Friday, May 15, 2015

Why all this stuff about human animals?

Well, let's start with a video I ran across that does a good job of summarizing some of the issues about racism. I say some because the video is lacking mention of a number of groups of humans who suffer from the impacts of racism, most notably the original human inhabitants of the western hemisphere. But...the fact is that if you are identified as a person of color in the United States, you are targeted by racism in some form or fashion. Also keep in mind that this video only provides partial information about racism directed toward black people (it's even worse than she notes in her presentation). Nevertheless...even with the omissions of information and targeted populations...it is an eye-opening introduction to invisibled information.




Now, consider these words from Mickey Z, who's a long time vegan and social justice activist.

If we do not connect our struggle against speciesism to other anti-oppression struggles, we are failing ourselves, failing our fellow humans, and failing the non-human animals in a major way. Unless we do the work to meet other activists where they are, we’re doomed.
Ok? He's telling us that we must reach out to our fellow humans, especially those who are suffering oppression, and engage them in meaningful ways. That means taking their struggles seriously and making their issues our issues.

Here he talks about this in a brief video.



It doesn't take much thinking to make sense of this. If you or some human important to you was being abused...that's what would be uppermost in your mind and you would be most concerned with making things better for yourself or for them.

Ask yourself...would you be likely to be particularly interested in making things better for other Earthlings while this situation was going on? Who would you be more likely to listen to...someone who allied with you about your concerns and tried to help or someone who ignored your situation or, at best, expressed sympathy but offered no assistance...or someone who pitched in and expended time and effort to make things better for you or those who were important to you?

If you have a stick poking you in the eye and someone comes along and asks you to quit eating animals...and then says...sorry about that stick in your eye...or says nothing about it at all...versus someone who comes along and is genuinely concerned about the stick in your eye and takes steps to try to help you remove the stick and treat the damage...and then asks you to consider stopping harm to other Earthlings...which of the two someones are you more likely to give some credence?

I've been deplorably under concerned about this previously (and I'm profoundly disappointed in myself) and I'm certainly aware that many (maybe most) vegan/animal liberation advocates are guilty of this comprehension void also. There's a real tendency, on my part and on the part of others, to confuse the word for the deed. Vegan groups or individuals will pay lip service to the notion of no racism, sexism, abelism and so on...but then do nothing about these odious implementations of oppression and/or exploitation. The sad sad truth is that if we aren't actively working against this crap we're (inadvertently or not) supporting it...either passively or actively.

If you oppose oppression...and then focus your efforts solely on preventing harm to one group of oppressed beings while ignoring other instances of oppression...or only paying lip service to being against those other instances...you're sort of exposing yourself as not being real serious about ending oppression.

There are lots of cliches...that actually have meaning...about this. If you want to have good friends, be a good friend...if you want to have good neighbors, be a good neighbor...injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere...and on and on. It isn't that we don't know these things...it's that we tend to have allowed the import of them to have been obscured by their familiarity. These are genuine and vital truths but they must be lived in order for them to manifest their power and strength...spouting words just won't cut it. We have to live them.

I'll end this with a cautionary note...if you decide to get off your tush and start to put some of this into action...be prepared for some shocks. You may find that the humans you think you know aren't quite who they seem to be. I recently experienced a surprising and disappointing situation because of some differences between appearance and reality. I'll eventually write about that here...in the meantime you can get some inkling of this by reading about a talk that didn't happen in this essay.

We can be a strange bunch of beings.

5 comments:

Christine said...

Wow! The number of black people incarcerated is an eye opener, clearly racism. The video is certainly food for thought, perhaps I am naive but I considered the election of Barack Obama a step forward in the progress towards the abolition of racism and I genuinely thought things would improve for black people and other non whites. Why white people think they are better than black people or anyone not white I cannot imagine. Racism is prevalent here in the UK as it is sadly everywhere.

