Tuesday, May 26, 2015

About five years...

that's how long the veganelder blog has been around. That's about 360 posts.

A big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read and comment. The encouragement and support and observations and information have been valuable beyond what words can express. Thank you.

While I've been maintaining this blog I've also been doing something else. Helping the bunnies out at Heartland Rabbit Rescue. It will soon be five years since I started going there and hanging out with the rabbits.

This is Nikki Blue...she's a baby and the newest resident at Heartland (she was abandoned because some human didn't "want" her). Right now she is pretty impressed with humans which means she really enjoys being held and getting headrubs...she'll often fall asleep while getting those human hand operated strokings.



When I go out, the first order of the day is to pick up Nikki and give her some good morning petting. I assure you that it is a two-way exchange because few things feel as good to a human as does having a bunny enjoy your hand rubbing their head.

I was thinking about some of the numbers from my five years of regular visits to Heartland. I'll do a few of them here and they will all be conservative estimates because I want any errors to be on the low side...so most of these are actually a little bigger than shown here.

An average of 10 potty boxes cleaned each day times 5 days per week times 50 weeks per year times 5 years means: 12,500 potty boxes cleaned. That's lots of bunny poop.

Pretty much each time I clean a potty box a bunny gets picked up and head rubbed a little. That's 12,500 bunny heads rubbed. I do head rubbing on an ad hoc basis too so this number is really very low.

About 3 hours per day for 5 days a week for 50 weeks a year for 5 years means about 3,750 hours spent at HRR as well as driving 25 miles round trip to get there which means about 31,250 miles driven.

The past five years have been the most satisfying and enjoyable ones of my life...absolutely so. Hanging around with the bunnies...and with Jeannie who founded HRR and with her husband Brad...has been and is....seriously fulfilling.  And...my efforts are miniscule compared to theirs...they are at the rescue 24/7 every day of the year.

I'm not putting up the numbers to toot my own horn...I want to show how much can be done by people who are retired and who chose to devote a little time and effort to helping. I would urge you, even if you aren't retired, to spend a few hours a week (more if you can) helping out Earthlings who don't happen to be human and are victims of our callousness and obliviousness and cruelty and neglect. It's a truth that quite a bit can be accomplished just by doing a little as long as you keep on doing that little bit for a long time. Every little bit helps...especially if it is persistent and consistent.

Some people who want to help the harmed Earthlings are, for various reasons, unable to do so. It's sort of up to us who are able to help to carry the load for those who can't...in addition to making our own contribution. So...when you go help...remember that you're doing some helping for those who can't...too. Ok? 

I assure you that whomever you help will appreciate it and I also assure you that you will get much much more out of it than you can ever imagine.

And...if you're of a mind to...do a blog...it is an adventure.

Thanks for reading and commenting and thank you for any and everything you do for our sister/brother Earthlings.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Next week...

in New York City is a forum that brings together social justice activists from around the United States. The Vine Sanctuary has an informative post about this event on their blog.



What's especially interesting about this event is, as the Vine blog post notes, there will be several panels devoted to animal issues. Vine Sanctuary's pattrice jones will be presenting on the topic of "queering" the notion of human rights by considering them as a variant of animal rights.

Rarely do I ever wish I lived near a large city...but...this is one conference I would really like to attend. Hopefully there will be videos available of the various presentations once the event occurs.

If you're able to attend...do...any setting where both pattrice jones and Karen Davis present would be a real treat.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Why all this stuff about human animals?

Well, let's start with a video I ran across that does a good job of summarizing some of the issues about racism. I say some because the video is lacking mention of a number of groups of humans who suffer from the impacts of racism, most notably the original human inhabitants of the western hemisphere. But...the fact is that if you are identified as a person of color in the United States, you are targeted by racism in some form or fashion. Also keep in mind that this video only provides partial information about racism directed toward black people (it's even worse than she notes in her presentation). Nevertheless...even with the omissions of information and targeted populations...it is an eye-opening introduction to invisibled information.




Now, consider these words from Mickey Z, who's a long time vegan and social justice activist.

