Friday, October 31, 2014

The Big Three...

excuses for animal exploitation (use of someone or something in an unjust or cruel manner, or generally as a means to one's ends) are:
  1.  Might makes right.
  2.  We have abilities they don't have.
  3.  God said to do it.

Those pretty much cover the gamut, especially if you press someone who's trying to justify it. They will usually end up at one of the three...or maybe more than one.

What's interesting is that the "big three" excuses are pretty much the same for the oppression (the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner) of any group of living beings, be they Indigenous peoples, women, a particular race, the elderly...and on and on. All the entanglements, the social issues, the confusion, the upset, the harm...all of it generally comes down to one or more of the "big three". It's actually not that complicated at all...pretty simple actually. Such simplicity driving such misery...it makes me shake my head.

The first excuse is the stance of a dweeb, the second excuse is the stance of a narcissist and the third is the stance of someone unwilling to be responsible for their own behavior...so they fob it off on an invisible power. Ascribing credence to one or more of the "big three" doesn't say much for the ascriber, eh? Also, notice how well any one of the big three fit into the logic of domination to justify moral superiority. These three are the music for that dance of destruction we are so caught up in.

I ran across mention of the "big three" in a piece written by Pattrice Jones. It contains a wealth of information...much more than I can do justice to in this entry.  I was just was struck by the "big three" and how...like some evil spell...so much horror and suffering and misery has been created and maintained by those three trivial notions. Jeez...we are a piece of work.

I love this vegan stuff, I spent decades trying to sort through and understand human behavior and social ills and thought I had figured some things out...and I had...but nothing like the clarifications that I've stumbled onto while trying to wrap my mind around why I ignored and harmed the innocent Earthlings for so long...and why others keep doing it. It's not rocket science...it's actually fairly simple stuff. But...we do a tremendous job of blinding ourselves to that simplicity.

Simplify your life, opt out of hiding behind the "big three", become an Earthling that our sister/brother Earthlings don't mind having around. Go vegan, you'll be very glad you did...and so will they.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Errata.

I screwed up and I apologize. This was brought to my attention by a gracious and valued reader (Bea Elliot) via her comment on my entry titled Ecofeminism and such. In that post I linked to a talk by Pattrice Jones. My original link led to the wrong talk by her. My serious and humble apologies.

For those who want to visit and watch the correct talk...the linking in that post has been corrected (I hope and it is also accurately linked above). If you simply want to focus on the specific part that prompted my post, you can jump to about the 25 minute mark and follow along for the next 10 minutes or so and you'll hear her speaking about the logic of domination. (the whole talk is very informative...but I focused primarily on that particular segment)

I actually don't think Pattrice Jones does such a thing as giving a "wrong" talk, what I'm meaning is that I linked to a talk she gave about rights and that talk itself is worthy of attention but...it didn't have the segment that prompted the post. Jeez...excuse me please.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Am I my brother's keeper?

When God asked Cain where Abel was, Cain replied, angrily, with another question: 'Am I my brother's keeper?'. The greatest ethical philosopher of our century, Emmanuel Levinas, commented: from that angry Cain's question all immorality began. Of course I am my brother's keeper; and I am and remain a moral person as long as I do not ask for a special reason to be one. Whether I admit it or not, I am my brother's keeper because my brother's well-being depends on what I do or refrain from doing. And I am a moral person because I recognize that dependence and accept the responsibility that follows. The moment I question that dependence, and demand as Cain did to be given reasons why I should care, I renounce my responsibility and am no longer a moral self. My brother's dependence is what makes me an ethical being. Dependence and ethics stand together and fall together.    p.72, Zygmunt Bauman, The Individualized Society.
I was struck by this paragraph when reading because it brought to mind a post I recently made about something quite similar to what this author was saying. The word "brother" (excuse the sexist term, sexism...like a bad smell, takes a long time to dissipate) here is a substitute for those whom I mean when I use the words sister/brother Earthlings. Their well being depends on what we do...or refrain from doing. What makes any of us an ethical being is acceptance of that dependence. If you have to ask why you should care...well...

I only recently discovered the writings of Zygmunt Bauman and I've already ran across a number of exquisite thinkings from him. I'm also reading a book by him called Modernity and the Holocaust that is so very evocative and stimulating. Jeez, you just never know what you're going to stumble across.

