Monday, June 27, 2011

Last night I couldn't get to sleep...

my thought set added a thought that belongs to a group of concepts which invariably disturb me. I thought about the baby cows taken away from their moms so the milk meant for them could be taken and sold. So some human could drink it and some other human(s) could make a profit...and in the process harm cows, harm the planet and steal from other beings.

Thinking about the fear and turmoil and sense of loss both the mom and baby must feel usually gets me started on a train of horrible thoughts about all the different animals and all the different ways they were frightened and hurt and suffering and how this just goes on and on and has gone on and on for hours, days, weeks, months, years and centuries. Then sleep is only a distant goal, unlikely to return for a long time. My sleeplessness is, of course, nothing compared to the misery my fellow humans deal out to Earthlings, is mine and I do have to cope with it. Not sleeping is not an option if I want to continue to function, to live.

This is a dilemma I wrestle with constantly. How to continue to live, to function, to do all the things large and small that make up each day while at the same time being aware of the fact that fur beings, feather beings, fin beings and skin beings are being subjected to terrible and horrible pain and terror and misery...for the most selfish and disgusting and trivial of reasons. Because human beings want to do those things.

I struggle too, with interacting with other humans...because almost all of the people I love, almost all of the people I like and almost all of the people I know...are participating in this ongoing murderous, injuring, harming rampage on a moment to moment basis. Oh, not directly for the most part (I do have family members that "hunt"...they directly hurt, terrorize and kill innocent ones), most of the ongoing participation is a step or two or more removed from the actual shame of the atrocities. No, they eat "dairy" or "fast food" or "bacon" or "buffalo wings", avoiding clearly covering their hands with blood or filling their ears and eyes and minds with the visions of those being killed...murdered...of hearing the shrieks and screams and moans and sighs of the dying. No, theirs is a genteel joining in, a sneaky facilitating, a devious contributing, a superficially deniable participation. But a participation nevertheless...were it not for their eating, wearing, buying and enjoying choices and purchases most (not all, but most) of the misery showered onto all those billions of lives would stop. Their thinking (or maybe their not thinking), buying and doing is the engine that drives the horror story that we human animals have made of life on this planet.

And I interact daily with these folks, and I don't scream at them and I don't grab them by the neck and choke them and demand that they see what they are doing. I don't do those things (which I sometimes want to do), but I do have nights like last night when visions creep into my thoughts and I hurt for the hurting and I suffer for the suffering and I can't go to sleep. My discomfort is obviously as nothing if viewed in relation to the burden endured by the victims...but it is mine and to continue I somehow must cope with it.

Numbing myself to my reaction to their misery is something I try to avoid. Pretending that no one gets hurt is not an option I choose to exercise. Lying to myself about this is something I don't want to do. Believing the fantasies and not noticing the omissions and distortions presented to me by popular culture via commercials and ads and recipes and essays and on and on is a degree of gullibility and willful ignorance I don't want to engage in...not anymore. I have done and did too much of that sort of stuff for too long...which is how I continued to support the unspeakable. Nope, I quit being purposively naive, I opt out.

So now I have this as one (there are many others) of the effects of opting out of those cultural fairy tales...sometimes I can't get to sleep.  So be it. I really don't want to be comfortable and at ease in a world where such things go on. Being "well-adjusted" to this sort of tricked-out grotesque horror show is, as far as I can see, the mark of functioning in a disabling and demeaning and destructive manner.

Does all this staying aware make me a "good" person, does that show how "sensitive" I am? Nope, not a bit. At the most, what that does is help me see or understand the world and events a little more clearly. That's all. Get a little closer to 'reality". My notion is that the more accurately we perceive 'reality' then the better decisions we can make because the decisions are based on correct information. If we misperceive reality (and we all do to some greater or lesser degree) then that distortion is liable to show up in the decisions we make. The better the decisions we make (the more closely in tune with reality that they are) then the more likely it is that they will turn out well. Bottom line is that, for the most part, I think reality is a pretty reliable touchstone and avoiding reality is something that should be minimized.

