforcing the rules of patriarchy (I'm specifically referring to USA type white patriarchy here).

It's pretty insidious when you think about it...the enactors (who are ones who primarily benefit from patriarchy) have helpers who also teach/enforce the rules of patriarchy and those helpers are the victims of that system...women. Human children really don't have much of a chance to break out of patriarchy since almost all of the adults they encounter are teachers/enforcers of the rules of patriarchy.

Think of all the wars that are instigated and fought by men...all the violence that comes from men...does this have anything to do with the "psychic self-mutilation" that little boys do to themselves in their attempts to follow the rules of patriarchy? Hmmm....

Friday, July 29, 2016

Further thoughts about "real" men...

In a recent post I did some speculating about socially constructed identities. I've been thinking about such stuff off and on since then and something occurred to me that was right in front of me but also quite invisible.

I recently ran across a graphic that triggered some of my thoughts about this "real man" stuff.


What's nifty about this graphic is that it addresses veganism as well as the socially constructed notion of "real men".

It seems to me that applying the adjective "real" to a living being is often a clue that you're dealing with a socially constructed phenomenon.

Weirdly enough, back in 2010, I wrote a little about John Wayne, who is looked up to (especially by many older white men) as exemplifying the essence of a "real man" and it turns out that some aspects of the image versus the actual reality are rather different.

One way to think of the idea of "socially constructed" is that it means something that was made up by humans (usually white men) and that it was made up because those folks (again, usually white men) thought it benefited them or it promoted some notion that was positive for them or upheld their power in some way. (P.S. I'm not so much picking on white men so much as I'm pointing to the reality that U.S. culture or western European culture has (and is) essentially controlled by white men both currently and for all the centuries since its inception. Which, by the way, we're encouraged to not notice or see because that would serve to make that control not invisible...and that might mess up the control.)

Now that I consider if further...maybe it's a good idea to always realize that whenever the "real" adjective is stuck in front of a reference to a living being that's a signal that the opposite is probably the case. "Real" doesn't have anything to do with the essence of a being...it has to do with how well or skillfully they're enacting a script or playing a role...and that script or role is socially constructed.

In other words, if "real" is stuck in front of a word used to designate an Earthling it almost invariably means "skillfully fake". It tells us that we're dealing with with ways of behaving that are made up or artificial (socially constructed).

Hence..."real man" signals "fake or artificial man" or "person performing a man act". Judith Butler (a philosopher and gender theorist) takes this idea further in her thinking. She maintains that all gender roles are constructed (made up) by societies...her term is that gender roles are "performed".

Here's a quote from a website that writes about Judith Butler's thinking about gender roles:
 Butler underscores gender's constructed nature in order to fight for the rights of oppressed identities, those identities that do not conform to the artificial—though strictly enforced—rules that govern normative heterosexuality. If those rules are not natural or essential, Butler argues, then they do not have any claim to justice or necessity. Since those rules are historical and rely on their continual citation or enactment by subjects, then they can also be challenged and changed through alternative performative acts. As Butler puts it, "If the 'reality' of gender is constituted by the performance itself, then there is no recourse to an essential and unrealized 'sex' or 'gender' which gender performances ostensibly express" ("Performative" 278). For this reason, "the transvestite's gender is as fully real as anyone whose performance complies with social expectations" ("Performative" 278).  
Hmmm....

She's arguing that ways of "performing" the roles of "man" or "woman" are rules that are imposed on us by others (via history and convention) and she doesn't need the adjective "real" to signal that they are artificial or fake or made up.

Thinking about all this was (is) rather mind blowing for me...and interesting...very interesting. "Performing" gender...considering that notion expands your ways of conceptualizing this stuff, eh?

Just to further complicate your thinking...you might want to consider how (at least here in the U.S). it's not possible to realistically consider the roles of "woman" or "man" without also considering other socially constructed notions like "race".

Kimberle Crenshaw notes this in her writings about intersectionality. She points out that gender roles and race (among other factors) are not separate and mutually exclusive but rather that they overlap and always occur together. Hmmm....