Whether it is racism or Speciesism prejudice is all the same. I agree to be vegan you have to care about all animals including our fellow human beings, though I admit from time to time with some human beings this is difficult, not just non-human animals. Having an aggressive attitude towards those who do not agree with you and wishing them all sorts of awful things inflicted upon them does not encourage people to consider veganism or the cause of animal rights. All beings human and non-humans deserve respect and equality, the right to live full lives without molestation or exploitation.

And yes I agree , just lip service doesn’t cut it. I think we all maybe unconsciously harbour some prejudice as a result of faulty upbringing and not only between the different races of our fellow human beings but also some species of animals. Many people often overlook rats and mice when thinking of animal rights or concentrate their efforts on larger more intelligent animals such as dolphins or Wales; few people care about insects or fish.

Christine said...

Indeed it is only the victims who really know what it feels like to be abused and maybe even they don‘t really understand another person’s experience of oppression, abuse, mistreatment or trauma if their experience differs from their own, which makes the world a very lonely place. However much we think we empathise with others true empathy is not possible in my opinion. With animals of course we can never ever comprehend the suffering though we know on an intellectual level through visual imagery, description or the cries of distressed and suffering animals that their lives are hell in factory farms, labs and other areas of abuse.
Another interesting and thought provoking article

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Christine. I'm mainly responding here to your comment that begins with the word wow.

You touch on something that left many (including me) with a false perception of the state of things here in U.S. America. I have to refer to something Tim Wise noted in one of his essays wherein he pointed out that the first self-made millionaire female in the history of the U.S. was a black woman. She had acquired that much wealth by the early 1920s. He then points out that about 70 black citizens were lynched yearly here in the U.S. during that time. He then asks the rhetorical question of whether anyone would use the fact that a black woman became a millionaire during that time to suggest that there were no race problems in the U.S. or that race problems were a minor issue because of the 'success' of this woman?

Maybe casting this into something more familiar to vegans can illustrate the fallacy. There are millions of cats and dogs all over the world who are loved and pampered and adored by their human families...does that mean that the problems of how we treat our fellow Earthlings who aren't human animals are resolved?

We are easily misled (again, I include me) by positive instances...but attention must remain focused on the most...not the few...on the process, not the exceptions to that process. Valuing the lives of some over the lives of others is the problem...whether this is enacted via racism or speciesism isn't so important as is the fact of differential valuing...nor is it important that some end up with much. It is the process of devaluing that is the problem and that problem must be resisted and decried and battled against for as long as it stands.

We here in U.S.America are drenched in entreaties to ignore and avoid and be oblivious to our miserable shortcomings regarding equality among all citizens...at the same time we crow and boast about "justice for all".

It is the oppressed that we much be concerned with...not those who escape and/or overcome oppression. And...symbols and tokens and exceptions do not mean oppression isn't robust and ubiquitous...no matter the identity or species of the oppressed.



Have Gone Vegan said...

This is another post I've been meaning to respond to for a while now. Great title as far too many vegans seem to either forget or exclude human animals in their ideology and/or activism. Understandable in a way as it's easy to get caught up in the horrific way other species are used, and the sheer amount and intensity of suffering endured by so many is overwhelming. But as Mickey Z points out (I hadn't heard of him before so thanks for the introduction), if we don't recognize and fight oppression however it occurs, we're failing as vegans. And part of this as outlined in your "the complexity of similarity" post, is the failure to recognize nuances and differences. Being vegan isn't just about other animals, it's about anti-oppression period.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting HGV. As I continue to (hopefully) expand and refine my comprehensions about the foundational implications of a vegan philosophy, new aspects and perspectives just keep on creeping into awareness. Hierarchy, disconnection, individualism (in terms of non-recognition or the connectedness of all living beings and mother Earth)...all these factors skew and derange our experiences and invisible harmful ways of existing. No...veganism isn't just about our sister/brother Earthlings...it's about life itself.