Showing posts sorted by relevance for query human rights. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query human rights. Sort by date Show all posts

August 3, 2012

Seven Roadblocks to the Good Life: (6) The Counter Revolution

I began this discussion of the roadblocks which prevent human advance to higher levels of social awareness and well-being by listing ignorance, greed and a number of corrosive and devitalizing forces and practices which blunt the cutting edge of the crusade to end social backwardness and promote the full use of nature, of human genius, of science, technology, and the social apparatus as means for opening wide the doors of opportunity for the entire human race. Ignorance, poverty, unemployment, dissipation, war and other forms of waste are barriers which must be surmounted and liquidated by the concerted demand of humanity as it struggles for enlightenment, and the fuller use of natural resources and technical equipment to enlarge opportunity, increase knowledge and thus broaden and deepen the stream of human culture.

There are other roadblocks which are deliberately built and maintained, to preserve obsolete features of Western civilization, to limit and restrict human advance and to make such minor reforms in the social apparatus as are necessary to blunt the worldwide movement for social betterment, and to preserve the wealth-poverty balance: wealth for the owners and masters; poverty for those who do much of the world’s work. I shall call these planned, tailor-made roadblocks to social advance “the counter-revolution” because they are the answer of property, privilege and the status quo to the planet-wide revolution of the past half century.

There is nothing casual or customary about the counter-revolution. It has been planned, organized, financed, armed and led by the richest and most powerful big businesses and the richest and most powerful governments of the “free world.” For years after 1917 the big business-military oligarchies which were running the Western empires considered the Russian Revolution and the Chinese, Cuban, Philippine, Turkish and other revolutions which clustered around the Russian Revolution as “impermanent rather than permanent.” When at long last they awoke to the fact that revolution at various levels was sweeping over the planet like a prairie fire, they took the matter seriously and began planning and organizing the counter-revolution.

Needless to say, the counter-revolution had as its purpose the preservation and strengthening of the status quo. It was stimulated and activated in all areas where revolution succeeded or threatened to succeed.

Counter-revolution was directed against revolutionary movements and revolutionary governments in Mexico, Russia, Central Europe, the Near and Middle East, South East Asia, Latin America, Africa. It was so successful in the United States that it all but eliminated the Left as an effective political factor.

Behind the counter-revolution were the prestige, wealth and political authority of western civilization. Immediately after the Russian Revolution it took organized form in the drive to overthrow the Bolsheviks and the parallel revolutions in Germany and Central Europe. Then it appeared as Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany. Later, as the threat of planet-wide revolution mounted after war’s end in 1945, it became the Cold War, waged by the remnants of the chief 19th century empires against syndicalism, socialism, communism or any other ideology which questioned the theory and practice of private enterprise and empire building as the logical end and aim of human life. Led aggressively by the business-military complex of the United States after 1946, the Cold War took the center of the western stage and has occupied it ever since, fighting the collectivist “enemy” in the Soviet Union, People’s China, Korea, Vietnam, Iran, the Congo, Cuba, Bolivia, Brazil, and wherever private enterprise profiteers were threatened by popular uprisings.

The counter-revolutionary drive has six chief aspects: the circus aspect; the convenience, comfort, conformity aspect; the petty reform aspect; the corruption aspect; the espionage aspect; and the violence and terror aspect.

The circus aspect of counter-revolution is aimed to amuse, entertain and divert attention from some of the chief issues that concern mankind. Mass conditioning is a very old story. It is being repeated in the present-day West with camera, printing press, movies, radio, television and the other means of communication which modern technology has provided so generally and so generously. Thanks to these discoveries and inventions it is possible for those in authority to reach people in their homes, in their work places, in their schools and recreation centers and on the street, twenty-four hours of each day, with blandishments, scandal, horror stories, doctored “news,” admonitions, warning, threats. Since the means of present-day communication in the West are under the control of the same oligarchies that own the economy, operate the political apparatus and administer the social services, the people can be fed half-truths and lies, or, through silence, kept in virtual ignorance of t~le course of events. At the same time they are told, repeatedly, through the same channels that they are the most enlightened public anywhere on earth.

The convenience, comfort, conformity aspect of the counter-revolution was designed to buy off the popular masses by flooding the mass market with a dazzling, bewildering, engrossing supply of goods and services.

Counter-revolutionaries are in control of production apparatus capable of converting natural resources and human energy into a huge volume and an infinite variety of gadgets and appliances in addition to the assembly-line output of food, clothing, shelter and the social services. These goods and services were poured into the mass market and were matched by wage and salary payrolls which enabled their recipients to buy back two-thirds of the national product.

Trusts, cartels and other forms of economic concentration reduced the number of self-employed enterprisers and professionals. At the same time they increased the number of wage earners and salaried employes, so that those who wished to buy in the mass market were increasingly dependent on blue-collar and white-collar jobs. Holding a job owned by somebody else thus became the key to affluence and the economic basis for status, prestige, promotion.

Jobs were owned by the business-military-political oligarchies which controlled every essential aspect of the more highly industrialized communities. The oligarchs held the key to convenience, comfort, status, preferment.

Did job-holders and their families wish to share in the goods and services heaped on mass market shelves? Did they want to revel in processed food, drive their own cars, own their own homes, enjoy status and get promotions? There was one simple, universal credit card that gave the holder a job with its regular pay check admitting to the mass market. Conformity credit cards (jobs) were issued to those who followed the approved way of life. Approval came from the oligarchy. Acceptance was the oath of fealty sworn by the prospective job-holder. Those who differed and opposed were refused jobs and thus reduced to second-class economic status. They were subversive unemployables, screw balls, misfits, troublemakers.

The Way of Life was outlined in school, in church, in the press, over radio and television. The Way of Life became a religious obligation and a patriotic duty. Those who accepted and followed it had all of the rights and privileges provided for first-class citizens and job holders. Non-conformers received second-class treatment.

Petty reforms are part and parcel of the arsenal with which counter-revolution fights its battles. Revolutionary demands go to the roots and are far-reaching, involving changes in property, class relations and the status of those engaged in the revolutionary struggle. Petty reforms are crumbs, thrown to those who demand bread.

Petty reforms satisfy immediate demands, leaving property and class relations as they were before the reforms were offered. They may include limited hours of labor, better working conditions, broadened education, political representation, an extended suffrage, elections within a specified period, extension of civil rights and social services. Reform preserves the essential structure of society so that those presently in power continue to exercise authority.

Promises of petty reforms are the IOU’s with which the counter-revolution seeks to dull the edge of revolutionary demands and decrease revolutionary enthusiasm.

Nevertheless, each reform (conceded however grudgingly by the masters) involves some limitation of arbitrary authority and adds to the rights and privileges which the ruled are able to exercise and enjoy. Experience in Scandinavia and Great Britain is significant in this respect. In these countries manifold reforms have been made over recent years, in the working and living conditions of the populace. Social services have been improved. Housing has been bettered. Unemployment has been reduced. As a result, the revolutionary movements in these countries have been correspondingly weakened.

“Corrupt” means to debase, deprave, worsen. Corruption undermines integrity and purpose, impairs vitality, decreases effectiveness. It is therefore an important instrument of the counter-revolution. Corruption is particularly effective where the counter-revolutionaries own and control an efficient productive apparatus which is able to provide an abundant supply of goods, services, gadgets and (most important, in a society build around a money economy) to provide quantities of money.

The present-day counter-revolution can offer not only immense quantities and varieties of goods and services but, through its elaborate apparatus of credits and securities, can offer permanent parasitism to those who will follow its line and do its bidding.

Supplied with an abundance of goods, services, money, credit and securities, the counter-revolution can satisfy human hungers to the point of satiety, gratifying the appetites of drug addicts and gamblers, providing amusement and diversion on a grandiose scale, and guaranteeing the supply of such desiderata so long as the existing order endures.

Counter-revolutionaries aim their corrupting activities especially at the younger and less experienced leaders of the revolution, offering them secure, well-paid jobs, regular promotions, status and social recognition, and whatever money will buy.

Espionage is an important aspect of counter-revolution. Early in the present century spies and spying were generally regarded with disfavor in the United States. In Europe, with its semi-popular monarchies, its intense national rivalries and its militant revolutionary minorities, espionage was expected and even taken for granted. In a democratic republic it was considered an intruder.

