Saturday, February 8, 2014

Teach your children...

is the title of a song by Crosby Stills Nash & Young. One stanza includes the lines: "Teach your children what you believe in. Make a world that we can live in."

In a comment by D.E.M. to a recent post she wrote:
...My biggest concern of the moment is this: the access that meat-production has to young minds via the universities; the access it has to their vision, distorting students into seeing "housing" where cages exist. And there is nothing I can do about it.
One of the quests I've been on in the past few years has been to acquire some sort of comprehension or understanding of how horrors like the Nazi holocaust could happen. Primarily because I think whatever aspect of the human animal that allowed and drove the holocaust is probably the same thing that drives or underlies the human assault on every other animal and maybe even the human assault on planet Earth herself.

D.E.M.'s comment made me note that I've tentatively (always subject to revision) realized that yes...we must teach our children...we must teach them that all beings should be respected and left alone and not oppressed or harmed. But...and here's the new stuff (at least for me)...that's no guarantee that such outlooks and/or behaviors will persist or that they will even be incorporated by those children that we teach.

Mainly because...from what I can see...most all of us human "beans" pretty much will learn just about any way of being and motor right on as if it is the coolest way to be there matter whether we're being taught to act like good little nazis or klansmen (or klanswomen) or whether we're being taught to act like good little decent and respectful individuals. There may be some faint yet enduring bent toward not being harmful...but in most of us that bent is oh so very very quiet and easily overwhelmed...if not easily extinguished entirely. if that wasn't enough...there seems to be a persistent and enduring (albeit small) percentage of us that are maybe completely bent toward harm and destruction and this group waxes and wanes in their ability to influence others to behave in horrid ways. But they never go away and they never ever stop pushing for harm. Sometimes they manifest themselves in such ways that entire populations tump over into an orgy of destruction and horror. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, you can take a look at history and find your own examples of this dismaying and disgusting tendency of ours. And there are plenty.

Then go look in history for non-violent and freedom promoting and peace embracing cultures. They exist, but is sort of imbalanced to look at on the one hand all the pain and fear and destruction associated with Nazi Germany and on the other hand to try and balance that by referring to...oh.....say...Denmark (maybe) or Iceland (maybe). Even then you won't find any cultures that have given up harming our fellow Earthlings. Even when we haven't been whacking on ourselves we've been whacking on all the other beings near us.

How about has taken the human species from the onset of their existence up until 1981 to finally make human slavery illegal in every organized grouping of humans that defined things as legal or illegal. That's a long time...a very long time...thousands and thousands of years. Hey...any group of animals that can't figure out that there is something stinky about enslavement of themselves...well...that's a group that doesn't rate too high (at least on any scale that seems reasonable to me) in the smarts or the "good guy" department. Much less in the "inherently good" department.

We may be "inherently good" (and, on balance, I think/hope we are) but we're certainly no more "inherently good" than any other group of beings on this planet. No way. We seem to get all tangled up in the notion that we're hot stuff...hotter stuff than any other group of Earthlings and one thing we have to do to maintain that sort of silliness is to absolutely avoid looking at ourselves and our behavior and our history. (Otherwise we might shrivel up and die of chagrin and embarrassment and horror.) By the way...most of the horrors of human history are predominately driven by males. Sad but true.

Yes...we better teach the children....but any fantasy that we're not susceptible to being taught most any old thing...well...I don't think that's the way most of us are. Take a look around at all the sexism...all the racism...all the environmental destruction...all the speciesism...all the bad, really bad juju that exists and even dominates our behavior and outlooks, just wow.

I haven't tried to balance this post with referencing the positives...and there are a few...Donald Watson for instance. And there are more, I know, but what is being pointed out here is that we better teach the kids well because somebody is going to teach them something and the little suckers don't seem to have very good built in bullsh*t detectors. They seem to be willing to believe horrid a**holes like Hitler just as quickly (hell, maybe even more so) than they would someone like Ghandi or Martin Luther King. Go watch the Brown eyes and blue eyes racism experiment if you think I'm talking out of my hat.

In the vegan if you don't already. One thing I can promise is that no dictator or horrible person ever in the history of the human species has been vegan (because vegan by definition precludes harming or oppressing others) is the one way of living that removes you from the risk of being a systematic and purposive harmer of others.