Every culture teaches its children how to avoid reality, how to fantasize, how to see things, how to do things, how to conceptualize things. That's part of what culture does. But cultures aren't infallible, they are made up...cultures are fantasies in one manner of speaking. And they can be pretty good at helping life or mediocre or poor at doing that. I grew up in a variant of the European culture that spread from that area of the world all over the western hemisphere. It has been a really 'successful' variant of culture evidenced by its spreading all over the has been a really destructive and exploitive culture if you look at what it has done to the cultures it encountered (take a look at what Columbus did to the Native Americans) and it has been a culture that devastates environments and other animals (e.g. Passenger Pigeon). As long as it could spread after using up an environment, well, it could keep going...but now we're running out of planet...we're running out of indigenous peoples to rip off...we're running out of land to exploit...we're running out of water to waste...we're running out of trees to cut down...we're running out of being able to treat other living beings the way we do.

Occasional indulgence in fantasy or imagination is fine, necessary even, but choosing to opt for fantasy over reality on an ongoing basis is probably dangerous me, anyway. My speculation is just that sort of willful blindness was and is a major contributer to the incredible, awful mess we European humans have made of the environment and of our relationships with our fellow animals and of our relationships with ourselves. So, time to give up some fantasies, time to get a little closer to reality, time to...but that doesn't come easy. There is a price to pay, and for me, one of those costs is some sleeplessness.

There are other symptoms and costs and if you're interested in learning more there are many online sources with information about the contagion of trauma. Psychotherapists have long known about the phenomena of "compassion fatigue"  or vicarious trauma. Dealing with those who have been wounded by life, no matter what sort of being sustained the injury, extracts a price and most who have moved into a life of ethical veganism are familiar with them. They are real and they are burdensome.  That's why everyone must work out ways to care for themselves emotionally...the possibility of self-injury, paralysis and ineffectualness is real and serious.

So, while I am sleepless at times, I'm not sleepless all the time...while I am sad and hurting at times, I'm not sad and hurting all the time...while I feel like weeping at times, I sometimes laugh and am silly and absurd. Nurturing myself fuels me to be able to keep pushing for the animals, to be able to volunteer for the animals, to be able to do what little I can to stop the awfulness that we human animals wreak on our sister and brother animals and on our planet. And that's a pretty good thing to try to do.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Unfather's Day...

Tomorrow, June 19th 2011, is designated as "Father's Day". I am mildly off-put by these "days" mainly because they have...over time...become primarily excuses for selling crap. No disrespect to anyone or anything but jeez...spare me. If you cared for your dad or your mom...great honor and respect them continuously and diligently. The juvenile and commercialized artificial "day" just sort of leaves me cold.

The biological ability to become a parent is the way we are constructed and all humans that are biologically intact can potentially produce offspring. The time has long passed when adding to the human population of the world was anything to celebrate. For those of you that have had positive and supportive experiences because of someone or several someone's acting in the role of father...great...celebrate and acknowledge that...

I want to acknowledge the contribution of those that have foregone the biological fathering role. I want to celebrate and express gratitude to those who have had the caring to not increase the human population on the planet...those who have no biological children. Thank you for not contributing to the ranks of the most devastating and destructive animal the world has ever seen (and may not survive)...human animals.

So, this addition to honoring your personal positive father figure please also honor all the human males that have been kind enough and brave enough and caring enough to not biologically father children. The absolute best thing that can be done for the planet and all living things on the planet is to reduce the number of humans. Honor those real father figures that care enough not to add to the devastation of our planet. Thanks guys!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A comment that just grew and grew...

I began writing a comment to a post over on Provoked (a superlative blog authored by Bea Elliot) and suddenly had written too much to be contained in a comment. I could have, I guess, split it into multiple parts and “commented” but it seems easier to just post it here.

Bea (and companions), on behalf of all the animals that are terrorized, injured, killed and disrespected because of human animals needing to gain attention and to 'show-off' to counter their own deficient self-esteem...thank you for speaking up for them.

The rodeo subculture is a tough least tough in the sense that there aren't a lot of rodeo philosophers around…self-reflection and self-awareness is often viewed with suspicion. They, quite often, are folks that have been bewitched by the Hollywood version of the "old west" other words they believe in fairy tales. You know the fantasies like "Out west where men are men and women are women" or "Ain't never been a horse that couldn't be broke." or "John Wayne was a hero." (instead of the WWII draft dodger he actually was) or "Cowboys 'tamed' the west." On and on and on...Moviemakers and novelists have been making a living at selling these fantasies for decades.