Today, with the spread of revolutionary activities, the extension of the Cold War and the emergence of the United States government as the patron, financier, armorer and organizer of counter-revolution across the planet, spies and spying have become an integral part of the American Way of Life. In continental United States the Federal Bureau of Investigation fills its dossiers on millions of individuals with fact, fiction and gossip. Abroad the Central Intelligence Agency snoops, prys, plots, and organizes counter-revolution.

These two are the chief spy agencies under the immediate direction of the Federal Government. In addition, the diplomatic and consular services are spying agencies. Each of the armed services has its intelligence department. The treasury has its secret service. Both House and Senate have investigative committees patterned on the notorious House Committee on Un-American Activities. The Post Office, like the Internal Revenue and the Custom Service, have their under-cover men. The Post Office, Customs and the F.B.I. check printed matter coming into the country and exclude undesirable publications. The Post Office may check the personal mail of non-conformists. Individual states and cities have their spies, legislative committees and police departments.

United States big business is honey-combed with spies. Large corporations have their intelligence services which plant spies and spying apparatus in factory departments, in offices, in toilet and social rooms, in the room of the Board of Directors. For smaller enterprises there are national and international detective agencies which specialize in spying and place spies for business enterprises on the premises of their rivals.* Espionage is justified by the one word: security, but as the spy network proliferates and penetrates every corner of society, privacy disappears and insecurity becomes universal.

[*For details, see Vance Packard’s The Naked Society, N. Y.: David McKay 1964]

Most alarming to radicals, among activities of the counter-revolution, has been its use of violence and terror. During the opening years of the present century two assumptions were widespread among western intellectuals: first, western man was too civilized to permit another general war; second, the West had left behind terror tactics such as physical manhandling and physical torture. Both assumptions were blown to bits in the events that accompanied the wars after 1914.

It is difficult for anyone born since 1914 to realize the totality of the revolution in social techniques which took place during this period. In the Victorian Age, which ended in 1914, British, Germans, Frenchmen, and other peoples in the West took it for granted that mankind had advanced to a level far above that of the Middle Ages, with a consequent humanitarianism, a respect for human dignity and a whole-hearted rejection of practices associated with the words “savagery” and “barbarism.” The word “civilization,” as then used, automatically repudiated such savage and barbaric approaches to life. War, revolution and counter-revolution re-opened the flood gates to violence and terror on a scale far exceeding anything known to have existed among the pre-civilized peoples.

Revolution and counter-revolution in the same political area are, in effect, cold or hot civil war, with relative against relative and neighbor against neighbor. Such struggles are traditionally fierce and bloody. Experience during the present period of social revolution and counter-revolution runs true to civil war form.

Since the closing years of the 19th century there have been five parallel and inter-related movements: (1) the technological revolution; (2) the revolts of suppressed and oppressed peoples demanding self-determination and setting up republics dedicated by their constitutions to representative or democratic governments; (3) advances in military preparations and in the weaponry used in two general wars and scores of civil and local wars: (4) the growth of the economic and political labor movement, reaching its climax in the building of planned, socialist societies; and (5) the general and stubborn refusal of the bourgeois to accept and bow to the verdict of social evolution and history. It is the refusal of the business class, led by that of the U.S.A., which has involved humanity in the cold war with its accompanying violence and terror directed not only against socialism, but against the extension or use of the democratic process.

Violence and terror during the past half-century have included the formal denial of human rights as specified in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. These rights include movement, communication, persuasion, organization and joint acts up to the point of disturbing public order and endangering the continuance of existing governments. By common consent during grave emergencies civil rights are subordinated to the need of defending and promoting the common welfare. However, the denials and violations of human rights, especially among the colonial and other dependent peoples has been and still is a matter of course. These denials extend beyond colonial areas into the homelands of the great empires.

Vigilantism and mob violence are permitted, encouraged and often participated in by the police. Vigilante mobs, with no pretense of authority, violate human rights, destroy the property, maim and often take the lives of opponents and victims.

Political opponents are persecuted and prosecuted. They are arrested and detained for long periods without formal charges and without trial; they are tried in secret with public and press excluded. Long prison sentences are imposed and served, under sub-human conditions. Often political opponents are shot out of hand. Physical and psychological torture designed to force admissions of guilt or information concerning associates of the torture victims are carried out by public authorities.

Assassination by public authorities or by private agencies with the connivance of public authority is utilized as a political instrument.

There are mass killing and maiming by troops and police, firing on demonstrations of unarmed people, including women and children. Petrograd, at the Winter Palace in 1905, the Amritzar massacre in 1916 by the British authorities, and the official beating of unarmed Negroes and whites demonstrating in the Deep South of the United States during 1964-65 are outstanding examples.

Genocide is practiced. Mass extermination of political opponents or racial minorities; undernourishment in concentration camps; gas chambers are employed. These methods reached the highest level of scientific efficiency in Germany under the Nazis, when Jews, Poles, Russians, Yugoslavs and other opponents were destroyed by millions. The victims included men, women and children.

Police and military persecution and suppression of minority political organizations and religious faiths are carried on inside political frontiers. Examples are the anti-socialist drive in Central and East Europe after the Russian Revolution and the Cold War against communism after 1945.

Mob violence and public participation in drives against racial and religious minorities have occurred In South Africa, India, and the United States since the Civil War.

Mass deportations for political reasons have accompanied war and have been carried out for political purposes.

The entire half-century beginning with 1910 has been marred and scarred by unofficial and official violence and terror: by “man’s inhumanity to man.” A radical must describe human conduct during this entire period as disgusting, revolting, appalling, indefensible, degrading and unworthy of reasoning, ethically motivated human beings.*

[*The ghastly array of evidence supporting the charge that during the past half-century humanity had used violence and terror at levels ordinarily associated with one or another form of primitivism must be qualified by reference to another aspect of human behavior during the same period of war and revolution: the movement for non-violent action in opposition to violence.
    Within the vast military machines built up by governments to destroy life and property across the frontiers, individual conscientious objectors have taken their stand against war and violence. Some of them were shot out of hand, but the movement of conscientious objection reached minority proportions in the war-ready and warring countries.
    There were mass refusals of duty in the face of the enemy. The most massive was the disintegration of the Russian armies before the October Revolution of 1917. Armed men on the front lines during the War of 1914-18, fraternized with their opponents, abandoning discipline and threatening the entire war-waging system. Armed men, waging civil war, turned to agriculture and industry, producing instead of destroying. This was notably true in the People’s Liberation Armies of China. Outstanding examples of non-violent action in the face of overwhelming military power were the campaigns organized by Mohandas Gandhi among Indians in South Africa and later in his native India.
    Latest among examples of non-violent action are the campaigns of mass civil disobedience aimed to obstruct the activities of the military. Such demonstrations have been organized in Japan against United States armed forces there; in Britain against the installation of Polaris Missiles; in the United States against biological and chemical warfare. Most notable are the non-violent protests against racial segregation and discrimination in South Africa and in the Deep South of the United States. Mention should be made also of the impressive student demonstrations which frequently have .had profound political effects during the past half century. These have occurred in Japan, South Korea, South Vietnam, Turkey, Egypt, and now are occurring in the Western Hemisphere.
]

(from Chapter III, The Conscience of a Radical, Scott Nearing, Harborside, Maine: Social Science Institute, 1965)

Buy a copy of the book directly from The Good Life Center, Harborside, Maine.

[Click here for all seven roadblocks.]

July 29, 2008

Wind Turbines: Offensive industrialization of human space

By Brian L. Horejsi, behavioral scientist and citizen advocate for democratic process, Calgary, Alberta; Barrie K. Gilbert, wildlife Ecologist and conservation activist, Wolfe Island, Ontario; and George Wuerthner, ecologist and writer, Richmond, Vermont; 28 July 2008:

People are barking up the wrong tree by promoting, or succumbing to, wind turbine construction regardless of where it is proposed and how many there might be. Many North Americans are infected with tunnel vision and erroneously appear to believe that turbine generated energy is somehow linked to reversing the growth in and impact of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

There exists NO evidence anywhere that [wind] turbine energy is substituting for or displacing fossil fuel dependence, nor is there any evidence that it is in any material way slowing the rate of GHG emission growth. [Wind] turbine energy is a non-factor in the never ending growth agenda of the fossil fuel industry, and it is not a factor in the agenda of governments promoting growth in and dependence on oil and gas consumption. There can be no better example than North America of the failure of turbine energy to slow growth in anything.

People have been hoodwinked into promoting wind turbine energy as some sort of Nirvana all while human population growth and per capita energy consumption continue to spiral upward. Turbine energy generation is fueling growth in human population and energy consumption and growth in a false “economy”. It is NOT doing the opposite.

