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Am I Human?

I’m not a species essentialist. That is to say, I do not believe that the sum of a species is held in its genetics; a genetic code that makes you look “lion” enough to be visibly recognized as lion does not necessarily make you so. A lot of humans make this mistake—assuming that looks mean everything—because we have a pretty sub-par sense of smell compared to actual omnivores and carnivores and, Western culturally, we don’t really encourage developing it. To someone who doesn’t view animals as important, as real people, the idea of paying serious attention to scent as a primary non-human language is pretty ludicrous. Which is actually pretty sad.

Scent is fucking important, though, even for humans: it affects sexual attraction, love, often friendship, and your basic feeling of connectedness with other humans, not to mention food and its taste. People who lose their sense of smell generally fall into a deep, unremitting depression, regardless of their species—the same behavioral cues for severe depression appear in rats who’ve had their olfactory bulbs removed (by humans) and, as you should well know, body language will out; to put it more succinctly (and honestly), they developed severe depression. I am still surprised that we haven’t really gotten beyond food smells as a signal of scents’ importance to us.

But perhaps it’s because we don’t do it so well as many other animals, and you’re not really allowed to point out something humans aren’t as good or better at without rationalizing it away; perhaps it’s because we’d have to realize that all land-predators use scent to track prey, and we can’t because we’re not predators; perhaps it’s because we’d have to realize that scent has more importance for some species than, well, ours, and as such we can’t judge their capacilities on a sight-sound-dexterity human-animal template. Perhaps it’s because we’d learn more about non-human animals than we’d really be willing to know.

Did you know that when a cat is upset, the scruff on their neck will emit a very particular acrid odor? That the scent varies by mood—anxious, depressed, frightened? Did you know that when cats are happy, the scent changes—that a consistently ebullient cat will have this sweet musky smell? It’s cat musk, the same scent they use in perfumes, except when it’s actual animal musk (civet, for example) they just cage them and then treat the unhappy-scent with chemicals to make it into the happy-scent.

Did you know that this is why cats generally do not respond to mirrors, except at a distance or to play—because cats identify other cats only by scent? That’s why your other cats will freak out at one who’s just been taken to the vet for more than a small amount of time: they smell weird, they must be a stranger.

Consider that for a minute. Consider the idea that, for whatever reason, cats do not and cannot recognize other cats on sight, but on scent-profile. Consider that not as a bigot who believes anything different than what they do is inferior, but as someone trying to understand a foreign culture, from one equal to another. It makes sense; it’s just weird to think of as a human. I posit that it’s because cats’ eyesight is based mostly on movement; humans have a sense of sight that recognizes a wide range of color (which also can’t be movement-sensitive—look up completely colorblind people; their eyesight is literally like a hawk’s and, if they get any color-sight capabilities, they stop being able to really focus on anything). Dogs are partially colorblind compared to us, too; their social groups are also scent-based, though they’re still less sight-oriented than cats.

And, speaking of dogs, they don’t naturally stink; in an actual pack structure (which most humans are not capable of providing, given our cultural misconceptions), they actually smell floral.

I’ve had firsthand experience with that; I knew a dog who was basically ignored constantly by her family (all of which, of course, had the balls to say that she “lived a good life”) and when they expressed interest in having someone else take care of her, I jumped at it. I am very social, as is my best friend, and the primary characteristic of an alpha is that zie is very social; we groomed this little lab mix out, took her for walks to help relieve her arthritis, fed her food we would eat in addition to her kibble (raw potatoes, bell peppers, mandarin oranges—yes, she ate them!—strawberries and cooked legumes), and basically kept her with us almost constantly—the way a real pack would. She started off smelling like “dog,” that very earthy, not-sweet-musky, B.O. scent; her fur was oily and matted, so if you petted her for very long she’d leave that particular animal-product greasy residue on your hands. Yet after three weeks—of making her cuddle when she didn’t ask for it, come and sit when she didn’t want to, and basically making her a pack member—she started smelling sweet and floral, as if she’d just been bathed and shampooed (she hadn’t). Scent was not the only indicator of her mental health, but it was a damn important one. Her previous family had been wrong to assume that dogs just smelled bad—like it was natural, automatic.

