My Problem with Fiji

Fiji_Islands

“Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.”
― Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Fiji does not exist. Therein lies the problem, and the solution if we may quell the exasperation of our inner voices. “Of course it exists.” Say the affronted masses, willing to bet their lives on the existence of a place they’ve never been to, but assure me, “They know people who have.”

And really, this is a fair argument. I have even met some who’ve claimed to have been to the small island-nation. I always tell them all the same thing, “I believe that you believe you’ve been to a place that is merely a phantom of reality.” He scrunch-up their faces, one and all, at my pertinacity.

The object of doubt is not nearly as important as the doubt itself; this is the takeaway from my crusade against Fiji. The place of fictitious existence is tantamount to the fact that I have uncovered very little evidence that Fiji exists. To you, this may be Poland, Neverland or a wing of your home you do not currently inhabit. Fiji is merely a placeholder–or rather, not a placeholder–for the real root of the problem at hand.

The problem is how vehemently the human mind clings to the construct of Fiji. Some would never dare say it does not exist since their is a wikipedia page dedicated to its nearly 900,000 residents. Fiji has–apparently–an economy, a government and even a national sport, rugby. I, as a Canadian, only know Fiji through the internet, its social acceptance and the scarce testimony of those who’ve claimed to have been there.

That’s not nearly enough to prove existence.

Firstly, the internet is a problem. It would be simple enough for create multiple websites dedicated to the idea of Fiji. I could write the paragraphs of testimony on Wikipedia taken from my own mind. I could even go ahead and fabricate the supposed citations. I could write the cited books under pen-names if need-be. While time-consuming, this is not outside the wheelhouse of a single person’s capabilities.

Second, the problem of social acceptance. If you were to ask most rational, sensible people, they would agree that Fiji certainly does exist. The island in question has people who are there, being Fijian, living a Fijian lifestyle and generally doing what Fijians do. The number of people who will swear to the existence of Fiji is huge. In fact, you could probably get more people to agree to the existence of Fiji than the existence of God.

These same people would probably claim to have “facts” on their side. They can see it on a map, this is a fact. They can visit it’s national website. True enough. They know someone who has been their. Something that I cannot defend against. All of the things are facts in the black-and-white sense of the word.

However, still, my faith in Fiji wanes. I have doubt, as Descartes might say.

While it is reasonable–although highly unlikely–that someone could create propaganda claiming the existence of Fiji through wikipedia and other outlets, what could be said about first-hand experience?

According to Dunbar’s Number, I can only have meaningful relationships with a ceiling of 150 people.

Also, as an aside, I am aware of the fact that I am using Wikipedia to bolster an opinion that conflicts with the use of Wikipedia as a basis for existence. However, in my defence, to not do so will only decay into a endless pit of epistemic crises. This is ultimately the point. However, rhetoric, here, will only serve to confuse the problem. Let is be known that the acceptance of Dunbar’s Number is merely a gateway to understanding another problem (just as is the acceptance of the existence of Fiji, as will be discussed below), and not an instance of inconsistent scholarship.

So according to Dunbar’s Number, my cognitive understanding of people is limited to 150 people. This might mean that my acceptance of their testimony is also limited to 150 people. However, I would argue that the faith in testimony is far beyond that, given I have no reason to distrust the testimony of an individual I have no relationship with. This is the trust-contract one may enter into when asking for directions, for example, from a stranger on the street.

With this in mind, let’s extend trusted testimony to the tidy number to 500 individuals within the scope of a single person’s world-view. More simply, I can trust the testimony of nearly 500 people directly without the interference of obvious nefarious intention from the testifier.

I can reasonably accept that I can understand and retain the testimony from at least 500 people–all of which swear Fiji exists. This, in a macro-sense, is the proof of social acceptance. The idea that, “Not all of those people can be wrong, so therefore, is must be right.”

This is where the existence of Fiji finds most of its supporters. Social acceptance bolstered by created literature on the subject (internet-based or otherwise), perpetuated by first-hand, supposed eye-witness testimony Fiji.

Here we can begin to see how the existence of Fiji rests atop eye-witness testimony and not social acceptance or even created “factual” literature of the place in question. The existence of Fiji (or anywhere else, really) rests on the testimony of the senses of the testifier, and not rational, matter-of-fact evidence, like the existence of self might have, for example.