If we do not connect our struggle against speciesism to other anti-oppression struggles, we are failing ourselves, failing our fellow humans, and failing the non-human animals in a major way. Unless we do the work to meet other activists where they are, we’re doomed.
Ok? He's telling us that we must reach out to our fellow humans, especially those who are suffering oppression, and engage them in meaningful ways. That means taking their struggles seriously and making their issues our issues.

Here he talks about this in a brief video.



It doesn't take much thinking to make sense of this. If you or some human important to you was being abused...that's what would be uppermost in your mind and you would be most concerned with making things better for yourself or for them.

Ask yourself...would you be likely to be particularly interested in making things better for other Earthlings while this situation was going on? Who would you be more likely to listen to...someone who allied with you about your concerns and tried to help or someone who ignored your situation or, at best, expressed sympathy but offered no assistance...or someone who pitched in and expended time and effort to make things better for you or those who were important to you?

If you have a stick poking you in the eye and someone comes along and asks you to quit eating animals...and then says...sorry about that stick in your eye...or says nothing about it at all...versus someone who comes along and is genuinely concerned about the stick in your eye and takes steps to try to help you remove the stick and treat the damage...and then asks you to consider stopping harm to other Earthlings...which of the two someones are you more likely to give some credence?

I've been deplorably under concerned about this previously (and I'm profoundly disappointed in myself) and I'm certainly aware that many (maybe most) vegan/animal liberation advocates are guilty of this comprehension void also. There's a real tendency, on my part and on the part of others, to confuse the word for the deed. Vegan groups or individuals will pay lip service to the notion of no racism, sexism, abelism and so on...but then do nothing about these odious implementations of oppression and/or exploitation. The sad sad truth is that if we aren't actively working against this crap we're (inadvertently or not) supporting it...either passively or actively.

If you oppose oppression...and then focus your efforts solely on preventing harm to one group of oppressed beings while ignoring other instances of oppression...or only paying lip service to being against those other instances...you're sort of exposing yourself as not being real serious about ending oppression.

There are lots of cliches...that actually have meaning...about this. If you want to have good friends, be a good friend...if you want to have good neighbors, be a good neighbor...injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere...and on and on. It isn't that we don't know these things...it's that we tend to have allowed the import of them to have been obscured by their familiarity. These are genuine and vital truths but they must be lived in order for them to manifest their power and strength...spouting words just won't cut it. We have to live them.

I'll end this with a cautionary note...if you decide to get off your tush and start to put some of this into action...be prepared for some shocks. You may find that the humans you think you know aren't quite who they seem to be. I recently experienced a surprising and disappointing situation because of some differences between appearance and reality. I'll eventually write about that here...in the meantime you can get some inkling of this by reading about a talk that didn't happen in this essay.

We can be a strange bunch of beings.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Ruth Frankenberg


wrote these words in the introduction (page 5) to her book titled: "White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness."
Socialist feminism had also given me an analytical commitment to three axioms: first, that in "societies structured in dominance" we, as feminists, must always remember that we act from within the social relations and subject positions we seek to change; second, that experience constructs identity; and, third; that there is a direct relationship between "experience" and "worldview" or "standpoint" such that any system of domination can be seen most clearly from the subject positions of those oppressed by it.
Axiom One: We're in the system we're trying to comprehend (there's no place to stand outside of it). Hence...everything you think you perceive will be influenced by your position.

Axiom Two: The place where you're standing is going to determine how you understand and perceive yourself (as well as influence what you're able to be aware of), i.e., your 'identity'.. Therefore, who you think you are is a function of the social system in which you exist and the experiences and perspectives associated with your position.

Axiom Three: Those who are being harmed and/or oppressed by a system of domination are going to have the best location for detecting, apprehending and comprehending those domination activities. In other words, those who are being hurt by domination/oppression are going have the most comprehensive viewpoint. If you want to know what is going on...listen to the victims of oppression...they know more than you.