If we considered scent important, we’d no longer be able to dismiss and diminish the non-human animals who rely on them as “silly” for not percieving the world the same way we do.

Scent is just an example, but it is a really good one, and that’s why I keep pushing it. There are other senses we do not understand, the biggest of which is probably sight, basically because humans like to assume they’ve got the best at it. But we don’t know the half of it. Birds, reptiles, insects and fish can often see ultraviolet light, electric, water and air currents, heat; these are extra frigging colors that we can’t see. The usual failing of humans is to be too busy believing they’re so damn awesome to actually be awesome.

But all the senses are just an indicator of the essential species-ness of a species is, what and who they are. Not being a species essentialist, I believe that a species isn’t merely defined in terms of genetics, but in behavior: ecological, group, individual, in order of importance, because the greater terms define the latter. That is to say, an animal (a species, not necessarily non-human) outside of its ecological place will not be able to “be species.” Their species-ness becomes harder and harder to maintain in unnatural circumstances, and having lived in a fucking tent without anyone fucking preventing me from getting enough food, I now realize that while naturalness is not really all love-and-light, it is certainly a requirement for actual happiness and fulfillment. (Of course, it doesn’t help that the status quo forever gets nature wrong, so you should probably just dismiss every idea you have about it right now and start over.)

Body language will out; behavior will out. Behavior is the window to the soul, not the eyes (even human eyes, on their own, are hilariously incapable of imparting anything more than “frightened,” “happy,” and “neutral”), but when you conceive of behavior in the limited sense of the individual, you lose one of your greatest tools to understand a species.

It’s too simplistic to try to understand human behavior in terms of the individual, because humans are also social, cultural, and ecological (or right now, anti-ecological—i.e. civilized). You can’t see a human or zeir emotions and behavior as merely an individual thing; it doesn’t make sense. You can’t cure someone’s anxiety by seeing it as an individual thing; you can’t cure anything by seeing it as an individual thing. When osteoporosis rates have an absolute correlation with high-dairy-consumption countries, you face intellectual dishonesty and a disgusting bigotry when you try to frame osteoporosis as an individual lack of dairy.

And the inverse, because you can’t have one without the other: real, optimum health cannot be achieved without covering all levels. Health is not merely physical, and it is not merely mental, emotional, not merely social and cultural; they’re inextricable. It’s a fucking web.

Now if you’re very bright you can clearly see that I’m using humans as the example, not the rule, and if you’re even brighter then you’ll be able to understand that only human-supremecist bigotry stops anyone from groking how to apply these assessments to other species, too.

I don’t believe that species-ness is an absolute—you can have varying levels of species-ness without actually “being species.” But one of the essential parts of species-ness is how you are social, in part because it determines how you think. (No, you don’t really have any agency within culture and civilization; cut yourself off and you’ll grow some, though.) The way animals relate to each other weighs heavily on their species-ness and also their ability to be happy; I’ll reference again the story about Sith, the dog I took care of, and point out that basically everyone is wrong about cats. They naturally group in colonies, even if they don’t hunt together, but even then they enjoy seeing another cat hunt; and their primary pleasure centers—cheeks, above eyes, ears, neck—are all easily accessible to another cat if they like each other. Hell, most cats enjoy living with other cats, and even become anxious, bored and lonely without them.

Which is all a fancy way of saying that you’re supposed to socialize with your own species; not that I’m precluding other species (after all, there are fucking thousands of cases of inter-species friendship outside of the influence of humans), but just that your own species is default. While I roll my eyes at the human supremecism behind the statement that it’s not healthy for a human to associate only with non-humans, I essentially agree with the concept.

Especially because humans who are not around other humans for long periods of time become—well… strange. They stop really knowing how to socialize, but even more than that, their mind goes weird and unhealthy; they get depressed, space out for long periods of time, and develop erratic moodswings. They become “touchy”—excessively needy for routine, feel uncomfortably and painfully vulnerable from contact with other humans, unable to read or react appropriately*, have exaggerated or suppressed behavioral/emotional affect, often develop repetitive compulsive behaviors, so on and so forth. In essence, they develop many of the traits of autism—which is one reason I’ve always been so wary of any claims of both the “natural variation” of the autism spectrum and the idea that what many anti-ableists call “neurotypicality” is somehow innate and unchangeable.

