Ep 58: Listen here -> “A**hole Abolitionists”: Reflections on Language and Violence”
Discussing the “7 dirty words” (and more) and their relation to violence That and much more.
Ep 58: Listen here -> “A**hole Abolitionists”: Reflections on Language and Violence”
Discussing the “7 dirty words” (and more) and their relation to violence That and much more.
Listen here Star Trek is a vehicle for science fiction themes, and like many science fiction stories, it sometimes uses the future to focus on issues that touch us today. I look at the issue of sentience, as seen in respect of the character, The Doctor on the series Star Trek: Voyager. After a brief look at the way this pop-cultural icon addresses the issue, I launch into other considerations of sentience, highlighting moral inconsistencies and moral compartmentalisation and the way this relates to non-human animals.
My latest Vegan Trove podcast Ep 28- Listen here -> “What’s in a Word; The Rebranding of The Abolitionist Vegan Society”
I generally try to ignore and avoid faction fighting because it’s energy draining and time consuming and is frequently personality based, but I decided to address some of the issues that have arisen from recent claims by a small few that the abolitionist movement is “rampantly racist”, “sexist” and “hostile to people of colour”. If you are not involved in the abolitionist community you may wish to skip this one.
I discuss the history of the term “abolitionist” and why it is not racist to use it in relation to veganism and why it is not appropriating the term if we look at history. I talk a little about overt and structural racism, credentialism and tokenism. I ask the question, has the movement become more about the messenger than the message?
Please read my disclaimer about any pages, groups, sites, individuals, opinions, etc mentioned in this podcast episode or any episodes past and future.
“Those who attempt to mend the flaws in the human species through force embrace a perverted idealism. Those who believe that history is a progressive march toward human perfectibility, and that they have the moral right to force this progress on others, no longer know what it is to be human. In the name of the noblest virtues they sink to the depths of criminality and moral depravity. This self-delusion comes to us in many forms. It can be wrapped in the language of Western civilization, democracy, religion, the master race, Liberté, égalité, fraternité, the worker’s paradise, the idyllic agrarian society, the new man or scientific rationalism. The jargon is varied. The dark sentiment is the same.”
In case you have not heard of Chelsea Manning, Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley Manning) was recently sentenced by the US government to 35 years in a military prison for revealing US war crimes and other related classified information via journalist source Wikileaks. This extreme sentence is designed to act as a deterrent to other whistleblowers and journalists. Chelsea Manning is a hero and a whistleblower. We should all be very grateful for her sacrifice but sadly her moral courage is rare today.
It was the late Howard Zinn (Historian, author and activist) who wrote in 1990:
“If patriotism were defined, not as blind obedience to government, nor as submissive worship to flags and anthems, but rather as love of one’s country, one’s fellow citizens (all over the world), as loyalty to the principles of justice and democracy, then patriotism would require us to disobey our government, when it violated those principles
Historically, the most terrible things – war, genocide, and slavery – have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience.”
Yes indeed. Howard Zinn would have praised the actions of PFC Chelsea Manning had he been alive today. As Dr Cornel West said recently Martin Luther King Jr would have praised PFC Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden and supported them had Dr. King been alive today.
I am saddened by the persecution and incarceration of such a morally courageous person, one who has expressed the wish to transition from male to female at this most difficult time. Transition is another courageous act in its own right in a largely heterosexist and deeply sexist society. Transitioning from male to female or female to male is difficult enough, but Chelsea Manning is likely to spend at least some time, but most likely all of her sentence with the male prison population while she is transitioning. Her safety is of grave concern. ( For more info on concerns) Of course her ability to physically transition depends on the prison giving her permission to take hormones and that is unlikely.
The ACLU has issued a statement on the Army’s policy of not assisting those who wish to transition, saying:
In response to Chelsea Manning’s disclosure that she is female, has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and will be seeking hormone therapy as a part of her transition during her incarceration, public statements by military officials that the Army does not provide hormone therapy to treat gender dysphoria raise serious constitutional concerns.
In addition even if the U.S army’s policy changes, Chelsea Manning will be unable to undergo surgery while in prison so she will be unable to transition completely. And although her lawyer expects Manning will be released on good behaviour in 7 years, this is a long time for anyone to have to wait to feel complete. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the term Gender identity disorder, I’ve been informed by those who are transgendered that being unable to transition for whatever reason (social, financial etc) is psychological torture and can result in severe clinical depression and sometimes suicide. What compounds this are the negative societal attitudes and prejudices and the very real possibility of being the target of hate crimes.