Once you start pulling some notions apart, like "woman" or "man", and looking at them in detail...what might seem simple and easily understood rapidly becomes amazingly complex and much more difficult to comprehend.



Saturday, July 23, 2016

This image

is a variant of one that I used about a year ago in this post. I like this new image better in that it provides much more information.


The image I used earlier only had the information presented in the first two panels...the image above expands and elaborates. Equality seems to be a marginal improvement on reality...equity is definitely an improvement on both reality and equality but the ultimate goal for all is liberation. Here liberation means that the 'norm' is absent artificially maintained barriers or obstructions for everyone.

This image is a rich condensation of a large amount of information and I suspect it will continue to trigger thinking for me for some time to come. Maybe it will work that way for you too.

One other thing I wanted to share in this post is a link to a bit of writing and information gathering I stumbled across recently from an unusual source. The author of this blog post is a self-described religious conservative and a white guy. His post is a huge compilation of factual information about white privilege and systemic racism. I've printed it out for study...and it came to an astonishing 18 pages. Mr. Tucker did some serious and useful work in terms of gathering this data and putting it into a structured format for use.

I like that he ended it by asking: 

So… Who are you today? In the face of today’s injustice, which all of the above just barely even begins to describe, are you being today the kind of person that would have opposed slavery, the Holocaust, Jim Crow, and Apartheid back then?     
It was cool for me to see that I wasn't the only one who had thought about things in those terms. It was almost six years ago that I wrote a post about time travel and a thought experiment.

I was writing that post focused on the horrors of speciesism while suffering severely from the obliviousness of whiteness. All I can do about that is regret it and note that I struggle against that obliviousness and think (hope?)  it has decreased somewhat. I plan on printing out that earlier post and going through it in detail in order to rectify the errors in it as an aid to my comprehension. In the meantime, I apologize for and regret the warpings and distorting and misleading analogizing and obliviousness in it.

One part of it caught my attention though and I believe the thought I was expressing to be about as true as anything can be.
There is a curious thing about life, each of us in our own time of living can be faced with significant moral questions.  Great injustices and horrors occur on a seemingly perpetual basis.  We often ignore or deny or seek obliviousness to these occurrences, nevertheless, they exist.  You can pretend they don’t…but pretense does not magically make them disappear nor does it absolve you and your actions or your failure to act. 
It's weird to me that I could write about obliviousness then...all the while...at that time...I was, in ways large and small, engaged in being oblivious to the ongoing oppressions of racism and sexism and heteronormativity and ableism and ageism and and and. (and I have no doubt that, in various ways, I continue to be oblivious)

Just when you think you've figured something out...poof...you find there is still yet more to become aware of and to comprehend.

It seems to be that one of our ongoing tasks as living beings is to struggle to comprehend and resist injustice and no small part of that struggle is to comprehend...because if we don't comprehend then we can't know what to resist and struggle against and if we suffer from obliviousness then we often engage in opposing one sort of oppression while recreating other oppression(s).

And...each of us...no matter when we live...if we live in societies that normalize and support oppression then we will be presented with a version of "reality" that, in both large and small ways, explains and upholds and conceals that oppression as being "normal" and "just the way it is".

Jeez...what a pain in the kabooka. It would be nice to have the default to be non-oppression...but that's not what we have right now.

I'm convinced that part of the task of living, for humans anyway (especially white humans but also for all humans), is to ceaselessly struggle to accurately identify and struggle against oppression. Which means...we have plenty of work that remains to be done.

And the real kicker is...that unless you're actively engaged in struggling to comprehend and to resist (and I include myself)...then you're being complicit in the ongoing manifestations of oppression. There is no sideline...there is no "neutral". As much as we want to...we can't go hide under the bed and be "innocent". Our legacy from our ancestors is pervasive structural oppressions and our task is to dismantle those structures. We white folks (especially) can thank our ancestors for that.  

Friday, July 15, 2016

I got a hoot...

out of this graphic. It humorously summarizes the absolute necessity of examining the focus of and the origin of "knowledge", especially knowledge that has to do with the behavior of living beings.