As far as I can see...accepting the dependence of all sister/brother Earthlings means living vegan...so do so if you aren't...and if you are...thank you.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ecofeminism and such.

When I was in graduate school, some of the more memorable times I had were when a bunch of grad students (and sometimes faculty) would get together at a party (while liberally using alcohol) and engage in sessions of trying out the stuff we were learning to solve all the problems of the world (obviously we failed). Bouncing ideas and concepts back and forth in such a setting was usually lots of fun as well as offering a chance to get different takes on perspectives that we were being exposed to in our classes. Looking back, those were some of the best of times that I've had. Trying out concepts on others who can give you feedback or impressions or countervailing thoughts can be lots of fun (some alcohol doesn't hurt either).

Moving into a vegan perspective has been sort of like returning to grad school, but without some of the opportunities to have sessions like I had then so I've sometimes used this blog to explore concepts. Except...it's not quite the same as a great alcohol-fueled session where everyone threw in their two-cents about Freudian repression or existential authenticity or what-not. I can't get y'all together for a session with margaritas and beer...but hey, we work with what we have, right?

I watched recently a talk given by Pattrice Jones (at a conference) and in it she made reference to something called the Logic of Domination. I was really intrigued by this, enough so that I started researching and trying to learn more about these ideas. They came from an area of philosophy called Ecofeminism. The talk is rather lengthy but here's a more concise summation...it's not exactly the same as her talk but many of the same concepts are present.

The originator of this conceptual structure is a philosophy professor named Karen J. Warren. Below is a condensed and truncated version of that which is written in more detail here. She contends there are three components to something she calls oppressive conceptual frameworks.


(1) Value-hierarchical thinking, i.e., "up-down" thinking which places higher value, status, or prestige on what is "up" and less on what is "down" and

(2) Value dualisms, i.e., disjunctive pairs in which the disjuncts (a disjunct is a separation of that which is usually considered contiguous or continuous or as part of a continuum) are seen as oppositional (rather than as complementary) and exclusive (rather than  inclusive), and which place higher value (worth, status, prestige) on one disjunct rather than the other (i.e., dualisms which give higher value or status to one over the other such as mind, reason, and male versus that which has lower or less value such as body, emotion, and female).

So…within an oppressive conceptual framework you frame things in terms of a hierarchical structure with higher/lower status associated with position in the hierarchy and think in terms of oppositional binary type terms with one term valued more highly than the other term, e.g. mind, body or reason, emotion, or male, female and then you stick those hierarchically arranged oppositional (and exclusionary) dualisms into a structure of 'reasoning' called a logic of domination.

(3) A logic of domination is a syllogistic structure of arguing/thinking which leads to rationales for subordination. For example…
 (Al) Humans do, and plants and rocks do not, have the capacity to consciously and radically chance the community in which they live.
(A2) Whatever has the capacity to consciously and radically change the community in which it lives is morally superior to whatever lacks this capacity.
(A3) Thus, humans are morally superior to plants and rocks.
(A4) For any X and Y, if X is morally superior to Y, then X is morally justified in subordinating Y.
(A5) Thus, humans are morally justified in subordinating plants and rocks.

Assertion A4 is the core of this stuff, words in red are the beings/groupings involved and the words in pinkish are the characteristics or qualities (or lack thereof) being specified. You can plug in different groups or individuals and characteristics/qualities yourself and use this structure to identify the perpetrators and victims of various dominations.

The subordinating part (A4) is where supremacies and damaging isms are justified…such as male supremacy (sexism), white supremacy (racism), human supremacy (speciesism), etc.

A conceptual framework is simply an internal way of thinking or a script that we use to arrange or structure our beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviors as well as our view of ourselves and other beings and the world in which we exist. An oppressive conceptual framework then is one where the viewpoint encompasses dominance and subordination and that framework is used to explain, justify and to maintain such relationships.

Connections and Intersections.
There's something about this that is, for me anyway, extremely mind-warping. By that I mean that this way of looking at things seems to offer an incredible tool to clear up many confusions that are engendered by the way I learned to understand the world.

Most all oppressions (dominations and subordinations) are essentially the same...and the only change that happens from one to another is the identity of the victims and the identity of the perpetrators...the structure and logic are virtually identical.