Matching the folly of the energy replacement misunderstanding is denial by governments and promoters of the ecological impacts and health effects of turbines; the ugly reality is that they are a serious addition to the industrialization of quiet rural landscapes that people have long valued for quality of life, retirement, and recreation.

The list of environmental costs imposed on wildlife and people are now being recognized; they are far from meaningless, but they have been trivialized by turbine promoters and politicians that have systematically tilted the deck sharply in the developers favor. Environmental costs have been systematically ignored by a political and regulatory system that has corrupted individual and societal freedom and environmental integrity by relegating these values to some distant offshoot of economic growth. These costs, and those who stand by them, are treated with contempt; how dare they influence the decision to grant some landowner a chance to make a buck by carving your backyard and your space into fragments with giant chopping machines?

Wind turbines are an assault on human well being and act to degrade the human “gestalt”. Promotion of wind turbine energy is a case of serious misjudgment by those who fraudulently use green wash to promote their commercial aspirations.

Buried deep within the human genome is an innate recognition and suspicion of monsters – large objects – looming on the horizon. Wind turbines are today's versions of a threatening monster, jammed down the throats of neighbors and localities. 30% of the human cortex occupies itself with processing visual information, far more than any other sense, and nothing delivers a more intrusive and intense visual picture than the tower and blades of wind turbines. Turbines erode freedom of the human mind hour after hour, night after day, virtually forever, like a cell phone ringing incessantly and yet no one is able to turn it off. To many people this intrusion into their physical and physiological space is an insidious form of torment. The mental effect is analogous to the physical effects of a heavy smoker sitting next to you essentially for life!

We do not subscribe to the managerial/market approach to democracy or conservation with its deeply entrenched bias against human values such as an unadulterated horizon. This largely corporate view denigrates the value of freedom of the human spirit – the very pedestal upon which human dignity, character and strength are built.

In an honest and fair regulatory and political environment, local citizens and communities would bury turbine projects long before they get to the serious implementation stage. Once again, however, citizens are being forced to try to employ the very tools that degrade our quality of life and humiliate us as mere pawns of some corporate created market economy. ...

The commercial private sector is forcing itself into your life, and that constitutes a taking of your rights, benefits and well being. We propose that each person impacted by a turbine receive, as a starting point for negotiations, $3000 annually, to be paid by the developer for the loss of private and citizen rights, a very large portion of which includes peace and satisfaction, a critical part of your state of mind. We all know that is a significant part of personal, social and democratic well being. The concept is simple; if the developer and some uncaring land owners want to destroy your rights and those of other citizens, inflicting on you suffering and mental distress, the good old “free” enterprise system developers and local governments love to hide behind, comes into play; they pay to destroy part of your life. There has to be pain and resistance in the system for those who knowingly exploit the public and individual vulnerability, a now institutionalized vulnerability which commercial and private sector interests worked hard to establish.

The recent proliferation of wind turbine farms is just one more case of the serious aggression and destruction that reflects the continuing expansion of an extremist private property and commercialism agenda. This socially, legally and politically defective agenda and process is being exploited by corporations, some local residents, and local governments. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not freedom and it is not democracy; it is vandalism and oppression in the name of commercialism. As citizens we have the right, and we say the obligation, and we must marshal the courage, to reject wind turbine invasions as a corruption of our well being that is cached “in our spirit rather than in our wallet”.

[Our thanks to National Wind Watch for bringing this essay to our attention]

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights

December 11, 2012

Green Mountain College, Carnism, and the Embrace of Death

The echo chamber's not going to work if you allow dissenting opinions!
(Green Mountain College student Emily McCoy, who blocks Facebook users who engage her in public fora, on a GMC page that blocks dissenting opinions)

The people of Green Mountain College, Poultney, Vermont, remain defensive about the public outcry over their decision to kill for meat two oxen that they had worked for 10 years. A brief history: Lou was injured in the Spring such that he could no longer work; over the summer the GMC farm staff decided it was time to kill both him and his brother Bill and eat them (or, more likely, get some human-grade meat in exchange for their value as dog food). Some students and/or alumni, when classes resumed in the fall, were shocked by that decision and alerted Green Mountain Animal Defenders in Burlington, which led to an offer of veterinary care and sanctuary from VINE Sanctuary in Springfield. People’s shock at the decision to kill Bill and Lou was then compounded by GMC’s refusal of the offer to let them live out their lives in peaceful retirement. But the school became only more entrenched, lashing out at those asking for compassion and mercy as “extremists” and “abolitionists” “terrorizing” slaughterhouses and the college. Then they “euthanized” Lou (†Nov. 11, 2012), who had been seen happily grazing with Bill the day before his pre-dawn “sacrifice”, and perversely made themselves out to be the victim because he had to be composted instead of eaten. Two faculty members in particular, Steven Fesmire and Philip Ackerman-Leist, the latter a beef farmer himself, have been interviewing and writing all over the place to present this simple call for compassion toward two loved and hardworking oxen as a concerted and militant effort to end food choice and all animal agriculture.

It would be funny if it did not mean that Lou was killed and Bill remains in danger.

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The first reason given for killing Bill and Lou, and then for refusing sanctuary, was economic. In a cold calculus of utility, these aging oxen were deemed to be no longer paying for their upkeep, and a sanctuary would only perpetuate the “waste” of resources. This is the thinking of psychopaths. Bill and Lou are not machines to be junked for parts or materials, but living creatures as deserving and desiring to live as those calling for their deaths.

The defense developed, along with the paranoid exaggeration of “the enemy”, to a more complex idea of “sustainability”. At the basis of that “sustainability” ethic is the self-serving “happy meat” paradigm, by which human carnivores think they are being conscientious and environmentally mature by convincing themselves that their taste for meat is “love” for the animal itself and its place in nature (or rather the nature of agriculture that includes them), particularly when it is applied locally (eg, in the name of food sovereignty).

Let us look at that ethic, which has come to be called “carnism”.

To rationalize their inability or unwillingness to live without meat or dairy, they have constructed a system that is environmentally conscientious only within the terms of a perceived necessity for consumption of animals. There is no room in that vision for the rejection of animal agriculture. Ethical veganism is heretical, not just because it considers the interests, even rights, of the animals themselves (assuming that like all creatures they want to live full lives according to their own interests and social needs) apart from their usefulness to humans, but mostly because it recognizes that consuming animals is a choice, not a necessity.

With all ethical issues, each of us comes to a balance or accommodation that we are comfortable with, constantly weighing myriad factors of society, personality, culture, economy, etc. And that balance changes (or ought to) throughout our lives. Ethics isn’t about that balance, but about the choices we make when we are able to.

It is indeed good that some of those who won’t give up meat are trying to make that choice less cruel to the animals and less harmful to the environment. That is a step forward and does not obviate further steps. But the “carnist” trend of recent years has been to assert that it is actually better in every way (morally, environmentally, nutritionally) to continue to consume animals in this “balanced” way, which, first, is offensive to those whose decision not to is also shaped by efforts to be less cruel and harmful, and, second, only suggests that it most certainly is not.

It is obvious that loving animals can not include killing them unnecessarily just because we want to eat them. Animals are not things (”I love my teddy bear”). They are not meals (”I love squash soup”). Love, applied to any animal, is the same love we mean when we apply it to the human animal. That is a simple truth. The complex arguments to prove that animal agriculture is natural or necessary or beneficial serve to obscure that truth. They serve as a firewall between salving one’s conscience by treating animals marginally better and having to consequently recognize animals as having their own rights. They serve as an artificial boundary between granting animals a right to “welfare” and granting them the actual rights implied by concern for their welfare.

It is the same dynamic that has been seen in every battle for rights. Of course, the first principle of carnism is that animals aren’t people (not even noncivilized people, however sentient and social). Evolution of conscience is a slow process, and most vegans recognize that frustrating fact. Most of the time, they are biting their tongues about the world’s casual cruelty and disrespect. What vegans can not abide is carnists challenging or claiming superiority to veganism on any ground. It is frightening to see the lengths people go to rationalize needless killing. As they take their arguments farther and farther but go nowhere, stuck in their self-imposed carnism, their urge becomes to silence, if not destroy, those who remind them of that shortcoming. The vegan “no” is taken as an existential threat. Again, this is a fact of human history, which vegans must suffer through like anyone who has ever taken an ethical stand against entrenched cultural assumptions.

