Friday, August 26, 2016

I saw on facebook

this entry by Christian Sebastian and thought it was terrific. He wrote:
PSA: Shaming don't work. It didn't work in 1642 for Hester Prynne and it don't work now. Humiliation diminishes. Humiliation fosters defensiveness. And most importantly, humiliation causes people to deny responsibility. How much of your animal activism is rooted in punishment versus creating change? Now be honest.
(Note: PSA is an acronym for public service announcement) 

I have wrestled with aspects of this over a number of years. By that I mean I have gotten angry and upset and said (and thought) negative things to or about people who dismiss or reject or ridicule veganism. And...that's really a piss poor way to go about getting humans to convert to a vegan lifestyle. I've never had anyone that I behaved poorly toward fall down and say I'm sorry and convert to veganism.

Whereas I've been fortunate enough to have several people over the years be open to listening to my non-shaming, non-attacking message about the harms associated with not living vegan and eventually they opted to live vegan too.

It's vitally important for me (and for you too) to remember that all the people who don't live vegan are going to have to eventually come to living vegan if we are to end systematic human harming of our sister/brother Earthlings. And...it's unlikely to further that goal if we attack or shame or humiliate them. They are potential allies in the quest to stopping the harming of Earthlings who don't happen to be human and beating up on them isn't very wise or effective.

Most of us, at one time, were not living vegan and it's important to remember that too.

I would not have wanted someone who was vegan to have attacked or shamed or humiliated me when I was gripped with obliviousness to the harm I was doing...and no one else wants that either.

The fact is...when we approach people that way they almost always focus on defending themselves...not on listening to the message that might be being conveyed. I'm not saying they'll necessarily listen if you don't attack or shame them...but I am saying they are much more likely to be open to an approach that isn't humiliating toward them.

So...don't. Ok?

If you can...pretend that the message you're conveying is being directed to you...if it would offend you then probably someone else would be offended too. Offense usually evokes defense...not receptivity or careful listening.

Christopher said it a lot more concisely and eloquently than I can.



Sunday, August 21, 2016

Help and reward

yourself with a stay on the beach (maybe). If you purchase entries in this raffle. But hurry...the last day to get a ticket is September 2nd.

The link goes to the Heartland Rabbit Rescue website where there is information about contributing to Midnite's surgery fund by entering a raffle that offers...among other rewards...the grand prize of a seven night stay at an ocean side condo in Myrtle Beach, Florida. If you don't want to enter the raffle...you can contribute without buying tickets too.

Help out this charming and handsome fellow (more info about his troubles can be found if you follow the link) and maybe win a stay on the beach...as well as a chance at some other excellent rewards...that's pretty snazzy.

Information can be found on the Heartland facebook page and also in this graphic.


The cutoff date for getting your chance(s) is September 2nd...hurry...and please help and thank you.

Midnite (the magnificent)

Midnite thanks you too. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Eh?

Over at the So I'm Thinking of Going Vegan blog there was a post back in July that featured this image from VeganStreet.com:


The image creators said they were inspired to make it because: "This is a version of those cute little "All I want to do is drink wine, take naps and cuddle puppies" t-shirts for people who really want to make a positive change in the world."
All well and good, right?

Not so fast...if you want to take the time to look at the original offering of the image you can scroll through some of the comments and find that...whoa...a number of people apparently got all riled up over various aspects of the image...which you will note is just a statement that someone wants to end the oppression of the marginalized groups identified as women, people of color (not that separating 'race' and 'gender' is really possible) and animals. What is there to object to? Apparently a lot, judging from some of the comments.

I tend to not engage with (committed) naysayers because I have this (absolutely personal and not empirically confirmed...not systematically anyway) notion (hypothesis) that if someone has a strong enough negative reaction to statements about ending racism and/or patriarchy and/or and/or...to be willing to openly and forcefully state their objections then "engaging" with them is pretty much an exercise in futility that almost invariably causes me much more upset and/or dismay than any gain there might be in jousting with such potent certainty. I've rarely had anything worthwhile (that I was aware of) come out of doing any back and forth with such folks.

Some people seem to enjoy that sort of stuff...I don't. I tend to end up feeling sad and beat-up as a result of such exchanges. When I was younger and a bit less jaded (?) than I am now, I sometimes would get into it with such folks but not so much anymore.

Notice that I'm not saying I'm unwilling to dialogue with someone who might disagree with these sentiments...I'm saying I'm unwilling to engage with those who disagree (resist?) and are so certain of the validity of their objections that they're willing to strongly assert their displeasure in some sort of public or open forum. The important thing isn't the disavowal or skepticism (although that's troubling)...the big factor here is the power of the motivation and the certainty behind those dismissals.

My speculation is that when a strong pushback like that is encountered...it is most likely driven by great fear and/or pain and dealing with such stuff is not likely to be resolved in any kind of online doings. Very often when you encounter strong anger or outrage the underlying factors include a great deal of fear/threat/pain. Folks who attempt to deal with those personal factors by angry attacking or dismissal of what scares them usually aren't inclined to do much exploring and/or thinking. They're interested in obliterating that which disturbs them...not in exploring issues and/or experiences.  