Now my lack of acceptance of Fiji does not come from a simple distrust in human senses. This is a discussion for myriad other papers on the subject. Furthermore, the intricacies of epistemic fallacy through the short-comings of the senses is just outside my mind’s capabilities. To ask the reader, here, to rest on the problems of sensical testimony would not bolster my argument against the existence of Fiji, but would instead harm the narrative of my argument for two reasons: first, asking the reader to distrust their senses is again, a vacuous argument that quickly decays into distrust of everything, including the words read on the subject in the moment, and secondly, this only confuses the argument while also pleading to an argument that is just too basic and mundane.

Put simply, we can’t really trust our senses, but this is something we all share. We do not all share a disbelief in Fiji, so how else can to inject distrust in its existence?

For this, I go back to my inflated idea of Dunbar’s Number.

It is not unreasonable to suggest that someone, somewhere has stake in the existence of Fiji. Someone, along the line of human relationships and interconnectivity has something to gain from a mass, fictitious belief in the island-nation Fiji. This is a reasonable assumption because the mass belief of the existence of Fiji exists. If this belief did not exist, then this article would be moot from lack subject matter. Fiji exists in our minds, so therefore, it must have a reason to.

Some would argue that the reason it exists in our minds is because it exists in reality. However, I fail to see the evidence of such and furthermore, the possible gains to be had by one individual (possibly) on the fictitious existence of Fiji cannot be ignored. If one can gain something from a fictitious existence, the justification for this must be investigated. The alternative–Fiji does not exist–must be accepted in the absence of a just cause.

This may fall into the realm of solipsism–the belief that something or someplace exists only for the benefit of a single person’s world-view. This could be true; Fiji could exist in our minds collectively in order to satisfy an unknown need in some unknown individual’s mind. And herein lies my main problem with the existence of Fiji.

It is reasonable to assume that the “supposed” existence of Fiji is necessary for only one person. Perhaps this person needs a place to fantasize about, like Truman in the film, The Truman Show. Without such a fantasy, their life begins to deteriorate, they become depressed, suicidal and eventually self-terminate, for example. This may lead to decay of cosmic occurrences that would have otherwise existed since the individual (who necessarily thrives on the idea of Fiji) may act conduit for. They no longer exist because the mass-idealism that facilitates the existence of Fiji (again, an example, this could be anywhere, or anyone) only exists to cater to a single individual who creates another ideal that serves another and so on ad. infinitum.

To be clear, I do not think I am the person that needs to Fiji to exist. I can also not say that I am not. However, this idea, that Fiji exists only as testimony lends itself to doubting its existence and the existence of everything else related to it–perhaps the physical rules that keep our atoms together, for example.

This is why, I cannot trust anyone who claims Fiji exists. Even Fijians.

The Revolution will be a Podcast, not a Cage Fight: A Problem with Animal Rights Groups

RA TRUCKS

You look to your neighbour, you see a killer. Your family, our friends, those hungry masses, all blood-thirsty and cold-hearted. With jokes they make light of the plight you stand against, ignorant to the torture they lovingly embrace. You grow to hate them, for the way they live. If they only knew…

Many animal rights campaigns will show you animal slaughter house and abattoirs. Films like Meet your Meat and Earthlings and to shock their unsympathetic viewers into a new cruelty-free diet. But what about the converted? What changes in ethical vegans and vegetarians every time we see the same thing? Our sympathies begin to blunt as we look to the guilty, our view of our fellow carnivorous humans begin to change.

J.M. Coetzee’s book, The Lives of Animals tackles this subject in a kind of pseudo-fictional work. Coetzee, through the fictitious character, Elizabeth Costello, feels a deep disdain for meat-eating people. Costello can, “no longer look another person in the eye,” since they idly abide the worst travesty in all of human history. Costello (Coetzee, really) lectures as an author tired of the acts of meat-eaters and takes a lot of imagery from the holocaust in order to fully illustrate her (his) concerns.

Certainly the images are abound. Any livestock truck is reminiscent of the train cars carting living beings to their deaths. The language used to describe the flesh of animals is also reminiscent of the way the Jewish people, before WWII, were treated as “lesser” or somehow beneath the likes of non-jewish peoples.

It is difficult to breach this subject with many people; perhaps the mass-consumption of animals is equal–if not worse–than the heinous acts carried out by the Nazis on Jewish people. The argument is generally met with furled brows and that, ‘whoa-easy-there’ mentality that always tails touchy subjects.