If carnists were truly comfortable about their choice, then they would not feel so threatened by the very existence of vegans. After all, everyone eats what vegans eat. Vegans just cut out the animal bits. And that small reduction of violence by our diet can only be for the good — of the planet, all animals, and humanity.

[[[[[ ]]]]]

As to Green Mountain College, they were given a choice: kill Bill and Lou or let them live out their lives at a sanctuary. While claiming to assert their rights and responsibilities, they revealed their sustainability ethic as one that embraces death, not love.

[See also:  Omnivores? ]

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism, Vermont, ecoanarchism

January 26, 2011

The Politics of Violence in America

Thomas H. Naylor writes at Counterpunch:

Although I am no fan of either Sarah Palin or the Tea Party crowd, blaming them for the tragic shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson is patently absurd. Equally problematic is the idea that the Tucson massacre was caused by the uncivil nature of public discourse in the United States. The attack on Congresswoman Giffords was grounded not in political rhetoric but in an all consuming culture of violence – the same culture which brought down John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s. Americans are obsessed with violence and have been since the inception of our nation. We have always turned to violence when provoked by either domestic or foreign enemies. Our penchant for intergroup violence – geopolitical, ethnic, racial, agrarian, frontier, religious, and industrial – is without equal.

From the very outset, early European settlers who came to America brought with them a regimen for relating to Native Americans that was based on demonization, dominance, destruction, and death – a regimen which still provides the rationale underlying American foreign policy five hundred years later. Even though we are a predominantly Christian nation, our love affair with the death penalty and our entire criminal justice system are driven by revenge, not forgiveness.

Although our nation was founded on the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the story of how Native Americans were relentlessly forced to abandon their homes and lands and move into Indian territories to make room for American states is one of arrogance, greed, and raw military power. Our barbaric conquest of the Native Americans continued for several hundred years and involved many of our most cherished national heroes, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and Andrew Jackson, to mention only a few. To add insult to injury, we have violated three hundred treaties which we signed to protect the rights of American Indians.

In over two hundred years, the North American continent has never been attacked – nor even seriously threatened with invasion by Japan, Germany, the Soviet Union, or anyone else. Despite this fact, over a million Americans have been killed in wars and trillions of dollars have been spent by the military -- $13 trillion on the Cold War alone.

Far from defending our population, our government has drafted Americans and sent them to die in the battle fields of Europe (twice), on tropical Pacific islands, and in the jungles of Southeast Asia. On dozens of occasions our political leaders have used minor incidents as provocation to justify sending troops to such far-flung places as China, Russia, Egypt, Greenland, Uruguay, the Samoa Islands, Cuba, Mexico, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, Grenada, Lebanon, and Iraq. Today the United States has over 1,000 military bases in 153 countries.

While accusing the Soviet Union of excessive military aggression, the Reagan administration was participating in nine known wars – in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Chad, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Morocco, and Nicaragua – not to mention our bombing of Libya, invasion of Grenada, and repeated attempts to bring down Panamanian dictator Manual Antonio Noriega. President Bush I deployed over a half million American troops, fifty warships, and over one thousand warplanes to the Persian Gulf in 1991 at the “invitation of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia to teach Saddam Hussein a lesson.” Most Americans were beside themselves over this little war. President Clinton’s repeated bombing of Iraq invoked a similar response, even though the Iraqi people had never inflicted any harm on the United States. It matters not whether we send troops to Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, or Kosovo or bomb Afghanistan or Sudan; few Americans raise any objections whatsoever. Indeed, they seem to like it.

Why does it come as no surprise to learn that bullying is on the rise in public schools in America? America is the world’s global bully. Our foreign policy of full spectrum dominance is based entirely on the premise that might makes right. Either get out of our way, or be prepared to die!

Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech was nothing short of a call to arms. His hypocrisy in lecturing Chinese President Hu Jintao on human rights is almost beyond belief. Does Obama think that the annihilation of innocent Afghan and Iraqi civilians by the Pentagon constitutes a laudatory human rights posture on the part of the United States? What about the way the Israelis, with our full support, treat the Palestinians? Human rights, surely the White House has to be kidding!

To illustrate how absurd the politics of violence is consider the case of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who now refers to himself as “the most progressive member of the United States Senate.” So progressive is Sanders that he currently supports: (1) all funding for the illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, (2) the deployment of Vermont National Guard troops abroad, (3) military aid for the apartheid state of Israel, (4) the replacement of the Vermont Air National Guard’s F-16 fighter jets with F-35s, and (5) the highly racist war on terror. He is also promoting a Vermont-based satellite station to be designed and built by the U.S. government-owned Sandia National Laboratories. Sandia designs, builds, and tests weapons of mass destruction.

Unfortunately, Sanders, who claims to be a socialist, does not stand alone in the hypocrisy which he brings to the culture of violence. Like many of his other left-wing Democratic colleagues in the Congress, Sanders is an unconditional apologist for the Pentagon and the right-wing Likud government of Israel.

Whenever there is a mass shooting such as the one which took place recently in Tucson, liberals call for tougher gun control laws and conservatives demand revenge – the death penalty. Yet Vermont, which is arguably the least violent state in the Union, has no death penalty and virtually no state imposed restrictions on the use of guns.

So long as violence remains official U.S. Government policy at home and abroad, neither tougher gun control laws nor the increased use of the death penalty will prevent another Tucson, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, or Columbine mass murder.

Since violence is inextricably linked to the Empire, there may be no escape from violence in America – no escape from the Temple of Doom.

Thomas H. Naylor is founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University. His books include: Downsizing the U.S.A., Affluenza, The Search for Meaning and The Abandoned Generation: Rethinking Higher Education

March 8, 2011

Anarchism: What It Really Stands For

Emma Goldman, 1910:

... Anarchism is the great liberator of man from the phantoms that have held him captive; it is the arbiter and pacifier of the two forces for individual and social harmony. To accomplish that unity, Anarchism has declared war on the pernicious influences which have so far prevented the harmonious blending of individual and social instincts, the individual and society.

Religion, the dominion of the human mind; Property, the dominion of human needs; and Government, the dominion of human conduct, represent the stronghold of man's enslavement and all the horrors it entails. Religion! How it dominates man's mind, how it humiliates and degrades his soul. God is everything, man is nothing, says religion. But out of that nothing God has created a kingdom so despotic, so tyrannical, so cruel, so terribly exacting that naught but gloom and tears and blood have ruled the world since gods began. Anarchism rouses man to rebellion against this black monster. Break your mental fetters, says Anarchism to man, for not until you think and judge for yourself will you get rid of the dominion of darkness, the greatest obstacle to all progress.

Property, the dominion of man's needs, the denial of the right to satisfy his needs. Time was when property claimed a divine right, when it came to man with the same refrain, even as religion, "Sacrifice! Abnegate! Submit!" The spirit of Anarchism has lifted man from his prostrate position. He now stands erect, with his face toward the light. He has learned to see the insatiable, devouring, devastating nature of property, and he is preparing to strike the monster dead.

"Property is robbery," said the great French Anarchist Proudhon. Yes, but without risk and danger to the robber. Monopolizing the accumulated efforts of man, property has robbed him of his birthright, and has turned him loose a pauper and an outcast. Property has not even the time-worn excuse that man does not create enough to satisfy all needs. The A B C student of economics knows that the productivity of labor within the last few decades far exceeds normal demand. But what are normal demands to an abnormal institution? The only demand that property recognizes is its own gluttonous appetite for greater wealth, because wealth means power; the power to subdue, to crush, to exploit, the power to enslave, to outrage, to degrade. America is particularly boastful of her great power, her enormous national wealth. Poor America, of what avail is all her wealth, if the individuals comprising the nation are wretchedly poor? If they live in squalor, in filth, in crime, with hope and joy gone, a homeless, soulless army of human prey. ...

Such free display of human energy being possible only under complete individual and social freedom, Anarchism directs its forces against the third and greatest foe of all social equality; namely, the State, organized authority, or statutory law,–the dominion of human conduct.

Just as religion has fettered the human mind, and as property, or the monopoly of things, has subdued and stifled man's needs, so has the State enslaved his spirit, dictating every phase of conduct. "All government in essence," says Emerson, "is tyranny." It matters not whether it is government by divine right or majority rule. In every instance its aim is the absolute subordination of the individual.

Referring to the American government, the greatest American Anarchist, David Thoreau, said: "Government, what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instance losing its integrity; it has not the vitality and force of a single living man. Law never made man a whit more just; and by means of their respect for it, even the well disposed are daily made agents of injustice."

