Friday, February 27, 2015

Twice a week

for the past several years I have furnished food and water for a feral cat colony here in Norman. The location is several miles from my house and driving to and from there has become a routine event.

Yesterday was a usual trip except I was stopped at a red light and was looking at the back of the automobile in front of me. The license plate looked like this.

At the bottom you'll notice the phrase "Native America". You see these tags everywhere here but yesterday's sighting, why I don't know, made me think about where I was going and what I was doing and the meaning of the phrase on the tag.

Oklahoma was a part of the North American continent designated as a place to stick a bunch of the inconvenient Indigenous Peoples from the east who were in the way of Europeans who wanted their land. It was essentially a large concentration camp and, as an added bonus, it was far away from where the tribal peoples lived in the east and the journey served as a death march...hence the  Indigenous population could be moved out of sight and reduced in size all at the same time. This was such a successful maneuver that Adolph Hitler supposedly modeled evacuations of his death camps, when they were in danger of being liberated, on this idea.

Looking at the tag, on my way to water and feed some refugees (from Africa...the original homeland of the ancestors of the feral cats) here in this place called Oklahoma, I thought about the sick craziness of it all. Had the Hitlerites won, they could have fashioned a license place in occupied Poland with Treblinka across the top and Jewish Poland across the bottom and everyone could have pretended that it was wonderful and thoughtful to have fashioned a salute to those fondly remembered peoples and such. Something that would warm the strange and sad heart of any sociopath.

But...I live in the former dumping ground for the unwanted called Oklahoma where we white people (and many of the children of the victims too, those whose minds have been thoroughly colonized) simply turn truth inside out, upside down and pretend that opposites are truth and slap a phrase on a car tag and pretend it's all hunky dory. Whee. Swimming in a sea of current and past horror and pretending it's a resort.

I've not confirmed that Mr. Kundera actually said this, it doesn't matter, in a way, because it stands as a marker to a truth regardless of who originated it.

See the ancestors of the colonists? See the ancestor of the slaves? See the white allies of the ancestor of the slaves? See the white men standing? They're upset because the child of the kidnapped and brutalized who were brought here by their grandfathers is intruding in a place where the white men don't want them to be. The white men have forgotten (?) all that history, all those truths, all that horror...or maybe not. Maybe they haven't forgotten...maybe they just don't care. I hope it's because they've forgotten...I hope that very much.

You can do something to struggle against forgetting, against invisibling, against horror...by living vegan and advocating for social justice for all living beings. Just be prepared to get smacked in the face with lots of reminders of forgetting and distorting...like car tag slogans.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Call for Project Intersect submissions.

For those who might be interested in contributing to efforts to increase understanding of the effects of violence on earth, animal and feminist liberation...here's your opportunity.

You can read more about this here or on facebook. I know some seriously talented writers occasionally read this blog...here's your chance to contribute to an effort to de-invisible the plague of violence that we human animals seem to embrace so freely yet minimize so diligently either by pushing it out of awareness or by glorifying it as "necessary".

Here's a link that will provide some more detailed information about the connections between harming animals who aren't human and the violence directed toward human female animals.

So...get started on your submission and thank you for living vegan.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Invisibling 101.

Someone posted this video on FaceBook with all the usual oohs and ahhs about cute baby humans and so on and so forth. Babies are cute...all babies, not just baby humans...but in this video there's more than just cuteness going on.
video
She's using her little book and she's singing a song many U.S. American children learn to sing when they are small. The song is titled Old MacDonald Had A Farm and a version of the simple repetitive lyrics can be found here. It might interest you to know that this little ditty has versions for multiple cultures and languages, Chinese and Italian and Danish and and (15 or 16 languages) so it is a multi-cultural children's song. (here's a link to the video in case it doesn't show up in your browser)

What's much more interesting (tragically) is that this one of the ways in which that ubiquitous shaper and arbiter of understanding and human consciousness...culture...goes about teaching small humans to look but not see.

This is a song about a death camp for Earthlings who don't happen to be human Earthlings. The version linked above references Chicken beings, Turkey beings, Cow beings and Dog beings...and one Human being (MacDonald). The only two beings in the song who are probably not destined to be killed at some point (and eaten) are the Dog Being (contingent on cultural practice) and the Human being. The others are surely victims destined for death at the hands of "Old MacDonald". The song doesn't mention this. Ownership of living beings is implied and simply presented as a given.

Contrast the learning going on in that video with the very different sort of happening with a small child that's present in the following video.
video

This little boy is making connections. He says he likes the animals "standing up" and he doesn't like them to die and he doesn't make invisible the fact that if we eat them they have to die. There are two nifty humans in the second video...any parent who tears up because her child expresses caring and concern for animals is...well...the little boy is delightful and he has a pretty snazzy mom (although I might want to have a conversation with her about what she puts on her child's plate). You might have to maximize the second video to full screen size if you need to read the English captioning. (here's a link to his video in case it doesn't show up in your browser)

The little girl is younger than the small boy...we don't know if in the future some conversation similar to that we see in the second video will occur in her life or not. Whether it does or doesn't...she's being presented with cultural invisibling via that song. And...she'll be presented with various other invisiblings over and over and over as she grows. Invisiblings about women, about men, about race, about mother Earth, about her sister/brother Earthlings and on and on.

She may sink into the mostly invisibled sea of participation in the onslaught of oppression and death and destruction toward other beings and herself and marginalized human animals and mother Earth that surrounds her and become oblivious to it all. If that's the case with her...we can imagine some scenario 20 years in the future where some vegan de-invisibles her complicity in horror and maybe she comprehends and begins to look and see or maybe she just gets angry at the "weird" vegan for upsetting her.

We don't know how life and consciousness will play out for either of these small children...but we do know the little girl is apparently being taught to be blind and to not see and the small boy is struggling (and succeeding) to see...to make connections and thereby drawing compassionate conclusions.