The "reasoning" used to support the dominating of women, non-human Earthlings, indigenous peoples, various "races", nature and on and on is brought into clear and immediate awareness....at least it is for me. I saw it before now but this way of looking at it is wonderfully precise. This notion of an oppressive conceptual framework (and the included 'logic of domination') makes it all jump into astonishing clarity.

This approach to looking at human doings is new to me in many ways...not so new in others. A conceptual framework that isn't oppressive is something similar to the viewpoints that have accreted with me over the years as a result of wallowing around in the swamps and sloughs of human behavior and mental health.

For instance, male and female exist on a continuum, repression always creates rebellion, no one is any better or any worse than anyone else (their behaviors can be considered awful or great but not their beings), nor is anyone any stronger or weaker than anyone else, all life is related, and on and on. The previous post was very much about these same notions.

But I've never seen oppression laid out with such precision. It is all rather disorienting to me...to have things like this be so clear and apparent. I've written about similar things but never so concisely. (here and here and here)

Many of the blog entries on veganelder have been about just this sort of phenomena, the victims of oppression, the dynamics of oppression, the horrors of oppression, the damage to the victims, the damage to the oppressors, the beauty and dignity of the victims and on and on.

Veganism is about not doing oppression, it's about lives being equal in value and worth, it's about apprehending the wonder and excellence of all beings and mother Earth. Veganism is about not being a harmer and it just might be (I have lots and lots of thinking and learning to do about this) that these tools for understanding (oppressive conceptual frameworks and the logic of domination) ourselves and our behaviors are great guideposts for identifying and comprehending detours away from the vegan road and markers to let us know that we're on the path.

It's usually very easy to see when someone is being harmed or oppressed, not always but usually. However it often is much more obscure as to what's behind the harming...the why of it...the justification of it. Maybe these ideas clear some of the fog away. I'm sorta wowed by all this.





Friday, October 10, 2014

The Just World Hypothesis.

I was first exposed to the naming of this fairly common notion when I was in graduate school. I was sort of unpleasantly surprised to become aware that I had some leanings toward explaining happenings in the world to myself based on this perspective. Mostly because of the southern baptist explanations I was relentlessly exposed to throughout my early years.

According to the wikipedia article, the JWH (just world hypthoses) is: "... the cognitive bias (or assumption) that a person's actions always bring morally fair and fitting consequences to that person, so that all noble actions are eventually rewarded and all evil actions are eventually punished. In other words, the just-world hypothesis is the tendency to attribute consequences to—or expect consequences as the result of—a universal force that restores moral balance."

Ouch. That's a pretty tough approach to life. By the way, I simply insert "being" in place of the term "person" to make this view applicable to all of more simply mean any living sentient being by the term person.

There are some sad things associated with this viewpoint (victim blaming, wealth is deserved, poverty is deserved, etc). I have a difficult time looking at our harm to other Earthlings (as well as human Earthlings) as having anything to do with some form of a "just world". On the other hand, not viewing the behavior of living beings as havings some inherent justice places us in the position of living in a seriously spooky place where horrid things happen to undeserving victims and random awfulness occurs, often for no discernible rhyme or reason. Scary.

One study found that: "...people who have a strong tendency to believe in a just world also tend to be more religious, more authoritarian, more conservative, more likely to admire political leaders and existing social institutions, and more likely to have negative attitudes toward underprivileged groups. To a lesser but still significant degree, the believers in a just world tend to "feel less of a need to engage in activities to change society or to alleviate plight of social victims.""

Check out your own notions about whether the world is just (defined as actions bringing morally fair and fitting consequences) or not. Is being mugged or raped or victimized in some other way just? Is having a short life filed with misery and ending in pain and terror just (which is what happens to most "farmed" animals)?
A 'just world'?
Is there some karmic umpire calling fair or foul and enforcing consequences for all? In other words do bad things happen to good people (beings) and good things to bad people (beings)?

Existentialism is a term used to encompass a number of philosophical viewpoints about living a life. I probably attribute more validity to some of the notions associated with the Existentialists than any other particular grouping of ideas. A couple of viewpoints from this school of thinking seem quite potent.

One is the idea that we define ourselves by our actions and the other is the idea that living inauthentically (not in accordance with our genuine selves) is destructive and corrosive. There is no belief, in the existential approach, in a 'just world'. Indeed, something nearly the opposite is thought to be true...that life has no inherent meaning and the only meaning there is to life at all is that which we bring to it. In other words, we don't experience suffering because we're 'bad' nor do we experience happiness because we're 'good'.

