Friday, August 29, 2014

Sometimes...

things pop up on Facebook that provoke some serious thinking. I previously posted a bit about Red Earth Vegans. Membership has expanded in size way beyond what was envisioned...right now it is well over 100...which is a bit stunning to those who started the group. Most (guesstimated at 80% or so) are individuals living in Norman or the OKC area. Who would have thought?

Those joining range from having been living vegan for decades to some who are only exploring veganizing their lives. As a result, contributions to the page are varied.

A recent post asked: "Thoughts on Vegan dog food?..."

There were something like 65 comments made. At one point I inserted an observation that occurred to me as I looked over what other folks were writing...because it seemed to me some conflating of two different things was happening. I wrote: "There seems to be some degree of confusion presented between living with "domesticated" animals versus "breeding" domesticated animals. Literally millions of "pets" are killed annually in the US because they have no human who will provide them a home. I spend lots of time working at a rescue and also have several animals living in my home. Adopting someone to save their life and provide them with a setting where they will be cared for is a terrific thing..."breeding" more animals while others languish and are executed for being homeless, to my mind, is a different issue altogether."

Right afterward another member commented: "I have had dogs as pets all of my life - none were adopted, none came from a store or puppy mill, none were euthanised (which is a whole other debate) or otherwise disposed of but lived long good lives with my family. While we can be empathetic, protest mass killings of pets and work with shelters, that does not mean we are responsible for taking in the homeless. The responsibility lay at the previous owner who failed to be a good pet guardian. For some that say (no one has here) we should all get pound dogs is not too far off from saying folks should only adopt children..."

One of my thoughts was...well...from where did these dogs he has had as pets all of his life come from? The commenter is more than a few decades old so several generations of dogs must be involved..."none were adopted, none came from a store or puppy mill"...  We're left with speculating...we notice he didn't say none were purchased, he just ruled out purchasing from a store or puppy mill.

Or is the commenter saying that the family allowed their dogs to reproduce? I can't tell from the information provided. That none were "otherwise disposed of" I take to mean the family kept all the babies and cared for them? Again, this is unknowable, I'm speculating here because the comment was not specific about this. We're told none were euthanized or "otherwise disposed of" but lived "long good lives" with his family. That suggests (but ambiguously) that this is a family with a (large) number of dogs?

The comment goes on to say "we are not responsible for taking in the homeless." There's where my thinker kicked in. Then my thinker went into overdrive as a result of this statement: "The responsibility lay at the previous owner who failed to be a good pet guardian. For some that say (no one has here) we should all get pound dogs is not too far off from saying folks should only adopt children.

Hmmm...thinks I. "We are not responsible for taking in the homeless." Hmmm. Since some members of the human species "bred" (made them exist in the form they have) these "domesticated" animals that we usually call "pets" (dogs, cats, bunnies) they're responsible for them being here. Not the commenter, not me.

But...no one is making those responsible rectify their harm. So...the homeless animals are just sucking wind, right? According to the commenter, such is the case. It's not his problem and tough noogies for the dogs or cats or any other homeless animal who is unable to live (at least not very well or long) without human assistance. If they were unlucky enough to be associated with lousy "previous owners" then too bad little doggie.

I suppose the disavowed (but implied) statement that humans should adopt instead of reproducing was some sort of attempt to denigrate my comment...but actually it is (to me) a fairly good idea. Paul Ehrlich once wrote: "The mother of the year should be a sterilized woman with two adopted children." Sounds pretty good to me...given the current size of the human population. We've overused the "freedom" to reproduce to the point of absurdity.

Speaking of freedom...it's a nice word...all sentient beings aspire to have lots of "freedom" but...what is often forgotten is that freedom is loosely inversely related to group membership and group size. You are free to do things when you're all alone that become problematic when you aren't all alone...freedom's meaning and value changes depending on context as well as on outcomes.

If we as a group of animals tolerate or ignore harmful behaviors by members of our group...if we don't seek to stop them and hold them accountable for their actions...do we then put ourselves on the hook to remedy the harm? If we don't intervene, require them to rectify their errors...then who's going to do the rectifying? No one?