By the way, if you don't think adults have their own versions of Old MacDonald's Farm...think again...they're called commercials. Brief, attention catching, often cute and/or humorous invisiblings that subtly (or not so subtly) shape and direct our seeing (and not seeing).  Just as the song focuses on the happy and the fun (and invisibles the horror), so do commercials invisible that which they don't want you to comprehend and think about and see. One source estimates that U.S. Americans are exposed to an estimated 200 to 3,000 advertising messages per day. Every day. That's a lot of invisibling. Lots of "information" that distorts and omits and hides instead of enhancing comprehension. And that's just the commercials.

The next time you get perturbed over the seeming lack of intelligence and/or comprehension and/or wisdom exhibited by human animals...remember this...the U.S. culture, especially the commercial/business part of it, has little or no interest in intelligent and insightful comprehension of the world or the workings of the world or of the beings who live in that world. Nope. It does not.

In fact...if you want to get really really nervous take a moment and think about what elements or institutions or organizations there are in the culture that are devoted to and committed to increasing comprehension and compassion and insight and understanding and then compare how many of those there are to the number of elements or institutions or organizations there are which are devoted to some sort of invisibling and/or distorting and/or hiding. Let me know the counts you come up with...how many for the first group versus how many for the second group?

While you're doing that...please don't invisible our sister/brother Earthlings...live vegan.



Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Invisibling.

Here is a Patriarchal / White Supremacy timeline of the United States. (PWS).

A couple of definitions will be useful.

Patriarchy: a family, group, or government controlled by a man or a group of men.

White Supremacy: a form of racism centered upon the belief, and promotion of the belief, that white people are superior to people of other racial backgrounds and that therefore whites should politically, economically and socially dominate non-whites. A PWS (patriarchal white supremacist) nation means a nation ruled by white males. This ruling can be implemented and/or maintained by cultural practices or laws or both. Laws can be implemented and/or enforced by various governments ranging from the smallest (a town for instance) up to and including the federal government. If racism or sexism isn't specifically prohibited (with penalties for violation that are rigorously enforced) then cultural/social behaviors and/or legal implementations of racism and/or sexism tend to occur.

1526      PWS:  (legal and cultural PWS) First African Slave on North American Continent, genocide toward Native Americans already underway) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_American)
1776 – 1526 = 250 years

1776      PWS: (legal and cultural PWS) Only white male landowners can vote. (note, only 6% of the population was allowed to vote for George Washington as president)
1865 – 1776 = 89 years

1865     PWS:  Civil war, theoretical ending of African American (black) slavery.
1920 – 1865 = 55 years

1920     PWS: Women given the right to vote, no other protections, some elements of legal patriarchy end, cultural patriarchy remains in force.
1965 – 1920 = 45 years

1965    Federal guarantee for all People of Color re their voting rights, discrimination legally ended for race, sex. (the civil rights act of 1964 ended legal discrimination based on race, sex, in public accommodations and in job compensation, the voting rights act of 1965 ended legal voting discrimination)
2015 – 1965 = 50 years

2015  current year
2015 – 1526 = 489 years since first Black slaves arrived on the continent.
1865 – 1526 = 339 years Blacks were enslaved.
1965 – 1526 = 439 years legal/cultural white supremacy on this continent
1865 – 1776 = 89 years Black slavery legally existed in the formal U.S. nation.
1920 – 1776 = 144 years the U.S. was a legal white supremacist patriarchy.
1965 – 1776 = 189 years the U.S. was a legal white supremacist nation.
2015 – 1965 = 50 years legally guaranteed (dwindling since 1980) voting rights and non-discrimination due to sex and race.

2015 – 1776 = 239 years the U.S. nation has formally existed.

339/489 = 69% of entire length of time Blacks have been on the continent, they were enslaved.

89/239 = 37% of time the U.S. has formally existed, Black Americans were legally enslaved.

189/239 = 79% of the time the U.S. has existed it was legally a white supremacist nation.

144/239 = 60% of the time the U.S. has formally existed it was legally a patriarchy and white supremacist nation. Culturally this nation remains a patriarchal white supremacist nation even though many legal implementations designed to enforce these oppressive practices have been taken off the books.

50/239 =  21%    The United States has existed for 239 years, only since 1965 has it allowed/protected full participation in elections by People of Color and prohibited public discrimination based on sex and/or race. Note however that residents of U.S. Territories are considered ‘citizens’ but are still not allowed voting (about 5 million people…e.g. Guam, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico).

This nation was a patriarchal white supremacy by law and culture, for 60% of its existence and once women gained the vote it remained a white supremacist nation, both legally and culturally, for another 45 years or 79% of its whole formal lifespan.These incontestable facts are pretty much invisible to...guess who? The group that benefits the most from them, white men...and...to a lesser extent, white women. Most members of the groups who get shafted, Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, pretty much everyone identified as belonging to People of Color are much more knowledgeable about these truths (if they haven't bought into the invisibling too much).

When I experienced that transversion to a vegan awakening from the false dream of kindness and compassion toward our sister/brother Earthlings I never ever would have thought it would end up with prompting a struggle toward awakening from the dream called the "land of the free".

Being able to begin to make the connections between the food that's eaten and the confinement and suffering and death of living beings who love their lives and feel pain and fear and joy means to make visible and felt and comprehended that which custom and culture renders invisible. Being able to make the connections between being an 'American' (white) and the enslavement and suffering and death of living beings who happen to have a particular skin color means to make visible that which custom and culture (and 'patriotism') makes invisible (mainly to those who are white).

Pick your oppression, classism, abelism, sexism, racism, speciesism and more and you will find that invisibling is a central feature in the privileges and the oppressions associated with them. In plain language, oppression means some group is getting shafted and privilege means some group is reaping benefits from that shafting. There's a useful elaboration of these kinds of ugly exchanges here.