Like most white people here in the U.S. I grew up being carefully cultivated to believe the notion that "objectivity" was the standard by which to evaluate "knowledge".

Over the past couple of years (weirdly enough, I had reservations about this "objectivity" notion for a number of years, I just didn't have any coherent frame for my reservations) my learning journey has taught me to be very aware that I'm probably being duped whenever the "objectivity" rubric is invoked for knowledges or comprehensions having to do with the behavior of human beings...or all Earthlings for that matter.

Now, whenever I hear the "objective" meme applied to information or knowledge about humans and/or human behavior (or any Earthling) I'm aware that I'm probably being exposed to stuff that is generated by white people (usually white men) and that stuff is probably justifying or upholding the frameworks of oppression associated with race, sex and heteronormativity and class and ability and species and and and.

It's an effective and insidious shtick and one that has kept me rather off-balance for decades. No doubt I'm still off-balance, but hopefully not so much as I used to be.

If you're interested in finding your way out of the dismal swamp of "objectivity" you can start no better place than by reading James Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me. It's a good place to start cracking open the box of incomprehension and distortions (about history)  that we're all exposed to by the media and by the institutions here in the U.S.

Once you've developed a little taste of understanding that we're all drenched in slanted information that masquerades as "truth" and "history" and "objectivity" then you might want to start listening to the voices of marginalized folks. The reason for doing that is the sad truth that those who belong to subordinated groups in frameworks of dominance/subordination tend to be more aware of what's going on than do those who belong to the dominating groups (in part because they simply have to be in order to survive).

Here's a link to a reading list that can assist. Ta-Nehisi Coates is an excellent writer and thinker and he believes all of these books are worthy of attention. If I was only going to recommend one author off of the many on this list...I would urge you to read James Baldwin...also watch the video that's offered that shows a debate featuring Mr. Baldwin. He is a treasure beyond measure.

For those reading this post who are vegan and struggle with grasping what any of this has to do with veganism...consider this...if you wanted to wrap your mind around the enormity of the reality (horror) of "factory farming" would you listen to those who created and run such obscenities or would you 'listen' to the victims?

You also might think about the fact that every major societal institution here in the U.S. (education, government, business, the media, healthcare, etc) is now and always has been controlled by white men...in other words...those with the power (white men) have made things in this country be the way they are.

Also notice that every "reform" that appears to benefit those with less power (ending human slavery, women having the vote, ending legal segregation, protection for people of color voting, etc) has only happened after much struggle (civil war even) by those who were victimized by and/or resisted and opposed oppression. In other words, those in power (white men) only agreed, grudgingly and with great resistance to implement any "improvement".

When have those in power in this country...white men...ever said hey...this sucks for lots of folks and for lots of reasons...let's fix it....without having their feet held to the fire by the victims of oppression and those who objected to oppression? Never, as far as I can grasp it. Therefore...why would you ever look to those in power for knowledge and/or understanding regarding what's going on?

Make sense?




Sunday, July 10, 2016

Help...

Heartland Rabbit Rescue offers refuge to more than 100 rabbits...there are also other Earthlings who call Heartland home. That includes several donkeys and several ducks and a small horse with a really really big spirit named Midnight.


He has a damaged/broken rear leg (ankle area) that is going to require some expensive surgery to fuse the joint so that he can have pain relief and be able to put weight on that leg. The prognosis is good for him if he has the surgery...in part...because he's not a full sized horse. Smaller is better sometimes.

The figure I've heard is anywhere from $6,000 to $9,000 dollars but that's a guess...whatever it is going to be it is huge. Jeannie and Brad, the founder/director of Heartland and her husband, contribute most of the ongoing expenses (along with the help of supporters/contributors) of caring for all the residents of the sanctuary but this amount is beyond their capabilities.

Please help.

You can donate by going here and chipping in or you can go to the donation page on Heartland's website. (Note: Heartland supports and encourages living a compassionate vegan lifestyle.)

Thank you. Midnight is a very special Earthling...and...he's vegan.

Monday, July 4, 2016

A 4th of July Holiday?

