Friday, July 29, 2016

Further thoughts about "real" men...

In a recent post I did some speculating about socially constructed identities. I've been thinking about such stuff off and on since then and something occurred to me that was right in front of me but also quite invisible.

I recently ran across a graphic that triggered some of my thoughts about this "real man" stuff.


What's nifty about this graphic is that it addresses veganism as well as the socially constructed notion of "real men".

It seems to me that applying the adjective "real" to a living being is often a clue that you're dealing with a socially constructed phenomenon.

Weirdly enough, back in 2010, I wrote a little about John Wayne, who is looked up to (especially by many older white men) as exemplifying the essence of a "real man" and it turns out that some aspects of the image versus the actual reality are rather different.

One way to think of the idea of "socially constructed" is that it means something that was made up by humans (usually white men) and that it was made up because those folks (again, usually white men) thought it benefited them or it promoted some notion that was positive for them or upheld their power in some way. (P.S. I'm not so much picking on white men so much as I'm pointing to the reality that U.S. culture or western European culture has (and is) essentially controlled by white men both currently and for all the centuries since its inception. Which, by the way, we're encouraged to not notice or see because that would serve to make that control not invisible...and that might mess up the control.)

Now that I consider if further...maybe it's a good idea to always realize that whenever the "real" adjective is stuck in front of a reference to a living being that's a signal that the opposite is probably the case. "Real" doesn't have anything to do with the essence of a being...it has to do with how well or skillfully they're enacting a script or playing a role...and that script or role is socially constructed.

In other words, if "real" is stuck in front of a word used to designate an Earthling it almost invariably means "skillfully fake". It tells us that we're dealing with with ways of behaving that are made up or artificial (socially constructed).

Hence..."real man" signals "fake or artificial man" or "person performing a man act". Judith Butler (a philosopher and gender theorist) takes this idea further in her thinking. She maintains that all gender roles are constructed (made up) by societies...her term is that gender roles are "performed".

Here's a quote from a website that writes about Judith Butler's thinking about gender roles:
 Butler underscores gender's constructed nature in order to fight for the rights of oppressed identities, those identities that do not conform to the artificial—though strictly enforced—rules that govern normative heterosexuality. If those rules are not natural or essential, Butler argues, then they do not have any claim to justice or necessity. Since those rules are historical and rely on their continual citation or enactment by subjects, then they can also be challenged and changed through alternative performative acts. As Butler puts it, "If the 'reality' of gender is constituted by the performance itself, then there is no recourse to an essential and unrealized 'sex' or 'gender' which gender performances ostensibly express" ("Performative" 278). For this reason, "the transvestite's gender is as fully real as anyone whose performance complies with social expectations" ("Performative" 278).  
Hmmm....

She's arguing that ways of "performing" the roles of "man" or "woman" are rules that are imposed on us by others (via history and convention) and she doesn't need the adjective "real" to signal that they are artificial or fake or made up.

Thinking about all this was (is) rather mind blowing for me...and interesting...very interesting. "Performing" gender...considering that notion expands your ways of conceptualizing this stuff, eh?

Just to further complicate your thinking...you might want to consider how (at least here in the U.S). it's not possible to realistically consider the roles of "woman" or "man" without also considering other socially constructed notions like "race".

Kimberle Crenshaw notes this in her writings about intersectionality. She points out that gender roles and race (among other factors) are not separate and mutually exclusive but rather that they overlap and always occur together. Hmmm....

Once you start pulling some notions apart, like "woman" or "man", and looking at them in detail...what might seem simple and easily understood rapidly becomes amazingly complex and much more difficult to comprehend.



Saturday, July 23, 2016

This image

is a variant of one that I used about a year ago in this post. I like this new image better in that it provides much more information.


The image I used earlier only had the information presented in the first two panels...the image above expands and elaborates. Equality seems to be a marginal improvement on reality...equity is definitely an improvement on both reality and equality but the ultimate goal for all is liberation. Here liberation means that the 'norm' is absent artificially maintained barriers or obstructions for everyone.

This image is a rich condensation of a large amount of information and I suspect it will continue to trigger thinking for me for some time to come. Maybe it will work that way for you too.

One other thing I wanted to share in this post is a link to a bit of writing and information gathering I stumbled across recently from an unusual source. The author of this blog post is a self-described religious conservative and a white guy. His post is a huge compilation of factual information about white privilege and systemic racism. I've printed it out for study...and it came to an astonishing 18 pages. Mr. Tucker did some serious and useful work in terms of gathering this data and putting it into a structured format for use.

I like that he ended it by asking: 

So… Who are you today? In the face of today’s injustice, which all of the above just barely even begins to describe, are you being today the kind of person that would have opposed slavery, the Holocaust, Jim Crow, and Apartheid back then?     
It was cool for me to see that I wasn't the only one who had thought about things in those terms. It was almost six years ago that I wrote a post about time travel and a thought experiment.

