Monday, April 3, 2017

For many years

it's been my habit to stick a gum wrapper or a sticky note or some other marker into a book whenever I'm reading and run across a quote or idea that interests me.

If the book is a library book, I'll either copy down the quote somewhere, or if it's lengthy or the idea covers a number of pages I'll make a copy of the pages that interest me. Then...sometimes...I'll study or think more about what piqued my interest. Sometimes though, I write the quote down or copy some pages and then forget about them.

Many of the books I own have odd pieces of paper stuck in them at various places and probably so do some of the books I return to the library...if I forget to remove the marker. So, if you get a library book that has some bit of paper stuck somewhere in it, it may be that it was a book I read and forgot to tidy up before I returned it. Sorry.

Some people mark in library books...I think that's rude and it always dismays me when I run across stuff like that. I sometimes mark books I own...but not those that don't belong to me. Jeez.

I recently read a couple of books by Elizabeth Strout and I found some lines in her writings that resonated with me. I was, in fact, alerted to the quote from Black Hawk that was in my last post by something that Elizabeth Strout had written in a book titled: The Burgess Boys.

There's a quote from that same book, on page 311, that contains some truth I think. She wrote:

"In case you haven't noticed, people get hard-hearted against the people they hurt. Because we can't stand it. Literally. To think we did that to someone. I did that. So we think of all the reasons why it's ok we did whatever we did."

I read another book by her titled: My Name is Lucy Barton and in it, on page 95, there was this quote: 

"It interests me how we find ways to feel superior to another person, another group of people. It happens everywhere, and all the time. Whatever we call it. I think it is the lowest part of who we are, this need to find someone else to put down."

I suspect those two observations are related, maybe they're aspects of the same thing...and...I wonder if they don't have something to do with how and why we go about justifying the violence and harm we inflict on others that's referenced by the "isms" of oppression (e.g., racism, sexism, and so on).

Indeed, I wonder if they don't also have to do with our trying to justify harm to those Earthlings who aren't humans and maybe even harm to mother Earth herself.

Isn't it curious that we have a desire to make terrible awful things we do seem ok? It's intriguing to me that we often seem to work at trying to "feel superior"?

Why do we do that? Why do we flounder around and try to make terrible awfuls seem warranted?  What pushes us to try to "feel superior"?

It's intriguing to realize that built in to any struggle to "feel superior" is a rejection of the notion of being ok with "equality". Hmmm...

In that first quote she writes that we literally can't tolerate thinking we hurt someone...why can't we? What is it about ourselves that makes us uncomfortable if we feel we've hurt someone else? I wonder.

Is a struggle to "feel superior" just a manifestation of some unspoken and unacknowledged feeling of that's so painful and disorienting that we can only conceive of "less than" and "more than" and the awfulness of that feeling of "less than" drives out any consideration of being equal? I wonder.

By the way, the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears maybe has some elements in it that have to do with the "less than" and "more than" and "just right" dynamic. (where "just right" suggests equality)

(Note: folks who are a lot smarter than me have wondered about this inferiority/superiority stuff too...Alfred Adler for instance)


Have Gone Vegan said...

Hi veganelder, apologies for being absent. Unfortunately, that absence will likely continue (on my own blog as well) since I'll be changing digs over the next few months. But hopefully once I,m permanently settled (I'll likely be living in two different places for an undetermined-as-yet length of time), I'll be able to get back to regular commenting and posting.

The first quote by Elizabeth Strout made me think of slaughterhouse workers, and her second quote brought to mind all the different factions within the vegan movement itself. You bring up interesting questions about how we (and by 'we' I include all human beings) can inflict so much harm and at the same time be in so much denial about it. Seems that in the history of humankind we have made little if zero progress on answering that fundamental question. (Watching part of the commemoration of The Battle of Vimy Ridge today made the notion of WWI being ‘the war to end all wars’ never as quaint as today.)

And, to refer to the posts above and below, we're all complicit. I have less sense of generally being a good person today than when I first became vegan, in part I think, because of a greater realization that the internal battle of wanting to feel superior (as you mention likely due to feeling inferior) is within all (or most) of us. I can't think of a single group of human beings where this struggle (and some might suggest that it's particularly pronounced within the animal rights movement whose supposed aim is to dismantle feelings of superiority over other beings) isn't ongoing.

We're all capable of doing awful things, and in groups, this is just multiplied. And the more power a group has (whether that power is based on skin colour, sex, class, etc., or just being human), the more it doesn't seem to want to let go of its unearned inequality. We're all, if you will, showing inappropriate behaviours in photos. As you say, we have to fight against being complicit, fight against feeling superior when we really feel inferior.

I don't believe any person, any group, and certainly not the human species in particular can advance if it doesn't consider healing this defect (and the resulting harm on others) as 'the war to end all wars'. The unwitting race to destroy this planet and inhabitants only seems to accelerate, and I fear for us all.

Well, not a cheerful note to end on, snort. I may not have time to comment for a while, but please keep writing, and I'll try to at least keep up with reading.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting HGV. I hope all goes as well as it can with your life changes. Your observations are well taken and insightful...and...nope not cheerful and I too fear for us all. Take care.