If you've taken the time to learn about the Declaration of Independence...the adoption of which is what this holiday is supposed to celebrate...you will be aware that these words are part of that document:
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
I don't believe any "celebration" should be devoted to such a racist travesty. Neither, as you can see from the image below, did Audre Lorde.


The fact that many of the wealthy white men responsible for writing this declaration were also people who enslaved human beings accounts for the repugnance expressed by the statement of Audre Lorde.

Since this document refers to Indigenous peoples as "merciless Indian Savages" it would be more appropriate for anyone who actually ascribes to the "liberty and justice for all" notion to view this day as one of national shame.

I used the image below in my last post...it is woefully appropriate to use it again here to give a salute to anyone who uses this day to reflect on the difference between cultural conditioning (including "holiday" celebrations) and factual information.


If you are engaged in the struggle to align your beliefs with facts...thank you. Your efforts are cause for celebration.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Images with info...

I've run across a few images recently that pack quite a bit of information into a compact form.
This first image is a handy guide to visualize how most western European based cultures implement the hierarchical ugliness of groups of humans oppressing other groups of humans. The image identifies oppressor groups and target groups. If you wanted this image to reflect the oppression that's countered by veganism you could add a panel to the top called humans with species in the middle strip and then animals in the lower panel...you could also do something similar if you wanted to show environmental oppression.

Two of the myths that work to keep these oppressions invisible to us (especially here in the U.S.) are 'individualism' and 'meritocracy'. The notion that your effort will allow you to achieve anything you want and the notion that those who are "on top" get there because of their merit and/or effort are two deceptive fictions that work to obscure our awareness that groups we are assigned to are pretty much the biggest factors that determine our experiences in life.

By the way, one other thing you can glean from the above image is to be able to identify which group members (on average, there will be exceptions) accurately comprehend things. In other words...the more power any group possesses the less accurate folks that belong to those groups understandings (or beliefs) will be (again, this is on average)

This next image makes me smile for a number of reasons.

I suspect that you know from your own life experiences that people who work at re-calibrating their beliefs upon encountering credible information that contradicts those beliefs are exceedingly rare. Most work at ignoring and/or denying such information instead of struggling with changing their beliefs. One strategy that's often used to avoid modifying beliefs is to attack and/or reject the messenger who brings (or points out) contradicting information. It's almost as if we would rather believe erroneous things than to do the work of modifying our beliefs to more closely correspond to accuracy. That's sort of spooky when you think about it.

For me, doing this sort of changing is really difficult, I've often failed at it...but sometimes I've managed to do it. I've also found that many/most people struggle with this sort of thing. That's why it is a good idea to be rather tentative about how strongly you embrace beliefs, especially those that aren't based on reliable and credible facts...and even then you would be wise to be aware that you may encounter information that requires you to do a re-evaluation of a belief.  

This last image has to do with a big part of why beliefs are rarely changed when we encounter information that contradicts them...it's unpleasant and uncomfortable and even painful. The image uses the phrase "unlearning oppressive behaviors" which would include changing the beliefs that uphold or support those behaviors.


One of the clues that can really be useful that we may be encountering information that contradicts something erroneous (or oppressive) that we've learned is...you guessed it...feeling uncomfortable. Which...may also be a signal that we may be in the presence of something that we very much need to learn. Is it the case that we might need to move toward that which bothers or upsets us instead of away from it? Hmmm....

Friday, June 24, 2016

Strange things can happen..

...when you decide to go poking around into notions of socially constructed phenomena such as identities. This can get really weird really fast because these areas deal with thinking about how we build our notions of who we are and how we are.

What you say? I'm just me and that's who I am.

Not so fast...you being you didn't just "happen"...nor did me being me...or anyone else for that matter. Who I am or who I believe myself to be came about as a result of a negotiation (an ongoing negotiation that continues throughout the lifespan) between our inner experiential world and that big bad outer world that we all swim in. How we think we are versus how the world out there tells us we have to be (in order to be considered acceptable or ok or "normal"). You didn't think all that stuff just "happened" did you?