There’s not such a distinct line, and it’s not so innate or unchangeable. If you can develop the fucking behaviors, then clearly those behaviors we label “autism” are an inherent concept within the animal experience.

There are two groups most likely to get these things: the first is documented, the second is not. That first group is those who’ve been put into solitary confinement for even as “little” as three months; they develop all these behaviors, and like with eating disorders, they’re hard as hell to get rid of. I am, of course, obligated to note the remarkable similarities in these developments between human-animals who have been solitary-caged and non-human animals who have, like many puppy mill breeder dogs—and if you don’t like that comparison, then you can just get the fuck over your hoity-toity simian self.

The second group is a particular kind of homeless man—the solitary ones. Having come into contact with them, I can honestly see why street kids (who tend to be very social, or at least they were) would hate and disrespect them, but I am also a primitivist who accepts that nature isn’t very love-and-light—I think it’s actually natural to reject and shun the socially incapable so that they die, and that it’s become that way because of the necessity and the overwhelming dominance of nurture over nature. I also know that makes me kind of an asshole—which is fine, if I had my way almost every single person who might read this would never have been born. But for the record, I don’t think that this applies only to a certain kind of social… failure?; I count myself in the group. If I’d been born, in nature, with some kind of innate anxiety disorder, I’d be fucked as far as continued life went; and if all of civilization were to fall apart right now and it was still traumatizing enough that my anxiety disorder didn’t disappear the way it did in the tent, I’d be incapable of surviving then, too—not that I’d want to. Anyone who thinks that a life with anxiety can be good or acceptable is a total fucking tool, especially if they live with it. Anxiety and happiness/fulfillment are mutually exclusive.

Back to the subject—humans are inherently social with other humans; a lot of species-ness is tied up in how you are able to be social with others of your species (and often others of different species). To a point, I believe that sexuality is inherent, too—mostly in the way that emotional and sexual intimacy often overlap, while they’re not necessarily the same thing. It’s difficult to explain in English, because things are so divided in English—I don’t know if it’s possible to write “(1) for humans, intra-human emotional intimacy is absolutely necessary and natural for happiness and species-ness, (2) that emotional intimacy is often completely indistinguishable from the desire for sexual intimacy from one specific human to one specific other, (3) but emotional intimacy may not necessarily be at all related to sexual intimacy between two humans” without sounding like you’re condemning a lack of sexual intimacy, or a desire for sexual intimacy.

Which is not what I’m trying to imply; it’s a lot more complicated than that, as is everything. Between two (usually two, sometimes more) humans, a relationship may be entirely emotionally intimate and be just as fulfilling as another relationship that feels empty or incomplete without sexual intimacy. The two things overlap, but they are not lesser or greater; you cannot add emotions together and come out with something greater, like it’s fucking math or something. When you add one note to another, the music does not automatically become louder; but it is changed. Whether it becomes better, worse, or has no effect is entirely dependent on the piece. And even though it may be nice at one point or another, you can’t just add all these notes together throughout the entire thing hoping for the same effect—the piece will become, basically, noisy mush. And sexual intimacy is one octave; emotional intimacy is another. There’s more than one note, more than one nuance, and sometimes a piece sounds best when it’s kept simple, a la Canon in D.

And a piece cannot be judged against another piece except by the one hearing it; if you’re asexual, then maybe you just won’t have any interest in the sexual-intimacy octave compositions at all, but even those who are ?sexual can feel that the non-sexual pieces are the ones that sound sweetest when they play them with their non-sexual friend, and not want to play anything else.

But in order to be happy and fulfilled, you have to play the pieces with someone else; otherwise your ear grows dull and you stop being able to really distinguish the notes. That’s not so much like music, except that the longer you are isolated from others the more experimental and less relatable your music tends to get, but it is the way of the brain: pathways fade and grow with time and repetition and you are changed by what you experience in a real way, even if you can’t see it.

The mental is physical; the physical is emotional; the emotional is mental. The lines between these things are organic and indefinable, because they change so often and require such a nuanced view of life and love to take the fullest amount of joy in them.