Anyone interested in an easily understood expositon of some of these ideas might want to read a snazzy little book written by Sheldon Kopp titled: "If You Meet Buddha On The Road, Kill Him". His application of existential ideas to living had (and continues to have) lots of influence on my ways of thinking about and apprehending the world. At the end of this book you will encounter his Eschatological Laundry List which has lots of brief yet profound little gems in it. I like most all of them, for example number 15: No one is any stronger or any weaker than anyone else or number 29: Love is not enough, but it sure helps.

That first point...that we define ourselves by our actions...helps explain (for me anyway) why veganism is deceptively profound. It's genuinely not a "diet"...it's a defining of that which is me. I choose to define myself by refraining from harm to those who are not harming me. To tell you the truth, I can't perceive any other way of living in this world without behaving like or being, quite simply (and admittedly crudely), an asshole. I know that's sort of harsh sounding...but I don't know how to dance around it or to finesse it. Deliberately hurting or harming those beings who aren't harming you is about as bad as it gets (in terms of living)...as far as I can see. And...I lived behaving like (being) an asshole for many many years...but (thankfully) I don't anymore.

Well...probably there are many (including, sometimes, my wife) who would say wait a minute...I know that guy and he can be as big a jerk (or asshole) as you could wish for. That's probably true...but...no one can say I'm being an asshole of the type who deliberately hurts those who aren't trying to hurt him...how's that? That's not how I behave now, hence that's how I'm defining myself (in existential parlance) now.

Veganism is a defining of ones way of being...and...it is a step (a really really big one actually) toward bringing some justice (fairness) to what is not...in my experience or perspective...a "just world". And remember...number 36: You can run, but you can't hide.


Friday, October 3, 2014

Groovefest 2014

Strangely enough (hey...it's Oklahoma, right?) there is a gathering each year in Norman devoted to human rights. You can read all about the history of the event here and you will learn that it started in 1986 and is loosely affiliated with Amnesty International.

Various musical groups perform, sometimes politicians or candidates speak and other groups and/or vendors dispense information, food, face-painting, massages and even acupuncture.

This year's Groovefest marked the public debut of the Red Earth Vegans tabling effort. I've written about this local group of vegan supporters here. The group was formed as a result of several like-minded folks meeting while engaging in some animal advocacy at a circus protest. We had the opportunity to introduce our new banner to the public and to pass out information about veganism to those who were interested.

REV members Sandy, Amanda and Angie.
The weather was nice and there was a good showing of curiosity about our literature as shown by the rather surprising number of people who stopped by to chat and/or take copies of information that interested them.
REV members Brandon, Amanda, Sandy and Sherree.
I admit to opting out of hanging around most of the all day event. My musical taste sort of ossified back around the time the Beatles broke up, so I wasn't really looking forward to listening to the various sorts of genres served up by the different bands or performers (plus seriously loud music mostly doesn't appeal to me anymore).

So, I helped set up and sort of played back-stop in terms of making sure there were enough vegans available to be present at the booth throughout the day (I would have filled in for any gaps). Once the booth was up and going, I went home and did what all wise old humans do...took a nap...and then returned near shut-down time to assist. There were lots of folks willing to volunteer their time so the whole thing went quite smoothly and was a pretty pleasant experience.

What is, to me anyway, sort of intriguing is that there were other instances of vegan inroads into Oklahoma as shown by a booth offering vegan baked goods by Mim's Bakery.
Mim's baked goods.
There also was a food truck called the Loaded Bowl which serves up only vegan dishes at the festival.
Loaded Bowl Truck.
Loaded Bowl Sunday Menu.
The increased interest in veganism and the much more common availability of vegan foods in this area is really rather stunning. This has just sort of exploded over the past few years.

It is gratifying...as well as almost dizzy making. For example, the Red Earth Vegan group on Facebook now has over 150 members. It has grown way beyond expectations and such increases in membership can't help but provide hope to anyone despairing over the plight of our fellow Earthlings. If a group focusing on eliminating harm to all Earthlings can attract that many people in central Oklahoma...well heck. We humanoids just may eventually pull off the trick of behaving as if we were desirable members of the community of life on planet Earth.

If you're living vegan, thank you...if you aren't...it's never too late to start.