Indeed, the keynote of government is injustice. With the arrogance and self-sufficiency of the King who could do no wrong, governments ordain, judge, condemn, and punish the most insignificant offenses, while maintaining themselves by the greatest of all offenses, the annihilation of individual liberty. Thus Ouida is right when she maintains that "the State only aims at instilling those qualities in its public by which its demands are obeyed, and its exchequer is filled. Its highest attainment is the reduction of mankind to clockwork. In its atmosphere all those finer and more delicate liberties, which require treatment and spacious expansion, inevitably dry up and perish. The State requires a taxpaying machine in which there is no hitch, an exchequer in which there is never a deficit, and a public, monotonous, obedient, colorless, spiritless, moving humbly like a flock of sheep along a straight high road between two walls."

Yet even a flock of sheep would resist the chicanery of the State, if it were not for the corruptive, tyrannical, and oppressive methods it employs to serve its purposes. Therefore Bakunin repudiates the State as synonymous with the surrender of the liberty of the individual or small minorities,–the destruction of social relationship, the curtailment, or complete denial even, of life itself, for its own aggrandizement. The State is the altar of political freedom and, like the religious altar, it is maintained for the purpose of human sacrifice.

In fact, there is hardly a modern thinker who does not agree that government, organized authority, or the State, is necessary only to maintain or protect property and monopoly. It has proven efficient in that function only. ...

The most absurd apology for authority and law is that they serve to diminish crime. Aside from the fact that the State is itself the greatest criminal, breaking every written and natural law, stealing in the form of taxes, killing in the form of war and capital punishment, it has come to an absolute standstill in coping with crime. It has failed utterly to destroy or even minimize the horrible scourge of its own creation.

Crime is naught but misdirected energy. So long as every institution of today, economic, political, social, and moral, conspires to misdirect human energy into wrong channels; so long as most people are out of place doing the things they hate to do, living a life they loathe to live, crime will be inevitable, and all the laws on the statutes can only increase, but never do away with, crime. What does society, as it exists today, know of the process of despair, the poverty, the horrors, the fearful struggle the human soul must pass on its way to crime and degradation. ...

But what about human nature? Can it be changed? And if not, will it endure under Anarchism?

Poor human nature, what horrible crimes have been committed in thy name! Every fool, from king to policeman, from the flatheaded parson to the visionless dabbler in science, presumes to speak authoritatively of human nature. The greater the mental charlatan, the more definite his insistence on the wickedness and weaknesses of human nature. Yet, how can any one speak of it today, with every soul in a prison, with every heart fettered, wounded, and maimed?

John Burroughs has stated that experimental study of animals in captivity is absolutely useless. Their character, their habits, their appetites undergo a complete transformation when torn from their soil in field and forest. With human nature caged in a narrow space, whipped daily into submission, how can we speak of its potentialities?

Freedom, expansion, opportunity, and, above all, peace and repose, alone can teach us the real dominant factors of human nature and all its wonderful possibilities.

Anarchism, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real social wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations. ...

[click here for complete essay]

human rights, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism

August 15, 2008

Indigenous farmers in Oaxaca duped out of land by wind companies

Karen Trejo writes in Latinamerica Press, August 14 (also published at National Wind Watch):

A wind power project on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southeastern Mexico has stripped massive amounts of land and natural resources from hundreds of indigenous campesinos in Oaxaca. Those affected are mostly from non-Spanish speaking indigenous communities.

Members were manipulated into giving up their lands in up to 60-year tenancy contracts through misinformation.

Faustina López Martínez, originally from the village of Juchitán, complained that the companies promised agriculture aid without ever following through. On the lands where she used to plant corn to sell, the Spanish company Union FENOSA plans to install windmills to generate wind energy for the next 30 years, and possibly extending to double the term. In exchange, López will receive 150 pesos (less than US$15) each year for the rent of each of her 3 hectares (7.4 acres) of land.

Javier Balderas, director of the Tepeyac Human Rights Center located in Tehuantepec, signaled that the project to build wind parks on the Isthmus, which has been imposed on the native peoples by displacing them from their lands, is part of the Plan Puebla Panama (PPP) strategy — an ambitious integration and development project launched in 2001 whose objective is to link nine Mexican states to Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua y Panama.

Indigenous rights violated

According to Balderas, the Mexican government violates International Labor Organization’s Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples by denying them the right to consultation to determine whether they will be jeopardized before pursuing any program to exploit their lands’ resources. The state further impedes their right to participate in utilizing, administrating and conserving their natural resources.

Based on these arguments, a team of lawyers from human rights organizations in Oaxaca and Mexico City have filed a lawsuit to annul at least 185 tenancy contracts for the wind park construction by transnational companies, principally from Spain, including Iberdrola, Endesa, Preneal, Gamesa and Union FENOSA.

In response, the companies say that they operate in Mexico backed by an agreement signed by the Federal Electricity Commission, which is directed at encouraging development through large capital investment in the region to generate jobs.

However, Eduardo Zenteno, president of the Mexican Wind Energy Association, presents figures that seem to contradict this statement.

“In the next three years, the companies will invest $3 billion in Oaxaca in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec Wind Tunnel in the following way: 78 percent will be invested in purchasing wind turbines, 14 percent in the electrical system, 6 percent in civil work and 2 percent in other spending.” He added that the electrical energy produced will be sold to companies with chain stores like Wal-Mart and Soriana, Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola and Cemex.

Transnationals were attracted to the isthmus since it is a geographically strategic area for wind park construction. According to the Atlas for Wind Resources in Oaxaca, an investigation sponsored in 2004 by the US Energy Department and the US Agency for International Development, or USAID, the best areas to develop wind resources in Oaxaca are on the Isthmus and the greatest resources are in the hills, cordillera and coast.

The La Venta Wind Park II was constructed in 2003 on one of the hills, named La Venta, in the Juchitán area and is currently the biggest wind park in the region with over 98 windmills installed over 800 hectares (nearly 2,000 acres). La Venta is a rural indigenous community that lacks basic services where the state government periodically sends doctors and lawyers to attend the community.

Balderas explained that this is clear evidence that the transnational business model is not encouraging development or bringing about jobs for the Isthmus communities. Furthermore, during the three-month long construction of La Venta II, only 200 local workers were hired, which dwindled down to three hires at present: two janitors and one secretary.

Communal lands are not to be rented

Unlike what happened in La Venta, where there are no agrarian authorities to watch over communal lands, in the Santiago Niltepec community, east of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the fear of losing lands has prevented campesinos from leasing their lands to Union FENOSA.

José Santiago Ramírez, secretary of the Santiago Niltepec Community Goods Commission, says the Spanish transnational offered 30-year contracts and 1,000 to 1,200 pesos — $98 to $117 — per hectare (2.5 acres) to the campesinos annually to rent their lands. But no company can have a contract directly with the landowner since 95 percent of the population’s lands is communal.

For Marco Antonio Velásquez, the Mexican Action Network on Free Trade technical secretary, the Isthmus case is not the only one. In Acapulco, Jalisco and Nayarit there has also been social resistance to damn construction which would result in thousands of displaced persons.

“It’s not just a few companies who maliciously want to strip the communities [of their lands]. It’s a policy that has been deliberately applied with the help of the municipal, state, and federal governments that has usurped power with the clear intention of protecting transnational corporations to move forward with their businesses,” he said.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, human rights

April 16, 2012

Arbeit macht nicht frei

“My wife has the occasion, as you know, to campaign on her own and also with me, and she reports to me regularly that the issue women care about most is the economy and getting good jobs for their kids and for themselves. They are concerned about gasoline prices, the cost of getting to and from work, taking their kids to school or to practice and so forth after school. That is what women care about in this country and my vision is to get America working again.”

That's what Mitt Romney said in a speech on April 4 to the Newspaper Association of America.

Here's what Hilary Rosen said on CNN on April 11:

"What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country saying, 'Well, you know my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues and when I listen to my wife that's what I'm hearing.' Guess what? His wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school, and why do we worry about their future."

The rest is history, with most people revealing that they have thrown away their humanity in picking what political team they root for.

Mitt Romney and Hilary Rosen are saying the same thing. They deny the other's right to say it, because they are both expressing false concern. And both are wielding their comments as a weapon against the other.

What this whole stand-off illustrates is the false divide in U.S. politics.

