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.
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.

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.