If these sorts of crappy goings on were obvious then all kinds of chagrins and guilts and objections might be raised and they might be stopped (and the benefits would end)...so...they're kept sort of 'out of sight, out of mind' by invisibling them. That way the less vicious perpetrators get to avoid feeling bad about themselves and the victims may accept the shafting as "that's just the way life is" or if they don't succumb to the invisibling process and accept their shafting with the good grace of keeping quiet about it...then they're ignored and/or discounted and/or ridiculed and/or accused of lying and/or accused of being "too sensitive" and on and on. Invisibling helps make all that possible.

The disconcerting and astonishing thing about making those connections is that they are obvious...they aren't locked away in some secret box...they're out in plain sight but not seen/comprehended. None of these facts about human history in this hemisphere or in the United States are hidden. They're right out there and easily accessed...heck most are even taught in the public schools...albeit not with quite the specificity and emphasis that is in this post.

"Invisibling" is an insidiously effective tool of self deceit and one that this culture (and other cultures too) seems to invoke with great competence. It makes participation in evil and horror appear to be an innocent act of pleasure (eating) or the celebrating of the oppressions of racism and sexism to appear to be a virtue (patriotism). That which is terrible and deplorable is transformed into something 'natural' or good or fun or normal or inevitable or 'necessary' or 'common sense'.

Norman, Oklahoma, where I live, has an annual "89er" day parade that celebrates the land run that resulted in the founding of the city of Norman. It's made to be fun for the children but, the white people who "settled" the land aren't called invaders...which they were...and the land they "settled" was taken from the  Native Americans by force and violence or threat of violence, but that's not mentioned.

To help with the invisibling process, the land that was "settled" by the "pioneer 89ers" was called "unassigned lands". I've participated in protests by groups of Native Americans at this parade where we held signs shaming the parade participants for celebrating theft. Small children look shocked and adults look angry. It's not nice to de-invisible oppression. Generally this isn't appreciated by the oppressors or their descendants.

In a bit of inadvertent irony (maybe accidental),the KKK  has sometimes referenced itself as the "invisible empire". Jeez, truth comes through occasionally even when it isn't intended.

A previous post referenced this invisibling phenomenon and another post flopped around with the dismay of trying to find some sort of solid ground to stand on...ground that doesn't turn out to be squashing someone else. It's tricky stuff...and very upsetting and horrifyingly disillusioning. If you feel brave and secure in your virtuous ideas about the "land of the free", then you won't fear  triggering some of your own invisibling mechanisms by reading this blog post. And, in case you want to consider white U.S. Americans as anomalous, this information will make that difficult.

If you're vegan, you've likely had the experience of pointing out the invisibled horror and oppression of our sister/brother Earthlings to someone who's not vegan and to whom that horror remains hidden (even though it is obvious to anyone who looks)...what usually happens? Do they respond with cheers and joy and thanks to you for helping them see the obvious? Do they look stricken and immediately decide to go vegan? (actually, I've had several reactions akin to that...but...each came from a person who was very very tuned toward not harming others) I suspect that's usually not the reaction that's encountered. More often it's disbelief and/or denial and/or indignation and/or offense, maybe even anger and/or outrage or scoffing and/or scornful distancing or or or. Welcome...you just encountered some of the forces of invisibling.

On the other hand, point out an invisibled oppression to someone who's a member of the victimized group...voila...quite often they get it pretty quickly if they didn't already know it. I'm mostly referencing human groups here. Not always though, sometimes they've internalized the oppression and side with the shaftor. As when a woman in an abusive relationship says she caused the abuse.You could argue the case that Clarence Thomas (the supreme court justice) often exemplifies the effects of internalized oppression because he seems to think much like an oppressor, not like the member of a victimized group.

If you wanted to point out something like oppression to animals that don't happen to be human ones, go to a pet store that sells birds and start opening cages...the birds will probably quite quickly see the opportunity to escape their confinement. It's a similar principle...but...do realize that the oppressor in this instance (the employees or the manager) will react quite differently. See the previous paragraph for a listing of the types of invisibling maintenance emotions/reactions that might be provoked. Maybe that's a poor example because, usually, our sister/brother Earthlings don't much buy into the invisibling stuff...they recognize oppression immediately and you can talk all day long and they won't buy that it isn't oppression or that it's natural or fun or or or. They don't like it. Period. And they'll usually escape it if possible. (of course there will be exceptions)

While these folks haven't created an Implicit Association Test for speciesism yet, they have put together a test that seems to be able to point to how extensively negative racial stereotypes have come to colonize unconscious processing. If you would like to know more about some of your own invisibling of racial biases, this test might interest you. Be forewarned however, you might discover something about yourself that is disturbing.

We all are born into human societies and cultures that we did not create. For that we are not responsible. But, we are responsible to struggle to awaken ourselves from the invisibling of our culture that supports and maintains oppression. If we fail to do that then we fail ourselves and we become, albeit unwittingly, collaborators with the forces of oppression. That's not ok. The sad and distressing truth is that being neutral pretty much isn't an option and living vegan is only one part (it's a huge one though) of a lifelong and difficult journey.









  

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Vine Sanctuary

is "an LGBTQ-run farmed animal sanctuary that has worked to build bridges between the animal advocacy and LGBTQ liberation movements." Pattrice Jones is one of the founders and their advocacy for our sister/brother Earthlings (including those who happen to be human) is superlative.



Ms. Jones has authored two books and I'm very familiar with the first one titled Aftershock and can highly recommend it. I haven't read the second one yet but I will soon. It is titled The Oxen at the Intersection.

On February 3rd this entry was posted:
Welcome to the VINE Sanctuary poll of animal-friendly LGBTQ people. VINE is an LGBTQ-run farmed animal sanctuary that has worked to build bridges between the animal advocacy and LGBTQ liberation movements. By taking this poll, you will be helping us to learn more and to adjust our priorities and strategies accordingly.

