Friday, March 7, 2014

Teach your children deux....

In part one of this theme, I did not provide much in the way of positives in terms of teaching human children (or adults for that matter). Bea Elliott, one of my greatly appreciated and esteemed readers, noted in her comment on the post that it was "an awful lot of awful evidence that things will always remain on the dismal slant." (some of Bea's fine work can be found here and here)

I really don't think things will always be slanted toward the dismal and there is much evidence that we human animals aren't naturally oriented in that direction. However, the fact is that we seem to be awfully susceptible to being snookered (by ourselves) into viewing our world in such ways that result in our behaving dismally...that's what I was trying to express.

We don't thrive in those sorts of circumstances however...violent and destructive and harmful behaviors aren't growth promoting ways of being nor are we particularly at ease with them. We may "adjust" to them (and often do) but it seems to cost most of us quite a bit. For instance, we have the ability to become 'desensitized' to violence...and that's troubling...yet what is hopeful here is the fact that we react to violence in the first place. In other words, we react negatively to exposure to violence and in order to be able to tolerate it we have to make some kind of adjustment and/or accommodation. Which strongly suggests that our baseline level of being is violence aversive. We naturally don't like it. We can "adjust" to it but the adjusting costs us in terms of emotional resources and effort.

Another very positive thing about we human animals is the fact that we make great efforts to hide places of violence and destruction from ourselves. Either by physically locating places of horror and harm out of sight...or by deluding and lying to our own perceptions and thereby pretending that they don't exist...or that they don't matter. It is not by accident that the great harmers, both of contemporary  and historical times, expend much effort on hiding what they do.

The massive Holocaust in Europe was not undertaken in Germany itself, rather the murder factories were established in out of the way places in Poland. The torture carried out by the United States in its "war" on terrorism is carried out in "dark" sites and hidden bases and remote locations. The agents of repression and intimidation are called "secret" some unconscious recognition of our baseline revulsion at such activities. The proliferation of "ag-gag" efforts on the part of lawmakers here in the US is another instance of our knowing, without openly acknowledging, that the activities we are trying to hide are repulsive to most.

No, it isn't all dismal, nor do I believe it will always be...but our predilection to "other" those who differ from the in-power groups and then to denigrate and persecute the "others" is a strong strain in our make-up and one that we must struggle against constantly and diligently. Being cautious about the unfamiliar, being afraid of the novel...these are strategies that likely assisted in survival (in evolutionary terms)...yet these useful strategies are so terribly easily tumped over into demonization and hatred of and harm to the different.

No, it isn't all dismal, only the disturbed and the deficient aren't disturbed by violence...yet we seem to listen way too often to those who seek violence. We're a mixed bag of impulses and abilities and the voices and influence of the harmers seem to overwhelm those who seek not to harm...but it doesn't have to be that way.

The ultimate expression of commitment to equality and respect for all is veganism and the secret weapon that the vegan way of living has going for it is that we are animals who are disturbed by violence. It might be a small still voice, that disturbance...but it is natural and normal and it is the most reliable ally of a vegan world. Or so it seems to me.


Have Gone Vegan said...

Cool that we were both thinking and writing (well, in my case more zipping to the punchline than writing) about violence and veganism at the same time. :)

I share your more positive view that people don't naturally like violence, and maybe in some ways it's more of a learned behaviour. Reminds me of studies they've done with toddlers and young babies that show a very strong inclination to fairness. Unfortunately, there also seems to be an inborn preference for one's own group, thus othering starts from the get go. Two competing impulses! But we have to have faith that over time (if we're lucky enough to get enough of it) that our species will lean more in the direction of the fairness and justice impulse.

Anonymous said...

We just have to keep trying. We have to keep advocating for this planet and all of its beautiful creatures.

Bea Elliott said...

I don't think I'm alone in saying that I float from the two worlds of optimism and defeat. The web, news, and even personal experience have much in directing which way we're inclined to drift on any given day. I think you're right though - Time and again I've seen that people shun violence. There is a core agreement as to what is fair and kind. It's the initial removal of the cover-up guises that's most challenging... How to get people to see that they are acting against their own beliefs?

I see the long lines at McDeaths sometimes, or the shopping cart full of body parts and I just know beyond doubt that if these people were confronted with the consequences of their purchases they'd make other choices. I know most would! But it's a daunting task to get them to look... Here's where pushing forward even when progress is so slow matters so much. We have to be relentless despite the momentary challenges. We have to find clever ways as HGV mentioned to refine our elevator pitch. Sometimes it's a easy as telling people that being vegan is a rejection of violence. Who can argue with that?

None of us really knows the affect we have on others. And as the first lines in this post affirms, we also have positive influences on each other. Thank you veganelder for always being support and inspiration.
Press on!... Shall we? ;)

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting HGV. The evidence supporting the notion that children experience negative effects from exposure to violence is pretty overwhelming. That seems to be our baseline and what I find heartening is that any "adjustment" has to be made to tolerate violence. I figure if we develop problems because of exposure to something, maybe we should avoid it. We don't develop PTSD because of exposure to compassion and/or kindness. :-)

The othering thing is a different ballgame. That appears to be a predilection that, once upon a time, maybe served us beneficially in terms of it likely (when not countered) is assisting in our demise. In a world where small isolated groups were the only human animals..."stranger danger" might have benefited...even then it would have had to have been thwarted at times to avoid too much in-group breeding.'s sort of like an doesn't seem to serve much of a positive function...and it can easily cause bad health and/or death when it goes wrong.

You're right...we gotta grow up. :-)

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting DEM. Indeed...the way we live is advocacy and living vegan is the niftiest advocacy of all. :-)

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Bea. I rely on your steadfastness and observations...and I think of you every morning when I say hi to Bea (the bunny) and give her a head-rub. :-)

You write: "It's the initial removal of the cover-up guises that's most challenging..." There's the rub...because often removing the cover-up results in unintended consequences. Lifting the veil often produces a defensive reaction and then enlightening is experienced as an attack and then energy is mobilized to defend instead of to learn. Tricky stuff.

We'll just keep on keeping on...and like Bea the bunny says...a good head-rub is never a bad thing. :-)