(disclaimer: Please know that I include myself in the grouping of humans susceptible to swallowing crap whole and thinking it is chocolate. I cringe at all the stupid destructive things I've thought and acted upon...and really cringe at consideration of whatever stupidities and sad making things I continue to act out without realizing them. So...I'm definitely not taking the high ground here...but I'm better than I vegan guarantees that.)


D.E.M. said...

Hey v.e.,
so as a result of my outspokenness at the "feed the world" talk, I got invited to talk to high school students about ethical living! yes!

veganelder said...

Hooray for you Ms. DEM...there ya go...educating the kids has to be done. Good for you!!

Bea Elliott said...

Oh my, that's an awful lot of awful evidence that things will always remain on the dismal slant. I admit I have many days where I just don't see a tiny flicker of a match flame down a long, dark tunnel of despair. I feel like I weigh a thousand pounds on days like that.

On the up-shot surely we can take hope that things are improving. Granted, ever so slowly... But at least the majority of people (now) would view ancient, barbaric, human-baby-eating cultures as vile. We have raised the bar for what's tolerable/acceptable/ethical (somewhat) haven't we? Knowing that atrocities still happen grieves me, but I do take comfort in knowing that at least there's a growing number who are outraged when it does. But you're right, our greatest hope that these numbers increase, is in tomorrow's kids. On the flip side of that the most enlightened people are the ones having the smallest families. (sigh)...

I've been meaning to read Steve Pinker's book The Better Angels of Our Nature. He has researched and concluded that that we're becoming less violent. Homicide and rapes have decrease. Deaths through wars are in decline. He even postulates that although the number of nonhuman "food animals" who are suffering has increased, the over-all empathy towards other species has improved. I don't know... The book is 800 pages big - I think I'll wait for the Cliff Notes on this theory of "better angels".

I'm thrilled for you D.E.M.! What an opportunity to convey to open minds about what so desperately needs to be told!

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Bea. I do think there is reason for optimism. Dr. King said: "The arc of history of long but it bends toward justice." I believe that is true, except I would maybe stick a couple of really really qualifiers in front of the word long. :-)

The other day I was listening on NPR to a series of speeches by prominent African American civil rights activists (I sure miss Barbara Jordan) and it struck me how the civil rights movement in this country has had such a lengthy and difficult path...and anyone with an ounce of sense could see that slavery and oppression obviously flew in the face of what the US said they were all about...yet the clinging to such horrendous behaviors was so persistent and profound (and certainly racism continues to plague us). It just sort of went all over me. There are, apparently in each generation, a small percentage of humans who attempt to drag the rest toward greater justice...and do...but many seem to be oblivious...and those small few who perpetrate violence and horror seem to have so much influence and power...just wow. Anyone wanting more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff better settle in for the long haul. :-)

I'm with you re Pinker's book. A worthy effort and likely accurate but c'mon...800 pages? One of the various folks in my field that I admired a great amount was a fellow named Carl Whitaker. He was a gifted therapist and a true marvel...and one of the things I most admired about him was that he always said he didn't know enough yet to be able to write a whole book. :-) I was lucky enough to attend a symposium featuring Dr. Pinker back in 2010 and managed to chat briefly with him...he was a nice fellow seemingly...and I like his work...but 800 pages? :-)

Bea Elliott said...

I ran into this post by Jeffrey Moussaieff who critiques Pinker's book and his rationalizations for not being vegan.

And yes! There is a reason why we both love J. Moussaieff!

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Bea. And thank you so much for pointing me to the excellent review of Pinker's book. Piss on me for saying his work was "likely accurate"..."possibly accurate" would have been more to the mark...and it turns out it isn't accurate at all in some profoundly significant areas.

Jeffery Masson has been courageous enough to challenge erroneous culturally driven narratives for decades and it is heartening to see that he continues. He influenced me greatly when I was starting out in the psychotherapy field and he continues to be a beacon of truth telling.

Steven Pinker's devotion to accuracy suffers a massive blow because of his inability too see past the cultural blinders we are all enjoined to wear. It is sad about Steven Pinker, but hooray for Jeffery Masson for calling him out.

Thank you again for the resource.