Now you and your group showed up to yank the fantasies away from these poor folk of the earth who work hard all day (some exploiting, hurting and killing animals). Their fantasies that no one is cruel to an animal at a rodeo, that it is a 'sport', that it is a 'tradition', that it is a fair 'competition' and that maybe the animals enjoy it too. On top of that they have invested a lot of time and money in the cowboy costumes and you're trying to take away their dress-up fun…or at least to make it that they are copying the dress and behaviors of a serial rapist/murder instead of some Hollywood designated admirable type person/group.

Most (all) of these folks see animals as inferior to them and presenting information that suggests that this is inaccurate strikes them as a mortal insult. Anyway, if they couldn't look down on animals, who are they going to look down on (referencing Harper Lee’s novel “To Kill A Mockingbird”)? Suggesting to them that they are 'mean' to animals is just outrageous (to them), why...that isn't part of the cowboy fantasy...cowboys always stand up for the weak and the helpless and the powerless...don't they?

Well actually no, cowboys were casual laborers that helped the rich owners kill relatively powerless animals for profit...but don't tell the fantasy believer that. That's like telling a 3 year old there is no tooth fairy or Santa Claus is a pervert. Doing that is seen as being mean and cruel. Taking fantasies away from a 3 year old driving big pickups and chewing tobacco and wearing funny hats could be an exciting if not risky y'all discovered.

You wrote: “But many of these trucks with tires taller than my vehicle - spit and threw used chewing tobacco at us. They shouted obscenities. They cussed and gave us the finger... They spun their wheels so as to kick up pebbles and rocks in our faces... The gunned their engines and left clouds of black smoke as they sped off towards the parking lot. Many had children in the cars as well. They were brutish. Angry. Aggressive and hostile.”

Yup, cowboying was (and is) brutish and hurtful and domineering if you were (or are) a cow or a horse. Don't confuse the Hollywood myth with the reality of what it was and is. Cowboying is a term referencing the imprisoning, exploiting, hurting and killing of cows for money and of the using of horses to assist in this exploitation (exploiting the horses in the process too). These are not nice and gentle and life-affirming things to do. Human animals who do these things are going to be, by necessity, stained and distorted and twisted by acting this way.

Good for you and everyone that participated in the demonstration. You are brave and caring and bold folks and I'm very glad that none of you were hurt (cowboys (Hollywood again) often don't 'need no ‘stinkin law', they settle things with their fists or a gun).

An analogy that is fairly close would be if y'all went to a Hell's Angels meeting and protested about the evils of motorcycles. This is their identity and if you take away the toys (motorcycles or animals) and make their costumes represent something undesirable then playtime isn't nearly as much 'fun'. And guess who the spoilsport is…

Now, in point of fact, many of those participants in the rodeo subculture know what they are doing is wrong and despicable but are actively denying this to themselves and to others...that's partly why any criticisms or objections are met with so forcefully and vehemently. When they were children they were probably still sensitive to and aware of the suffering of the animals...but they were taught over and over to suppress their empathy and awareness sense of justice and compassion. They were taught that to be a 'man' or a 'grown-up' they had to do that.

Perhaps one of the most important things that your demonstration did was to let those children know that all grown-ups do not see things the way they are being told to see things. All adults don't ignore the suffering of the animals; there are people that view all of that cowboy/rodeo stuff differently. The children had a glimpse of the fact that there are choices...that hurting or crying for the baby cows being jerked off their feet isn’t weird. The children were shown that some adults don't ignore their feeling for their fellow animals...and maybe they don't have to either.

You folks presented an example of a way of being grown-up and adult and compassionate and fair and just...that wasn't the cowboy way…it really isn’t the “American” way except “officially”…that sort of stuff is what we tell ourselves (and others) that we are but rare indeed is the occasion that we actually behave that way…and if we do live up to our own fairytale about ourselves…it is often only briefly. Jeez, women got the vote here only about 90 years ago (they were considered too ‘soft-hearted’ and ‘soft-headed’ to handle such a manly thing as voting). This is a society that only since the 1960’s has provided some degree of effective support for the right of African-American citizens to vote. And all you have to do is look at some of the shenanigans that went on in Florida a few years ago to know that “voting” and “democracy” is often an ideal that lip service is directed toward, not a reality.