Zinna Jones writes in “An open letter to CNN on Chelsea Manning”
41% of transgender people will attempt suicide at some point in their lives. Social ostracism and denial of agency can and do seriously harm people.
To say that Chelsea Manning has a most difficult and dangerous road ahead of her during her time in prison is an understatement.
Unless we are filling our lives with distractions and doing our best to deny reality, it is hard to deny that it is a difficult and disturbing world we live in today. There is (what seems to be) the United States government’s unending need for imperialist wars like the imminent war with Syria, which will inevitably include Iran, Syria’s ally. There is mass surveillance being carried out on citizens. There is automated propaganda on a mass scale. Military occupation of cyberspace has merged with everyday civilian society which means a military occupation of civilian society. Wikileaks journalist Julian Assange has stated we are “galloping towards a transnational surveillance state”. There is an epidemic of violence against women globally. There are wars in all corners of the globe including civil wars. A little known fact in a speciesist world is that we torture and murder of 300+ million land and sea nonhuman animals each day mostly for trivial reasons of palate pleasure, something that is completely morally unjustifiable. There’s a rise in all forms of discrimination – racism, sexism, heterosexism, speciesism and so forth. There is widespread preventable poverty, preventable hunger and disease. Climate change (along with the ever increasing unsustainable human population) is escalating as corporations hold government to ransom and have staged a coup d’etat over many decades. Therefore we will not see any meaningful action to address it. We are distracted by social media, gadgets, sound bite news, reality shows, celebrity, spectacle and fluff. Most of us don’t read any more and when we do, we can’t focus on anything longer than a few sentences or a tweet. We are becoming numb to violence and the suffering of others. We lack moral courage. Some people’s courage is misplaced. We turn away from that which makes us uncomfortable, hiding from what we fear. We ignore our own participation in violence as we ingest violence 3 times a day, we wear violence on our bodies and use those from other species as resources for our pleasure. We seem to prefer our palate pleasure over our own survival as our governments and green groups ignore the great contribution animal agriculture plays in hunger and climate change. We are exposed to continuous violence through a myriad of sources. Staged violence (in entertainment) is a reflection of our love of and addiction to violence. However……….. just occasionally, amidst the chaos, light and hope seeps through, and we see what standing up for one’s principles looks like, what real courage and true sacrifice looks like. On rare occasion we get to see someone who truly values the principles of nonviolence over their own safety.
And that is Chelsea Manning.
Chris Hedges wrote “War is always about betrayal, betrayal of the young by the old, of idealists by cynics and of troops by politicians.”
I am buoyed and somewhat in awe of the courage of Chelsea Manning. Even after Manning’s sentence was delivered she turned to her attorney to comfort him saying “It’s OK”. I’d like to share with you the following transcript of the statement made by PFC. Chelsea Manning as read by David Coombs (her attorney) at a press conference after Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison. You can also watch the video of the statement here. It shows an awakening and a decision to act.
“The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We’ve been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on any traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we’ve had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.
I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.
In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.
Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown out any logically based intentions [unclear], it is usually an American soldier that is ordered to carry out some ill-conceived mission.
Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy—the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, the Japanese-American internment camps—to name a few. I am confident that many of our actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.
As the late Howard Zinn once said, “There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”
I understand that my actions violated the law, and I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.
If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.”
So some may ask why should we support Chelsea Manning?
There’s a few reasons. The first being that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” as Martin Luther King wrote from his Birmingham jail cell. Dr. King also wrote “Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?” All humans (and all nonhumans) deserve our respect, protection and support and a rare individual like Chelsea Manning should be cherished. Manning has tackled her own fear head on in private and in public and she did what was morally right. How many of us can say we would risk our life and liberty if we were placed in the same circumstance? Due to the stripping away of civil liberties by the corporate state today we could all be in the same difficult position that Chelsea Manning finds herself in if we act on our conscience. That is why we should support her.
What are some actions we can take to support Chelsea Manning?
This may be a futile and normally I do not recommend petitions, but please consider signing this petition which urges the Obama administration to grant PFC Manning access to necessary medical treatment.
What else can we do for Chelsea Manning? Understand transgender issues. Share with social media the latest news and articles on Manning. Attend “free Chelsea Manning” rallies and protests so that the world does not forget this incredible person is languishing in prison for no other reason than she followed her conscience and dared expose the horror of imperialist war. Write to Chelsea Manning Please note there are restrictions on what we are allowed and not allowed to talk about our letters.