Consider, however, that anyone who is sympathetic to the plight of consumed animals, finds it fairly easy to rationalize a deep hatred for meat-eating people. Just like Nazis have been justifiably vilified for their acts, so too are the meat industries who peddle their wares.

But what about the modest consumer of animal? Where does their culpability lie? How much can the average vegan hate a meat-eater for partaking in the slaughter? To use Coetzee’s analogy, the same blame can be allotted the average meat-eater as the average German citizen during WWII. Rather, and more specifically, any socially conscious citizen.

The argument opens: how responsible are people who either don’t care, or can’t care about the horrible acts of an authority they can’t directly control? This, I fear, is a subject for a whole new article. What concerns me more is: how vegans (and ethical vegetarians) are expected to see fellow meat-eating humans, when the carnivore’s choice to eat meat stands in direct conflict with a vegan’s defendable ethics?

Put simply: If I think it is ethically wrong to consume an animal, how am I supposed to feel about the person sitting across from me who orders a steak for their meal?

It’s reasonable to see how a vegan, given their stance, can begin to vilify any meat-eating person. It is easy to understand how Costello, at the end of her wit, can no longer respect her fellow human because she sees them as uncaring, murderous wretches.

Animal rights groups do not make this sentiment easier to deny. As any vegan will tell you, to follow one of these groups on any social platform, is to be bombarded with the worst-of-the-worst of animal abuse. Every day I open my computer to a new, fresh hell of animal abuse, savage husbandry and awful consumption and I can do little more than donate my daily coffee-money to stop it.

What is a vegan expected to? These images are meant to cultivate anger in order to stir the masses to help. They are meant to inspire the protest, but instead they inspire compatriotic hatred. This kind of absurdity is only compounded by the fact, it is usually sympathizers that are the ones following these feeds. These images never make it to their intended audience–an audience of ignorant consumers–as they should be. Instead, they act to securely and absolutely sow the seeds of hatred for our neighbours, family and friends.

Costello was defeated by this. In the book, she no longer sees how philosophy can stand to teach, but is just a social brain-wrinkling between pretentious like-minders–which stymies philosophy’s very purpose.

One escape from this mental trap for vegans may simply to be aware of this fact. To realize that such hatred, while defensible, is only a further echelon of fruitless activity. It adds nothing to the debate except unbridled emotion. It is then a choice to hate the perpetrators, instead of helping them understand the dilemma.

The problem is not solely the ignorance of consumers, but the intended purpose of advocacy. Many organizations aim to crate revenue for their cause, over and above, the actual point of the campaign. The angry, emotional vegan is more liberal with their wallet than a rational, calm one.

Next time you sit down at the table and eat with the “enemy”, break bread with discussion, not enmity. The revolution will be a podcast, not a cage fight; something too many animal right groups need to keep in mind when orchestrating their campaigns.

The Truth About Vegan Propaganda

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Propaganda comes before the siege. Before any massive attack, travesty or victory, the language of the people becomes part of the conflict of change. Along with any form of conflict comes a new pedigree of “-isms” to call the enemy. Rather, this new lexicon is constructed by the perpetrators of the cause in order to get the population on the “correct” side of the cause.

Before the Holocaust, antisemitic language and signage was used to not only disparage the hated, but also to convert the outside bystander into an active perpetrator, or more often, to cultivate apathy so the oppressing body may act unhindered. Same with the “Slap a Jap” campaign that circulated the United States during WWII, the willful misunderstanding of Muslim faith perpetrated by right-leaning news organizations is constructed in order to lull the general populous into a luke-warm insensitivity. 

The question every vegan should ask themselves is: How much of vegan information is merely propaganda?

It’s possible. It could be that, we vegans, in an attempt to save animals from suffering–that we know to be ethically indefensible–could smudge the facts a bit. In the name of animal rights, some of us wouldn’t mind lying about the facts a little to turn our carnivorous compatriots into compassionate comrades. 

Recently, I stumbled across one such group that advocates meat in order to trample the vegan propaganda that is keeping the animal flesh from their plates. “A page dedicated to promoting logical sustainability and debunking vegan propaganda,” this “Don’t Go Vegan” Facebook community boasts on its ‘about’ page. 