I consider it a real triumph of enlightened maturity and progress that you brave folks made it through your demonstration without being harmed. Wow, Florida has progressed more than I would have thought (I once lived there for a while up in the panhandle…which was quaintly known as “Lower Alabama”). I think your demonstration was down in the more ‘civilized’ part of the state.

As I was writing this it struck me that maybe some sort of classificatory system could be established for animal exploitation and exploiters (exploitation includes any use of a sentient being for any purpose). Surely it is the case that someone who is a ‘casual’ exploiter of animals, someone who eats ‘meat’, ‘dairy’ and eggs because that’s what they grew up with and were never exposed to anything different and who also has a dog that lives with them and maybe a cat, someone who is not a chaser of the cowboy fairytale, or someone who makes a profit off of using or killing animals or selling something to support animal exploitation…surely this person would both have a somewhat different reaction to information about ethical veganism and the multiple negativities of animal usage and animal based diets than someone whose complete lifestyle revolves heavily around mayhem and suffering and death being visited upon the other animals.

For instance, cancers are “staged” according to (mostly) the cancer type, size and degree of spread. You may have read about “stage 4 cancer” or something like that. Generally there are 4 stages (there are a number of staging schemas) and stage 4 means the cancer has exceeded a certain size and/or metastasized to other parts of the body from where it originated. Stage 4 is generally the worst.

Well, couldn’t some sort of staging or classificatory scheme be worked out for animal exploitation or exploiters based, for instance, on the duration, type and pervasiveness of harming animals. The duration of the exploiting behavior would be important (it is likely children are more open to understanding the need for exploitation avoidance) because usually the longer we do something the more we are invested in continuing it. Whatever other factors that might be considered relevant could be used to design an ‘intervention’. The ‘intervention’ could include how to communicate with this person in such a way that they would be able to hear the information without being blinded or deafened by their defense mechanisms, what kind of information, how rapidly to expose them to information, etc. Then the interventions could maybe be tested out to discover whether they were effective or not, and modified if need be….and so on.

Sort of like classifying and treating a disease, eh? And, like most disease stuff, prevention is a hell of a lot better and easier and effective that trying to cure…and like some diseases, there’s no cure, only management of symptoms.

Anyway, my hat (not a cowboy one) is off to you folks for exposing a bunch of what were probably hard-core “Stage 4” exploiters to a very different take on their behavior (ethical veganism). Thank you very much.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Dancing rabbit?

Is she dancing? Twirling? Being silly? I don't know, watch and decide for yourself. What I do know is that several times a day, Nessie Rae will burst out of her 'area' and bounce over to the throw hanging over the back of a chair and do her thing. One of the mandatory items in the room now is a throw draped over a chair because it serves as a prop for her sporadic 'dancing'.
 If you happen to be lucky enough to witness one of these performances, it never fails to elicit a smile and a lift in your spirits, so no matter what she is doing one side effect of it is the spreading of happy feelings.

Here in central Oklahoma we have been having July/August weather in June. The daytime highs have been running from 97 to 100 for almost two weeks now. Ugh and wow. This sort of anomaly in the climate makes me nervous for the "crops". Mainly the tomatoes. But, strange weather aside...the first ripe tomato of the year is here and was picked 2 days ago.
June 8, 2011  

If you aren't growing some of your own food, you are missing out on some fun stuff (and some work). I am looking forward to the first tomato sandwich of the year...made with a homegrown tomato, Veginaise and toasted whole wheat bread. One of the absolute best sandwiches in the whole world!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Interesting images.....

These images are all from the South African Animal Rights Activists Community photo albums on facebook. The image below is interesting because it clearly presents some of the contrasting assumptions and positions that differentiate between animal welfare and animal rights.