As Noam Chomsky said “Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it.” All wars are imperialist adventures and our governments and their armies are engaged in the most immoral acts on a daily basis. Thanks to Chelsea Manning we were privy to the Wikileaks video “Collateral murder“. It was an horrific massacre and this massacre is not an unusual event. Every time I see it aired tears well in my eyes and I have to look away. Even the sound effects of machine guns and the commentary by the pilot makes me feel nauseous. I cannot bring myself to watch it again. U.S Soldiers have stated this happens on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan. This horrific blood lust is what is being done in our name. And what are we doing about it? But the torture and murder of innocent men, women and children is what war is. War is legal murder through deception. Daniel Ellsberg, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and others have been victims of an unprecedented attack on our civil liberties because they dare to expose the truth.
So where do we go to from here?
It is time to build radical mass movements that defy all formal centers of power and make concessions to none. It is time to employ the harsh language of open rebellion and class warfare. It is time to march to the beat of our own drum. The law historically has been a very imperfect tool for justice, as African-Americans know, but now it is exclusively the handmaiden of our corporate oppressors; now it is a mechanism of injustice. It was our corporate overlords who launched this war. Not us. Revolt will see us branded as criminals. Revolt will push us into the shadows. And yet, if we do not revolt we can no longer use the word “hope.” – Chris Hedges
We need to rise up and engage in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience before it is too late. The time for talk is over. Nonviolent civil disobedience is our weapon. It’s all we have left.
For more information on Chelsea Manning and related issues:
Recent videos and posts on Chelsea Manning. As Chelsea Manning Announces “I am Female,” Attorney Discusses Role of Gender Issues During Trial
WATCH: Full Extended Interview With Chelsea Manning’s Attorney After 35-Year Sentence | Democracy Now!
Chelsea Manning Reveals Herself to the World: ‘I Am a Female’
What Manning revealed
An earlier event prior to sentencing and change of name to Chelsea: Cornel West and Chris Hedges discuss Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning verdict
From Breaking the Set
Yesterday was International Women’s Day. It was a good occasion to consider women in positions of power and the power structures they work within. It was a good time to consider the plight of women globally. So let’s briefly look at women high in the hierarchies of power.
Women who seek power do so for many reasons. Those women who attain the upper echelons of power in our world today often do so by fitting into patriarchal society’s ideas of power. These structures — due to the cultural construction of masculinity — inevitably engage in activities detrimental to humans, non-humans, and the planet. Women who only seek personal power may do so by becoming as oppressive as any part of the patriarchal system. There are extreme examples of this on both sides of politics. Less extreme examples are those who enter politics in the hopes of making positive change but who end up supporting oppressive measures e.g. drone strikes which kill women and children. This is particularly the case if the oppressive measures they support are not directly related to the situation they are trying to change. Those who seek power as a means of being effective in creating change often find their efforts hampered by the very structures they have adopted to achieve power. The structures themselves often use, or are, a means that runs against beneficent change. To the extent her efforts look likely to succeed, attempts to create change can undermine a woman’s position of power within the hierarchy.
Audre Lorde (1934 – 1992) Caribbean-American writer and civil rights activist:
The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.
The question then becomes one of means and ends, and of types of power. One does not have to fit into the dominant paradigm to have influence. Much of the power of dominant systems is what Starhawk called “power-over”. Much of community-based power is what she called “power-with”. Power-with can be far more powerful than power-over, but it requires the ability to work with others, and is generally facilitated by non-violence.
And this is where you and I come in and what should not matter to us.
We might feel we are inadequate. I feel inadequate when I set out to write a blog. I may use too many commas, or, not enough or my sentences might run long. And I may start sentences with “but” and “and”. I have a tendency to meander, lose focus and repeat myself. Sometimes my efforts have made me a target and that’s OK if it was the result of my speaking out for a good cause. Was it Mr. Squiggle who said, “We may wear pants that are too big for us, or we may be too big for our pants.” No that was me. 😉 Sometimes I get so frustrated I wish I had magical powers 😉 but although I feel quite inadequate when I write, or when I make images or vids, or in my efforts to do vegan education, I do it anyway.
If I may be serious for a moment about things we think are permanent obstacles.
