“Déjeuner du matin” by Jacques Prévert

“Déjeuner du matin” by Jacques Prévert

Il a mis le café
Dans la tasse
Il a mis le lait
Dans la tasse de café
Il a mis le sucre
Dans le café au lait
Avec la petite cuiller
Il a tourné
Il a bu le café au lait
Et il a reposé la tasse
Sans me parler

Il a allumé
Une cigarette
Il a fait des ronds
Avec la fumée
Il a mis les cendres
Dans le cendrier
Sans me parler
Sans me regarder

Il s’est levé
Il a mis
Son chapeau sur sa tête
Il a mis son manteau de pluie
Parce qu’il pleuvait
Et il est parti
Sous la pluie
Sans une parole
Sans me regarder

Et moi j’ai pris
Ma tête dans ma main
Et j’ai pleuré.

 

I adore this poem. Whenever I read this poem, I imagine a small cafe in Paris, with seating along the sidewalk, next to the street. The cafe is full, limited seating, with single, random seats open. A young man takes a seat next to another man and orders breakfast. I always imagine the speaker of the poem as a man that looks like a young Prévert. I imagine the young man looks to the other man and says “bonjour.” The other man just finishes his meal, smokes a third of his cigarette, puts on his hat and coat, and leaves, without ever acknowledging the young man’s existence. The young man puts his head in his hands and cries. He cries because he is surrounded by people, everywhere he goes there are people, but no one ever acknowledges his existence.

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Care as a Way of Being

I imagine that what it is to emotionally care about another person is physically analogous to the touch that seeks to understand, for the benefit of the other person, what it is physically and psychologically like for the other person to be touched by oneself.


I realized that I cared for you when I sought to understand, for your benefit, your world as you understand it. I realized that no one has ever cared for me when others had consistently sought to dismiss, disregard, ignore, patronize, mock, and assume the worst about my world as I understand it.


To care for another person is not an action you do unto them, as if the other person is an object that you can act upon without taking into account who they are. To care for another person is a way of being toward a thinking, feeling, and willing person. To care for another person is to embrace a way of being that precariously makes oneself vulnerable and opens oneself up to the possibility of harm, yet at the same time rejects returning harm for harm when one’s care is unreciprocated.


To care for another person is a way of being that places oneself at risk of destruction, but you embrace this destructive path anyway because it is the only way of being available to you.

Adverse Childhood Experiences and Social Problems

“It is not what is wrong with you, but instead what has happened to you.” – Adverse Childhood Experiences and the effects on individuals and society.
          Reconceptualizing how we perceive individuals with “mental illness” and “behavioral problems” requires understanding that the individual is not inherently flawed, but instead has been traumatized by social conditions. The fix is not pharmaceuticals that feed corporate profit margins, but instead rooting out the social conditions that give rise to dysfunction.

Singer and the “Better Safe than Sorry” Principle

Regarding Singer’s argument, he states that morality cannot be based on observable scientific facts about equality of rationality because equality is all about how it “ought” to be not how it “is.” No two humans are equal in rational capacities, and some animals have more seemingly rational capacities than humans. So, equality cannot be based on what the actual facts about individuals’ rational capacities are. Singer bases his morality on the ability to suffer instead, because if a being has the ability to suffer then they have an interest in not suffering. Equality of interests in not suffering means we have to take every being’s suffering into consideration when we make moral decisions. As he states, if a being can suffer then there is no moral justification for not taking that suffering into consider with the like suffering of others, so far as rough comparisons can be made.
          It is the “with the like suffering of others, so far as rough comparisons can be made” that I take issue with. Singer’s argument is flawed because he doesn’t see that what it means to suffer is one of those observable scientific facts that he is trying to get away from. What does it mean to suffer? Many argue that animals cannot suffer because they do not have the ability to see themselves as a subject existing throughout time. In other words, these people argue animals do not have subjectivity and subjectivity is required to suffer. They argue animals can feel pain, but they cannot suffer – all animals feel is the immediate raw experience of pain but they do not tie that pain to themselves as a subject.
          To these people who deny moral consideration to animals, I have a Singer/utilitarianistic response. Their argument leads to questions of what exactly it means to have “subjectivity.” There is a ton of evidence that animals have displayed characteristics associated with subjectivity – like recalling memories of painful experiences in the past, for just one example. To this, add in the “Better Safe than Sorry” moral principle. In making moral decisions, oftentimes we take into account if there is chance that we could harm someone by doing something. If there is a real possibility that we could harm someone by doing something, then we don’t do that act, and if we do the act, then we are morally culpable. From the animal rights position, there is a real possibility that animals can suffer. We can’t know for certain whether animals can or cannot suffer because we cannot get in their heads to experience the world as they do. But, there is a chance they could based on the scientific observations we have of them. From a utilitarian standpoint, taking into account the “Better Safe than Sorry” principle, it is more moral to treat beings who cannot suffer as if they can suffer than it is to treat beings who can suffer as if they cannot suffer. It is more moral for me to treat cows, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats, gorillas, sheep, dolphins, horses, etc. as if they can suffer, even if it turns out they can’t, than it is for me to participate in a system that treats thinking and feeling beings as if they can’t suffer.