I was writing that post focused on the horrors of speciesism while suffering severely from the obliviousness of whiteness. All I can do about that is regret it and note that I struggle against that obliviousness and think (hope?)  it has decreased somewhat. I plan on printing out that earlier post and going through it in detail in order to rectify the errors in it as an aid to my comprehension. In the meantime, I apologize for and regret the warpings and distorting and misleading analogizing and obliviousness in it.

One part of it caught my attention though and I believe the thought I was expressing to be about as true as anything can be.
There is a curious thing about life, each of us in our own time of living can be faced with significant moral questions.  Great injustices and horrors occur on a seemingly perpetual basis.  We often ignore or deny or seek obliviousness to these occurrences, nevertheless, they exist.  You can pretend they don’t…but pretense does not magically make them disappear nor does it absolve you and your actions or your failure to act. 
It's weird to me that I could write about obliviousness then...all the while...at that time...I was, in ways large and small, engaged in being oblivious to the ongoing oppressions of racism and sexism and heteronormativity and ableism and ageism and and and. (and I have no doubt that, in various ways, I continue to be oblivious)

Just when you think you've figured something out...poof...you find there is still yet more to become aware of and to comprehend.

It seems to be that one of our ongoing tasks as living beings is to struggle to comprehend and resist injustice and no small part of that struggle is to comprehend...because if we don't comprehend then we can't know what to resist and struggle against and if we suffer from obliviousness then we often engage in opposing one sort of oppression while recreating other oppression(s).

And...each of us...no matter when we live...if we live in societies that normalize and support oppression then we will be presented with a version of "reality" that, in both large and small ways, explains and upholds and conceals that oppression as being "normal" and "just the way it is".

Jeez...what a pain in the kabooka. It would be nice to have the default to be non-oppression...but that's not what we have right now.

I'm convinced that part of the task of living, for humans anyway (especially white humans but also for all humans), is to ceaselessly struggle to accurately identify and struggle against oppression. Which means...we have plenty of work that remains to be done.

And the real kicker is...that unless you're actively engaged in struggling to comprehend and to resist (and I include myself)...then you're being complicit in the ongoing manifestations of oppression. There is no sideline...there is no "neutral". As much as we want to...we can't go hide under the bed and be "innocent". Our legacy from our ancestors is pervasive structural oppressions and our task is to dismantle those structures. We white folks (especially) can thank our ancestors for that.  

Friday, July 15, 2016

I got a hoot...

out of this graphic. It humorously summarizes the absolute necessity of examining the focus of and the origin of "knowledge", especially knowledge that has to do with the behavior of living beings.


Like most white people here in the U.S. I grew up being carefully cultivated to believe the notion that "objectivity" was the standard by which to evaluate "knowledge".

Over the past couple of years (weirdly enough, I had reservations about this "objectivity" notion for a number of years, I just didn't have any coherent frame for my reservations) my learning journey has taught me to be very aware that I'm probably being duped whenever the "objectivity" rubric is invoked for knowledges or comprehensions having to do with the behavior of human beings...or all Earthlings for that matter.

Now, whenever I hear the "objective" meme applied to information or knowledge about humans and/or human behavior (or any Earthling) I'm aware that I'm probably being exposed to stuff that is generated by white people (usually white men) and that stuff is probably justifying or upholding the frameworks of oppression associated with race, sex and heteronormativity and class and ability and species and and and.

It's an effective and insidious shtick and one that has kept me rather off-balance for decades. No doubt I'm still off-balance, but hopefully not so much as I used to be.

If you're interested in finding your way out of the dismal swamp of "objectivity" you can start no better place than by reading James Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me. It's a good place to start cracking open the box of incomprehension and distortions (about history)  that we're all exposed to by the media and by the institutions here in the U.S.

Once you've developed a little taste of understanding that we're all drenched in slanted information that masquerades as "truth" and "history" and "objectivity" then you might want to start listening to the voices of marginalized folks. The reason for doing that is the sad truth that those who belong to subordinated groups in frameworks of dominance/subordination tend to be more aware of what's going on than do those who belong to the dominating groups (in part because they simply have to be in order to survive).

Here's a link to a reading list that can assist. Ta-Nehisi Coates is an excellent writer and thinker and he believes all of these books are worthy of attention. If I was only going to recommend one author off of the many on this list...I would urge you to read James Baldwin...also watch the video that's offered that shows a debate featuring Mr. Baldwin. He is a treasure beyond measure.

For those reading this post who are vegan and struggle with grasping what any of this has to do with veganism...consider this...if you wanted to wrap your mind around the enormity of the reality (horror) of "factory farming" would you listen to those who created and run such obscenities or would you 'listen' to the victims?

You also might think about the fact that every major societal institution here in the U.S. (education, government, business, the media, healthcare, etc) is now and always has been controlled by white men...in other words...those with the power (white men) have made things in this country be the way they are.