Glancing over some of the comments associated with the image above shows that there are a number of folks who figure that they know all they need to know and exposing them to some broader picture about manifestations of oppression is unwanted and even offensive to them...i.e....it upsets them and they're motivated to attack/destroy that which bothers them. That might mean attacking the notions that spook them...or...it might mean attacking whomever offered such notions.

I'm reminded of the phrase "often wrong...but always certain" when I read some of those comments.

I am frequently uncomfortable when I feel tentative and uncertain about what I think I know...however that discomfort seems a small price to pay for striving to not be oblivious to the amazingly devious and subtle ways that oppression permeates western European societies and manifests itself here in the USA.

It seems astonishingly obvious to me, now anyway, that resisting and interrupting harm to those with little or less social power is an often difficult and complex task. I didn't used to be aware of that...which, by the way, is exactly how societies drenched in oppression want you to think. Nope...I don't think that way anymore but that doesn't mean I don't get fooled by subtle (or obvious) presentations of oppression...I do...and often...but...hopefully not as much as previously. That's an improvement...I think.

Tell ya what...go read the excellent blog post and then go poke around in the comments about the image and see what you think.

I've come to accept that striving to decrease and/or end my harming of other living beings is a difficult and demanding journey and anytime I think I've "arrived"...that's when I'm most likely to be full of crap. I know for sure though that I really don't want to be as obtuse and filled with fear driven oblivious certainty as some of those commenters seem to be.

It's unlikely any of them would don white robes and burn crosses and/or assault women...but...those who reject the pervasiveness of oppression in this society are exhibiting and participating in the core of obliviousness that supports and upholds such awfulness and perpetuates the "normal" systemic and institutional oppression and harming of living beings who are are identified as members of marginalized groups.

Such denial facilitates and is complicit in harm...whether intended or not...and that's just not ok.

We are all in this together no matter how much we might pretend we are not and harming others is both unnecessary and repugnant...and...because we've been socialized to not notice it or recognize it...it's often disgustingly difficult to detect and comprehend.

We can do better than that. I know that to be true simply because my understanding has expanded over the past couple of years...and...if a really old white man can become more aware (and hopefully less inadvertently hurtful)...then so can we all.       



   

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Women's Resource Center

is a community based (not government associated) organization that provides: "...specialized services catered to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking,..." for the Cleveland County (Norman, Oklahoma) community. All their services are provided at no cost to those who seek them.
I've been attending training there for the past few weeks so I could serve as a volunteer for them. I was the only male (shocker) out of a group of 11 or 12 people who were wanting to volunteer. (I'm basing that notion of 11 females and 1 male on external appearances only)

I was a little apprehensive about doing this mainly because I figured that few men volunteered. My apprehension partially had to do with the "real men don't do this sort of thing" nonsense. Sadly, just because I have some limited awareness about societal messages about masculinity doesn't mean I'm not still influenced by them. That's one of the paradoxes (whee) of recognizing some of the goofy and harmful socialization messages we get...I see that they're crap but they still can make me shaky or uncomfortable or apprehensive. Jeez.

And...I'm also aware that this is a shelter/organization for victims who are almost always females who have almost always been harmed by...guess who...males.

So...I was, in part, reluctant to attempt to help because I am conscious of being a member of the group (males) who are almost always the source of the violence that harms those who seek help there and I didn't want my presence to create or invoke fear or discomfort from victims.

The training is finished now and I think we've figured out some ways that I can sometimes assist WRC as well as avoid making folks who use their services be uncomfortable. (and those ways of assisting appeal to me)

A number of things from this effort has helped my comprehension. Most especially is some increased awareness that we all swim in a rather nasty ocean of what is called the "rape culture". I hope you'll take the time to read about it if you're unfamiliar with what's meant by that phrase.

If you do some investigating you'll notice that it (rape culture) has to do, in part, with "normalizing" violence toward and domination of a less powerful group. Does that sound familiar?

I'm going to summarize something here and in doing so I'm cognizant that summarizing is...in a number of ways...risky and misleading (maybe it even can be thought of as violent). Because when we summarize something we obliterate details...and...in the end...the details are pretty much everything.

Think of it like forest and trees. The old saying about not seeing the forest for the trees has to do with getting so focused on the details (trees) that we don't see a bigger picture (forest)...well that works the other way too...we can get so focused on the bigger picture (forest) that we neglect to comprehend that it is the details (trees) that are the sole makeup of the forest. Always remember (and I'm reminding myself here too) that you can have details without a bigger picture but you can never have a bigger picture that doesn't consist of details.

Sorry for the pedantic sounding digression (I probably was a teacher for too long) but I wanted to give some context before I made a summary.

The summary is this...our culture (the USA) is structured...and very much so...maybe even almost totally...on the dominance of various less powerful groups by other more powerful groups. And we all participate in this stuff in one way or another...but...since being aware of this ugliness would be upsetting and uncomfortable (and maybe awareness would result in change so dominance depends in part on not being comprehended) we are all socialized to see this dominance/subordination as "normal" or to not see it at all because it has been made invisible.