By negotiation I mean stuff inside us encountering stuff outside of us and our figuring out how to navigate and exist and balance our inner desires and preferences and conceptualizations with the outer pressures and conceptualizations that we're all subjected to.

For instance, a couple of the clusters of stuff we all encounter in U.S. culture comes to us via those ways of being that have to do with which racial identity we're assigned and which gender identity we're assigned. Those are pretty much handed to us and we (generally) don't have much choice in the matter. What we have to figure out is how to reconcile them (somehow) with how we feel or perceive ourselves to be and with how to operate in the world in such a way that we can, sort of, be ourselves within those gender and racial roles that we're stuck with.

I'm mostly wrestling with gender identity here...not that other aspects of being (race, for instance) aren't powerful and always present...but here I'm sort of ignoring (because I'm not smart enough to try to think about all of it all at the same time, but all of it at the same time is how it happens) other elements and focusing on gender role or identity.

If you don't think you're handed a gender role and pretty much forced (by forced I mean that if you try to ignore that role or violate that role you will face some fearsome consequences) to adhere to it then...if you're gendered as a male...try this experiment. Go buy yourself some dresses and/or skirts and...changing nothing else about yourself...start trying to wear those articles of clothing and go through your daily routines out there in the world...like going to work and such. Watch what happens...I betcha you'll find all kinds of pressures being applied to you to knock it off. Folks will probably start behaving very differently around you and they are also likely to dramatically change their perceptions of you...mostly not for the better either. You might lose your job, your friends...heck...you might have physical violence directed toward you. People get really really excited about this stuff...some to the point of being willing to harm you if you make them too nervous or upset their expectations. 

We all get messages about how to "perform" our gender identity/role from birth onward...all the time and in all kinds of ways. And...often (probably always in some way or other) there is a mixture of race and gender messages directed towards us. Here's one graphic I found that theoretically is "universal" in terms of a message about being a "real" man but it actually is racial too. Why is it racial...well...some groups of folks don't generally have as much body hair (Native Americans for instance) as others but this graphic implies being a "real" man means having lots of facial hair.


See what I mean? The fact is I have little facial hair and absolutely no chest hair...which means I'm not a "real" man...right? According to the message in the graphic I'm not a "real" man. To me, that's silly. But...silly or not...stuff like this is astonishingly powerful and consequential. If you don't believe me, and your gender role is male...go ahead and try the experiment I mentioned before and see what happens. Actually...don't...because you might get hurt and I wouldn't want that to happen. Do a thought experiment instead...imagine wearing a skirt and imagine the reactions you might get. That's safer.

I've been thinking about all this stuff for some time now...actually I've been thinking about the gender stuff for a long time. Partially because of what I did professionally...back when I was doing professional stuff. I did psychotherapy for a long time and I quickly realized that you really can't do psychotherapy very well if you buy into the "real" man crap very strongly because "real" men are expected to be rather stupid about emotions and feelings and such. And...you are not going to be very skilled at psychotherapy if you're ignorant about feelings.

One of my first encounters with this awareness was having it pointed out to me that men have a much harder time learning the skills of psychotherapy than do women...because...women are much more familiar with and much more practiced at dealing with feelings than are men.

Guys have much more to learn...initially anyway...than do women. It isn't that guys can't learn the necessary skills...it's just that they have to make much bigger and more encompassing changes than do women mainly because of the messages they've gotten about what/how to be a "real" man. Men often have to learn to adjust/modify their notions about gender identity in addition to learning new skills in order to become a half-way competent psychotherapist...women much less often have to adjust their gender identity notions when learning these skills.

What's become much more apparent to me about this "man" stuff over the past couple of years as I've wrestled with living vegan and with struggling with the implicit racial biases that my culture has taught me is that...much akin to how "whiteness" has mostly to do with being oppressive so does "man" stuff have to do mostly with being oppressive. What a bunch of crap...jeez.

Consider this graphic. Agree with that?


