A Quote from Rousseau

“Usurpers always bring about or select troublous times to get passed, under cover of the public terror, destructive laws, which the people would never adopt in cold blood. The moment chosen is one of the surest means of distinguishing the work of the legislator from that of the tyrant.” – Jean Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, Book II, 10. The People (Continued), 1762

Rousseau’s claim is that we, the people of a country, ought to be critical and wary of public officials trying to use fear to create laws that will destroy liberty and equality. Fear is used as a means of coercing the people into compliance with laws that will ultimately benefit some at the expense of the common good – fear distracts people from the implementation of detrimental laws. Something to ponder as we consider who to vote for.

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Why My Ex-Husband is a Great Guy

We are now once again socially and politically faced with the silencing of women. We live in a culture where acts of sexual assault and harassment can be committed with impunity. We live in a culture where these acts are glorified in the public sphere through a braggadocious contempt for the survivors and the celebratory rewarding of the perpetrators. We are faced with the silencing of women in all areas of human public and private interactions, where silencing takes the form of micro-aggressions, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.

To be clear, silencing is (1) trying to prevent someone from speaking or being heard, either through physical or psychological coercion or force, (2) speaking for someone who is capable of speaking for themselves, (3) misrepresenting what someone has said (as opposed to clarifying what someone has said) in order to use what someone has said for one’s own purposes, (4) creating an environment where the person does not feel safe to speak, (5) collectively ignoring someone when they speak. Micro-aggressions, sexual harassment, and sexual assault are all means to the end of keeping people socially and politically isolated in a socially and politically imposed and extorted inferiority.

Our divorce went through the August I moved to Atlanta to begin graduate school. We have remained good friends after our divorce. No lie, we still annoy the shit out of each other…a lot. Nonetheless, he has been a constant source of support for me as I work through the frustrations of graduate school. We call and text each other almost daily. His encouragement has, oftentimes, been the only source of encouragement, and his voice the only source of human contact pulling me out of alienated isolation.

I go back to SLC to visit my ex-husband several times a year during breaks from school. We often go out to eat and talk about anything and everything. We have often conversed about my experiences throughout my life with misogyny and sexism. One morning as we were stepping out of the car and heading into a bakery to get the best vegan donuts SLC, if not the world, has to offer, he stopped me before opening the door. Looking me directly in the eyes, he said “I am so sorry.”

“I am sorry for the way I treated you when we were married. I know the way I treated you was wrong. I grew up watching Harrison Ford movies. I idolized Harrison Ford’s characters. I thought that was the way men were supposed to treat women. I am sorry that I ever hurt you like that.”

At the time I was shocked, because this seemed to come out of nowhere – we were not discussing anything particularly heavy that morning, nor the day prior. I have thought about that moment many times since. As I think of it now, I am crying slightly.

Of all of the shitty things that have ever happened to me – of all of the painful experiences across the entirety of my life perpetrated by many different people, of all of the times I have tried to reach out to people for compassion and understanding to be met with being told everything from “quit playing the victim role,” to variations of “it’s all in your head” (“you are hysterical/crazy”), to variations of “boys will be boys” (with my new favorite being “men, however good-hearted they are, are just unable to realize how their actions affect others”), to being told that I am the problem and that I should “be friendlier and not so angry,” of continuously being silenced and the alienation that brings – my ex-husband was the only person who has ever sincerely apologized to me.

My ex-husband was the only person who ever had the moral courage and fortitude to critically examine society and himself and then put aside his ego to apologize for the role he has played in perpetuating misogyny and sexism in a living, thinking, and feeling person’s life.

I carry around the trauma of misogyny and sexism with me, every day and everywhere I go. It haunts me like a ghost, like an impenetrable shadow over my entire existence. It is animated every time I am silenced – and I am silenced constantly, acts ranging along a gradation of more subtle micro-aggressions to more explicit acts of harassment. He saw me, a suffering individual, he took seriously my suffering, he saw how he contributed to that suffering, and he expressed sincere remorse for his contribution. His act was not prompted by anything other his own sense of morality. He did not ask for any sort of reward or forgiveness. He simply wanted to right a wrong he felt he had committed.

