Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Endeavoring to not "use" animals...

In response to one readers comment to a post (Sunday Cuteness) I made the statement that I am not a vegan because I am a good person. I am a vegan because the other animal people are terrific and fun and interesting and wonderful and I don't want bad things to happen to them...the cuteness helps remind me of what treasures each and everyone of them are...what hubris is involved in thinking we have any right to interfere with their lives. How awful this planet would be if we were the only animals on it.

Another reader remarked on how much she liked the comment...actually she liked the comment more than the post...which got me to thinking about all sorts of stuff (Thanks Krissa, I think).

I remember being in the 2nd or 3rd grade and two boys in my class got into a fight at recess. It wasn't a fist fight...more shoving and wrestling around. One boy was considerably larger than anyone else in the class and the "fight" really was no contest...he ended up sitting on top of the other boy and "winning", the bell rang and we all headed back toward the schoolhouse. The boy who lost was crying and all snotty in the face and such and I so powerfully remember feeling awful for him...feeling like it wasn't fair...the other guy was so much bigger and the fight wasn't about self-defense or retaliation or anything it was more the big guy wanted something to go his way (hell if I remember what) and the smaller guy didn't want to so....big guy imposes his will on the littler guy. Bam, that's it...way of the world right?

Now such stuff would be called bullying...which is what it was and maybe much would be made of it...or maybe not. I don't even know how to describe very well what that incident did to me or impacted me, I do know it made me never ever want to be in a situation where I "imposed" my will on someone else just because I could simply to get something I wanted with no consideration of the other person or what they wanted or whether it was good or bad for them or if whatever.

I hated the whole thing, the whole all just felt awful to me and has stayed with me all of my life. In a strange way I am still sorting out and comprehending all the feelings I had as a result of witnessing that small slice of fairly typical behavior on the part of young male children in the culture I was born into.

Now don't get the idea the big guy was a perpetual jerk and the little guy was the angel. Actually as the 12 years of public school played out I ended up liking the big guy more than the little guy. The one never devolved into full blown bully (probably partially because, over time, the size differential shrunk between the rest of the boys in the class and him) and the other guy, the smaller one, turned out to have a personality I will describe as a smirky, jerky putz type person...hell if I know why.

I do know this, part of the foundation of me, of my weltanschauing, of my feeling repertoire, of my personality has to do with being repulsed and disgusted by a more powerful being imposing their will on a less powerful being...just because they can....or even beings of equal power imposing their will and forcing the other to do something they want.

I am excluding situations where a parent restrains a child from danger or forces them to do something that is necessary (for the child's health or whatnot). Or if a human animal forces another animal to receive a medical treatment or confines them to their house because being outside unsupervised would be dangerous. I'm not talking about stuff like that, I am talking about using or controlling someone else with force simply because you can and because you want to.

I hate that crap, I think it is one of the biggest wrongs that there is, don't push others around or take advantage of them...just don't do it. I don't feel that way because I am a "good" person, I feel that way because I feel that way.

Look, another term for what I am so ineffectually trying to describe is exploitation. The free dictionary gives one definition for exploitation as being: "Utilization of another person or group for selfish purposes".

It is not ok to use others, whether you use them because you apply force or whether you apply guile or manipulation. It is ok to engage in interactions with others where there is a mutual benefit (i.e., you "use" each other) and the benefits from one to the other are approximately equal...that's fine. As long as everybody knows what is going on and agrees (and has the capacity to agree). But no force and no using unfairly...everything should be aboveboard, out in the open and agreed upon. No profiting at someone else's expense.

I don't think that way because it is "good", I think that way because I don't like that exploitation crap and I also believe the whole world and every being in it would be a hell of a lot better off if we all tried as hard as we could to operate that way. Wouldn't it and wouldn't we? Life would likely be so much more pleasant and fun and satisfying if we all tried our utmost to operate that least I think it would.

If that is an important thing to me...and it is...whether I have lived up to it all the time or not (or most of the time or not)...then veganism is a given. Because that way of operating applies across the everyone...cats, rabbits, next door neighbors, chickens, Canadians, Texans, name em.

Ethical veganism is a given for me because any other way of interacting with any kind of animal (by that I mean human animals too) would include exploitation...and I hate that stuff. And hell if I know why it took me so long to figure it out. There are other reason for my operating as a vegan, but the exploitation thingee is a big one for me. And I knew it a long long time ago...