Sounds pretty snazzy, eh? Five years ago I probably would have seen this and thought...hey...good stuff. Now...not so much. Think about it...It's all very well if you're a member of a dominant or powerful group and there's little risk associated with your being honest and straightforward...but...what if you're not a member of a dominant group. What if, for example, you were Jewish and living in Germany in 1943...would you run out and tell the Gestapo that you were Jewish? Because you're being a "real" man and you are being honest and you don't want to be a "coward"?

I really had never connected all this "honesty" stuff with oppression but it actually has a tremendous amount to do with who has power and who doesn't. It seems to be that the more social power you possess then the fewer negatives there potentially are for being "honest". Maybe it has almost nothing to do with being a "man" but has much more to do with power. Hmmm.

That statement in the graphic...which is presenting itself as a universal sort of thing is actually profoundly influenced by context...by identity...by assignment to a  racial group and by what's going on in the context of the society that someone lives in than it has to do with a "universal" truth. 

If a situation is that you will be killed if you're honest but you might live if you are deceitful...and (let's say) your deceit harms no one...then you're a "coward" if you lie? Gimme a break...that's deplorably simple minded and shallow...and seriously misleading. 

Don't misunderstand...I suspect honesty is probably a good thing...I value it...but...the consequences for engaging in honesty are thoroughly intertwined with your social identity and with your society and what is going on in that society at a particular time. Any thoughts about "honesty" that ignores those factors and just holds out "honesty" as a universal sort of value that applies to everyone (or "real" men) the same way, in all circumstances and at all times, is sort of goofy. It's much more complex and convoluted than the graphic suggests.

What does being a "real" man have to do with being vegan? Based on my own experience both personally and online...it's my impression that women who live vegan far outnumber men who are vegan. By a big amount...my guess would be at least 5 women are vegan for every 1 man who is vegan. Presuming that ratio is semi-accurate...why the big difference? Think about some of the messages that we get about how to be a "real" man...you're supposed to be tough, strong, stupid about feelings, willing to ignore others in order to get what you want and on and on and on.

Read Carol Adams book to learn more about the weird mixing that our culture engages in regarding being vegan and sexual identity.

Being vegan is very much intertwined with many of the messages that we get about how to be a "real" man...and most of those messages about being "real" men ooch us in the direction of not living vegan.

This social construction stuff is a heck of a lot more complex than you might think. I'm glimpsing, somewhat, that maybe most, if not all, of these socially constructed positions and identities have much more to do with power than they have to do with any "difference".

I've just touched on a few aspects of it here...you can think about your own experiences of how you've navigated your sexual identity and I suspect you'll quickly see that there's very little of it that's straight forward and uncomplicated...and you might notice that it has much more to do with power than you've previously thought.

Note: I've written as if there are only two sexual identities...that's what our culture tells us anyway...I'm quite aware that's false...the gender binary stuff is part of the wacky way oppressive cultures work. I know it's much more complicated than the way I've presented it here so please excuse my omissions and/or failures at being accurate. This stuff is very very complex.  

Friday, June 17, 2016

I will miss him.

He was unfailingly pleasant and polite...always welcoming to humans and also courteous and gentle with his bond mate and brother Speckles.

Walter J. was one of the first bunnies I became acquainted with when I started visiting Heartland Rabbit Rescue on a regular basis...that's been around 7 years now...so I'd known Walter for a long time.

He died some days back and I miss him. He was a very special bunny (as they all are) and he was one of those kind of Earthlings that just made you smile when you saw him.

Baby Walter J.

Jeannie, the director of Heartland, posted this picture of a young Walter J. on her facebook page and it shows a little of (as well as a photo can) the essence of this beautiful and special bunny.  Mother Earth is lessened by his loss...bye Walter J.

I miss you and thank you for having been here and for being you.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Voting with women of color...

is a modest change that I can and will make. It is so simple and so obvious that I'm still rather flummoxed at my failure to consider it before now.

Maybe the obviousness of it exemplifies the way invisibility works because it certainly...now anyway...seems incredibly apparent to me. I've never seen it presented anywhere else...maybe it was and I missed it...but it seems incredibly important...and easy...and way under publicized as a path for white men who are anti-racist and anti-misogynist. 