A cat hunts, a cat plays, a cat chases, a cat grooms, a cat brings prey, a cat takes naps in the sun, a cat does these things with other cats. If a cat does not do these things, then they are a cat only in name and appearance: they have none of their birthright, their essential cat-ness, to make them happy, and it’s a wretched, cursed existence.

A dog plays, a dog chases, a dog wrestles, a dog rubs, a dog brings prey, a dog whines, a dog follows, a dog alerts, a dog is a dog’s pack; there’s no way you can distinguish between an individual dog and zeir pack without losing some sense of who and what that individual dog is. A dog’s pack is their birthright and still, it’s a wretched, cursed existence without it.

A horse races, a horse nuzzles, a horse whinnies, a horse nibbles, a horse is a horse’s herd. A horse who is alone is a horse as good as dead; if they are alone they will shortly be dead, and if they’re alone then death will be better than more of the same.

Evolution cannot be understand as purely or even mostly ruled by physical/ecological requirements, because the greatest threat to an animal’s survival is unhappiness. So make happiness come from what it takes to fully experience a healthy life; make healthiness, happiness and security indistinguishable and you have a successful evolutionary tactic. Also let the suffering ones die, because empathy is the only universal instinct amongst animals, and seeing someone who is suffering will make you empathize, and suffer yourself, and then everyone will suffer and die. Happiness is not an afterthought of nature; it is an evolutionary imperative.

A human laughs, a human kisses, a human shares: a human shares fruit, orgasms (if they want), laughs, kisses. A human explores, a human touches, a human admires bright colors, a human plays. Maybe some of them with other animals; but a human definitely does these things with another human.

It’s definitely pretty ableist of me to say this, but I don’t think you can be human without these things; I originally came to this line of thought because I realized that psychopaths—narcissists and borderlines, not just the antisocials—didn’t have any kind of mental or emotional process that would make me think of them as a person, so I wondered just what it was that made you human.

And I also wondered what made the survival of a species so fucking important, what it was that made Lierre Keith and every other carnist drool over the idea that a species would survive. And I decided they were wrong, and that the idea of a species as a genetic code, as an individual state, is a particularly individualist, intellectualist, pro-civilization, anti-nature evil, above and beyond being merely carnist.

A species is not a genetic code or an appearance. That is not how they function; that’s not reality. Behavior will out; function will out. I can’t even pretend otherwise anymore. It’s just too simplistic, it’s what you mean when you say “childish” and “immature.”

*”Appropriately” here should not be considered in the sense of the status quo cultural context, but in the way that, between two humans, both of them can continue to interact without feeling threatened-uncomfortable. Note two things: first that, as with all mental-emotional-behavioral Things, its level of “problematic” is defined by its consistency and regularity; second that it should also be noted that many, if not most, male-socialized behaviors (and quite a few female-socialized behaviors) cannot be considered “appropriate” in any way, shape or form. Gendered behavior is inappropriate—abolish it!

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The Lessons of Porn, Expanded

Referring back to this post on the effects porn had on my sexuality and particularly how I perceived “sex” and the narrowing of what was pleasurable for me, I wanted to write another post about stimulus and conditioning. Especially since people seem to believe that this is some isolated phenomenon, and it’s just not.

One of the things I noted about pornography was that it actually limited the pleasure I could find in sex or masturbation when it wasn’t “aided” by porn, and that it warped my definition of sex so that it consisted almost entirely of penetration, performed pretty mechanically by two or more partners—it could have been anyone, not just me; all that mattered was that penetration happened. It was really about as sexy as a hammer striking a block repeatedly: if you have a healthy sexuality, not at all.

Carnism warped my perception of what “filling” food was. Some months after going vegan, I remember looking at the cover of The Complete Vegan Cookbook and thinking that even eating all that couldn’t fill me up—and it was a depiction of probably more than two thousand calories and four pounds of roasted vegetables! Corn, potatoes, peppers, garlic—that was just the beginning; I can’t even remember all the varieties of food pictured.

Needless to say, I was being pretty ridiculous; it was purely a problem of distorted perception. After several years of being vegan—almost entirely without omnisubs or “meaty” products like tempeh and tofu—the same picture would seem to me an inordinate amount of food, a veritable feast.