Giving a cat the right to vote for the presidency conjures up a strange picture (although it is arguable that cats or any other animals would make worse choices than we humans seem to). For many people, voting cats is the sort of notion that is used to ridicule and demean the recognition of rights for the other animals. This graphic, perhaps, clears up some of that confusion.
When activists refer to animal rights they are usually meaning those basic protections being accorded to all living sentient beings that might be associated with, for instance, human children.

Animal rights does not mean drivers licenses for dogs or voting rights for cows. I don't know that I would totally agree with the wording in this graphic, nor do I think the specifics mentioned are complete, but they offer a point of reference for thinking about what is meant by Animal Rights.

This next graphic doesn't need any explanation, it wonderfully gets the point across about not harming our fellow Earthlings.

This last graphic does a great job of humorously epitomizing experiences some of us have had who share living space with those regal, independent and beautiful animals called cats.

Living with a cat (or cats) is sometimes humbling and always interesting.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Advocating for those without a human voice...

can be sometimes dismaying. Not because of those who harm animals, curiously, but because of those who are supposedly in agreement with you.

Several months ago on facebook someone posted something about Amazon selling rabbits feet. You remember those grotesque body parts supposed to bring "good" luck...obviously they don't represent good luck for the rabbit. I shared the post and complained to Amazon and urged others to do the same.

To my surprise my actions resulted in some 17 separate comments by a person objecting to my objecting. Not because they thought selling body parts was ok but rather because I wasn't objecting to any and everything at all to do with selling something from animals. Now of course I do object to selling anything to do with animals but in this instance I wasn't doing that, I was focusing on this particular instance of human cruelty. I sort of felt like that was my choice, ya know?

However, this person proceeded to "educate" me about speciesism and how single species advocating was bad juju and eventually she wrote that "Seeing welfarist postings is upsetting because it causes violence to animals." She then fired me as a Facebook friend...with the condescending proviso that I might be taken back into her fold if I would read a book by G.L. Francione called "Rain Without Thunder" and get my mind right. (By the way, I'm unable to find any empirical backing for the notion that welfarism causes violence to animals, this is apparently an opinion floating around with no evidence supporting it.) 

Actually I thought and still think the whole facebook brouhaha was sort of funny and sort of sad at the same time. Several friends of mine got rather incensed however and took the woman to task in some of their comments. I responded to her a couple of times but when I saw that she seemed to be on a mission and wasn't ready to back up some of her assertions with empirical data I thanked her for her opinion and just didn't respond anymore.

Thanking her for her opinion seemed to incense some buddy of hers who then chimed in during this comment extravaganza by writing that the person trying to school us...this self anointed guruess: "has better things to do with her time...(and that we were showing a) lack of appreciation of her sharing the science of how easily the human mind is was my work for many years and her understanding is greater than many PHDs."

So, I had a person with understanding greater than many Ph.D.s and a marketing whiz telling me what a goobers we all were for not appreciating the pearls they were casting before us. Wow.

Probably this rather arrogant and silly statement epitomizes what I found amusing and dismaying. First of all, I always get a little nervous when somebody starts claiming to know more about some area than folks that hold a doctorate degree in that specialty. Not that something like that isn't possible, it is just that the likelihood of such is really very small. Certainly the things written by either of these folks wasn't exhibiting some superior grasp of the topic . (Not to be disingenuous here, I hold a Ph.D. in psychology and spent several decades observing and sometimes assisting people struggling to change how they thought and felt and behaved...changing is not easy nor is it something I am particularly ignorant about.)

Again, remember, I firmly am an advocate of and supporter of the notion that all sentient beings have a right to live their lives however they want, they are not property, amusements, slaves, pets or food. That is my position and nothing I was saying contradicted that -- however -- that wasn't good enough for these folks because I wasn't toeing their party line. Gimme a break.

In addition, no one and I repeat no one, has discovered any sure-fire way to get people to change their thinking to some desired way or another. Happily so. If such a certain method had been discovered, governments would all be using it and each society would have only one way of thinking. You can look around and see that such is not the case; ipso facto such a certain methodology doesn't exist. Get real.

I sort of felt like I was in one of those stories where you see somebody being excommunicated by a religious group or someone being expelled or assassinated by communist or nazi party members because of factional disagreements. It was sort of surrealistic.