This little graphic I saw perfectly illustrates a fact that has been obvious to me for a long long time and that I've struggled with and worried over how to counter it.

Yup...the figure on the far right drives most of the human caused harm and horror that afflicts mother Earth. And...I'm one of the group represented by that figure.

What can I do to counter some of this awful truth?

Well...I can do the work necessary to determine who or what women of color support in any election and make sure I cast my vote in accordance with their wishes.

Zip zoop...in one act I opt out of using my vote to support white privilege and male privilege.

I realize this is a small thing...and I realize that at times it might be problematic (for instance the preferences of women of color might run counter to what I perceive to be the best stance for Earthings who aren't human beings) but...all in all...this seems to me to be an obvious...and just...thing to do. It sure beats the heck out of not doing this.

Why didn't I think of this before now? Jeez.

One sad and almost funny thing happened when I shared this notion in a facebook group I belong to that's ostensibly devoted to countering racism. A male (I think he's racialized as white...but I'm not certain) saw my suggestion and told me that if I really understood white supremacy and misogyny then I wouldn't need any poll to tell me what women of color preferred...I would just "know" and that polls were oppressive and misleading anyway.

Look...one thing I've become thoroughly convinced of over the past couple of years is that we're all subjected to relentless social conditioning that supports both white supremacy and male supremacy (as well as human supremacy) and that stuff is incredibly effective at screwing up perceptions and understandings and comprehensions. At least it has played hell with mine. So...I don't trust my own judgement in many situations...especially those involving race and sex...hence my desire to look at some external reference like a poll or something.

His assertion that polls are flawed is likely true in many instances...but...my judgement is just as suspect and also and probably more so. I've seen many polls where the preferences of women of color have run counter to the preferences of the majority...especially they have often run counter to the preferences of white people...therefore...I will use them (because I don't have anything better) as a proxy for my judgement.

I refuse to fall into the trap of thinking I "know" what women of color prefer.

I fear that the man who pooh poohed my idea of using polls is way over estimating the excellence of his judgement if he thinks he "knows" what women of color prefer in an election (notwithstanding his racial uniform). I fear he is obliviously asserting male privilege that's he's been relentlessly socialized to support. 

He's not a woman of color nor am I and it seems really really dubious that a man "knowing" what women of color prefer where that knowing runs counter to what a (reputable) poll suggests is (to me anyway) an exercise of male privilege via the absurd meme of "I know what women want" of "I know what's best for women". I don't have that kind of perceptiveness and I am fairly sure he doesn't either. Maybe he does...if so more power to him but I definitely do not so I will look to informational sources outside of myself.

Obviously aligning my vote with women of color is only one thing I can do to counter or resist oppression...there's lots more for me to do...but...it's a step in the direction of lending support to those who are oppressed...and...as far as I can see it does not recreate oppression elsewhere. Good stuff.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Recreating oppression

I've become aware that one of the major factors that perpetuates the operation of oppression in societies is how incredibly often well intentioned people who believe they are advocating for an oppressed group...will...inadvertently or carelessly or obliviously (or un somethingly)  engage in activities that are harmful or oppressive to some other group. The various campaigns that PETA has engaged in over the years is an obvious example of this narrow obliviousness of caring or of comprehension.


I've been guilty (and probably will be again in the future, sigh) of this sort of warped lack of comprehension...it almost appears as if we believe that if our intentions and/or goals are good or desirable or "pure" then somehow whatever path we take to move toward those ends is automatically exempt from being harmful or dubious or undesirable.

If my intentions or goals are pure or good...then I can do no wrong in pursuit of them. When I write it out...it looks goofy as hell...but...all you have to do is look around and see instances of this type flawed detachment driving behavior occurring all over the place both currently and historically

Come to think of it...that sort of disconnect between saying and doing may be a core foundational organizing principle of this nation. We are taught to go into a reverential swoon at the words "All men are created equal" while ignoring that these words were written and promoted by white men who were diligently engaged in murdering and stealing land from the original human inhabitants of the North American continent and also engaging in the practices of human enslavement. While their words were inspiring...their behavior was appalling.