Hilary Rosen is a right-wing corporate flack, famous for leading the Recording Industry Association of America's campaign against people sharing the music they've bought with friends. She still advises Obama on the issue. After quitting that job, for a short time she was interim director of Human Rights Campaign, which awarded their 2011 Workplace Equality Innovation Award to Goldman Sachs. While working at the Huffington Post, she was outed as a consultant for BP.

Ann Romney is married to one of the predatory capitalists that Rosen serves. They may not have anything in common in personal style and beliefs, but they both serve the same master.

At least Ann Romney only raised a few children and supported her husband on behalf of that system, whereas Hilary Rosen has actively contributed to its evil. Her dismissal of Ann Romney appears to be because the latter has only listened to women on the campaign trail, without a history of actively working to maintain their economic misery.

Many "liberal" commenters on this issue have expressed a hatred for women who choose to stay at home as a betrayal of feminism, as if feminism is only about a few women getting to the top of the exploitative pyramid and everyone else being forced to toil in "service" jobs as somehow liberating.

Rosen's strong support of Obama and the Democratic Party is clear evidence that the only difference between the parties is that one is slightly more tolerant of gays.

That's certainly a good to be counted, but it does nothing for the 99% of the people, women and men, gay and otherwise, who are not striving to triumph in a cut-throat system. It's good that Goldman Sachs extends benefits to gay partners, but that hardly makes it a benign force in the world. Human rights are rather a broader issue.

What is work for? Actively raising a family should not be the privilege only of the rich. Is either Mitt or Hilary suggesting an economic system that makes raising a family easier for everyone (as in many European countries)? They are both against women, against men, against families, against humanity.

Arbeit macht nicht frei. Work does not make you free.

human rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism, anarchosyndicalism

January 13, 2012

The Veritas Papers: A Crash Course on the Truth

A crash course on the truth about the struggle for Palestinian human rights: The Veritas Papers

Download:

1.  Occupation from Scratch — Confused? Have no idea what this is all about? Find out here!
2.  Myths vs. Reality — Don't believe everything you’re told about the occupation of Palestine
3.  The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine — The “Nakba” of 1948 and continuous policy of ethnic cleansing
4.  Israel’s “Right” to Exist — Why don’t Palestinians accept or support this “right”?
5.  The West Bank and Settlements
6.  Apartheid — The separation and privilege of one people over another another
7.  Breaking Gaza — Collective punishment and incarceration of an entire population
8.  International Law — What does the UN & International Law have to say?
9.  Resistance — Is the Gandhi way the only way? Violent vs. non-violent resistance
10.  A Real Partner for Peace — Who is preventing peace in the Middle East?
11a.  Canada's Role in Occupation — Is Canada the “peace-maker” we think?
11b.  America: Israel’s Biggest Ally — Unconditional American support and funding of war crimes
12.  Boycotting Israel — The international boycott, divestment & sanctions campaign
Addendum 1.  Companies to Boycott — Be a responsible buyer and stop supporting apartheid
Addendum 2.  Famous People and Things Who Support Palestine

All 15 Veritas Papers

The Veritas Handbook — A guide to understanding the struggle for Palestinian human rights

human rights

August 4, 2007

The Casualties of Green Scare: The Feds' War on the Animal Rights Movement

By Kelly Overton

Late last year President Bush signed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) into law days after six young Americans began serving federal prison sentences on charges they caused economic damage to Huntington Animal Sciences, an animal-testing corporation. Sadly, jailing activists is the American way.

The imprisonment of the group, known as SHAC 7, is nothing more than history repeating itself. Those who first called for an end to slavery were imprisoned. Those who believed women should vote went to jail. Civil rights activists, supporters of gay and lesbian rights, and now animal rights activists have all been jailed. The only thing sadder than the imprisonment of animal rights activists is that they are fighting for a losing cause; for we now live in a society that slaps the wrist of a person who harms the neighbor's dog yet subsidizes the systematic annual killing of billions of other animals for food, clothing, research and sport.

The recent allegations of both illegal wire-tapping and politically motivated firings of U.S. Attorneys by the Bush administration should set off an alarm regarding the legality of the green scare, the administration's monitoring and imprisonment of environmental and animal welfare activists. And AETA isn't the only new tool corporations have to eliminate pesky activism.

The NYSE's recent decision to trade Life Sciences Research (an animal testing corporation) on the ARCA exchange -- an electronic platform that provides market makers anonymity -- signals that financial markets have also joined the war against social activism. With help from the Bush administration and the NYSE, we may be nearing a day when all of our country's flora, fauna, and public land will exist as little more than raw materials for corporate profit.

The reason nonhuman animals lack protection is simply due to the economic repercussions that would accompany such protection(s). Compassionately caring for animals is expensive and by demanding corporations treat food and research animals humanely activists are asking nothing less than a fundamental reworking of the world economy.

Sadly, any further success activists achieve at home will only expedite sending corporations that mistreat animals offshore where animal welfare regulations and activism can be made non-factors.

We no longer live in a society, we live in an economy, where right and wrong is determined not by fairness, but by profitability -- and where the law no longer dictates corporate behavior, but corporate behavior dictates the law.

AETA, Three Strikes laws and toothless environmental regulations protect profits -- not people (or animals). A society would care if animal protection activists (including the SHAC 7) were right about corporate mistreatment of animals -- but in an economy only the financial cost of activism matters.

The truth is that nonhuman animals don't need rights or legal standing. Such rights have done little to improve the lives of the majority of the world's people. For it is not just nonhuman animals that are losing their habitats and their ability to live with dignity -- the majority of the planet's humans now live truly desperate lives.

Today it is not legal but economic standing that protects a life -- and it is not a lack of rights (human, civil or animal) but a lack of empathy that is the problem, a problem that promises lives of misery and despair for an overwhelming majority of the earth's creatures. Instead of fighting to establish rights for animals, maybe activists should work to instill compassion in humans.

As a society we need to imagine others' horrors as our own. What if the sex worker was our child? The homeless woman our mother? The research dog our family pet? The unjustly imprisoned activist our child?

Only when we decide the pain and humiliation of others is not worth economic gain will the need for rights, human and animal, disappear.

Kelly Overton is Executive Director of People Protecting Animals & Their Habitats -- Sign their petition to make animal rights an issue in the 2008 elections.

August 18, 2007

Animals and morality

Apparently it has been a central problem of philosophy to explain "morality" as a uniquely human attribute. Philosophers, however, are keen to show that they are still equal to scientific thinking, so it has been hard to reconcile a unique human morality with related behaviors among other animals, i.e., with morality necessarily being an evolutionarily derived characteristic and not so unique after all.

And so reason is evoked as the essence of morality. Reason, we reason, is uniquely human, so everything that involves it must also be uniquely human.

This is, of course, a fine example of circular reasoning. Reason is uniquely human, morality requires reason, therefore morality is uniquely human. Neither premise is proven and exists only for the benefit of the other.

How much reasoning must we expend to justify what most people would inarguably see as a moral act, such as helping someone who is hurt? Reason, it seems, is more necessary to rationalize immoral acts, such as torture, the bombing of civilians, or ignoring from a seat of relative comfort the economic plight of others.

It is immorality, it seems, that is uniquely human and requires human reason.

[] [] []

I have written before in this space about Michael Pollan's confusion of morality with appetite. His dilemma, as it is sometimes said about taste, is in his mouth. For him, being an omnivore is what makes one human, and therefore he is committed to being the most conscientious omnivore he can be without denying his humanity.

But just because we can kill and eat anything we want doesn't mean that we should. We don't eat each other, for example, and it is generally not acceptable behavior to kill or even assault one another either. So what seems to make us human is the ability to deny our appetites, not gratify them, no matter how refined the gourmet. There is, of course, a balance -- we ought to enjoy what we eat and the communion of meals -- but one thing that is uniquely human, as Michael Pollan makes clear, is to recognize the immorality of one's actions and, instead of curtailing such behavior or even accepting it as a weakness or imperfection, to write whole books to justify it as right and necessary.

[] [] []

The first section above was written after reading an article by John Gray in the May 10 New York Review of Books, reviewing a couple of books about the evolution of morality.

The second section comes after reading an incisive and very readable review in the September Atlantic of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma: "Hard to swallow: the gourmet’s ongoing failure to think in moral terms" by B.R Myers.

And while we're on the subject of treating animals decently as fellow creatures on this earth (not as potential meals), the American Vegan Society has a good article by Dale Lugenbehl in the Summer 2007 American Vegan about the massive impacts on the planet from raising animals to eat. It is available on line here. That issue of American Vegan also includes the report from the U.N. about animal husbandry's substantial contribution of greenhouse gases (more than transport) and other related material.

environment, environmentalism, animal rights, vegetarianism

March 15, 2005

"Are you a man or a mouse?"