I'm not a big believer in orthodoxy of thought or speech or feeling primarily because it's stifling and exclusionary and unrealistic and eventually stupid-making. Human animals, like other animals, are individuals and trying to impose a "one size fits all" mandate on what to say or how to say it or how to feel is ridiculous. Convincing someone to change their thinking takes many different approaches. What is effective in one instance may be totally ineffective in another situation.

I'm also definitely not a believer in half-assed notions being promoted as "science". Invoking the term Science usually suggests there is empirical evidence somewhere. I asked for evidence to back up what position these folks were pushing and never was offered any but then they proceeded as if they had presented evidence for their statements and I was just ignoring it.

I am familiar with the writings of Dr. Francione. He's a philosopher and animal rights advocate and writes some good stuff re ethical veganism and abolishing the property status of animals. I'm in agreement with that, but he isn't some deity or something. Philosophy is an area of study that generally relies on logic and rationality for the scaffolding of knowledge. Needless to say, straightforward logic and rationality often has only a peripheral relationship to how human animals think or behave.

In his defense, his writings do not come across as arrogant and all-knowing but apparently some of the folks that claim to follow him get almost cult-like about it. I don't know whether he encourages that or not but it is sort of weird and off-putting...and silly. I like silly usually, but when someone is being silly and doesn't know it but rather is being real serious and earnest and can offensive and a bit spooky.

I'm not a welfarist in that I don't think human animals have any right to use other beings, no matter how nicely they might treat them. I do think, while we're trying to implement an abolition of other animal use, if any improvement in the treatment of any or all animals that are being used by humans can be achieved...then go for it...and if you want to put your passion into advocating for one sort of animal...more power to ya. Hell, if we can liberate the fur, feather, skin and scale folks one species at a time that is still better than where we are now.

To act as if anyone has figured out how to get human animals to quit damaging other beings and the planet is sort of goofy. This is a big, big, big problem and a lot more folks are going to need to wake up to this fact and be motivated to change before things get rolling and anything that increases that awakening and motivation...I'm for it.

Not that I am for any and all approaches because some things that are done in the name of helping other animals is simply incomprehensible. For instance…having a non-vegan barbeque or a non-vegan ice cream fundraiser for some animal shelter or something...that sort of stuff exemplifies speciesim in action. Advocating (implicitly or overtly) by using or hurting one group of animals to help another group of animals is so yucky that my head smokes a little when I see it.

It is in these misguided efforts that you see some serious evidence of the disordered thinking supported by our society, of speciesism, of welfarism. Those sorts of travesties uphold the notion that human animals have some sort of right to control, use, "breed", steal from or kill other animals…just as long as humans aren’t overtly mean to these specific types of animals. This is simply wrong and precisely what is erroneous about basing the value of sentient beings predicated on what species they belong to.

I do not, on the other hand, see a problem with objecting to selling animal parts (a rabbit foot) or objecting to the killing of baby seals or objecting to rodeos or circuses that use animals. The more the merrier is the way I see it…as long as you are not condoning harm or encouraging harm or engaging in harm to animals in some other way…go for it....  I'm aware that often such efforts are may not be too effective but…what the hey? Hells bells, if we eliminated the ineffective activities from our lives, I doubt there would be much left…Power to the Ineffective! One of the great lines in the terrific movie “Hospital” starring George C. Scott, occurs when he screams out an open window: “Power to the Impotent!”

As for the orthodoxy enforcers on facebook or anywhere else…confusing opinion with empirical evidence is poor form and doesn’t help anyone, much less the animals. Contentiousness about trivia trivializes what you might be attempting to accomplish. Trying to tell others what to say and how to say it is controlling and demeaning and counterproductive. And rude.

Realize that trying to convince an ethical vegan (who endeavors to harm no living beings) that they are not thinking or saying things the "right way" is a little peculiar. Sort of like bitching at the fireperson trying to put out a fire because she is not wearing the right kind of hat instead of taking the matches away from the kids who started the fire. 

In truth, such an approach exhibits your deficiencies at convincing others. Obviously if you had the key to convincing…I would have been convinced as would everyone else that read what you had to say…that didn't happen.