We do almost nothing to hold people accountable for their behaviors toward our sister/brother Earthlings (or the planet). Hey...it's freedom, right? Well, enjoy the party...but who's going to clean up the mess? Who's going to take care of the homeless? Who's going to care for the sick and the hungry....the scared and the innocent? Victims are victims, right? Not my problem if I didn't do the victimizing. We can feel bad and gripe about it and help the shelter but we're not responsible for the mess so we have no obligation to pitch in and help clean it up.

The problem is...unless you've lived your whole life as a vegan...you're responsible for misery, for oppression, for the death of innocent beings. Yup, we're (all who've not lived vegan all their lives) all victimizers. Every single one of us. But hey...who's going to hold you responsible...and if no one does...then you're off the hook...right? That's freedom, right?

Freedom is wonderful, isn't it? The problem is that it makes my thinker hurt and all that freedom has millions (billions actually) of victims. We live in dark times and the darkness is of human making. One of the factors of that darkness is all the "freedom" that we've gleefully exercised and clung to. Freedom to kill, imprison, "breed" (both in the sense of increasing the number of humans and in forcing...via forcible rape or otherwise the number of the other Earthlings), torture and terrorize. Freedom to destroy plants, animals, ponds, lakes, oceans, freedom to pollute the air, destroy mountains (for "resource" extraction)...whee....freedom is great...yee haw.

We've been on an orgy of "freedom" and our sister/brother Earthlings have lived in dark times for a long long time because of it, now the whole planet is entering dark times because of human animal "freedom". And now...we humans are beginning to feel the effects of the dark times.

I don't know what we're going to do about this...I'm pretty sure though that thinking as exemplified by phrases like "we are not responsible for taking in the homeless" is not going to withstand even minimal scrutiny. The option to turn our back on the behavior and the effects of the behavior of other human animals is rapidly disappearing and...it likely is that our closing our eyes and turning our backs on the behavior of other humans has been and is profoundly contributive to the rapidly approaching planetary environmental disaster.

I'll take care of me and mine, you take care of you and yours and all will be well...sounds good in the abstract...but since all that "taking care of" has included perpetrating the horrors we've inflicted on the other Earthlings and on mother Earth herself...well...maybe it's time to do some serious and radical transforming of what is meant by "taking care of". Like it or not.

Live vegan, minimize your hurting of the innocent...that's a good thing. But remember...there are still victims out there and...unless you've always been vegan...there are victims in your past (and in mine). And...those not living vegan are perpetrating new victims everyday. But, since no one is calling us out about that (or maybe we didn't do it), it's no problem....right?

If you (or I) have been doing harmful and destructive things but one day we decide to foreswear (as much as possible) doing destructive things anymore...does that mean we're free and clear? Does that alleviate us from any responsibility to attempt to ameliorate or rectify or repair the harm we've already done? Let's say I destroy your house and kill your family...later I say "sorry" and don't destroy or kill anymore. Does that bring a smile to your face? Does that do anything about the loss of your family or your house? Does that make it all alright?

What I'm getting at is that there is no position of innocence and/or not being responsible left for we human animals to retreat toward or to occupy. Both our personal history (if we haven't always been vegan and a profound environmentalist) and the history of our species has left us with a trail of death and destruction so profound and so extensive that I suspect we are all going to be cleaning up and/or attempting to make better that which has already been done for a long long long time...probably many human lifetimes (and that's only if any fixing is even possible).

Nope, I fear sentiments like "we aren't responsible for the homeless" are passe. Those days are long gone whether we realize it or not...in fact they never were. It's thinking and behaving like that that helped create the mess we face now. And...we've known it for a long long long time.

By now you've probably spotted the similarity in the content of the "we aren't responsible" comment to the story of the Samaritan reference in the book called the bible. There is lots of strange and peculiar stuff in the bible but, ever since I was a little kid, that particular story resonated with me. There are some important truths in it. One of them is about passing by and avoiding the victims. That was a foolish and untrue option that we've used for way way too long and now the consequences are all around us...as are the victims. It's way past time for a change. Going vegan begins the change...but there's much more involved.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Image speak...

I recently posted about a book for children by Ruby Roth. Afterward I came across a captioned image featuring her that caught my eye...and my thinking. This image and captioning pretty much takes care of the silliness being presented by the media 'psychologist' who was criticizing her book in the interview referenced in that post.


These next two images do a masterful job of illustrating the experience that many of us who've opted for living vegan. First the down (and no...vegan isn't a diet...it's much much more), then the up.