This is a poll for animal lovers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, or otherwise “queer.” Non-LGBTQ folks can still help us out by sharing the link to this poll with their LGBTQ friends. Animal haters can get out of here.
Please take the time to fill out the questionnaire if it is applicable and if not please help by sharing the link wherever you can. Thank you....and thanks for living vegan.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Reference points...

sometimes are difficult to recognize. The past few weeks have been as tumultuous and as disorienting...in many ways...as was the onset of the initial steps toward an anti-speciesist consciousness (that's another formulation of what is neatly meant by the word vegan).

While having the invisible suddenly become visible sounds, in theory, as if it would make navigation easier, in fact, it initially is rather disorienting and disturbing and bewildering. A paradox of sorts. One wherein seeing and comprehending and understanding more means less certainty and greater confusion instead of the opposite.

The visibling that precedes opting for veganism as a way to decrease participation in oppression entails upset and grief and shame and anger and revision of self-concept and revision of perspectives toward ones self and toward other human animals and animals who are victimized by we humans (and much more). Some of that turmoil seems to be captured in this bit of writing.

“I realized that it was possible to simply go through life totally oblivious to the entire situation or, even if one realizes it, one can totally repress it. It is easy to fade into the woodwork, run with the rest of society, and never have to deal with these problems. So many people I know from home are like this. They have simply accepted what society has taught them with little, if any, question. My father is a prime example of this. . . . It has caused much friction in our relationship, and he often tells me as a father he has failed in raising me correctly. Most of my high school friends will never deal with these issues and propagate them on to their own children. It's easy to see how the cycle continues. I don't think I could ever justify within myself simply turning my back on the problem. I finally realized that my position in all of these dominant groups gives me power to make change occur. . . . It is an unfortunate result often though that I feel alienated from friends and family. It's often played off as a mere stage that I'm going through. I obviously can't tell if it's merely a stage, but I know that they say this to take the attention off of the truth of what I'm saying. By belittling me, they take the power out of my argument. It's very depressing that being compassionate and considerate are seen as only phases that people go through. I don't want it to be a phase for me, but as obvious as this may sound, I look at my environment and often wonder how it will not be.” p.100-101
When I first encountered this passage, I had to reread it and then reread it again because it seemed to, so very well, describe many of the elements of experience I encountered when breaking through to veganism. Yet, this passage doesn't come from writing about veganism, it is contained in a book about racism. The book is titled: Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D.

This quote, by someone described as a young white man from a very privileged background, is in a chapter titled "The Development of White Identity" and he's writing about his burgeoning awareness of the ubiquity and the horror of white supremacist racism. Now it maybe that I'm simply ignorant, but I've not encountered much writing about veganism that points out the similarities of disorientation - reorientation between developing an identity (for want of a better term) predicated on white supremacy and one predicated on human supremacy and the serious and frightening dislocations and disequilibrium associated with the de-invisibling of the privileges and oppressive dominance associated with each of those superior/inferior configurations...which might lead to subsequent development of a white anti-racist human identity in the first instance and development of a vegan (or anti-speciesist) human identity in the second instance.

So...this post is...a plea. It's quite likely that I'm simply ignorant and that mappings of the similarities of these processes has been done multiple times by many authors...it's just that I'm unfamiliar with them. Anyone pointing me to some sources will engender my deep and serious gratitude.

If this hasn't been done or has only minimally been attended to by those with much greater skills that are possessed by me...then...well...ouch. There appears to be profoundly fertile ground here for the enhancement of knowledge about the transitional processes involved in consciousness shifting to a vegan identity. Many many intelligent and sensitive and learned humans have devoted decades (centuries really) to writing about the social construct called race and about racism and more recently about sexism and feminism and other socially constructed identities that are platforms for oppression or victimization.

The little reading I've done about the topics of sexism, feminism, racism and other "isms" of oppression ("ism" essentially means system) indicates that a convergence of the similarities of the processes of construction and de-construction of human identities that support and maintain or oppose and dismantle oppressive behaviors and social institutions and practices is possible...and even relatively easy. As exemplified, in part, by the passage quoted above...that passage could be referencing someone who has become aware of the horrors we inflict on our sister/brother Earthlings and how totally unjustified and unnecessary such doings are rather than the fact that is referencing his burgeoning awareness of white supremacist driven racism.

It's likely not required that vegans re-invent the wheel regarding perspective shifting but rather as noted elsewhere in this blog, we can likely make use of work already done. For some thoughts about this, see here and here. If it is the case that all oppressions are much more similar than they are different then it is likely that the processes involved in moving toward an anti-oppressive stance are also similar and the primary differences involved are those of the identity of the oppressors and of the victims...not of the processes themselves.

So...please point me to some sources that might assist me in de-fogging myself...or...maybe I'm wandering into to la-la land and don't realize it. If that's true then help me out...but do it gently...I'm feeling sort of bruised (but excited) right now. Thanks.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Lewis Gompertz

I ran across his name early on in this strange and bewildering journey called living vegan. Yet little mention is made of him by vegans. Little, not none, because you can find writings about him here and here.

I was thoroughly impressed by him because the little bit I read made note of the fact that he refused to ride in carriages or ride on horses because he felt that was unjust. He was opposed to enslavement or the "use" of others for ones own benefit whether that 'other' was a human animal or any other variation of animal. He was a vegan before the word was created. What makes him even more remarkable is that he's pretty much the founder of the first official organization devoted to improving the lives of animals....the RSPCA. (at least he was from what I can tell and they trumpet on their website that they're proud to be the "oldest")

Mr. Gompertz should be much better known to vegans. His book about avoiding the oppression of animals was written in 1824. It's difficult to realize the profundity (and serious opposition to "normal" socially accepted behaviors) that he was advocating (and living). This was an era when human transportation and much labor performed for humans was done so by horses and oxen. He had to walk or to ride a bicycle to get around. Imagine going to lunch with him and you jump into your carriage or onto your horse and he says: "I'll meet you there, wait for me" and takes off walking. It makes me smile...good for him. Not only did he avoid eating animals or animal products...he refused to "use" them either.