It’s worth a little self-checking. In order to help suffering animals, do we vegans fudge the facts a bit in order to save even a single pig from becoming tomorrow’s breakfast? It would be easy enough to do. Especially considering one of the more convincing branches of advocating a plant-based diet boasts the health benefits, it’s all too simple to say it’s better for you. This is the aforementioned Facebook page’s main beef with vegans.

However, what I did notice, while perusing the memes frequented on the page was a sincere lack of ethical concern. While I am woefully undereducated in the realm of nutrition, certainly the logical merits of an ethical diet is not lost on these advocates. Instead, “not going vegan” is a choice, for them, to stay healthier, rather than to have a morally defendable diet.

Vegan propaganda does exist. Certainly, in our zealous pursuit of true animal rights, we can do whatever is necessary to keep just one more chicken, pig or cow off the plate of these flesh-mongers. It is simply too tempting when considering the greater good of animal lives.

However, the continuing ingestion of animal flesh and the epicycles of flawed reasoning behind them, are merely attempts to continue the fetish that is eating meat, for such groups. 

Besides, the meat industry and its advocates have already cornered the market of mass, dietary propaganda–far more staggeringly so than any vegan could hope to achieve. Consider how many people do not consciously equate “pork” and “pig flesh” or “beef” to “ground-up cow”. Propaganda on this scale is certainly more rampant than any vegan grassroots program could ever hope to achieve. The meat industry has done such a good job with their language cultivation that generations of people have never considered that maybe their food didn’t want to be eaten. 

To call the advocation for animal rights through a vegan diet propaganda is merely propaganda in itself. It is also the worse kind because through its absorption into societal norms, millions of animals suffer without ever being mourned or even considered as a sentient, pain-feeling being. 

Vegan propaganda certainly exists, but it’s aim is to stop suffering, while meat-eaters’ propaganda is simply asinine, mass psychopathy. One kills, one saves.

Is Human Kind the Better Kind?

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Are humans better than animals?

In order to establish a baseline for what better is, we must first agree on a definition. A definition that would be fair to both human and animal kind alike. For example, a definition with involved advanced math in its criteria is necessarily slanted toward the human mind.

However, this is seemingly, a good place to start.

“The human mind, makes humans better,” pro-human advocators may argue. And in the realm of human needs, this is a fair argument. It is our ability to discern right from wrong in myriad situations that give us command over those who cannot.

This is why human adults take care of human infants. However, this idea is limited, since that only advocates for welfare and says little-to-nothing about why we treat animals the way we do. Certainly, under the stipulations that as thinking-beings, we have a responsibility to take care of those who cannot—after all we can rationalize that they’d probably prefer to be taken care of, rather than slaughtered.

However, what our superior intellect negates is a definition for cruelty as self-interest in the face of the oppressed. Our intellect tells us that it is rational to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves—even if that rationality is: it makes me feel better when I am compassionate, so I should be.

Or, it is irrational to engage in animal suffering for the sole purpose of a better-tasting meal. This is generally the claim of ethical-vegans and animal right advocates collectively. “To eat animals is not ethically defensible,” is my go-to response for my dietary inquiries.

However, what is generally forgotten when advocating for the lives of animals, is their merit, outside the realm of human influence. Moreover, animal rights necessarily includes: the needs of human beings and how we can better learn to treat them, given those needs.

What is also important to discuss is: what is important to animal-kind without the phenomenon of human interference.

Here we enter the dangerous realm of what-ifs. And these types of inferences do little to help to the cause at hand, usually. However, by understanding the wishes of animals, without the bias of human-centric pursuits, a better animal-right theory can be cultivated.

We cannot escape the travesties committed to animals for human self-interest. And furthermore, this is not what I would be advocating for this thought experiment. However, welfarist animal schemes do very little to consider the wishes of animals, and instead formulate theories based on what is best for, “animals in a human world,” rather than, “animals in an animal world.”

What if instead of considering animals at odds with humans–subjected all-too easily to commodification based on the inferiority–but instead, as equal-animals. When we start to consider humans as merely over-educated animals, instead of better beings, a respect can grow for our neighbours, not just pity for our slaves.

This is the ultimate oppression of animal kind: public identity. In this identity, cultivated after thousands of years of servitude to humans, commodification of animal flesh and ultimately the consumption of animal lives, is inherent.