The downs.
The down can be alleviated tremendously when the 'up' finally happens.

The ups.
My thanks and gratitude and deep respect to all who're living vegan, my consolation on your 'down(s)' and I hope you've had at least one, if not many 'ups'.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Quotable quotes...

I stumbled across two quotations that are well worth sharing. The first is sort of zany and almost zen-like in the simplicity and profundity offered by it.

“I look crazy but I’m not. And the funny thing is that other people don’t look crazy but they are.” – eden abhez

What I especially like about this quote is that anyone opting for ethical veganism can appreciate the thought...since it applies not only to appearance but to ways of living and of seeing the world. Most who are vegan have likely been accused of being "crazy" or "weird" or "extremist" by people who are routinely living in ways that support and advocate for unprovoked violence and destruction. Who's disconnected (or "crazy")?

If you ever wondered about the cultural roots of the hippy movement, here ya go. George Alexander Aberle, known as eden ahbez (15 April 1908 – 4 March 1995), was an American songwriter and recording artist of the 1940s to 1960s, whose lifestyle in California was influential on the hippie movement. He was known to friends simply as ahbe. The blog tells us: "He slept outdoors with his family and ate vegetables, fruits, and nuts."

This second quote came from Ladan V. Cheybani, a woman I sometimes see posts from on Facebook. It is exquisite both in poignancy and accuracy.

"Everyday I must struggle to explain to someone why vegan is the answer to a world gone dark. It is so sad, that I must even defend love and compassion. When I went vegan, I thought I found the biggest treasure, I thought I would share with everyone and everyone would be happy to change. I never thought I would have to beg people to be loving and compassionate..... I never thought that...".

From her quote I can see that she had much the same reaction from others to her discovery of the excellence of veganism as I did (as have many). Her expression: "...I thought I found the biggest treasure, I thought I would share with everyone and everyone would be happy to change." ...says exactly my first take on living vegan. I was (and still am), just as she was, staggered and shocked and saddened at the reactions from most others. But not all, some few embraced that gift...and there's where the hope lies...some eagerly embrace avoiding harm to others.

The majority do not though...and her lovely statement beautifully summarizes that sadness. There's much work to be done...and if you're living vegan...you're not alone...others do recognize and embrace that 'biggest treasure'....and many more will.



Friday, August 8, 2014

Ruby Roth...

is the author and illustrator of two children's books that provide information about veganism, animals and how they are abused, environmental degradation and how to eat and live more healthy and less harmful lives. The second book "Vegan is Love" was just published and she posted a video interview on her blog wherein a "child psychologist" decried her book and flatly admonished people to "avoid this book" because it was about "fear and guilt" and that it would be "disturbing" for children. (apologies, you'll have to watch the video on another site, I couldn't get the embedding code to work)

Well, that sort of intrigued me so I went to the library and...there was the book over in the children's section so I decided to take it home and review it. Then I thought, heck, it's a kids book with lots of illustrations, how long could it take to read? Poof, five minutes and I was through. After reading it I was even more disappointed than initially.

Not about the book or its message...it was a nice book with well done illustrations and text. My disappointment was with the "psychologist", his 'performance' was rather pitiful. He started off talking about "restrictive diets" and sweets...which was totally irrelevant to the book's contents and ended up urging people to not let children see the book. After reviewing the book myself I question whether he had even read it.

I visited his website and discovered his touting that he's written over 200 articles and 15 books. I haven't read anything by the psychologist in the interview, nor will I. My impression is that his primary activity is writing and interviewing and maintaining his website. Learning about people and children and families is hard and time consuming and emotionally draining. I'm seriously skeptical that anyone actually knowing very much about these things has time to write 200 articles and 15 books.

Ironically his website has a list of topics and included are "love" and "peace". Hmmm....he's bashing a children's book about love and non-violence (veganism) but thinks those things are important enough to list on his website. On the "peace" link he calls for a one day worldwide armistice...good...and yet he bashes a children's book calling for non-violence toward animals. Since the interview was conducted on Fox "news" I presume he's some sort of hired gun they stuck up there to shoot down the book The woman doing the interview sadly brought new meaning to the term vapid.

The best part of the interview, and what I found to make it very much worth watching were two points made by Ms. Roth. She made the observation that it was curious that upset was being directed toward her book rather than toward the treatment of animals that is pointed out in her book. She also made the point that she hasn't seen any child get upset about the book rather it is the adults who get upset about the book.