And...this part is what is so tellingly terrible and wonderful at the same time is that he was driven out of that organization he started because he was "different".

In other words, he started an organization devoted to opposing the oppression of marginalized and relatively powerless beings simply because they were "different" and then he was driven away from participating in that organization because he was "different" and belonged to a group that was marginalized and relatively powerless. How bizarre is that? How terribly exemplary of our species. We aren't the "thinking animal", we are the "erring animal". If you need something to be messed up...give it to a human...if it can be screwed up...we'll manage it.

Mr. Gompertz was Jewish and a segment of Christians became concerned about his presence in the organization and his possible influence...big laugh...since he helped start the organization...and they forced him out.  

There's a lesson in this that we (human animals) still struggle with. Jeez, we still struggle with everything...or so it seems but most tellingly the obvious things. Like don't do what you say you don't want to do.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, I've been writing a bit lately about intersectionality (here and here) and the similarities of oppressions and...big wow...look at this...the human who apparently wrote the first complete book devoted to explaining why we should not oppress our sister/brother Earthlings was run out of the first official organization devoted to not oppressing animals (which he founded) because of oppression. The insanity of that exemplifies something so exquisitely true about our nature as a species that it makes my teeth hurt. We're, indeed, the zany species (and zany in a sad and terrible way).

All the isms of oppression...and they are myriad...breaking free from them in one area doesn't give you a pass for any other area. I'm struggling hard with all that right now and the other day when I received a copy of his book via interlibrary loan it struck me right in the face that the animal anti-oppression movement seemed to start right off with oppressing the founder of the first animal anti-oppression organization. Somehow that's fitting in that it exemplifies what a spooky bunch of beings we human animals are.

The only oppression worthy of being practiced is the oppression of oppression? As I said in my last post, it makes my head hurt. Maybe Rodney King expressed it best when he asked: "Can we all just get along?"



Friday, January 16, 2015

Aaaarrrgh...this stuff

makes my head hurt. Really it does. Having to re-evaluate "reality" and perceptions of what constitutes reality is for the young. Really it is...old people shouldn't have to do such disturbing and disorienting things. But...what can you do? When ya gotta, ya gotta.

Someone posted this graphic on one of the (way too many) groups that interest me on facebook.


That's pretty innocuous looking...and...there's truth in it. Usually anyone trotting out that response or reaction probably thinks they've ended the discussion right there because they've invoked one of the more holy shibboleths of contemporary U.S. American society that is used to squelch any and all objections and/or resistances to something said or done by an individual. It's a "personal choice" means like wow...you can't mess with that, can you? You have to "respect" someone's "personal choice", right? Fiddle with that and "gasp"...you might be interfering with someone's "freedom" (another U.S. American holy shibboleth that sounds as if it means something everyone knows and understands but actually, it turns out, differs completely from one person to the next).

Mr. Grillo elaborates on the problems with this "personal choice" meme, in this essay, for those who want to delve further into it. Most vegans have had this defense of "personal choice" thrown at them at one time or another and, if so, then Mr. Grillo's writing might be of interest.

This graphic resonated strongly with some notions that were written about in this essay by Robin J. DiAngelo titled "Why Can't We All Just Be Individuals?: Countering the Discourse of Individualism in Anti-Racist Education". For me to read (and half-way understand) her work required a lot of extra effort because she touches on concepts that are unfamiliar and/or unknown to me. Things like "theory of discourse" and "critical analysis" and "dominant discourse"...well, you get the picture. None of this vocabulary and/or concepts were familiar or comprehensible without doing a lot of digging. Whether they are accurately understood is still to be determined...but...I think I have the gist of them (hopefully) and it's all really rather mind-boggling.

Dr. DiAngelo, in her essay, makes the case that trotting out the "why can't we all just be individuals?" notion is a common counter to, or resistance to, or objection to, or an 'answer' to any presentation of the observation that we live in a white-supremacist laced society here in U.S. America. Being an "individual" has achieved the status of some magic invocation in its usage but the scary thing is, when you think about it, it means next to nothing in many contexts.

For instance...can you imagine a human being (an individual one) in a semi-comprehensible way without including all kinds of qualifications and/or specifications that belong to or are associated with that being? Is there such a thing as an individual human without a gender? Without an age? Without a language? Without a historical period in which they lived? Without a mother or father or family or society? Without life experiences? Without social narratives that they've been exposed to? Beyond the word individual meaning a singular instance of something or other (by that I mean one as opposed to two or more or unique) it really doesn't have much meaning at all without considering a myriad of other factors (gender, age, etc). What makes that word have intelligible meaning, beyond that of a single instance of something, is partially or sometimes completely invisible (unspoken, not specified or explicated).

Yet...we all (and I, oh so very much, include me) often trot out that word as if it meant something besides the notion of one...and we trot it out and use it as if it actually meant something when most of the meaning it has is obscured or hidden or invisible....and that hidden or invisible part is not made explicit. The specifics are not presented or considered and we just go blithely on yammering and talking as if we're making sense. When in fact what we're doing is obscuring...we're hiding things...we're trying to express something without saying it or even letting on that there's a whole world of meaning behind what we're saying...we're not going to even hint that that large and powerful meaning is present. In fact, we're often not even aware that this is what we're doing...because it is invisible to us too. Our culture/society/group told us to hide this (for various reasons) and we got the unspoken message (no one told us this explicitly) and we motor on as if we were being perfectly clear and open about what we're expressing or saying.