Also notice that every "reform" that appears to benefit those with less power (ending human slavery, women having the vote, ending legal segregation, protection for people of color voting, etc) has only happened after much struggle (civil war even) by those who were victimized by and/or resisted and opposed oppression. In other words, those in power (white men) only agreed, grudgingly and with great resistance to implement any "improvement".

When have those in power in this country...white men...ever said hey...this sucks for lots of folks and for lots of reasons...let's fix it....without having their feet held to the fire by the victims of oppression and those who objected to oppression? Never, as far as I can grasp it. Therefore...why would you ever look to those in power for knowledge and/or understanding regarding what's going on?

Make sense?




Sunday, July 10, 2016

Help...

Heartland Rabbit Rescue offers refuge to more than 100 rabbits...there are also other Earthlings who call Heartland home. That includes several donkeys and several ducks and a small horse with a really really big spirit named Midnight.


He has a damaged/broken rear leg (ankle area) that is going to require some expensive surgery to fuse the joint so that he can have pain relief and be able to put weight on that leg. The prognosis is good for him if he has the surgery...in part...because he's not a full sized horse. Smaller is better sometimes.

The figure I've heard is anywhere from $6,000 to $9,000 dollars but that's a guess...whatever it is going to be it is huge. Jeannie and Brad, the founder/director of Heartland and her husband, contribute most of the ongoing expenses (along with the help of supporters/contributors) of caring for all the residents of the sanctuary but this amount is beyond their capabilities.

Please help.

You can donate by going here and chipping in or you can go to the donation page on Heartland's website. (Note: Heartland supports and encourages living a compassionate vegan lifestyle.)

Thank you. Midnight is a very special Earthling...and...he's vegan.

Monday, July 4, 2016

A 4th of July Holiday?

If you've taken the time to learn about the Declaration of Independence...the adoption of which is what this holiday is supposed to celebrate...you will be aware that these words are part of that document:
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
I don't believe any "celebration" should be devoted to such a racist travesty. Neither, as you can see from the image below, did Audre Lorde.


The fact that many of the wealthy white men responsible for writing this declaration were also people who enslaved human beings accounts for the repugnance expressed by the statement of Audre Lorde.

Since this document refers to Indigenous peoples as "merciless Indian Savages" it would be more appropriate for anyone who actually ascribes to the "liberty and justice for all" notion to view this day as one of national shame.

I used the image below in my last post...it is woefully appropriate to use it again here to give a salute to anyone who uses this day to reflect on the difference between cultural conditioning (including "holiday" celebrations) and factual information.


If you are engaged in the struggle to align your beliefs with facts...thank you. Your efforts are cause for celebration.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Images with info...

I've run across a few images recently that pack quite a bit of information into a compact form.
This first image is a handy guide to visualize how most western European based cultures implement the hierarchical ugliness of groups of humans oppressing other groups of humans. The image identifies oppressor groups and target groups. If you wanted this image to reflect the oppression that's countered by veganism you could add a panel to the top called humans with species in the middle strip and then animals in the lower panel...you could also do something similar if you wanted to show environmental oppression.

Two of the myths that work to keep these oppressions invisible to us (especially here in the U.S.) are 'individualism' and 'meritocracy'. The notion that your effort will allow you to achieve anything you want and the notion that those who are "on top" get there because of their merit and/or effort are two deceptive fictions that work to obscure our awareness that groups we are assigned to are pretty much the biggest factors that determine our experiences in life.

By the way, one other thing you can glean from the above image is to be able to identify which group members (on average, there will be exceptions) accurately comprehend things. In other words...the more power any group possesses the less accurate folks that belong to those groups understandings (or beliefs) will be (again, this is on average)

This next image makes me smile for a number of reasons.

I suspect that you know from your own life experiences that people who work at re-calibrating their beliefs upon encountering credible information that contradicts those beliefs are exceedingly rare. Most work at ignoring and/or denying such information instead of struggling with changing their beliefs. One strategy that's often used to avoid modifying beliefs is to attack and/or reject the messenger who brings (or points out) contradicting information. It's almost as if we would rather believe erroneous things than to do the work of modifying our beliefs to more closely correspond to accuracy. That's sort of spooky when you think about it.

For me, doing this sort of changing is really difficult, I've often failed at it...but sometimes I've managed to do it. I've also found that many/most people struggle with this sort of thing. That's why it is a good idea to be rather tentative about how strongly you embrace beliefs, especially those that aren't based on reliable and credible facts...and even then you would be wise to be aware that you may encounter information that requires you to do a re-evaluation of a belief.  

This last image has to do with a big part of why beliefs are rarely changed when we encounter information that contradicts them...it's unpleasant and uncomfortable and even painful. The image uses the phrase "unlearning oppressive behaviors" which would include changing the beliefs that uphold or support those behaviors.


One of the clues that can really be useful that we may be encountering information that contradicts something erroneous (or oppressive) that we've learned is...you guessed it...feeling uncomfortable. Which...may also be a signal that we may be in the presence of something that we very much need to learn. Is it the case that we might need to move toward that which bothers or upsets us instead of away from it? Hmmm....