We may think we have no ability to influence. We may not have power in government and we may not be part of the 1%. We may not have the educational background to be considered “qualified”. We might not fit into the stereotypes of the female gender and we are marginalised. Sexism and misogyny, racism, heterosexism, and speciesism may be pervasive and at times invisibly hold us back. Society’s heterosexism may make us feel we are invisible because we are not be able to marry our partner and it may make us fearful of violence. Some nights we may lay in bed pondering our ability to meet our own expectations to do the smallest of tasks. We might have a disability or body image issues which has plagued us our whole lives. Our parents may have told us over and over that we are no good, or that we are too good, or that we will never amount to anything. We might have such great expectations put upon us that we feel we have failed even before we have begun. We may not have internet access because our village is too far from a city. We may wonder where our next meal is coming from. We may be viewed as property in our own country and exploited unjustly. If we are vegan, most of our friends and family may think that being vegan and promoting veganism – the abolition of animal exploitation – is wasting our life and they may think we are crazy. Invitations to events may become fewer and further apart, until they stop altogether.
Audre Lorde, (1934 – 1992) a Carribean-American activist, feminist and writer:
“I was going to die, sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you…. What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialised to respect fear more than our own need for language.
I began to ask each time: “What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?” Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to have us jailed, “disappeared” or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever.
Next time, ask: What’s the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end.
And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realised you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realise you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you…. [a]s I think Emma Goldman said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.”
We need to remember that nothing is permanent and that includes our time on this planet so we need to make our thoughts and actions count. Our thoughts and actions are all we possess. Although we may feel our voice is too tiny, or that the structures of power are so big and overwhelming that there is no point in speaking out, when we start to believe our own negative programming (as women tend to do) the structures of power have won. They would like us to feel powerless and disconnected. They will pit us against each other as the media tends to do to women. When we believe we are powerless, when we become apathetic, we curl up and start to die.
There are so many kinds of obstacles. Some are huge and real and others that seem real only exist in our minds. The truth is that no one can control us while our mind is free. Even if we are quadriplegic and only able to breathe through a ventilator, we can have good thoughts for a nonviolent world. Each nonviolent thought has its effect. Because our mind is free we can do what we can to make change – a change to a nonviolent world with different values than those cherished and defended by a patriarchal culture. And even if we know we will lose the fight, we must keep on fighting, always in the name of nonviolence. We must never give up because those who cannot speak – non-human animals and anyone who is vulnerable– rely on us. And we must never forget that the most amazing social justice movements are always started by a small group of people.
And here’s the final point I have been moving toward or meandering to, depending on my attention span. If we believe in justice for all, then this is what we need to consider.
Yesterday, on International Women’s Day, did we remember the 99.99% of the planet’s population who are non-human? Did we remember all the non-human mothers in the world? Did we consider in particular the non-human mothers we use as resources? If we did not, then we need to include them in our thoughts and our actions and consider that ALL mothers and their children, no matter what species, should be free of exploitation. Because if non-human mothers are not free, none of us are free. In fact there are parallels with how patriarchal society views and treats women, and how we use, exploit and control the reproduction of non-human females. The two are not unrelated. Women are no longer considered legal property as non-human animals are, but violence against women is at epidemic proportions today and violence against nonhumans is greater still.
So here’s the truth, a truth rare and powerful which we all need to recognise.
ALL sentient beings deserve at least one right- the RIGHT not to be used as property, the RIGHT to exist for their own purpose, free of our interference and violence. Non-human animals love life and do not want to die. They have their likes and their dislikes; they have different abilities to us; they love their young; they have their own purpose. Whether they are of a different species is irrelevant. It is not necessary for them to be “like us” or have a similar “intelligence” to us for us to avail them the respect they deserve. Respect means we need to stop using them for food, clothing, entertainment or other reasons. As we move forward, including more and more persons in the sphere of “rights”, we must include non-human animals. They are persons too. We can become part of the grassroots, nonviolent social justice movement – Veganism – by becoming vegan and incorporating justice and nonviolence in our own lives.
Martin Luther King Jr. :
“One day the absurdity of the almost universal human belief
in the slavery of other animals will be palpable. We shall
then have discovered our souls and become worthier of
sharing this planet with them.”
“The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long,
but It Bends Toward Justice.”
Had Martin Luther King Jr. lived long enough, I believe he would have become vegan.
Let us remember the almost countless number of non-human animals throughout time who have endured our constant oppression and exploitation, who have been tortured and murdered, mostly for our palate pleasure. Let us end our participation in the most bloody and violent, most horrendous slavery ever witnessed in the life of this planet. Our penchant for violence and exploiting the vulnerable is at the root of most of our problems. Here is what we need to take into our hearts – we will never know peace while we exploit the vulnerable – non-human animals. Let us end our participation in the violence of patriarchal paradigm by becoming vegan.
Thank you 🙂