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.

8 comments:

David Ashton said...

Nicely said! May it get many readings and re-readings.

Adela Perez-Colvin said...

Wonderfully thought provoking. Your blog is certainly not, as you modestly confided when I had the pleasure of meeting you a few weeks ago, a place where you
dabble in a little bit of writing! Looking forward to reading all of your posts and checking out all of your links to other valuable resources.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting David. Thank you, here's hoping the message gets out.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Adela. It was a pleasure to meet you and your family. I hope you find some things on the blog that bring you pleasure.

christine said...

Interesting and profound article, veganism is the ultimate expression of universal justice to all beings regardless of race, gender species and so on. Not an easy path to follow there are so few of us. Sadly most people are culturally mired in a set way of thinking. Though many may question the great injustices that are perpetrated in the world few really make an effort to do much to prevent them. Veganism is more than a diet, it is a way of life which if lived by everyone would bring about a better world.

Have Gone Vegan said...

Oh, so many things to love in this post! How do I count the ways? ;)

I always like when veganism is defined as a social justice movement, or as the nifty brown-coloured diagram proclaims, "a nonviolent act of defiance", as the terms vegan diet or lifestyle always make me cringe a little.

The distinction between anti and non in all forms of oppression is so important, and The Heart of Whiteness sounds like a good read. Am still thinking about the different types of privilege so many of us have but that we're pretty much oblivious to...

"Social justice is the ability sentient beings have to realize their potential in the society where they live." is just awesome -- thank you.

"If your life is lacking in ridicule...Greater excitement will be entering your experiential realm very soon." made me snort and snicker -- always a good thing.

And yes, the amount of resistance and anger still surprises me sometimes, but I figure the degree is proportionate to the need of the defense mechanism.

Excellent post sir! :)

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Christine. I suspect you're accurate in your assessment that many fail to make an effort to counter injustice, that's probably going to have to change if humans are to achieve a more just society. We gotta keep pushing. :-)

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting HGV. The book is enjoyable and thought provoking, I think you would enjoy it. You can read many of his essays on his website. (http://robertwjensen.org/)

Glad you enjoyed the post.