They seemed to have good intentions and goals...so...let's just ignore their actual behavior.

Here's one source that documents that 41 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence enslaved human beings...not to mention their support of and participation in an ongoing war of conquest and theft against the original human inhabitants of this continent. 

That's almost 75% of those who avowed that "all men are created equal" were saying this while enslaving human beings. And yet...we're taught to almost deify these white men...these "founding fathers"...we're taught to revere people based on what they say....not what they do. That's our "heritage". 

I've written in various posts in this blog about my adventures in trying to advocate for veganism without being disrespectful or oppressive toward other beings. I've personally experienced the blowback that can occur when triggering white anxieties about "goodness". Instead of struggling to comprehend what was happening, some "good" white vegans summarily dismissed me from a vegan group.

White fragility is a very real and powerful dynamic that pervades U.S. culture. And...when it's triggered...really ugly things can happen. (A philosophy professor, Cori Wong, suggested that maybe there's an epistemology of ignorance associated with each system (or "ism") of oppression. I think she might be right and I suspect there is also a "fragility" syndrome associated with each system of oppression. Much more work needs to be done in enhancing understanding about these sorts of phenomena.)


It almost seems like we sort of believe that pursuing "good" in one area means it's impossible for us to behave horridly in pursuit of that "good". And...any suggestion that our pursuit of a "good" might be being done badly or poorly is occasion for outrage and indignation instead of a signal for time to do lots of thinking and contemplating. Here in the U.S. we seem (white people anyway) to be firmly committed to talking one way and behaving in another way.

This whole weirdness of recreating oppression while endeavoring to interrupt it deeply perplexes me. Not that I think there's some mythical place or way of being wherein someone can exist in pure "innocence" or anything...but...jeez. Way way too often efforts to prevent or interrupt or reduce oppression magically morphs into recreating oppression in some other form or fashion. Ought not our goal to be stop or resist oppression without engaging in oppression against other victims?

Maybe we have big problems doing that not by accident but rather because we're carefully taught to be unaware of this sort of process?

So very often the recreation of oppression is absolutely unnecessary and avoidable...with some (sometimes easy but sometimes difficult) thought and consideration. But...that fact seems invisible to us. 

For those of us who've been immersed in the 'white' viewpoint and have benefited from that set of systemic operations...struggling to opt out of it can be difficult and challenging...but...it is also true that clarity of comprehension often entails much effort and difficulty no matter what the task or goal might be.

Here's one set of observations that seem very important if I'm interested in opposing harm without recreating harm. I have some thoughts about the main principle involved here (those with power not having the standing to indicate what's not oppressive) that I'll elaborate more on in another post.
These observations seem pretty straight forward...but...they reference a way of understanding oppression that I had never thought seriously and deeply about. In retrospect...and...part of the reason I had never thought about it was because my culture absolutely doesn't encourage me to pay attention to these factors.

In fact, my culture tends to punish anyone who tries to implement these sorts of ways of comprehending and behaving. Demonizing and/or blaming the victim(s) of oppression seems to be a core feature of American society...especially if interrupting and/or ameliorating that oppression entails a re-evaluation of what's considered to be "normal". Wikipedia's entry on victim blaming contains this assertion:  "Victim blaming is common around the world, especially in cultures where it is socially acceptable and advised to treat certain groups of people as lesser."

Note that "socially acceptable and advised" is just another way of saying "normal". Victim blaming is common in cultures where some groups are viewed as "lesser"...and...where other groups are viewed as dominant or "superior".

If I slap your face...I'm not the one who get's to decide whether the slap hurt you or not...that's your call...not mine. Jeez. That's not hard to understand but I have to admit...depressingly...that looking at things from that viewpoint simply eluded me way way too often. The breadth of my obliviousness staggers me at times. 

When I look at the kind of messaging that goes on in U.S. society...I realize that we are definitely not taught to think that way...at all. Indeed...we are encouraged to believe if we say the right words...and/or belong to a dominant group...then if our behavior is deplorable or atrocious it should be ignored and/or defended.

What kind of bizarre crap is that?