Look at the graphic above...the meme invoked..."personal choice" has all kinds of invisible factors associated with it...for instance in this particular invocation it is obscures and hides the fact that this particular "personal choice" is an act of violence and there is a victim. There is absolutely no difference between saying that "killing and then eating non-human animal "products" is a personal choice" versus saying "killing and then eating human animal "products" is a personal choice" outside of the species of the victim. Both refer to acts of violence and of eating dead body parts or excretions...the only difference being the identity of the victim.

You would have to be talking to a pretty strange person if they were to make the case to you that "personal choice" carried much weight in terms of behavior justification if they were talking about human animal victims...hence...it is the identity of the victim here that has all the meaning associated with it...not the "personal choice" meme. However, the "personal choice" notion is so potent that here it serves to obscure the fact that the identity of the victim is the significant factor...not the "personal choice" idea. Our culture essentially hypnotizes us to go into a fugue or daze when when we hear "personal choice" and we're supposed to say "oh, personal choice, then that's ok" when that one is trotted out. And...much more often than not...that's what's going on with the person that invokes the magical phrase "it's a personal choice". (Carol J. Adams has written about the invisibling of animals in her work too.)

And, I will have to admit, that when that "personal choice" thingee was first thrown at me by someone it brought me up short. I am, like each of you, partially a product of my culture and "personal choice" is a biggee in this culture and I am just as much a good little automaton as anyone else. I was stymied by the notion of "personal choice" at first because I had been taught to be blind and stupid when I encountered it. Then my thinker started up (it was off somewhere farting around like my culture had told it to) and I realized that the "personal choice" crap was nonsense. Hell, every action we take is, in some form or fashion, a "personal choice"...that's like saying when you do something it is a behavior. It's just words...not meaning...it's like saying abracadabra...it doesn't tell you anything. You have to look at the specifics, at the consequences, at the actions...all of that must be done for any meaningful sense to be achieved.

When we hear "personal choice" we're supposed to stop thinking and just accept it. Just as when we hear "why can't we all just be individuals". Both phrases are part of the discourse of dominance that creates and maintains our norms...both phrases have a myriad of unstated assumptions associated with them...invisible assumptions that serve to hide or obscure the non-dominant "other" and to maintain and sustain the dominant group's norms.

In the instance presented by Mr. Grillo, the dominant group being promoted is human animals...in the instance in Dr DiAngelo's paper the dominant group being promoted is white skinned human animals. The dominance is invisible, unspoken, not made explicit...mainly because if it is brought out into the open...well...questions might be asked...thinking might be done...changes might be made. And, those changes might mean some power or privilege loss for the dominant group...so...let's keep this stuff hidden so the peons and the peasants don't get restless or uppity.

Part of my purpose in writing it was to help me sharpen my thinking about all of it because it is quite new to me...especially the terminology but also the notion that "why can't we all just be individuals" is often a power play by the dominant white group. I had sort of waded through the "personal choice" meme on my own and figured out that it was some flim flam but I hadn't encountered the cultural jujitsu of the individuals thingee.

It is extremely useful to look at the work of the many folks who have done lots and lots and lots of thinking and investigating various oppressions. There is a tremendous amount of information out there and it is important to look and read and learn...it's also often discombobulating and staggering. But...as I said...when ya gotta, ya gotta.

It's not so bad though, if you're vegan, you're already somewhat familiar with being skeptical of your dominant culture. Well...I assure you that if you jump into digging into the work done on racism, sexism, abelism and so on...you'll become even more skeptical. Jeez...we're pretty messed up...not that I didn't know that already...it's just that we're much more pitiful than even I thought (and I thought we were pretty pitiful).

Monday, January 12, 2015

The "Civil" War.

The United States engaged in an internal war between citizens beginning in 1860 and ending in 1865. I was born only about 80 years after the end of that war...so this is not like ancient history...this war wasn't fought between Sparta and Athens several thousand years ago. The last (known) participant in that 'civil' war died several years after I was born...if I had known him I could have had a conversation with him.

This incredibly bloody conflict was over whether human animals could be considered the property of other human animals. Apologists for human slavery have tried to make the issue of "union" and "states rights" be placed at the center of the cause of the conflict but if you look at the reason behind those states wanting to leave the union you discover it was because they were afraid they were going to lose the "right" to legally own other humans. And the "states rights" referenced consisted of the "right" to own human beings as slaves.

"Incredibly bloody" refers to the fact that more than 2% of the population was killed in that war. In 1860 there were around 30 million people in the U.S., the civil war resulted in about 620,000 deaths, this compares with WWII where the U.S. had a population of about 142 million people and about 400,000 were killed...which works out to about .0028% of the population.

Why think about the civil war in context of WWII? Well, upon reflection, one of the major notions driving the Hitlerite dictatorship was that human animals could be enslaved and/or exterminated and had no "rights" just because they belonged to a particular group (neither was that kind of thinking unknown to the Tojo government of Japan). A big factor motivating the German/Japan governments was the notion that some human animals were better (or more worthy or whatever) than other human animals...depending on what group they belong to. That kind of thinking seems awfully similar to the thinking of the Confederate state governments.

WWII definitely isn't ancient history...and by the way...the U.S. was still practicing legal segregation while it was fighting the Axis powers. In other words, we were fighting against those advocating slavery while saying that some of our citizens were not worthy of some "rights" simply because they belonged to this or that group...but we didn't enslave them (hooray for us, I suppose).

It's all about the equality thing. We (those of us who are human animals) seem to have really serious difficulties with the idea that we (all human animals) are equal (in terms of our right to life, liberty and so on) to one another. Some of us are audacious enough to envision that equality notion (the right to life and liberty thingee) as applying to all living beings. We are called vegans.