Jeremy Rifkin writes in The Guardian today about frightening developments in the development of lab animals: mice with human brains, pigs with human blood, sheep with human livers and hearts. He describes speculation about creating a human-chimpanzee chimera. Chimpanzees and humans already have in common 98% of their genetic code, and, Rifkin says, and adult chimpanzees has the mental abilities and consciousness of a 4-year-old human.

Of course, a 4-year-old human does not in return have the mental abilities and consciousness of an adult chimpanzee. Which is to say, the chimpanzee has its own consciousness. Rifkin worries about the ethical challenges these chimeras will raise. But if researchers can rationalize their abuse of "98% human" chimpanzees, they will have no problem continuing with "99% human" models, especially if they are the ones that create such an animal.

Rifkin says this can not go farther. But it has already gone too far. He implies that research with "normal" animals is ethically sound. It is not.

Animal research is justified in that it provides "models" for human physiology and even psychology where it would be unethical to experiment on people. Ethics should tell us that such similarity, not to mention the integrity of each animal's own individual and social life, means that using them so is as wrong as using people. Well, the researchers say, they are not in fact so very like us, because human tests are ultimately necessary to prove what was found in the animals. Then the animal tests are not only unethical but ultimately unjustifiable! What does it mean to be human? For many, it seems, it means to be different from the other animals, which we can easily prove by using them for tawdry entertainment, useless research, wasteful food, and decadent clothing -- just as racists and sexists cling to their historical or imagined privileges, to their sense, however deluded, of being above their victims.

Are you a man or a mouse? Yes.

categories: ,

June 24, 2015

Anthropocentrism and the Technocratic Paradigm

Pope Francis writes (Laudato si’):

II. THE GLOBALIZATION OF THE TECHNOCRATIC PARADIGM

106. The basic problem goes even deeper: it is the way that humanity has taken up technology and its development according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm. This paradigm exalts the concept of a subject who, using logical and rational procedures, progressively approaches and gains control over an external object. This subject makes every effort to establish the scientific and experimental method, which in itself is already a technique of possession, mastery and transformation. It is as if the subject were to find itself in the presence of something formless, completely open to manipulation. Men and women have constantly intervened in nature, but for a long time this meant being in tune with and respecting the possibilities offered by the things themselves. It was a matter of receiving what nature itself allowed, as if from its own hand. Now, by contrast, we are the ones to lay our hands on things, attempting to extract everything possible from them while frequently ignoring or forgetting the reality in front of us. Human beings and material objects no longer extend a friendly hand to one another; the relationship has become confrontational. This has made it easy to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology. It is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit. It is the false notion that “an infinite quantity of energy and resources are available, that it is possible to renew them quickly, and that the negative effects of the exploitation of the natural order can be easily absorbed”.

107. It can be said that many problems of today’s world stem from the tendency, at times unconscious, to make the method and aims of science and technology an epistemological paradigm which shapes the lives of individuals and the workings of society. The effects of imposing this model on reality as a whole, human and social, are seen in the deterioration of the environment, but this is just one sign of a reductionism which affects every aspect of human and social life. We have to accept that technological products are not neutral, for they create a framework which ends up conditioning lifestyles and shaping social possibilities along the lines dictated by the interests of certain powerful groups. Decisions which may seem purely instrumental are in reality decisions about the kind of society we want to build.

108. The idea of promoting a different cultural paradigm and employing technology as a mere instrument is nowadays inconceivable. The technological paradigm has become so dominant that it would be difficult to do without its resources and even more difficult to utilize them without being dominated by their internal logic. It has become countercultural to choose a lifestyle whose goals are even partly independent of technology, of its costs and its power to globalize and make us all the same. Technology tends to absorb everything into its ironclad logic, and those who are surrounded with technology “know full well that it moves forward in the final analysis neither for profit nor for the well-being of the human race”, that “in the most radical sense of the term power is its motive – a lordship over all”. As a result, “man seizes hold of the naked elements of both nature and human nature”. Our capacity to make decisions, a more genuine freedom and the space for each one’s alternative creativity are diminished.

109. The technocratic paradigm also tends to dominate economic and political life. The economy accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit, without concern for its potentially negative impact on human beings. Finance overwhelms the real economy. The lessons of the global financial crisis have not been assimilated, and we are learning all too slowly the lessons of environmental deterioration. Some circles maintain that current economics and technology will solve all environmental problems, and argue, in popular and non-technical terms, that the problems of global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth. They are less concerned with certain economic theories which today scarcely anybody dares defend, than with their actual operation in the functioning of the economy. They may not affirm such theories with words, but nonetheless support them with their deeds by showing no interest in more balanced levels of production, a better distribution of wealth, concern for the environment and the rights of future generations. Their behaviour shows that for them maximizing profits is enough. Yet by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion. At the same time, we have “a sort of ‘superdevelopment’ of a wasteful and consumerist kind which forms an unacceptable contrast with the ongoing situations of dehumanizing deprivation”, while we are all too slow in developing economic institutions and social initiatives which can give the poor regular access to basic resources. We fail to see the deepest roots of our present failures, which have to do with the direction, goals, meaning and social implications of technological and economic growth.

110. The specialization which belongs to technology makes it difficult to see the larger picture. The fragmentation of knowledge proves helpful for concrete applications, and yet it often leads to a loss of appreciation for the whole, for the relationships between things, and for the broader horizon, which then becomes irrelevant. This very fact makes it hard to find adequate ways of solving the more complex problems of today’s world, particularly those regarding the environment and the poor; these problems cannot be dealt with from a single perspective or from a single set of interests. A science which would offer solutions to the great issues would necessarily have to take into account the data generated by other fields of knowledge, including philosophy and social ethics; but this is a difficult habit to acquire today. Nor are there genuine ethical horizons to which one can appeal. Life gradually becomes a surrender to situations conditioned by technology, itself viewed as the principal key to the meaning of existence. In the concrete situation confronting us, there are a number of symptoms which point to what is wrong, such as environmental degradation, anxiety, a loss of the purpose of life and of community living. Once more we see that “realities are more important than ideas”.

111. Ecological culture cannot be reduced to a series of urgent and partial responses to the immediate problems of pollution, environmental decay and the depletion of natural resources. There needs to be a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm. Otherwise, even the best ecological initiatives can find themselves caught up in the same globalized logic. To seek only a technical remedy to each environmental problem which comes up is to separate what is in reality interconnected and to mask the true and deepest problems of the global system.

112. Yet we can once more broaden our vision. We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral. Liberation from the dominant technocratic paradigm does in fact happen sometimes, for example, when cooperatives of small producers adopt less polluting means of production, and opt for a non-consumerist model of life, recreation and community. Or when technology is directed primarily to resolving people’s concrete problems, truly helping them live with more dignity and less suffering. Or indeed when the desire to create and contemplate beauty manages to overcome reductionism through a kind of salvation which occurs in beauty and in those who behold it. An authentic humanity, calling for a new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door. Will the promise last, in spite of everything, with all that is authentic rising up in stubborn resistance?

113. There is also the fact that people no longer seem to believe in a happy future; they no longer lies elsewhere. This is not to reject the possibilities which technology continues to offer us. But humanity has changed profoundly, and the accumulation of constant novelties exalts a superficiality which pulls us in one direction. It becomes difficult to pause and recover depth in life. If architecture reflects the spirit of an age, our megastructures and drab apartment blocks express the spirit of globalized technology, where a constant flood of new products coexists with a tedious monotony. Let us refuse to resign ourselves to this, and continue to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything. Otherwise we would simply legitimate the present situation and need new forms of escapism to help us endure the emptiness.

114. All of this shows the urgent need for us to move forward in a bold cultural revolution. Science and technology are not neutral; from the beginning to the end of a process, various intentions and possibilities are in play and can take on distinct shapes. Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.

III. THE CRISIS AND EFFECTS OF MODERN ANTHROPOCENTRISM

115. Modern anthropocentrism has paradoxically ended up prizing technical thought over reality, since “the technological mind sees nature as an insensate order, as a cold body of facts, as a mere ‘given’, as an object of utility, as raw material to be hammered into useful shape; it views the cosmos similarly as a mere ‘space’ into which objects can be thrown with complete indifference”. The intrinsic dignity of the world is thus compromised. When human beings fail to find their true place in this world, they misunderstand themselves and end up acting against themselves: “Not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given, but, man too is God’s gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed”.