Axioms one and two are fairly self-evident...obviously no one exists outside of a social system and obviously your position is going to determine that which you are aware of and experience. That's fairly apparent...what might be new to consider is that you will likely be oblivious to or only vaguely aware of things that someone positioned differently will know.

We tend to think our position offers us a perspective that allows us to know all that is going on...that's simply untrue...part of the seductive insidiousness of our identities is the fact that the more social power we have the less genuine awareness we have of the experiences and knowings of those with less power. It's sort of interesting actually, almost as if the universe says...ok, you get lots of power but you also get lots of obliviousness or...ok, you get lots of helplessness but you also get lots of awareness. Powerful but stupid, weak but perceptive.

Axiom three, however, seems to be the area that we often see dominators engaging in bamboozling and obfuscation...both of others and of themselves. Remember, we're talking about comprehending social systems and what goes on in social systems.

Think about it...if you wanted to know what went on in Auschwitz (for example)...would you pay more attention to what the official Nazi version or would you lend more credence to those who were incarcerated there? If you wanted to know what went on in domestic violence situations would you pay more attention to the perpetrators or to the victims? If you wanted to know what occurred when a bombing raid was carried out on a city...would you listen to the officials who planned it or would you listen to the survivors of the raid?

If you wanted to know what slavery was like, would you listen to the slave owners or the slaves? If you wanted to know what happened in a factory farm, would you listen to the factory farm owners or to those who were trapped there...if they could speak in a human language wouldn't you lend more credence to their experiences over those presented by the owners?

It is important to realize that, quite often, domination is carried out by those who are perceived as the "authorities". We here in U.S. America are strongly socialized to lend credence to "officials" and "authorities" and "corporate spokespersons". And yet, according to axiom three, the sources positioned to know the most about what is going on are not authorities or officials or those engaging in domination activities but rather those who are on the receiving end of those activities. Hmmm....

This is all associated with what Audre Lorde wrote and with invisibling. Notice that the title of Ms. Lorde's book is "Sister Outsider". She's referencing her position of being an outsider to those engaging in domination activities.

Struggling to break out of cycles of domination and oppression means struggling to find new ways of comprehending and understanding...one wonderfully useful tool is to begin looking at events with the goal of determining oppressors and their victims and evaluating information from the perspective that those with the least power are likely to have the most accurate and/or comprehensive perceptions. This essay presents a variation of this way of thinking in the language of christianity

Here's a thought experiment:...you interview 50 men who raped women...then you interview the 50 women victims....and let's say you magically could absolutely "know" what happened. Then you compared the 50 versions of the perpetrators and the 50 versions of the victims to the "real and absolute truth". Which group of versions do you think would most closely correspond to what "really happened"? (I used all the quotation marks because no one can absolutely know real and absolute truth...that's not possible...we only get approximations of such fantasy constructs as real and absolute truth.)

Always always always remember that those who are doing harm (or oppression or domination or exploitation) have a greater motivation to obfuscate, distort, deceive, hide, euphemize or make invisible their activities than do their victims (or, usually, than do outsiders who aren't perpetrating the harm).

For example...we U.S. Americans often use the term "Conquistadors" for the Spanish people who came to the western hemisphere and plundered and destroyed societies
. That's a fairly straightforward term that indicates aggressiveness and dominance. Conquer...that's what they did to the humans who lived in this hemisphere. What do we call the English speaking people (our U.S. American "forefathers") who came to North America and did the same thing? See how we make ourselves sound much more innocent and innocuous by using euphemisms like 'settlers', 'explorers', 'refugees from oppression' or 'immigrants'. 


If you don't think that the victims, in the thought experiment of the rapists and victims, are most likely to present versions that are closest to "real and absolute truth" you probably don't want to read this blog because all of my life's experiences (including years of doing psychotherapy and listening to the stories of perpetrators and victims) have taught me that those who do harm are most often motivated to hide that harm and those who receive harm are primarily motivated to tell what happened to them.

These axioms present by Dr. Frankenberg are useful tools for comprehending (and possibly interrupting) systems of dominance and oppression...and that's the essence of what veganism is all about. Right?