Anonymous said...

so thoughtful.
thank you.

the exploitation of the human-animal in "farms" and slaughterhouses is too much for me to bear, too.

Krissa said...

I liked the post, too!!! But yeah, the comment was really great and sums it up so succinctly. ... I don't like to see people bullied or abused either, I really don't. But I have to admit that I get way more sad and upset reading a headline about say, a hamster getting bashed to death (that was a headline I saw last week) and feel worse and more sick about it and picture it in my head over and over than when I read about something happening to a person. It's truly not that I don't care about innocent people, I just get way more impacted by what happens to other animals. I'm not sure why. It was that way even before I 'became vegan' so I guess that's something else to try to figure out. You'd think I would have gotten on the ball sooner. I never saw anything like what you describe you saw with those two boys - well, probably I did but I forgot it. But "The Velveteen Rabbit", "Charlotte's Web" and so on stayed with me and made me very sad. I still almost cry thinking about those stories and I'm .... much older now. (ha ha). ... It says a lot about you (all good) that that incident you described affected you so deeply at the time and stayed with you all these years. You're one of the good guys... Thanks for another thought provoking post.

Penny said...

I so agree with all the points you've made here. I hate the imposition of a stronger person's will on a weaker, except in the examples you've given, where it's necessary for safety. I can just feel the terrified helplessness of someone being forced to go somewhere or do something they don't want to(children being dragged away from their mothers is one example that hurts me deeply), so, ofcourse, veganism is the only way to avoid contributing to this, as far as is possible.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Addie, Persephone, J.F. Such atrocities are too much to bear for anyone.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Penny and welcome!

The more I learn and think about veganism as an approach to life the more I am blown away by how many ills are eliminated by such a is remarkable and amazing.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Krissa. Phew, you are really making me work. I think it would be easier if I elaborated in another post. I didn't mean to leave the impression that bad crap done to human animals and bad crap done to other animals is the same to me...I too (almost invariably) think bad stuff done to the fur, fin and feather folk is much more egregious and despicable than that which is done to the human animals (again there are exceptions). This is way too long for a comment...I will write more in a future post..ok?

Krissa said...

:) ... I didn't do too good with my comment on this one. I started thinking and ran with it and didn't elaborate that I do know you feel the same way about what 'we' do to other animals in comparison to what we do to each other. This post has really had me thinking too. A lot. I'll wait for the next post though. :)

veganelder said...

Thanks for the follow-up comment Krissa. did wonderfully with your comment, never fear...I just have to do some processing...this thinking/feeling stuff is hard for us old folks. :-)

Bea Elliott said...

"I too (almost invariably) think bad stuff done to the fur, fin and feather folk is much more egregious and despicable than that which is done to the human animals..."

Ditto for me too. When I made my discoveries I put human against human harms in their place: War, theft, gangs, bad parenting... Whatever made sense. But when I tried to find "a place" of reason for what's done to animals in the magnitude (and social sanction) it was impossible to justify.

Nonhumans are the absolute most innocent beings - Totally removed from "our world". I even remember hearing someone say that they thought fur/feather/fin animals were put here so that man could "direct" his aggressions and violence - (?) So "we" wouldn't inflict it on each other! I know, ridiculous what people will say isn't it?

Anyway, catching up on your recent post(s) - Will be curious to hear your take on the harms done to the (MOST) innocent ones! :)

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Bea.

Not only ridiculous what people say, often even worse is what they do.

This is the time of year many rescue organizations choose to do fund-raising activities...spring...I suspicion it might be wiser to avoid competing against one another but it sort of ends up that way when everyone "events" simultaneously. Anyway, lots of running around and little time for posting for a bit.

Have Gone Vegan said...

I too am trying to catch up!

Great observations. I agree that you don't have to be good to be vegan (in fact, there are vegan bullies in the movement as far as I'm concerned), but you do have to have a strong sense of justice. Which maybe is likelier to develop if you HAVE been exposed to some type of bullying?

Oh, and I'm glad you included Canadians. ;)

veganelder said...

Thanks for commenting HGV. Never ever ever would I not include Canadians. :-)

Bullied equals strong sense of justice? You would think so yet often when you look, you find that the most abusive folks themselves had a history of being abused. It seems that it can go either way...