Friday, July 3, 2015

I get confused often.

This post is about some confusions that bother me.

Stephanie McMillan is a talented artist/cartoonist who has devoted her efforts to activism opposing imperialism and supporting social justice issues...you can read more about this in her bio on her website.

This graphic, which I mostly like, was created by her.



The idea that the graphic is trying to express is that it is incumbent on each of us to de-invisiblize the consequences of our behavior such that those consequences do not...inadvertently...end up furthering or supporting the very thing that we're wanting to oppose.

The mostly qualification about liking the graphic is because I'm sort of perplexed by the military imagery (my notion is that part of human caused awfulness is, way more often than not, driven by our organizing into "soldiers"). It's interesting to consider that maybe her imagery actually lends some support to what she seems to oppose. I say that because imperialism pretty much always involves the organizing of humans into "soldiers".

That's sort of interesting eh? She seems to be someone opposed to imperialism but creates a graphic that seems to support or at least invoke one of the main human roles (soldier) used to support imperialism...in a graphic that argues against not accidentally or unwittingly doing something like that. Sort of cool and sad at the same time. But...obviously I might be totally wrong in my take on the graphic...or...she might be oblivious to the implications.

Maybe I'm just being picky. Here's another graphic she created.

She does many cartoons and drawings and writings wherein she advocates against environmental harm and human-driven climate change and other destructiveness caused by human behavior. Except...oops...obviously Ms. McMillan isn't vegan. The problem presented in the graphic above revolves around how mercury poisons humans...no concern is attached to mercury poisoning the fish or the unnecessary killing of the fish for humans to eat.

Apparently her concern stops at human Earthlings when she thinks about social justice...even though this next graphic hints otherwise.

Is she concerned about plants and animals or are they just being used as props for her advocacy on behalf of her concerns about human Earthlings?

There are various other drawings/cartoons on her website that indicate much concern with environmental destruction but the theme that seems to run through all of them is worry about harm or inconvenience to humans in some shape or form. She probably would object to this graphic...or at least be only minimally concerned with the notion of speciesism.



Her bio says she is concerned with "social justice" but...we're sort of left in the dark as to precisely what she means when she uses those words, but it's probably safe to say that only human beings are included.

She's concerned about the environment hence the ecocide part of this graphic would be consonant with what she opposes and...she does say "social justice"...so maybe some of those other oppressions in the graphic would be repulsive to her. And yet...if she isn't vegan...her universe of concern is, in essence, human Earthlings and, I presume, mother Earth, at least insofar as mother Earth appears to offer something useful to human Earthlings. I'm speculating...I don't know what her universe of opposition entails but predicated on the dead fish graphic apparently the lives of non-human Earthlings don't make it.

Oppression is defined on wikipedia as: "...the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner." Hence, one way to think about racism is as the use of power by one group of humans against another group of humans,  defined by "race", in a way that is burdensome, cruel or unjust. So the above graphic is using words to identify groups (or something nebulously called ecology or the environment) that are subjected to oppression by various groups of humans. The thing or idea (as denoted by the double headed arrow lines) that connects all of the words above is oppression.

If, as Ms. McMillan seems to do, we exclude any who aren't human Earthlings from our area of concern then we are saying that oppression is acceptable if the target of those oppressive activities does not belong to that group we define as the human species...and maybe the sort of nebulous thing we call the 'environment'. I suppose that's what she's saying...I don't know because I haven't conversed with her...I'm speculating based on my poking around on her website and looking at her graphics.

For me, the problem is with those activities encompassed by the notion of oppression, there's where I see wrongness. It's the oppressing that's the bad stuff...otherwise you're just getting into a stance of deciding which groups (or areas) are ok to behave cruelly or unjustly toward and which ones you shouldn't act that way toward.

Maybe this could be made more visible or understandable if instead of the word oppress I use the word rape (or murder or set on fire...any term that is pretty much immediately understood as destructive and awful). If I then say the problem is not with raping (or you plug in your own word for some invariably awful doings) but with picking acceptable rape victims or conversely picking those who shouldn't be raped.

To take this further...I say that it's ok to rape humans named Mary or William but all others are off limits or I say that it's ok to murder all humans named John or Carmen but all others are off limits. Does that make me an activist or supporter of "social justice"? Or...does that just make me one more voice in the chorus that seems to say hooray for me (and who or what I think is important) and to hell with everybody else and the rest of everything? I dunno...this stuff makes my head hurt sometimes.

Do you get what I'm driving at? In the end, I'm simply not smart enough or sophisticated enough or whatever it might take to sort out who or what it is ok to behave horribly toward...so...my endeavor is to work on not behaving horribly...not working on figuring out who or what it is ok to behave horribly toward. And...in my efforts to de-horrify my behavior I must...absolutely...take into account the risk that de-horrifying my behavior toward one set of victims doesn't accidentally or inadvertently visit horror on another set of victims...or worse, even support or bolster that which I think I'm opposing...because I'm then defeating myself. Shucks, if, in my efforts to stop acting horrible I act horrible...ouch...not cool.

The message in her graphic with the dead fish is that we ought not to put poisons into the environment because they come back and hurt us. It is focused on de-horrifying activities involving the environment and the rationale is that it eventually ends up being horrid toward ourselves. Notice though...that the fish are victimized too...twice...once by the poison and then the second time by being killed by humans for 'food'. Jeez.

Don't get me wrong...I agree with many of the apparent concerns that Ms. McMillan has...but...she's obviously much wiser or whatever than me in that she seems to be saying it's ok to act like a destructive asshole as long as you do it right (depending on how she defines 'right') or pick the correct victims.

That's beyond my abilities...I'm not equipped to figure out where it's ok to be horrid and where it's not...that seems way too hard and tricky to me...so...I'll muddle along with working on de-awfuling my behavior instead of trying to pick who or what I act awful toward and who or what I don't act awful toward. Or maybe I'm missing something?


2 comments:

Have Gone Vegan said...

Nope, I don't think you're missing anything at all. And I like the terms de-awfuling and de-horrifying -- good way to describe what all of us should be doing more of!

Have to say I didn't quite get the first graphic at first. Spent too much time trying to figure out whether those were little feet I was looking at, then got distracted by the "shitty" colours and was wondering if that was done deliberately as well, and then decided I was simply analysing it too much, snort.

But your comments about soldiers also made me think about the absurdity of nations who decry other countries going to war when they're the ones supplying the military weapons in the first place. I mean, what do they think those weapons are going to be used for anyway? Supplying arms is a highly profitable enterprise and military defence budgets are enormous, so it strikes me as pretty hypocritical to be selling weapons of war on the one hand, and then using the other to slap someone's wrist for using those weapons. But maybe I'm not smart enough either? ;)

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting HGV. Yes, the colors were not too sparkly that were used on the graphic...and yes...probably you were working too hard at analyzing. I didn't consciously notice the "little feet". I was specifically focusing on using the notion of soldiers as a counter to the using of soldiers.

Your last paragraph made me think of Mr. Orwell's writings about the warping involved in doublethink. Wikipedia says: "Doublethink is the act of ordinary people simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct,...". I found the article there to be rather interesting...you might too. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doublethink