To see animals as, “less” is not a place to start a theory of animal rights. Instead, an equal relationship with animals, outside the concerns of humans (thus absolving animals from the ignorant “right to vote” arguments carnivores so often smirk about), is the only way to define ourselves; as neighbours, rather than lords.

Our superior intellect is defined by human stipulations, so it does not—and further, cannot—be a common grounds from which the hierarchy of natural order can be understood.

However, our clever minds do not readily seem to grasp this.

Veganarchism and Emma Goldman.

RA Goldman

Anarchy has a bad rap. Too many people conflate the ideas illustrated in anarchism with chaos. So much so, current hollywood blockbusters and deodorants use the name to sell more consumer goods. Like Che’s face on a t-shirt, a look into these ideals show a glaring dissonance between the cause and the product.

“Anarchism, then, really stand for the liberation of the human mind from the domination of religion; the liberation of the human body from the domination of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government.” –Emma Goldman.

Goldman, prominent anarchist writer and publisher, seems to say very little about misinformed movie producers and pheromone-inducing antiperspirant. Anarchism, is rather about cooperation against oppressive authority, and not about every-man-for-himself mentalities, like such propaganda would have you believe.

Goldman spoke very little about animals. In the quote above she specifically writes, “the human mind” rather, than the “sentient mind” like a veganarchist might prefer. If we can agree that the animal mind should warrant the same protections as that of a human child, we can then agree that the tenets of anti-oppression–as illustrated in anarchism–also extend to the lives of animals.

If she were alive today, I think Goldman would agree that a proper definition of anarchism would necessarily extend to the lives of animals. Goldman, a product of late 1800s never saw the strife of animal life to the extent it is today. She saw lower-class labourers exploited like cattle, and not, cattle exploited like lower-class labourers. The sentient mind of animals killed for their flesh would certainly fall within the parameters of the scope of anarchism, as the tyranny of the industry not only oppresses the free labour of these animals, but also their entire, living bodies.

The case for veganarchism seems to flow in a single direction. Anarchists, by the definition of the cause, must also understand and accept the strife of animal labour, however the opposite may not be true. Animal rights advocates do not necessarily accept the ideals of anarchism. However, I would argue, the commodification of animal flesh necessarily demands attention be given to the problem at large; namely, the problem that has millions and millions of animals killed for their meat is capitalism, and not, simple attitudes toward animal husbandry.

The problems, solved by the ideas in anarchism, are also the problems solved by the elimination of capitalism. Oppression, in all its forms–misogyny, racism, speciesism–seem to stem from the pursuit of happiness, the american dream and a misguided idea of consumer culture cultivating happiness.

Veganarchism aims to resolve the issues of commodification, as a whole, including the oppression of animal and human labour alike. Only the abolition of all forms of oppression will free humans and animals. This is something, certainly, Goldman would have agreed with, if she had the misfortune of observing the factory farms of today.

“Anarchism is the liberator of man from the phantoms the have held him captive; it is the arbiter and pacifier of the two forces of individual and social harmony.”–Goldman.

The sentient minds of animals, given their ability to suffer and seek out comfort, extends to the ideas illustrated in anarchist theory. They are the ultimate proletariat, giving away more than just their labour, but their entire species as well. Social and individual harmony can only be achieved and cultivated once this ultimate form of oppression is abolished, something Goldman would have certainly stood for.

 

Private Property is Theft (or) Animal Labour Woes

RA BAT

Private property is thievery.

This idea, when brought to the attention of pro-capitalists, seems to bring with it confused frowns and furled brows. Those firmly attached to the ideas of private property–something they may have spent their entire lives striving toward–do not enjoy this sentiment.

Private property, here, must first be divorced from possession. The capitalist breathes a sigh of relief. Alternatively, it is the idea of private property–and its lack of controlled corporate gathering–that will ultimately result in the thievery of human (and animal) worth.

“The day when the labourer may till the ground without paying away half of what he [sic] produces, the day when machines necessary to prepare the soil for rich harvests are at the free disposal of the community, the day when the worker in the factory produces for the community and not the monopolist–that day will see the workers clothed and fed, and there will be no more Rothchilds or other exploiters.” –Peter Kropotkin.

Kropotkin mirrors this sentiment when he writes about the worth of a human being’s labour being less than the worth of the product the human being is essential in creating. The advent of private property compounds this oppression because human beings need to work in order to simply exist, or create. Therefore, industrial power lies in private property as a source of oppression.