My ex-husband is a remarkable person. I wish there were more people like him, not just for my sake but for the sake of all living, thinking, and feeling beings in the world. I wish more people would step up and say:

“No, you are not crazy. These things are happening. I did this. I said this. I can understand how this caused you pain. I can understand how this continues to cause you pain. I am truly sorry.”

EDIT: October 24, 2018 –

I originally wrote and published this piece on October 5th. I had left it up for a few hours, and then second-guessing myself and losing my courage to share this with the internet, I removed it. A new article by Dr. Yancy in the New York Times today gave me reason to untrash this piece.

Ableism and Suicide

It is incredibly patronizing to classify suicidal people as “weak.” It is not weakness. It is loneliness. It is living in a horrible world full of cruel and callous people. It is not having anyone to talk to because it is not knowing who you can trust, because people hurt you. It is being afraid and feeling unsafe, all of the time. It is the realization that you could disappear and no one would care. It is pain. It is a pain that screams in your head and reverberates throughout your entire body. If you don’t feel this pain, then you have no right to judge suicidal people as weak. You have no idea how much strength it takes to get out of bed and go to work when you feel this pain every moment of every day year after year.

“Ableism is a set of beliefs or practices that devalue and discriminate against people with physical, intellectual, or psychiatric disabilities and often rests on the assumption that disabled people need to be ‘fixed’ in one form or the other. Ableism is intertwined in our culture, due to many limiting beliefs about what disability does or does not mean, how able-bodied people learn to treat people with disabilities and how we are often not included at the table for key decisions. Just like most forms of discrimination, ableism often shows its ugly face from nondisabled people with good intentions.” – Leah Smith, Center for Disability Rights (http://cdrnys.org/blog/uncategorized/ableism/)

Racism and Speciesim, Sistah Vegan, Dr. A. “Breeze” Harper

http://www.sistahvegan.com/

https://www.youtube.com/user/sistahvegan/videos

Love means challenging the status quo. The white vegan movement really needs to understand what Dr. Harper is arguing. White vegans want to make the argument that all forms of oppression are linked under the same logic of oppression – hence analogies between speciesism and racism. Yet, white vegans fail to take seriously how they recreate white supremacist conditions and spaces within the movement because white vegans tend to think that there is one universal way of thinking about veganism. That universalized way of thinking about veganism espoused by white vegans has a history, and that history has been from the perspective of whiteness and masculinism.

Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth – Damian Carrington, The Guardian, May 31

Full article:

Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth – Damian Carrington

Excerpts from article:

Avoiding meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet, according to the scientists behind the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet.

The new research shows that without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world. Loss of wild areas to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife.

The new analysis shows that while meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, it uses the vast majority – 83% – of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. Other recent research shows 86% of all land mammals are now livestock or humans. The scientists also found that even the very lowest impact meat and dairy products still cause much more environmental harm than the least sustainable vegetable and cereal growing.

The study, published in the journal Science, created a huge dataset based on almost 40,000 farms in 119 countries and covering 40 food products that represent 90% of all that is eaten. It assessed the full impact of these foods, from farm to fork, on land use, climate change emissions, freshwater use and water pollution (eutrophication) and air pollution (acidification).

“A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use,” said Joseph Poore, at the University of Oxford, UK, who led the research. “It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car,” he said, as these only cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“Agriculture is a sector that spans all the multitude of environmental problems,” he said. “Really it is animal products that are responsible for so much of this. Avoiding consumption of animal products delivers far better environmental benefits than trying to purchase sustainable meat and dairy.”

[…]

Cutting the environmental impact of farming is not easy, Poore warned: “There are over 570m farms all of which need slightly different ways to reduce their impact. It is an [environmental] challenge like no other sector of the economy.” But he said at least $500bn is spent every year on agricultural subsidies, and probably much more: “There is a lot of money there to do something really good with.”