And, for all of us who are vegan, it might behoove us to realize that we're on the side of a cause (equality of the right to live life freely for all living beings) that has prompted a lot of resistance when it was applied to just one group of animals (human ones), much less all animals.

It makes me wonder what might be in store for the future. It's obvious that human animals are willing to kill or be killed to enslave other human animals...that makes me wonder what they might be willing to do to continue to enslave non-human animals. It's sort of spooky.

So, for you who are vegan, the next time someone gets irate and/or upset at your advancing the notion of veganism...realize that you're encountering in some form or another the same kind of passionate resistance that prompted some awfully big and widespread and deadly human conflicts. A lot of human animals have killed a lot of other human animals over exactly these kinds of thinkings...and they did this killing very much in recent times. This all didn't happen long ago and far away.

So, if you thought veganism was just about being "nice" to our sister/brother Earthlings....you might want to think again. It's rather more serious and possibly deadly (and hell if I know why) than that.





Friday, January 2, 2015

It is 2015...

and I thought I start your new year with a few images.

A tattoo to consider:

Tattoo

I found this image to be seriously thought (and smile) provoking.

Hmmm...

As you make your way through your life, living vegan...do remember this image when you're feeling really really alone and realize that others have felt the same way.
Hooray for him.

And finally, anytime this year you find yourself feeling down and sad and want to maybe get a lift...bring this image up in your mind and you might find yourself smiling.
Imagine.

Enjoy your new year...and if you're living vegan, thank you. Remember that you're one of the good folks...even if it sometimes makes you feel really really alone (see previous image).

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The way I see it...

If you oppose racism, if you oppose sexism, if you oppose the strong victimizing the weak...and you aren't vegan...you have a gaping hole in your conceptual repertoire and you need to do some reading and thinking and observing of the world around you. Figure it out and you'll end up vegan.

If you don't (end up vegan) then there's a serious hitch in your figuring out process.

You're following a line of reasoning that leads to the logically accurate and correct conclusion that speciesism is comprised of exactly the same sort of destructive distortions/delusions and behaviors as are sexism and racism (and all the other 'isms' of harm)...only the victims are changed...but many good and true opponents of those systems of oppression and harm recoil and fall into a mental/emotional black hole when they arrive at speciesism. Vapor-lock kicks in when they encounter the challenge to the notion of human supremacy.

Look at this bit of writing.

It is possible to not be racist (in the individual sense of not perpetrating overtly racist acts) and yet at the same time fail to be antiracist (in the political sense of resisting a racist system). Being not-racist is not enough. To be a fully moral person, one must find some way to be antiracist as well. Because white people benefit from living in a white-supremacist society, there is an added obligation for us to struggle against the injustice of that system.

The same argument holds in other realms as well. Men can be successful at not being sexist (in the sense of treating women as equals and refraining from sexist behaviors) but fail at being antisexist if we do nothing to acknowledge the misogynistic system in which we live and try to intervene where possible to change that system. p.80

The Heart of Whiteness, Robert Jensen
We can easily modify that first paragraph (changes are underlined) in terms of actors and associated oppressive behavior. You can change the second paragraph yourself if you want...but I think you get the point well enough with just this example.

It is possible to not be speciesist (in the individual sense of not perpetrating overtly speciesist acts) and yet at the same time fail to be antispeciesist (in the political sense of resisting a speciesist system). Being not-speciesist is not enough. To be a fully moral person, one must find some way to be antispeciesist as well. Because human animals benefit from living in a human-supremacist society, there is an added obligation for us to struggle against the injustice of that system.


Oppressions are all the same dance of harm and hurt and destruction...only the dancers change from one type of oppression to another. And it's an ugly dance...one where even the ostensible "winners" are losers. The gratuitious harming of others inflicts misery on the victim and degrades the perpetrator...it's not a "win-win" nor is it a "win-lose"...it's a "lose-lose more" situation. Veganism offers the opportunity to approach a "win-win" situation...and only veganism offers this chance.

You are an oppressor, if you support speciesism, racism or sexism or any other version of victimization of the weak by the strong via violence or any other means. As an oppressor you are...whether you like it or not...the cause and driving force behind almost all of the self-inflicted problems human society has or creates (which is, arguably, the majority of the problems we have). Whatever positives you think about yourself as an oppressor...the unspeakable horror and misery you bear responsibility for far outweighs any tiny amount of "good" you think you might be doing or have done.

One definition for social justice reads: "Social justice is the ability people have to realize their potential in the society where they live."

Veganizing this results in a definition that reads: "Social justice is the ability sentient beings have to realize their potential in the society where they live." That seems fairly simple to grasp...all we need to do is leave our sister and brother Earthlings alone and let them work things out within their own societies. Leaving them alone means leaving their environment alone too.

Veganism is the logical end point of any striving toward social justice, even if the original goal was the unveganized definition...many of the prominent figures in the great surge of seekers toward social justice that began gathering momentum in the 1950s and on into the 1960s and early 1970s realized this and ended up vegan. (Cesar Chavez , Angela Davis, Coretta Scott King, and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz) This grouping (and there are others) of individuals were instrumental in the movements that advocated for Chicanos, African-Americans, Women's liberation and Native Americans.

Unless and until behaviors and attitudes that condone one (stronger) group oppressing and/or victimizing another (weaker) group are relegated to history...until then we human animals will remain not only our own worst enemy...but also the worst enemy of all living beings and of Mother Earth herself.

This truth seems self-evident...yet we obviously have a terrible time grasping this simple reality. Each human culture (some much more than others) deviates from this small simple truth. Each human culture spins ideas, stories, legends and myths that hide and distort this fact. Each human society turns away from this easily understood foundation for living and interacting with others. Each variant of equality denial (racism, sexism, nationalism, etc) rests on the often unspoken delusion underlying all of them...anthropocentrism or human supremacy.