This "normalizing" or "invisiblizing" of dominance (and the violence or threat of violence that supports and upholds it) is a necessary part of maintaining all this stuff because (in part)...we don't want to see ourselves as a**holes. We all want to believe we're "good people" and good people don't hurt others or dominate others or harm others or threaten to harm others. So...we hide truth from ourselves...we "normalize" violence...we make it invisible. And..."rape culture" is a way of naming and identifying an aspect of that "normalized" violence.

Part of the training for WRC included screening a documentary called "Tough Guise 2". It was a painful and enlightening look at the fact that most human originated violence is generated by...guess who...males (mostly white, cisgendered heterosexual males). We have a problem...and the problem touches all of us...some more hurtfully than others and quite differently depending on whether we're positioned as victims or perpetrators...but make no mistake...we all get harmed.

My last blog post touched on the fact that little boys get harmed and that harming often shapes them into adults who then tend to harm others. Arrrgh...it makes my head hurt to try to wrap it around all this...but slowly slowly I do think it is becoming more clear to me. Somewhat anyway. Maybe.

And...it isn't a pretty picture. One thing that is of utmost importance...and...that is I must always retain awareness of is that seeing the "bigger" picture is only a tool and only useful if it can help in interrupting this stuff. And the interrupting of it always has to do with reducing or eliminating harm to members of marginalized groups...and most importantly...without doing harm to different marginalized groups.

Maybe that's the useful thing that trying to get a bigger picture view allows is that it can sometimes assist in avoiding or stopping harmful stuff without inadvertently or accidental recreating harm. Hmmm...maybe that's a useful way to think of it...big picture stuff helps not recreate oppression and attending to the "details" means consulting victims and following their lead in terms of how to reduce and/or stop harm to them.

PETA serves as a wonderful example of how not to do activism because PETA often opposes harm by recreating harm. Routinely they oppose harming animals but their efforts often include making women into sex objects which in turn upholds aspects of rape culture or their efforts sometimes uphold racist notions. They seem to see the trees (they seemingly try to stop harm to victims) but are often oblivious to the forest (shifting harm to other groups of victims).

We can do better than that, I think. But...it's often not easy because we've all been thoroughly and totally socialized to not think this way. We see harm to living beings who have little power and we want to make it stop...but...way too often our efforts to stop the harming often simply shifts harming to a different group of victims. It's a trees and forest sort of problem and too often we leave out one factor or the other when that's exactly the way to not do it.

Here's where I console myself with something that seems really hopeful...and that is...we humans created this oppressively structured culture and that means we have the power to change it...we don't have to operate this way...it didn't just fall out of the sky onto us. We humans made it this way and that means we humans can unmake it.

I'm trying to get some useful (and accurate) comprehension of this stuff...if you can help...please chime in.

 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

I thought this statement

by bell hooks was pretty accurate. It certainly corresponds with a number of experiences I had when I was growing up and and also after adulthood. It also reminded me that I had made up some rules for myself as I went along in life that served to guide me in my behavior and I created those rules because of my fear of what might happen to me if I didn't behave and speak in certain ways...or avoid behaving or speaking in certain ways.

What I hadn't thought much about was the violence (or threat of violence) associated with those rules. But once I read this I remembered that hints or threats of it were always sort of floating around as these "acts of psychic self-mutilation" were taught.

When I began the journey of learning to do psychotherapy I ran smack into one of those rules and had a big struggle...that continues, from time to time, to this day.

That's the rule that "men don't cry". Guess what...you can't do psychotherapy effectively unless you can cry...because to be able to authentically cry you must be in touch with your feelings...and there's no way to effectively perform psychotherapy unless you're in touch with your own feelings.

Patriarchy (USA style) has to first be violent or threaten violence toward those little children called "boys" in order to train/create the adults who enact and perpetuate that patriarchy. Mostly (but not always) that violence (or threat of violence) comes from adults called "men" and is directed toward young humans who are called "boys".

In addition...and this is not a small thing...the rules of patriarchy are often also taught by women. Which means that little boys (I'm writing from my perspective as a white man who was once a little white boy...so I'm only able to have experienced being taught the rules of "being a man" from the perspective of being white) often have no adults around them who aren't encouraging and/or teaching and/or enforcing the rules of patriarchy (I'm specifically referring to USA type white patriarchy here).

It's pretty insidious when you think about it...the enactors (who are ones who primarily benefit from patriarchy) have helpers who also teach/enforce the rules of patriarchy and those helpers are the victims of that system...women. Human children really don't have much of a chance to break out of patriarchy since almost all of the adults they encounter are teachers/enforcers of the rules of patriarchy.

Think of all the wars that are instigated and fought by men...all the violence that comes from men...does this have anything to do with the "psychic self-mutilation" that little boys do to themselves in their attempts to follow the rules of patriarchy? Hmmm....