Other carnists do this too; one of my friends, who works at Subway, is vegan too and regularly has to deal with comments from customers and coworkers about how the Veggie Delite (sans cheese, nonvegan condiments and patty, natch) just wouldn’t fill them up. The hilarious thing is the maximum amount of meat you’ll get for a six inch is four ounces; mostly you get two to three ounces—the bread is literally the most filling part of the entire sandwich. On top of that, people who say that it isn’t filling have usually never actually tried it—or they only got one or two vegetables at best.

Carnism makes you feel that the only real sustenance is contained in animal products; it warps your perception.

But one of the most interesting experiences for me, taste-wise, was fruitarianism—i.e. 2,000 calories a day specifically from fresh semitropical or tropical fruit, a large salad usually consisting of two heads of lettuce, and every other day or so some avocado, coconut or nuts. I’ve heard rather pretentious vegans remark that you have to like, go to culinary school to have “good enough” tastebuds. (I had no idea that you could be a classist Marxist; thanks, Vincent!) Now, one of the most interesting thing was just how my tastebuds changed.

Without letting myself go hungry, the flavors of fresh food became exponentially more vibrant when they’d already been delicious to begin with; I could taste the sweetness and saltiness of romaine, chard, spinach and the peculiar sweetness of sour limes. But even then, the taste of food became really impossible to explain in terms of sweetness, sourness, saltiness and bitterness—much the same way that the joy of sex is impossible to explain with a sexual terminology tainted by porn, or to someone currently limited by pornthink.

Anoretics generally suffer from a lack of flavor—food becomes bland: you have to add salt or mustard, chew gum constantly, something to get a constant rush of flavor. It’s the same for people who are suffering from mineral or vitamin or protein deficiency—food loses its luster; you become depressed and listless and lose any interest in eating. This was a diametrically opposed experience.

What was also interesting was that when I began eating cooked foods again—for a multitude of reasons, but mostly because of capitalism, which is unfortunate because tropical fruit makes humans feel good—it was incredibly… bland.

I also couldn’t stand nearly as much salt anymore; it overpowered the food and ruined the flavor. Salt has its own flavor too, you know; a lot of the time I find this is actually the biggest reason why carnists find vegan food “bland.” There’s just not enough salt in it, and they’re used to salt.

This leads to my point: when you regularly condition yourself to a certain substance, you lose your ability to enjoy the same activities without that substance—usually to a greater rather than lesser degree. When I was younger and tried food without salt, it wasn’t that it had no taste; it had taste, I just couldn’t enjoy or appreciate it.

I literally built up a tolerance to a substance that was supposedly non-habit forming. My taste buds—my brain—got conditioned to only recognize flavor in the presence of salt; similarly, when you consume porn, your brain becomes conditioned to recognize sexiness and arousal only in the context of pornified sex (which basically isn’t very much like sex).

But my primary reason for writing this post was this: technology screws up your ability to enjoy life.

That could sound silly, coming from somebody who’s clearly writing this on a computer. But since I’ve realized just how badly technology impairs my ability to enjoy life, and to be fascinated and fulfilled by nature, I’ve actually been restricting my use of it.

When I lived in a tent with my best friend, I… experienced life, and joy, for the first time ever. Nothing in civilization can ever compare to the enjoyment of life I had then; you can’t experience true joy or fulfillment as long as you are bound to civilization. The reason I chose—and still long for—fruitarianism is that it is the only time that I can get any kind of approximation of that wholeness… 811rv allows you to experience the closest approximation of real life, of nature, that you can get in civilization.

And I had all these beliefs about nature and who I was and what I was capable of just utterly destroyed.

You know how teens and college-aged kids get bored when they’re sitting outside in nature? How older people can sit, and sit, and sit, and be entertained—by looking around or playing solitaire or just thinking? I was one of those kids too. I swore that I’d just die of boredom if I was ever caught without technology—my laptop, my GBA, my iPod… something to take me away from the slowness of nature.