Labels that reveal the impact of products would be a good start, so consumers could choose the least damaging options, he said, but subsidies for sustainable and healthy foods and taxes on meat and dairy will probably also be necessary.

On the White Perspective and Racism

I have been hiding from the news. The barrage of horror stories told from across the soft fireside glow of the electronic screen was just too much for me handle in the seemingly endless and chilly night of U.S. culture and politics right now. So, I retreated from current events to the warmth of my tent and zipped myself into my sleeping bag of ignorance. But, as I was eating my beans and rice for dinner tonight, I hazily stumbled out of my tent and tripped over this video where CBS Atlanta’s Sharon Reed responds to a white viewer’s email regarding Reed’s mayoral election coverage:

The fall jolted me awake.

I want to address white people from my white person’s perspective. White people, I imagine that you don’t like being called a racist. I imagine that you probably think of yourself as a good person. You have existed in a world created by white people for white people. Media, education, and politics, in all forms for thousands of years throughout Western-European culture, has overwhelmingly been designed by white people for white people. This has created the white perspective, a perspective that has been magnified and amplified throughout history so as to appear as absolute truth – as absolute reality. The thing is though, there are other perspectives. Black men and women, latinx men and women, and other people from other racial and ethnic backgrounds, have different perspectives. They don’t experience the world as white people do.

Now more than ever these different perspectives are given a seat at the table and the opportunity to be heard in the media, education, and politics. And, I imagine this challenges the way you see yourself, white people. I imagine that it feels like reality has become tenuous and precarious. I imagine that you feel threatened at the very core of who you are and how you conceive of yourself. The first step of mourning is denial, the next step is anger. White people, your response to the death of your white perspective largely oscillates between denial and anger.

I hope that you can take the next step in the mourning process to acceptance. Accept that the white perspective is not absolute truth – it is not absolute reality. If you see yourself as a good person, then I imagine that you don’t want to hurt anyone, right? And, if a good person does unintentionally hurt someone, then they take responsibility for it, apologize, and try to make it right, right? Here’s your time white people. Step up, take responsibility, apologize, and try to make it right. No, you are not responsible for the entire system of racism and oppression. But, white peoples’ sensitivity to talking about racism makes white people willfully ignorant of what they do to perpetuate and justify racism.

Try to make it right. Seek out other perspectives. Intellectuals, professionals, activists, and every day people from a diversity of backgrounds have been writing and speaking about these issues for decades. Seek out those peoples’ voices, listen fairly and try to understand their perspectives.

I am going back into my sleeping bag now.

Vegetarianism, Veganism, and Fruitarianism in Henry David Thoreau’s Walden – Excerpts from “Baker Farm” and “Higher Laws”

From “Baker Farm” –

“Meanwhile my host told me his story, how hard he worked “bogging” for a neighboring farmer, turning up a meadow with a spade or bog hoe at the rate of ten dollars an acre and the use of the land with manure for one year, and his little broad-faced son worked cheerfully at his father’s side the while, not knowing how poor a bargain the latter had made. I tried to help him with my experience, telling him that he was one of my nearest neighbors, and that I too, who came a-fishing here, and looked like a loafer, was getting my living like himself; that I lived in a tight, light, and clean house, which hardly cost more than the annual rent of such a ruin as his commonly amounts to; and how, if he chose, he might in a month or two build himself a palace of his own; that I did not use tea, nor coffee, nor butter, nor milk, nor fresh meat, and so did not have to work to get them; again, as I did not work hard, I did not have to eat hard, and it cost me but a trifle for my food; but as he began with tea, and coffee, and butter, and milk, and beef, he had to work hard to pay for them, and when he had worked hard he had to eat hard again to repair the waste of his system—and so it was as broad as it was long, indeed it was broader than it was long, for he was discontented and wasted his life into the bargain; and yet he had rated it as a gain in coming to America, that here you could get tea, and coffee, and meat every day. But the only true America is that country where you are at liberty to pursue such a mode of life as may enable you to do without these, and where the state does not endeavor to compel you to sustain the slavery and war and other superfluous expenses which directly or indirectly result from the use of such things. For I purposely talked to him as if he were a philosopher, or desired to be one. I should be glad if all the meadows on the earth were left in a wild state, if that were the consequence of men’s beginning to redeem themselves.”