Each human society resists (some much more frequently and persistently than others), ridicules, reviles and represses those who advocate for fairness and justice.

If your life is lacking in ridicule and resistance and instances of outright anger and hostility...then begin advocating for or promoting veganism. Greater excitement will be entering your experiential realm very soon. Pardon the sarcasm, but one of the more astonishing things I've encountered is the incredible resistance that pops up in seemingly "nice" people when they encounter the simple notion of justice associated with veganism. Seemingly 'rational' and kind humans often exhibit amazingly convoluted irrationalities when they encounter veganism. My own personal guesstimate is you're lucky if 1 out of 10 (and that's being generous) are able to fight through their cultural conditioning to a point where they can apprehend the justice inherent in a vegan way of living. Sadly, among even those few who comprehend the justice of veganism, even fewer still, then rouse themselves enough to pursue a vegan way of living...even when they acknowledge the awfulness of not doing so.

Living vegan is a requirement for a just and honorable way of being and many become upset or outraged at being asked to look at their desire to harm others or their complicity in the harming of others and their knowledge that this is an unjust way of being. We are profoundly prone to defend our "innocence" even when we are obviously and clearly un-innocent. Few of us are comfortable with harming others.

The level of resistance and avoidance and upset (and sometimes belligerence)  strongly suggests a hidden core of agreement overlaid with serious denial. We tend to become the most upset and irate (when we're engaging in denial) regarding things about which we have greater or lesser degrees of ambivalence or uncertainty.

Challenges to stances that we take or perspectives that we've assumed as a result of judicious and rational reasoning based on accurate knowledge of ourselves and the world around us do not...in general...result in upset and outrage when they are challenged. But...when we've assumed or simply taken viewpoints and/or sets of behaviors handed to us by our culture...and never really thought about them and their foundations/implications. Well...challenges to those can cause much turmoil and resistance...especially when they are faulty.

Someone would have to be a serious and deadly sociopath to not have some element of ambivalence about harming others...and most human animals...thank goodness aren't sociopaths. However, neither are most humans able to easily overcome cultural conditioning and strongly held social mores...and...as far as I know...all current human societies beat the drum, to lesser or greater degrees, of human supremacy...so part of the task of living vegan involves not only refraining from harmful actions but also resisting "normal" culturally accepted and encouraged behaviors.

Not only must we modify habits and behaviors...we must do so, most often, while getting greater or lesser amounts of pressure or enticements from society in general and other individual humans with whom we interact. It's sort of a double whammy kind of thing. When you think about it, it's stunning how often we make living and behaving justly (fairly) to be really really difficult. You would think it would be the reverse, wouldn't you?

Ok...go forth and quit harming...if you need help...let me know (leave a comment) and we'll see if we can figure out something. If you're living vegan already...go look in a mirror and give yourself a smile...you're worth smiling about.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Enjoy your solstice season...

Juli (my wife) worked and worked to get a photo of the boys suitable for this time of year. She finally came up with one she liked. (I got a hoot out of the boy on the right (Jon Jon) going behind the backdrop and trying to pull it down.)

Happy Solstice from Luigi Jr. and Jon Jon !
I did see some other images that seemed to convey the spirit of the season and here they are...enjoy your holiday(s) and thank you for living vegan!


I'm not sure the hat is welcome.

I don't know who these beings are...but I like the messages on their signs. Enjoy your vegan solstice!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Racism isn't funny...

Nor is using racism (disguised as humor and veganism) to make money. Pattrice Jones does a masterful job of calling out these racist efforts.

When I first ran across stuff about this phenomenon I was both amused and made uneasy by my amusement. I was naive enough initially to presume that these creators of "thug kitchen" were African American while at the same time apprehending that if they weren't their offerings were blatantly racist.

A post on this blog recently noted: "Any "ethical" movement that believes business (or capitalism) will assist it (except by accident) is in for a rude and sad-making awakening at some point. So keep your eyes open for the processes of subversion and redirecting of purpose."

The thug kitchen stuff perfectly illustrates this. Their purpose is to accumulate money...and they don't really care how they do it or who they harm in the process even as they cover their goal (profit) under the blanket of veganism.

What they present is racism being exhibited (for monetary gain) while attempting to hide it under two more acceptable covers....humor and the promoting of veganism.

If you struggle with seeing this (and given the cultural narratives which teach us to obfuscate and hide oppression this is entirely possible) then try this mind experiment. Instead of "gangsta rap" vernacular imagine their presentation is made in English that mimics the accent (Hollywood version) of a native Chinese speaker (think Charley Chan) or that it is presented in the (Hollywood version) accent and/or language structure of a speaker of a Native American language (think Tonto) and you will likely more clearly see the inherent racism.

You may want to choose your own minority group and substitute those characteristics in the "thug kitchen" presentations...all the while keeping in mind that this is the creation of two white people whose goal is money and neither are they contributing any of that money to worthy causes nor or they apologizing for any offense toward the cultural group from which they are appropriating. In addition...they kept their identities hidden until they appeared to be assured of a monetary gain. Hiding of this sort should be a profound marker that something nefarious is occurring.

It's important to realize that maliciousness and harmfulness will adapt itself to contemporary ways of expression. Several decades ago "humorous" racism exhibited itself via 'minstrel shows' where ostensibly "harmless" (nevertheless malicious) fun was made (for profit) of various distortions of the language and the appearance of African Americans. The characters were white people made up to be caricatures of African American people.

The thug kitchen stuff is a 21st century version of a minstrel show and is even more viciously destructive and repugnant than those minstrel shows simply because we ought to know better by now and...they're using veganism to cover up their racism. Ostensibly helping one oppressed group (non-human animals) by making fun of another harmed group is a swap the victim proposition and one that should be rejected and ostracized by everyone.

Please read the post by Pattrice Jones...she does a much more precise and eloquent and thorough job of explaining this than I can.