Except that the opposite happened. I had my iPod, and I didn’t use it because I was just endlessly entertained, by talking, by thinking and by watching; I found an almost Buddhist sense of spirituality. There is this certain kind of… sense that is reinforced in you by even a temporary detox from technology, of the inferiority of civilization and human “ingenuity” in the face of nature. I completely lost any appreciation for architecture I once had, because architecture has no real visual texture; the intricacies of a tree—of a living organism—are endless. It redefines beauty. I like to say that of the entirety of what Yeshuah said, “Sell all your things and give them to the poor; and come, follow me,” was the most literal. You can’t have any understanding of love, life, and joy, of the inherent goodness and truth of nature, unless you are a wanderer… unless you reject civilization absolutely. Everything you think you know about the ruthlessness and callous violence of nature, and about the “benefits” of civilization, is a laughable lie. Nature may not necessarily be kind but it certainly isn’t cruel—it won’t hurt you simply because it doesn’t have a reason not to.

When I was forced back into “shelter,” it was awful—you don’t have any idea how it is to feel joy, to feel freedom, to finally understand what it means to say that nature is good, and to just… have that ripped away from you.

The worst part, I think, is that it’s never very long before you forget what it was like Before. Maybe it’s just too much for your mind to really comprehend—nature is not, after all, cruel or malicious; you reach a point where “pain” and “sadness” don’t really exist because there’s not much to compare it to anymore, it’s just normal. Just because it would be so much more painful to remember what it was like to be free, to be safe. The idea that you have to know sadness to know happiness is total bullshit: it only works one way. You can be happy all the time, because happiness is something default, happiness is necessary if you’re going to survive in nature. But you cannot be sad all the time without becoming numb, without forgetting what happiness ever was.

Eventually you’re just left with this uneasy wistfulness for an indistinct memory: you knew. You knew it was better… but you can’t remember anymore.

Technology still does this to me—to everyone; it conditions your brain to a faster but less detailed speed, to a speed where you actually can’t process many details. It conditions your brain to a lower textural quality while ramping up simplistic intensity to compensate.

You can look at movies from different eras to see my point; movies have gotten faster and faster as time has gone on, as advertising has had to continuously compete for effect and audience. I remember a point where I watched Star Wars in my early teens and actually thought it was kind of slow-paced. The same has happened with music, but I’m not glorifying the Beatles; their music also encouraged the loss of musical texture and complexity. Jonsi and Sigur Ros and 65daysofstatic are actually some of my favorite music because their music is so complex and filled with texture.

One of the most damaging things technology does, though, is make you impatient. Car drivers, gamers, television watchers, and even casual internet users become incredibly impatient; I don’t think you really hear or see yourselves. I also become incredibly impatient; I’m more likely to snap at my best friend if I’ve been using the computer at all, I’m more jittery and needy of stimulus. It makes you impatient.

And tired. Incredibly tired. Video games have the same effect on me, even for a small time, but if I keep playing I become overstimulated and can’t get to sleep, the same way as when I try to stay up when I’m tired.

Speaking of which, I’m very tired, so I’m going to end this post now.

I Ain’t Dumb IV: Thoughts on Words

From FCM:

and apparently, if you wake up one day having a stroke, having lost your language skills and therefore the ability to verbally conceptualize “its morning and the sun is shining” and instead just experience it without verbalizing it in your mind-chatter, you feel absolute, unmitigated joy. interesting!

Yes.

I’ve come to the conclusion that, ultimately, language is a poison and humans never should have developed it, for the same reason that it’s unnatural to spend your time thinking about death—or even considering the concept of death at all. “Death” is not a relevant concept to someone who is living their life; thinking about death is mutually exclusive with living a full life. If you are living joyously, you don’t need to ponder death. I have experienced this.

At the same time, thinking about your experiences is often mutually exclusive with actually fully experiencing them. I am so over the academented practice of intellectualizing experience and emotion, because the more you intellectualize these things, the farther you take yourself from them. I believe that’s actually why we came up with the practice of intellectualizing: because it separates you from having to feel and deal with your experiences. That’s got to be a pretty compelling coping method for a group of people who have just been convinced by the “Enlightenment” that the thing that makes them better than animals is their separateness from emotion and the supposed connection to logic and rationality.

Oh, the irony of humans telling themselves that their unique specialness in nature—which is the basis of the language that allows them to feel like special goddamn snowflakes (which do not occur in native human habitat)—is partially because they are able to feel “more complex” emotions. When this very “uniqueness” prevents them from feeling truly complex emotions.