Here's an excerpt from a comment about the book I found here. "If I want my kids to be able to see a giraffe or a zebra, I'm not going to shell out $6000 to go to Africa, I'm going to spend $8 for a ticket to the zoo. I'm sorry if those animals are sad, sick and angry. It's cheaper than going to Africa. I need to protein, so I do eat meat, cheese and other dairy products. I can't eat peanuts all the time....".

My thought is that if you write a book and it doesn't upset people with the mentality exhibited by that comment...then your book is probably not worth reading. Indeed, if professionals of the caliber of this 'psychologist' aren't upset by your book, you ought to rethink what you are doing.

Hey, if you're looking for a gift for a child, go buy the book and present it. You'll be doing them a favor and maybe helping our sister/brother Earthlings too. You will at least be exposing the child to some accuracy and truth instead of distortions and omissions. And...doing that is almost a guarantee that someone is going to get upset. Thank you Ms. Roth.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Rights versus 'welfare'.

It all comes down to avoiding doing harm and leaving other beings alone (where possible) as opposed to harming or not leaving other beings alone without being real 'mean' about it, doesn't it? (beings here references living entities who are sentient)

The longer I view the world and her beings through vegan eyes, the crazier and stranger a "welfare" position seems to me. By the same token...a rights position (vegan) probably looks just as strange and crazy to an occupant of the welfare position. I don't know if it works quite that way or not...maybe it does. ("crazy" here used as a substitute for the phrase "disconnected from reality")

It is generally true that vegans...humans who take the position that whenever possible no one should harm anyone else ("anyone else" = any living sentient being)...are considered to be "crazy" or "extremists" or "wackos" by the dominant human cultural narratives. Anyone who is vegan and is reading this knows this...and...anyone who is not vegan and reading this also knows this to be an accurate description of how most human animals view those who are vegan.

But...when comparing the two stances like this:

Welfare: "Well, I'm going to use or kill you (or whatever horrible exploitative thing is being done to an Earthling) for my own purposes but I will try to do it in the least awful/painful way possible."

Vegan (honoring an Earthling's right to their own life): "I won't imprison, exploit, use or harm you. You live your life, I'll live my life."

The first one looks bizarre and insane to me...and the second one looks pretty decent. Harm or no harm...simple, right? Oops...not true.

The distance between those two positions is, in many ways, very immense...especially if you consider what must be waded through (engulfed in) to get from the first one to the second one. Guilt, shame, horror at what one has done...all these awareness invoke unsettling, painful and disturbing feelings. Yet...these are the necessary emotional working-throughs that must be accomplished to journey toward genuine comprehension and persistent implementation of ethical veganism.

Without that working-through, I fear that any "vegan" stance is simply a role, a behavior with no heart and/or substance that can be jettisoned at any time with minimal or no emotional consequences. An example might be someone who sometimes "cheats" on their vegan "diet" because "cheese tastes so good".

If someone has done their feeling/comprehending 'homework' however...then vegan is a way of being and not one of simply acting. Being vegan is a transformational process that changes not only the individual's behavior but their way of seeing and apprehending and experiencing Mother Earth and all of her children...and how those children behave.

Apprehending and appreciating and affirming that all beings are equal in their 'right' to their own lives and to live those lives how they want (taking into consideration that all beings must co-exist together) is a breath-taking and incredibly profound comprehension shift vs the worldview engendered by the conventional cultural narrative about human and non-human beings. That shift, for me anyway, has changed how I see and experience so many things beyond that modest sounding phrase "concern for animals".
I am fairly sure it is a truth that if you haven't embarked on it...the working-through journey...then you will have, at best, only a faint and inevitably distorted and inaccurate notion of what I'm writing about...and...if you have begun that shift...you know exactly and precisely what I'm referencing. It's not, in the end, a word thing.

Going vegan is a journey involving behavior change and in how you see and experience both your inner and your outer world...and all living beings. It can't be described accurately, it has to be lived...and in the living of it not only does one begin to think and comprehend differently...one also begins to experience Mother Earth and her Earthlings (all of them) very differently. And it is a journey that doesn't end...there is no "I'm there" moment because there are (potentially) always new understandings and perceptions and behavior changes arising.