From “Higher Laws” –

“I have found repeatedly, of late years, that I cannot fish without falling a little in self-respect. I have tried it again and again. I have skill at it, and, like many of my fellows, a certain instinct for it, which revives from time to time, but always when I have done I feel that it would have been better if I had not fished. I think that I do not mistake. It is a faint intimation, yet so are the first streaks of morning. There is unquestionably this instinct in me which belongs to the lower orders of creation; yet with every year I am less a fisherman, though without more humanity or even wisdom; at present I am no fisherman at all. But I see that if I were to live in a wilderness I should again be tempted to become a fisher and hunter in earnest. Beside, there is something essentially unclean about this diet and all flesh, and I began to see where housework commences, and whence the endeavor, which costs so much, to wear a tidy and respectable appearance each day, to keep the house sweet and free from all ill odors and sights. Having been my own butcher and scullion and cook, as well as the gentleman for whom the dishes were served up, I can speak from an unusually complete experience. The practical objection to animal food in my case was its uncleanness; and besides, when I had caught and cleaned and cooked and eaten my fish, they seemed not to have fed me essentially. It was insignificant and unnecessary, and cost more than it came to. A little bread or a few potatoes would have done as well, with less trouble and filth. Like many of my contemporaries, I had rarely for many years used animal food, or tea, or coffee, etc.; not so much because of any ill effects which I had traced to them, as because they were not agreeable to my imagination. The repugnance to animal food is not the effect of experience, but is an instinct. It appeared more beautiful to live low and fare hard in many respects; and though I never did so, I went far enough to please my imagination. I believe that every man who has ever been earnest to preserve his higher or poetic faculties in the best condition has been particularly inclined to abstain from animal food, and from much food of any kind. It is a significant fact, stated by entomologists—I find it in Kirby and Spence—that “some insects in their perfect state, though furnished with organs of feeding, make no use of them”; and they lay it down as “a general rule, that almost all insects in this state eat much less than in that of larvæ. The voracious caterpillar when transformed into a butterfly… and the gluttonous maggot when become a fly” content themselves with a drop or two of honey or some other sweet liquid. The abdomen under the wings of the butterfly still represents the larva. This is the tidbit which tempts his insectivorous fate. The gross feeder is a man in the larva state; and there are whole nations in that condition, nations without fancy or imagination, whose vast abdomens betray them.

It is hard to provide and cook so simple and clean a diet as will not offend the imagination; but this, I think, is to be fed when we feed the body; they should both sit down at the same table. Yet perhaps this may be done. The fruits eaten temperately need not make us ashamed of our appetites, nor interrupt the worthiest pursuits. But put an extra condiment into your dish, and it will poison you. It is not worth the while to live by rich cookery. Most men would feel shame if caught preparing with their own hands precisely such a dinner, whether of animal or vegetable food, as is every day prepared for them by others. Yet till this is otherwise we are not civilized, and, if gentlemen and ladies, are not true men and women. This certainly suggests what change is to be made. It may be vain to ask why the imagination will not be reconciled to flesh and fat. I am satisfied that it is not. Is it not a reproach that man is a carnivorous animal? True, he can and does live, in a great measure, by preying on other animals; but this is a miserable way—as any one who will go to snaring rabbits, or slaughtering lambs, may learn—and he will be regarded as a benefactor of his [human] race who shall teach man to confine himself to a more innocent and wholesome diet.”

Walden on Project Gutenberg