“No one will then have to sell his working power for a wage that only represents a fraction of what he [sic] produces.”–Kropotkin

Now consider this idea extended to the lives of animals. They suffer the brunt of this oppression without the possible positives (although wholly ill-conceived wavering on completely untrue) that capitalism can actually produce. Private property is used in order to rear, raise, slaughter and produce millions of pounds of animal flesh every day. Without this private property owned by these corporations, this landscape would be necessarily different–even, abolished.

Furthermore, considering human oppression again, their labour being exploited, is not entirely at par with the case of animals; animals give up their entire existence. Workers get to leave their jobs, still own possessions and have the choice to relocate. Animals, under the laws that make animals a commodity, owned by their captors, have no such “freedoms” (if they may even be called that in the human sense.)

Like private property, animals too are considered as commodities. Property in every respect is always subservient to the property owner. Otherwise, a better definition of possessions would need to be cultivated. However, as Bob Torres argues in his book, Making a Killing, this definition of animals will always result in more oppression as their sentience is considered, ever-increasingly as a commodity.

Private property is thievery because it takes the lives of animals in order to benefit bourgeoisie oppressors. Those who contribute to this kind of oppression are only giving popular consent to the acts of these corporations. In essence, absolving the thieves in this scenario by paying them. Thievery at such a grand level stops being a crime since it is so inundated within our society, and becomes all but invisible to the inattentive mind.

To be put simply: to take that which is not yours is theft. The lives of animals are not yours.

Does your Dog Believe in God?

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The subject of animal belief is a vast and implicative notion. The question of whether or not an animal has thoughts about certain objects, people, subjects outside their instinctual nature, would have direct implications to animal and human relationships.

So what is your dog thinking right now? Does your cat have a certain stance on labour equality? How did the world cup finals affect your parakeet’s maligned paradigm?

Chances are the breadth of sports-affiliated patriotism is outside the wheelhouse of our aviary companions, but that isn’t to say animals are devoid of beliefs. We humans have beliefs about certain things, i.e. politics, philosophy, religion, so why do we deny these notions to animals?

One philosopher, R.G. Frey, says since animals lack the ability to use language, they cannot formulate a belief structure. Frey says that although animals have needs, they lack desires and thusly, lacking any viable means of communicating their needs, they lack the beliefs that might fulfill those desires.

Frey’s flawed argument is:

1. Only those individuals who can have beliefs can have desires.

2. Animals cannot have beliefs.

3. Therefore, animals cannot have desires.

To Frey, animals cannot build premises from their observations in order to understand phenomenon outside their direct influences of their senses in the moment. Therefore, animals cannot have desires in any meaningful sense because having belief hinges on the ability to build a knowledge base; this knowledge base would then facilitate and create desires.

Tom Reagan agrees that Frey’s reasoning is flawed since, by his rationale, and by utilizing the example of children, nothing could ever be learned. Simple minds, like that of children and animals would indeed need to start their knowledge base someplace, even in the most rudimentary of observations and understandings. For example: the ball is round. This is a simple sentence, however it necessarily demands the child understands ball-ness and round-ness in order to grasp this concept. If a child (or animal) could never understand ball-ness, or round-ness, no knowledge base could ever be cultivated.

So certainly your dog has beliefs. Your dog (or cat or pig or platypus) has certain truisms that surround them every day. Although they cannot articulate these beliefs through language, the physical result of their beliefs are proof enough to reasonably ascertain that your dog believes certain things.

Without these beliefs, my dog, Bartleby, would never know what to do with his bowl of food. He wouldn’t know what to do when I throw his ball. He wouldn’t know to wait to go outside to relieve himself. In short, without animals having beliefs about the physical world around them, they could not survive. And they have survived, so they must have beliefs.

Even the simplest creatures have beliefs. For example, the mosquito believes that under human skin is nourishing blood. They cannot experience this through their sense mid-flight, the belief has been built from experience. Just like the child’s belief about the round-ness of the aforementioned ball, animal belief is a cumulative endeavour, utilizing the experience and knowledge base that animals have developed over their lifetimes, just like human beings.

But does Bartleby believe in God? I would have to say no, since my notion of God would not seemingly fit into his realm of needs or desires. However, this is not to say that he does not have beliefs beyond my scope of needs and desires. This coin has two sides. The God of the dogs is one fit for them, not human beings and is totally unreachable to human understanding, perhaps. This is something that we can never know–or perhaps, never need to know.

