Saturday, September 28, 2013

Dreadful and important.

I recently finished reading a book titled "My Father's Keeper" by Stephan and Norbert Lebert. It is an unusual book. One author is the father who did a series of interviews with some of the children of prominent Nazis in the 1950s, these interviews were then updated by his son in the 1990s.

I really can't recommend reading it unless you are prepared to be rather dismayed and least that's the principle reaction I had to the book. It is depressing and sad to read about the children who are appalled and/or horrified at their parents behavior and it is even more depressing and sad to read about the children who are not appalled and/or horrified or who deny any such behavior.

What was very saddening to me was that it seems that all the denial and/or unconcern with the murderous behaviors does not result in discernible psychological and/or emotional problems.
In the 1960s the Heiderlberg psychologists Alexander and Margarete Mitscherlich made the following statement about the psychological health of the Germans:
“Astonishingly our experience in no way points to the kind of increase in the number of patients in a state of denial that might have encouraged us to identify a tangibly clinical illness. From the records of more than 4,000 patients it emerges that extremely few criteria could be found for a correlation between their present-day symptoms and their experiences in the Nazi era. Self-confessed Nazis virtually never appeared.”

The Freiburg psychoanalyst Tilmann Moser offered a similar conclusion at the end of the 1990s.

“It seems that we must resign ourselves to the fact that the perpetrators and their followers have uncovered no path to shame or guilt within themselves, and for this reason we remain faced with” cleavage, defiance, cognitive dysfunction, collective denial and anthropological limits to the establishment of identity and the continuity of conscience.”

After countless studies, his Munich counterpart Wolfgang Schmidbauer has come to accept the 'intensely unjust' state of affairs that for the camp murderer who has killed over and over again, or the camp employer who has profited by the deaths of thousands of helpless slave laborers, it is far easier to deny guilt, to shrug off scruples, to live a normal family life and be a respected father to his children, than it is for the victims, who are mostly visited by the severest feelings of guilt because they are the ones who survived. You have to look at it this way, Schmidbauer concludes: the perpetrators had to deal only with their fear of being caught and condemned. From a psychological viewpoint, it comes down to understanding that the perpetrator realised him or herself through his or her act, whereas the victim was hindered by the same act in everything that he wanted, and wants still, to realise. Or put it more cynically: torturing body and spirit has measurably fewer side effects than being tortured. Pp186-7
I don't want to draw some maybe obvious conclusions from these observations...I'm aware of many but am not inclined to fully ascribe to them...mainly because I suspicion they would prompt a really unpleasant state of depression.

It is all perhaps best summarized by this passage from the book.
The Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal says that it is a grave and dramatic mistake to proceed on the basis that only evil beings are capable of evil acts. One of the essential characteristics of many leading National Socialists, says Wiesenthal, was that at home they were utterly charming people. They were the same people who lovingly kissed their children goodby in the morning and then a few hours later were gassing or shooting Jews. This realisation , Wiesenthal thinks, is dreadful and at the same time hugely important, because on the person who has grasped it knows that evil lives dormant in most people and can break out at any time. Let no man say that such a ghastly dictatorship is no longer possible today. That is the true lesson from the horror of National Socialism: we must fight against it constantly, against evil, so that it does not emerge again. pp 182
Most of us who live vegan did not do so at some time. We lived ordinary lives doing extraordinary evil with no discomfort at all. Wiesenthal seems to be oblivious to the evil that is inherent in eating our fellow Earthlings...I find no references to his being vegan. We must not only fight constantly against evil, we must fight constantly to be able to even recognize evil. Living vegan is the only way I know of to mostly avoid participating in a huge huge evilness.

I've written before about history and human behaviors (here, here and here). I'll likely write more too. Having spent my professional life trying to understand and sometimes modify human behavior and personality makes me know how little I understand. I will say though, from what I can see, veganism as explained by Donald Watson and friends seems to be the best of the best of all ways to live while doing minimal harm to others.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Introducing Ice (and Hope).

Recently a kind neighbor woman (a Heartland Rabbit Rescue neighbor) decided to share her home with a baby miniature goat. We had been hearing his little voice sometimes in the morning and could occasionally see him way off in the distance. Finally the director of Heartland called and arranged a meeting at a half-way point in the fields that separate Heartland and the neighbor.
His name is Ice (his mom's name was Snow) and he's a beauty.
He apparently won't grow much larger. It was a fine thing to meet him. He's very friendly and as you can see...very handsome too. We're hoping that soon he'll get to come over to Heartland and meet the ducks and bunnies and Molly, Midnite and Judy too.

