Friday, August 29, 2014

Sometimes...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


12 comments:

Bea Elliott said...

Oh! Forgot to mention --- Such good news about the growing numbers of Red Earth Vegans! If you build it... They will come!

Bea Elliott said...

I mistakenly posted my praise and happiness at hearing that Red Earth Vegans are reaching a widening audience. That's great news!

As to the rest of your post - Oh there are so many wrongs I don't know how you manage to unravel the tangles! Our thinker must operate under the same rules too. As I read the comment (off-handedly) suggesting adoption instead of birthing --- I cheered at that idea too! A gem out of the mouth of a fool.

And fool s/he is - What a horrible world we'd have if everyone just shrugged off the sins of the father. There's lots of them! As tattered as our culture is, about the only thing holding it all together is thin thread of benevolence, generosity, and healing kindness. Other that this... The world would really suck - If it could survive such blackness at all?

I hope you're right that we're on the cusp of meaningful change... I don't know though. Most people in such a discussion would be more than happy to give a pass to the unengaged. It's the "judge-not" social license that permits everyone to say: Hey Look! It's not my problem either! (grrrrr)

I adore the fur, feather and fin friends that have come to my care. They're all fabulous, deserving lives. Sadly each one is here because of some human that either through greed or ignorance made his own life easier by using/neglecting them. Not only are we responsible for the victims, but if we followed the letter of our moral compass, it would be our duty to ensure that future victims were not replicated at all! So taking responsibility for those who are already here is the very *least* we ought to do. It's minimal but mandatory.

It was Tim Wise writer/lecturer on privilege, racism, and inequity, brought this up in one of his talks... And he illustrated his point with reference to a frat house and an old pot of soup... You can figure how it goes that no one thought it was their "job" to clean up the mess from someone before... That attitude leads to all things that stink! So no, we may not be "guilty" that somethings are the way they are - But it doesn't mean we aren't responsible to make them better... And to end them...

Yes! Yes! Yes to your entire critique of their malarkey!

Your thinker is in fine order! And I had a great smile at you calling it that! :D


Bea Elliott said...

One other point, the dogs "lived long good lives with my family". They operating word is "with" --- Obviously his/her "family" is limited to human only. Sad.

D.E.M. said...

V.E., your words and thoughts are more gracious than mine are. My blood boils just reading that dreck! I hate those easy analogies. Homeless issue/ dog buying. The invocation of massive social injustices to justify some stupid human whim. Grrrr (me doing a canine growl :)

veganelder said...

Thank you for your comments Bea. I must admit my initial response to the comment was to jump right back in with a rebuttal but (when I'm able to restrain such impulses) I've often found that allowing my "thinker" to wallow around with stuff for awhile before closing off considerations with a reply results in a learning experience for me. Plus...it can sometimes make me sound wiser than I really am. :-)

It took me several days to realize I was having the parable of the 'good Samaritan' placed before me and I got a major hoot out of that one.

Plus, I really do think it's time (way way way past time, actually) to begin to hammer out a new ethos in relation to our behavior that effects other living beings and mother Earth. We can squall and wail and moan all we want regarding "freedom" in reference to human-to-human behavior but insofar as actions go that negatively impact mother Earth or her Earthlings...well...we've used up any/all freedom we might ever have had. It's time to straighten up and fly right or no one at all is going to be flying.

I second your Grrr. :-)

The local vegan group is sometimes (like everything involving humans)...well...interesting. The issues that pop up require more time and thought that is sometimes wanted...but at the same time it can offer opportunities to consider various viewpoints more deeply and in the process gain something useful and/or valuable.

One thing that is gratifying is that I've met several new people who are turning out to be amazingly delightful and enriching to know. Not all vegans are particularly fun to know, but some vegans are incredibly interesting to interact with. Once again I ask myself why didn't I figure out all this a long time ago. What can I say? :-)

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting DEM. Hey, don't credit me with anything here. As I mentioned to Bea, my first impulse was to fly all over the place in response but one of the few advantages offered by electronic venues of information sharing is the lack of urgency in formulating a reply and/or response. Hell if I'm able to come up with anything very useful in face-to-face, immediate, types of exchanges. I mostly sputter and drool while turning red in the face and moaning.:-)

I don't even do that well electronically, you'll notice I assigned your grrr to Bea. Well, I second your grrr again. :-)

D.E.M. said...

I really enjoyed reading this. I loved your turns of phrases, your long meditation on it all. So thoughtful. The other interesting thing is the chasm between Her and The Homeless, as if no cataclysm will ever render her so. Because if it did & nobody helped her, well then....
No imaginative sense. All barriers, with faux concern (oh, the homeless, such a tragedy)

veganelder said...

Thanks for commenting againd DEM. Your words are kinder than I deserve. :-)

I think you've pegged the mind-state of the commenter very well. They know the words...so they use some of them but they don't hear the music and god forbid if they had to dance. Faux polka would follow with lots of awkwardness and falling down.

The failure to be able to place oneself in the situation of another limits us in so many many ways.

I appreciate your liking this piece, I lived with it for awhile and eventually sorta liked it too. :-)

Angie Beaulieu said...

Everything here is well thought out and stated....as always. Each time I'm faced with this type of affront, as I see/feel it, my immediate reaction is anger (Grrr) then I feel the depth of programming that the individual is demonstrating. I can't even begin to hack away to reach their core....if that makes sense. I wish I had the patience to peel away the layers or, even better, a magic wand to strike them with understanding.

The Vegan group.....too many words and amazing thoughts to mention. The group has truly brought hope in a very dark place and you, Veganelder, are a primary reason for it's growth and success.

I love something that Bea Elliot said, "It's minimal but mandatory". That's so well stated and I will hold it forever. Every effort large or small is gigantic in the life of an oppressed human or animal.

The comment made concerning adopting children, wow. Where do we start? For every adopted person, I apologize for this person's statement and behavior. For every adopted person, I apologize for so many people stating that they couldn't have children of their own SO they adopted. You are no less important because you do not share the DNA of those who raised you. You are no less important because you have no parents and were raised in the "system".

Veganelder, thank you for every single blog, protest, every vegan meal, every single moment spent volunteering, every kind act and thought you put out to the other lives here sharing this earth.

joan.kyler said...

Thanks for using you thinker while I'm too busy ranting. I agree with you on all points.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Angie. You're very kind.

Ms. Bea can turn a phrase can't she?

Your points re adopted folks are well taken...importance can be predicated on many things but not on adoption status.

Again, thanks a bunch Angie...it's a pleasure knowing you.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Joan. Ranting is good! :-)