116. Modernity has been marked by an excessive anthropocentrism which today, under another guise, continues to stand in the way of shared understanding and of any effort to strengthen social bonds. The time has come to pay renewed attention to reality and the limits it imposes; this in turn is the condition for a more sound and fruitful development of individuals and society. An inadequate presentation of Christian anthropology gave rise to a wrong understanding of the relationship between human beings and the world. Often, what was handed on was a Promethean vision of mastery over the world, which gave the impression that the protection of nature was something that only the faint-hearted cared about. Instead, our “dominion” over the universe should be understood more properly in the sense of responsible stewardship.

117. Neglecting to monitor the harm done to nature and the environmental impact of our decisions is only the most striking sign of a disregard for the message contained in the structures of nature itself. When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, have blind trust in a better tomorrow based on the present state of the world and our technical abilities. There is a growing awareness that scientific and technological progress cannot be equated with the progress of humanity and history, a growing sense that the way to a better future a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected. Once the human being declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble, for “instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature”.

118. This situation has led to a constant schizophrenia, wherein a technocracy which sees no intrinsic value in lesser beings coexists with the other extreme, which sees no special value in human beings. But one cannot prescind from humanity. There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology. When the human person is considered as simply one being among others, the product of chance or physical determinism, then “our overall sense of responsibility wanes”. A misguided anthropocentrism need not necessarily yield to “biocentrism”, for that would entail adding yet another imbalance, failing to solve present problems and adding new ones. Human beings cannot be expected to feel responsibility for the world unless, at the same time, their unique capacities of knowledge, will, freedom and responsibility are recognized and valued.

119. Nor must the critique of a misguided anthropocentrism underestimate the importance of interpersonal relations. If the present ecological crisis is one small sign of the ethical, cultural and spiritual crisis of modernity, we cannot presume to heal our relationship with nature and the environment without healing all fundamental human relationships. Christian thought sees human beings as possessing a particular dignity above other creatures; it thus inculcates esteem for each person and respect for others. Our openness to others, each of whom is a “thou” capable of knowing, loving and entering into dialogue, remains the source of our nobility as human persons. A correct relationship with the created world demands that we not weaken this social dimension of openness to others, much less the transcendent dimension of our openness to the “Thou” of God. Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God. Otherwise, it would be nothing more than romantic individualism dressed up in ecological garb, locking us into a stifling immanence.

120. Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? “If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away”.

121. We need to develop a new synthesis capable of overcoming the false arguments of recent centuries. ...

[available in Arabic, German, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Polish, and Portuguese]

July 10, 2009

Sham citizen wind energy activism in Washington state

"Wind Farms Trump Local Land-Use Laws, Washington Governor, Court Decide", by Penny Rodriguez, Heartland Institute, February 1, 2009:
Todd Myers, director of the Washington Policy Center, is skeptical of the promised benefits of wind power but nevertheless applauded the Washington Supreme Court’s decision.

“In many ways this decision can be seen as the opposite of the facts presented in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London,” Myers said. “Here we have state government preserving property rights when local governments are trying to restrict them.

“If farmers want to earn money by putting windmills on their property,” Myers continued, “we should honor their right to do so when reasonable. Local decisions are certainly preferable to those imposed from the state or federal level, but individual property rights should be given the highest priority.

“There are problems with our energy policy, including renewable portfolio standards and preferential renewable subsidies. But denying property rights is not the proper way to deal with those problems. I hope the supreme court will apply the same logic when it comes to other permits and not just wind farms,” Myers said.
"Launched in 2003, ["think tank"] Washington Policy Center’s Center for the Environment focuses on free-market solutions to environmental issues."

Todd Myers is also the executive director of Windworks Northwest, which has just produced a 15-minute video about how crucial it is to get more giant wind turbines into Kittitas County.

As one Fennelle Miller states in the film, wind turbines are a community good that require unfettered property rights to impose them on the community.

This cynical exploitation of climate change fears for such a blatant pro-development agenda, this twisting of environmentalism to mean the very opposite, this opportunistic milking of federal and state subsidies in the name of free enterprise ... well, there's nothing new here. It is just a tiresomely predictable part of human history that nobody should think we are ever free of. And it is not surprising, but saddening nonetheless, that so many otherwise perhaps sane and decent people still fall for it.

The Windworks Northwest film also includes "Dr." James Walker, who is described as "president, american wind energy association". Since last year, though, Walker has been the past president of the AWEA board of directors. What the film also does not note is that he is the vice chairman of the board of Enxco, the company on behalf of whose project the film was made.

And the chairman of Windworks is Robert Kahn, whose company managed the permitting process of the Stateline Wind Project for Florida Power & Light in 2000-2002.

Deceit infuses the film, which is little more than a disjointed intercutting of non sequitur sound bites.

Windworks' "Who Are We": "We believe that the number of wind power plants in the Northwest needs to expand because more wind power means less CO2 emissions and greater U.S. energy security." And anyone who questions those reasons, unless he's executive director Todd Myers himself ("skeptical of the promised benefits of wind power"), is a Nimby aesthete. And anyone who supports industrial expansion heedless of neighbors human and wild is an environmentalist voice for freedom.

If anyone doubted that almost everything about big wind is a sham, Windworks Northwest has helpfully made it extra clear.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, animal rights, human rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism, anarchosyndicalism

February 16, 2013

The animal killers' dilemma

Glenn Davis Stone, Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, and pro-GMO blogger at fieldquestions.com, posted an essay on Nov. 26, 2012, "The Animal Lover's Dilemma", by Elizabeth Vandeventer of Davis Creek Farm, Nelson County, Virginia. She is another supposedly ex-vegetarian who describes her sense of missing out on the death action in the great cycle of life. So she attacks vegans, who she blames for palm oil plantations, among other evils of industrial agriculture and chemistry, for not being more informed than the general population about the same food that everyone else eats. And of course, unlike people who just buy their packaged meat in the grocery store, she "honors" animals by raising them and thanking them before killing them to sell as packaged meat at farmers' markets.

Vandeventer was inspired to write because of the international outrage about Green Mountain College's determination to kill their oxen Bill and Lou. (They went ahead and killed Lou, rather than give him adequate veterinary care, but did it medically so they could whine that his "meat" was wasted.) Bill, no longer working for his room and board, still languishes at the college in Limbo despite at least two offers of sanctuary.

While the college raised one of those sanctuaries, called VINE, for Veganism Is the Next Evolution, to arch-adversary, unable to separate VINE's specific concern for Bill and Lou from their antipathy to its larger outlook (animal rights, human rights), and then unwilling to hear any advocate for Bill and Lou except that of their imagined version of VINE — now an extremist, terrorist organization ready to firebomb the college — Vandeventer creates her straw man at the other end, conjuring mindless consumerist sentimentalist "animal lovers" who are singularly responsible for the destruction of rain forests for palm oil plantations.

The essay is the usual self-justifying drivel, which continues in the comments below it. I write about it today because host Glenn Davis Stone just added what I suppose he thinks should be a succinct wrap-up:

Meat eating causes more death but it causes more life as well. I have been to Elizabeth’s farm and seen the hundreds of chickens and cattle enjoying life on her pastures. All because of meat eaters.
How does one respond, after the laughter, to such madness? "Rucio" tries:
And then having that life cut violently short. For the enjoyment of meat eaters. Only increasing the animals' gratitude, no doubt.
Note: According to a profile of Charlottesville (Va.)–area farmers, Vandeventer's farm has 4,000 "meat" chickens. Each of them named, of course, and roaming free. And according to her own web site, both the chickens and the cows do not exist solely on the grass and grains of the farm. Although Vandeventer claims that grazing is the only agriculture possible for her land (the pictures showing lush grasses and fairly flat fields suggests otherwise, however), her business depends on other farmland growing crops not for people but for her "livestock", i.e., it is not at all a model of sustainability unless that means only sustaining a meat industry.

Update:  Davis Stone replied to Rucio's comment: "I’m not sure what “violent” means here — Elizabeth’s animals are killed instantly. Hard to imagine an animal being grateful to people for arguing they never be born just because they were going to die." To which Rucio replied: "What could be more violent than killing another being well before the time of its natural death?" and "It is even harder to imagine an animal being grateful to people for arguing that they must kill it to justify its life."

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism, Vermont, anarchism, ecoanarchism