In other Heartland news, about 3 weeks ago a call came about a little bunny who had been found loose and injured in a cemetery in a small town east of OKC. When the Heartland director finally got her it was discovered that she had been attacked by a predator and had a back leg broken in 2 places as well as some gaping wounds that were infested by maggots. She was emaciated and frightened. The director, along with a long-time and experienced volunteer worked for a number of hours cleaning her wounds and stabilizing her.  She was then taken to the vet the next day.

There it was found that she would likely have to have the leg amputated but she was too debilitated for the surgery so some rest and recovery and weight gaining would have to happen first.
Hope, after much recovery.
She is very young and weighed under 3 lbs when she first arrived. She was running a high fever and her behavior suggested she was stunned and shocked. Slowly, with lots of TLC by the director, Hope started coming around. She was always willing to eat...which...with a pivotal. If they'll eat...there's hope.

She has been miraculous in her resilience. Once the fever was managed and her wounds began to heal, then her personality began to emerge. She's bouncy, spicy and a tad sassy. She's very people oriented and loves being petted. Now, there is a possibility she won't have to lose the leg...but she needs to not put too much strain on it and that's a difficulty because as she feels better and better...she wants to run and jump and binky. She's a baby and she wants to play. You can read more about her on Heartland's facebook page.

Hay snack.

Here you can see her having a bit of a hay snack as she rests a little.

Below you can see her pensively eying the doubt thinking about what she wants to do next.
What next?

It is beyond being able to put into words...watching these little fur people who are abandoned and neglected and abused by the human species and then seeing so many of them be able forgive and forgive absolutely all that's been done to them. And to share their delightful selves freely and openly with any human willing to be kind to them.

It doesn't make us look very good.

Caring for Hope and others like her takes lots of time and effort and, shelter and medical care is expensive. Help your local animal rescue/sanctuary...or help out Heartland if you want. The number of bunnies in need is always greater than the resources to help them.

Help all life and planet Earth and yourself by living vegan. Please. And care for those who depend on you...and be kind to everyone else. Ice and Hope both think these are all good ways of living.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Why History Matters...

is the name of a book I'm reading and in it I ran across something that struck me. Here the author is writing about desiring social change that is in the service of equality and justice. 

“ change implicitly demands an end to ideologies of hierarchy, such as racism and sexism. Without the abolition of sexism, none of the other hierarchical concepts and systems can be successfully ended. No matter how changed economic and social relations may became, as long as sexism constantly re-creates the inequality in the family and in the consciousness of men and women, hierarchy will be reborn......

…...the goals of feminism cannot be achieved without a vast cultural revolution, involving every institution of society, in particular, the family. The magnitude of the social change needed presupposes the diffusion of the forces of change into every aspect of society. No other oppressed group except women is so located as to be able to effect such changes.” 
pg 109 Why History Matters, Gerda Lerner.

She goes on to point out why women aren't in the same relationship to those who dominate them as are other groups. Women are too numerous and widely distributed to be wiped out or ghettoized and because of their intimate connections with the group members of those who dominate (fathers, brothers, sons, husbands) women can't use violence to reach their emancipation. She argues they must use tactics of social pressure and persuasion that result in a new consciousness in men and women....not an overthrowing but a transformation.

Reviewing what she argues makes it readily apparent that speciesism must be included in the idea of re-creating hierarchies. If we view other living beings as unequal then the idea of hierarchy will forever persist. In fact, if you think about it, devaluing other species and/or members of other species makes inequality among our own species almost guaranteed. Because that devaluing of beings who differ from ourselves teaches us that "difference" implies unequal which then can be used to identify human animals belonging to groups ripe for oppression because they are not our equals. 

Difference is easy to identify between species...there is a major training ground for viewing different as being not equal...not equal meaning it is ok to oppress or harm because of their "differentness". Speciesism then is part and parcel of the "original sin" that leads to the notion that some living beings can be conceived of hierarchically and that such conceptualization is acceptable.

Or so it seems to me. Obviously, the only way you or I can participate in bringing about the transformation needed is by living vegan. There's where it all starts.