Sunday, February 1, 2015

Reference points...

sometimes are difficult to recognize. The past few weeks have been as tumultuous and as many 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'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.


Have Gone Vegan said...

Hey veganelder, I think you're right that not a lot of work has been done in mapping the similarities of identity de/construction where various isms are concerned. At least, not so much work that a bunch of titles come to mind right away. A few books tackle the reality and difficulties of being an activist (the excellent Aftershock by pattrice jones that you mention in your most recent post comes to mind, as does The Lifelong Activist), other books focus on how to get folk to go vegan, and I assume Carnism by Melanie Joy (haven't read it yet) deals with the development of the dominant carnist identity, but vegan identity not so much. Or maybe I'm fogged up as well. ;)

At any rate, I'm curious myself now, and will try to do some digging and see what I can unearth. I do remember though that when I started up my blog I wanted it to include exploring what it means to be vegan and how a vegan identity is formed and maintained (I've likely strayed from that), in part because I didn't see much online that specifically dealt with that. So yes, I wish there were more on this topic, will do some research, and report back.

Oh, am reading Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay right now in which she talks about privilege, race, gender and sexuality in a cultural context. Quite interesting.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting HGV. Any and all input you might garner will be appreciated.

I just finished another post related to all this and it wore me out.

I just finished reading Bad fact I returned it to the library a couple of days before your comment...cue the Twilight Zone theme. :-)

There's a convergence of all this stuff but I'm still "looking through a glass darkly" say the least.

This is all difficult and disturbing...I appreciate your interest.

Have Gone Vegan said...

Not surprised it wore you out! A lot of work and thought went into that post.

Ha! Cue the music indeed. You're lucky your library carries it as mine doesn't. Stumbled across it online and I'm not sorry I ordered it. Funny though that we were reading it at the same time. :)

Haven't done my digging yet, but in the meantime thought I'd point you to this blog you might like:

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting HVG. I appreciate the link. She offers some interesting posts. I tend to not poke around on food oriented vegan blogs much (I'm the sort that would be content with eating the same thing for 40 days in a row...which confirms my wife's notion that I have serious deficiencies) due to lack of interest. However, this writer does a nice job of interweaving several themes in addition to the recipes she offers. Good stuff. I'm glad to see someone else addressing social justice interests that includes human animals. Thank you.

Have Gone Vegan said...

I hear ya about the lack of interest in food -- I've been eating the same thing for breakfast (oatmeal) for probably nearly 30 years now, and always joke that cooking would be a lot easier if it came in pill form, snort.

Yes, I pretty much don't even look at the food items in the chickpea blog, but head right over to the "meatier" stuff. And love the fact that she provides resources in her endnotes.

Anyhoo, dropped by to point you to another book I'm really enjoying -- "Men Explain Things to Me" by Rebecca Solnit. A small book, but she's a terrific writer. So much so that I didn't like the idea of being "solnitless" soon, thus have already ordered another one of her works. :)