One of the reasons that I easily grasped the fact that we are wrong about non-human animals is that I was always forced to identify with them.

You see, thinking in language isn’t a trait common to humans. I can absolutely confirm this, because I am human, and I don’t think in language. I think in meanings—pure, absolute, and incredibly complex—and this often makes it pretty hard for me to get my point across.

The only point where I think in language is when I am thinking of how to communicate, to another human, my argument or experience or whatever. And then it goes pretty much straight from meaning to language, with all the axed meanings falling to the side like fabric scraps. That annoys me about language—like, what, you couldn’t at least be special enough to make an adequate language, you douchenuts? But whatever.

When you talk about the supposed inferiority of animals because of XYZ, I know very well you’re talking about me, too. According to you, all humans are supposed to think in language; this is the defining characteristic of humans, that our thoughts are better and make sense because they’re in language. (Though, again, given the ridiculous limits of any language, I’m not entirely sure how this makes us smarter instead of stupider.) So, very clearly, I’m not human.

Which is fine by me. You creatures are just beyond fucked up sometimes, you know that? Define me out of existence all you want; it just proves you’re wrong about any distinction between “human” and “animal.”

You can take your justifications for carnism and shove ’em where the sun don’t shine.

No “Yes” Means No

There are few problems with the phrase No Means No—particularly in comparison to the admirable, but inefficient and naively optimistic Yes Means Yes. But one of those problems is the resulting idea that anything but “no” does not mean “no.” On Elkballet, MRA beliefs about rape were collected and analyzed, which I find especially useful because MRA beliefs about rape tend not to be very different from the general population—they’re just unwilling to rethink rape culture and very angry that anyone would ever have asked them to, so it’s like having a glimpse into concentrated rape culture.

One of those beliefs was this: “So the problem is not that the girl consents, she never consents—she just somehow omits to say no.”

Consent is default; women’s bodies are there to be used sexually, so if a woman somehow doesn’t want to have sex (lying whore! tease!), she’s required to actually make an effort to say no. Which is… really bizarre. It’s basically just the equivalent of saying that women aren’t allowed to say they’ve been raped unless they’ve given the guy fair warning; it’s like, totally unfair that she’d just spring this on him when she didn’t even say no or anything. Doesn’t she know how sex works? It’s supposed to be this boring, unimaginative thing where a guy gets on top and whacks off in her vagina; everyone knows that gender roles are natural and PIV = sex. Gosh, girls are so silly.

I’ve been pissed off about this for a while, especially since I’ve had to live through the supposedly “empowered” women who actually believe that power dynamics are hot and PIV/penetration = sex, not just their be-penised counterparts. But every time I say that you need a yes for it to be consentual, some sex pox pro-porner comes up and does this:

“But *whine* my sex partner and I *whine* feel like actually checking for consent isn’t, like, sexy *whine* and that it makes it like, less spontaneous *whine* and our relationship is perfect ’cause we respect each other’s boundaries even though we don’t actually care to make sure of those boundaries *whine* so why can’t you like, just shut up and not say it for the benefit of women who might actually need it *whine* instead of making me act like the adult I say I am and self-select out?”

No, seriously. I consistently get this. And to that fuckhead who is waiting in the shadows of the internet, ready to pounce in for a whinefest of how you’re such a fucking special snowflake that no one should ever actually talk about or believe in consent because it makes you feel left out, go fuck yourself.

Because, seriously, if it’s such a terrible thing to be a rapist, then isn’t the onus on you to make sure you’re not raping anyone than on your potential victims to keep you from raping? What the hell kind of logic is that? “Well, he didn’t tell me not to murder him and use his wood-chippered corpse to grow tomatoes in Lierre Keith’s backyard.”

Come the fuck on, people; surely you have the sense of tiny unripe sweet potatoes.

Look at it this way: you are passing out cups of soda at your party. You know, because a psychic told you or because you saw your cousin spill bleach on them or there’s a recall in China or whatever, that one or more of the plastic cups could possibly poison the person who drinks out of them. But either way, there is a chance that this person will fall down, convulse, foam at the mouth, and die a horrible fucking death. And it will be your fault.

Are you seriously telling me that you wouldn’t go out of your way to make sure the people at this party are safe? Are you fucking shitting me? You would rather be a rapist/murderer than make very very sure that you are not responsible for destroying someone else’s life?