 

Explaining Water to a Fish (or) The Animal Oppressive Bourgeois

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In Bob Torres’ book, Making a Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rightsthe argument is put forward that the ongoing oppression of animals is a deeper fight than protesting and educating, but rather, is intrinsic of our capitalist society.

It’s a mouth full. But put simply, oppression runs deeper than most people know. This would account for the rampant speciesism that dominates our society.

It isn’t enough, Torres points out, to simply advocate for a better treatment of animals. And as I pointed out in my entry on capitalism and cruelty, our society depends on lesser beings to dominate. He calls this kind of domination a “fetish”, satisfying humanity’s need to oppress; their need to be considered winners, atop the dominated losers.

The entire system hinges on this oppression, but more succinctly, explaining this idea to the oppressor–which too many animal right campaigns do–is like “explaining water to a fish,” Torres says.

People who consume animals and wear their skins as clothing are, in essence, the oppressive upper class; the animal-oppressive bourgeois, profiting from the suffering of “others”.

Explaining the mistreatment of animals to those who profit from it, is kind of like explaining how horrible racism is to a racist; misogyny to a sexist; homicide to a serial killer. They might know already, but they’re life-style is already in the throes of their oppression. Thusly, reluctance to abstain for these people, is not really an option.

To Torres, the only option is to re-evaluate the system that caters to the bourgeois and treat speciesism just like any other injustice. These injustices all stem from capitalism, he argues, something that should be done away with.

However, we cannot just end capitalism. It is too engrained in us. Even fellow vegans and vegetarians fall into the same trap as our carnivorous compatriots, by advocating animal suffering through their (although good-at-heart) purchases.

Now, more than ever, many people are advocating buying ethically. Even meat-eaters are advocating for better treatment of animals before they are killed–“ethically slaughtered” is the oxymoron of a greased-up generation of carnivores.

However, as Torres points out, this is not enough.

Whole Foods, the “ethically-centric” grocers still sell meat products. According to them, to not do so, would garner defeated revenue. Put simply, they need to sell meat to stay afloat in the market.

But this tarnishes every other food product sold at that location. Every cube of tofu sold under the roof of Whole Foods, by extension, is going to the slaughter of animals. Torres calls for vegans to be more ethically aware and not fall for “green” marketing that only exist, not to help animals, but to make money.

Once again, capitalism is to blame for animal cruelty.

But what is the alternative? The alternative is the de-commodification of animals. Although Torres doesn’t use these words, he seems to call for a grass-roots campaign that would cease the ownership of animals as objects. He says in his book, that his dog, lawfully, is owned by him. This gives him the right to put it to sleep, if only for his own sick convenience.

The only way, then, to escape the capitalist gyre of animal abuse is to redefine animal-and-human relationships. Instead of master-and-slave mentalities that dominate all animal relationships to, we adopt an equal, welfarist relationship with animals. This would stop us considering them as commodities, but instead, as feeling entities with rights intrinsic to their beings.

This isn’t to say cows should have the right to vote. However, they would demand the same rights as any other human under the legal age. A cow would have the same rights as an infant child, per se. This is a welfarist approach to animal rights: they should be taken care of, not used for human ends.

This is the only way the animal-oppressing bourgeois can be taken down from their literal ivory towers.

Capitalism Causes Animal Cruelty.

Pig Banner RA

We compete. It’s the core initiative our society thrives on. Capitalism is competition on the global scale. I sell a product better than my neighbours, therefore, I make more money. In theory, it creates a stronger workforce full of people who deserve the capital they’ve gained and status they’ve carved.

However, this is simply one side of the scheme. It seems that many people focus on this side of the coin when they think about capitalism; gaining ground over your neighbour, even the unknown ones. But what about the one left with the inferior product? The so-called neighbour you’ve thwarted out of their pursuit of happiness, what does capitalism do to them?

Well, it makes them poor. Moreover, the social adoption of the capitalistic ideal creates heroes of the rich–as they are the victors–and villains of the poor. Poor people are poor because they are poor at being people. Those with minimal incomes are thought as “deserving” their status, as if they had a choice on being that way.

The kicker is, is that the system of capitalism–a competitive system–necessarily demands the poor. Furthermore, the capitalist system, demands we scrutinize the “losers” in this scenario to further bolster the system that put them their. Otherwise, we might start to think that maybe the system doesn’t really work; cracks in a dam that support too many interested parties.

While we certainly do oppress human kind because of this, the poor of our society still have a voice and the right to vote. This oppressive system doesn’t end there. It also extends these tendencies to animals as well.

How? Well, in capitalism lies a motive for perpetuating the idea that eating animal flesh is fine. While their is certainly a lot of literature that argues against eating animals (this website is proof of such), still people continue to eat meat. Furthermore, there are countless citizens, under a capitalist system, who voluntarily work in the meat industry. If these same people did not swallow the social prejudice that creates a safe environment to eat animal flesh, the system–complete with those who collect money from the factory farming system–would go belly up.

Therefore, oppression is built into the system to further perpetuate it.

Bob Torres, in his book, Making a Killing, draws a parallel to slavery that agrees:

“Providing a justification for those who work in the least desirable sectors of the economy and who get paid the least, racism provides the ideological glue that holds part of our economic order together.” (2007)

Speciesism functions in the exact same manner. If the jig was up, and more people accepted the obvious truth that eating the flesh of sentient animals, with distinct mental lives, was considered cruel (as it certainly is), capitalism will lose a large facet of its economic framework.

While this parallel may be hard for some to consider, the similarities between the oppression of animals and the oppressions of–once-considered less–human beings are staggering. Due to the traits of the capitalist system and the current state of animal husbandry in North America, the two presuppose inherent animal cruelty in order to further garner an oppressive infrastructure. And this oppression is the pulse of that system, certainly.

But what’s the alternative? Revolution, perhaps. Reform, more likely.

Defeating Descartes’ Animal Mind – Part 2

BUNS

Continued from Part 1:

The problem with Descartes’ definition of consciousness (or the mind) is that the distinction between animal and human minds is not very clear. If animals are machines, seemingly slaves to the actions of their organs, then why aren’t human beings subject to the same definition?

Julien Offay de La Mettrie, a French thinker just like Descartes, says exactly this. The Mechanical Alternative, as put forward by Descartes’ definition of animal consciousness says, the actions of animals–despite their lack of soul–can also be extended to the minds of human beings. Therefore, Descartes does not seem to understand how deeply his analysis can reach.

Descartes would refute: citing something about how animals’ souls (minds) cannot be immortal because they would then have to share the same heaven as human beings, and that certainly cannot be. Here, like most of Descartes’ philosophy gets muddied by a forced degree of piety in his writings. To make sure, Descartes doesn’t use God as an explanation for the unknown–I think too many people see this as a cop-out, and if true, it would be–however, I see this as his time-period affecting the validity of his work. Or it is a simple case of Descartes wanting God to be the answer, when really, the evidence does not support it.

Speaking of which, another point that refute’s Descartes’ idea of animal consciousness is the defence of evolution. Tom Reagan, in his book, The Case for Animal Rights has a 5-point system on how to refute Descartes’ claim that animals are not conscious beings. He says, “An evolutionary understanding of consciousness provides a theoretical basis for attributing awareness to animals other than human beings.” (Reagan, 1983).

In short, Reagan argues that consciousness would evolve naturally in creatures–just as it did for human beings–as part of the diverse skill-set animals evolve to survive. It makes sense, evolutionarily, that animals would develop an understanding of self in order to better co-habitat with their environment. Without such a sense, many animals would not have enough wherewithal to protect against nature. Reagan’s fourth point mirror’s this sentiment as well as he says that the way animals act would lend itself to a theory of the animals’ conscious mind.

As an aside, while Reagan puts forward a very powerful argument against Descartes, one criticism I have is that his first point (of his five-point system) says animal consciousness is “part of the common sense view of the world…” and if Descartes’ ideas were taken as illustrative, then Descartes could not be right. However, this idea is seemingly flawed in that common sense views of the world, at one point, included the gospel of the Bible. A plea to common ideal is merely a temporary defence, destined to splinter under the weight of general education.

So in closing, to simply cite examples of animal consciousness is not enough to prove its existence–in the face of Descartes, at least. His definition of the animal’s mechanical mind (free of an idea of self) is flawed, not by the evidence against it, but by the flawed logic he himself has put forward. This is how a true theory of animal rights can be fully understood and cultivated, free of the biases of human influence (based on history with animals, and not a rational view of true animal rights).

But what is True animal rights? More on that soon…