Because if you’d rather, then you shouldn’t be having sex or passing out cups at a party. You are too fucking dangerous; you are too self-absorbed, and are too absorbed in “getting yours” to think about what you might do to other people. Don’t have sex, ever. Oh, and you got “falsely” accused of rape by someone who you didn’t get a direct, verbal “yes” from? Cry me a river, build me a bridge… and jump off of it, you fucking rapist.

Because No “Yes” Means No, and Only Yes Means Yes.

Privilege 101: The Slant

Continuing on the topic of elaborating upon and understanding how privilege functions—as opposed to simply its effects—I wanted to talk a little about what I’ve termed “the Slant.” Part of how privilege behaves—the processes it uses to perpetuate itself as a vicious cycle—is a particular mental distortion inculcated within everyone growing up inside a power dynamic.

What makes it so insidious is that the Slant is entirely perception-based. The Slant describes two specific “cognitive biases” that are entirely based around the status quo: the reasonableness and trustworthiness of both the “empowered” and the powerless.

To clarify:

1. The “empowered” are:
a. Reasonable.
b. Objectively motivated.

2. The powerless are:
a. Unreasonable, irrational.
b. Personally or deceptively motivated.

Part A of the Slant is particularly important because the falsehood that humans are uniquely rational, reasonable beings, set apart from all other animals by a capacity for logical processes, is actually the freaking basis of human civilization.

It’s fairly obvious, given enough time and energy seriously dealing with other animals, that this is not the case: all animals have logical processes—they just aren’t necessarily based on sight-stimulus and technology the way humans’ information-gathering is. Animals come to logical decisions, like humans, but using different sets of information. Furthermore, animals only seem “irrational” if one is thinking of them specifically as not-person—as someone malformed because they were not born with a human interface.

And not to put too fine a point on it, tell me I’m the only bee in your bonnet the human concept of “logical” has always had quite a bit to do with whether or not you supported the status quo. Here’s where we get into the mind-boggling reinforcement of one oppression to another, which yes, means you support all of them if you are not vegan.

Women’s insistence that women were not inferior—not irrational, not child-obsessed dunderheads, not incapable of brilliance, not frail, needy histrionic cases—has always been used as an example of how women were inferior and irrational, and it still is. Evolutionary psychologists, MRAs, and trans misogynists use women’s belief that they are, well, people in order to argue that women are irrational. They’re delusional; they don’t get that we’re just the way we are because nature made us that way, which is not an argument for our extermination, somehow, but an argument against it and an argument that women should just, like, let us be evil. Women are just too stupid, self-absorbed, naive and idealistic to understand that the Kyriarchy exists because it is inevitable.

The fact that Black people did not want to be enslaved was used as evidence for how little they understood, and how much they needed to be “guided,” however brutally, by white people (men, generally). The fact that they didn’t agree that they were inferior was proof that they were inferior.

That fat people refuse to starve and emotionally torment themselves over the size of their body is evidence to the fatphobic, body-obsessive, carnist medical establishment that fat people just don’t understand how inferior they are. When fat people point out that any self-destructive endeavor would be fruitless—starvation, even with exercise, doesn’t work for somewhere around 98% of the population—they are assumed to be too stupid to understand “the facts.” Literally, fat people are expected to ignore the actual facts and embark on a terribly scarring journey of self-loathing—the more you agree that fat is evil and wrong, that fat is an indicator of a personal flaw, the more “rational” and “reasonable” you are. Surely we can all agree that you are weak-willed and immoral.

And today, too, if you are “mentaly ill” and object to the idea that you need to be institutionalized and “treated” into docility with psychotropic medicines—or if you and your others refuse to believe that integration is necessary in order to live a healthy and happy life—then it’s further evidence that you are just too mentally ill to understand you need to be controlled helped.

In our society, reasonable is a loaded word. It doesn’t take brilliance to see that.

Part B is simple but slippery, because it’s so easy for the “empowered” to wordle their way out of the claim. I can’t be responsible for what other people think of my motivations; are you implying my motivations aren’t pure? Yadda yadda, whine whine whine, what about teh menz/whitez/humanz.

But really, the best way to describe “assumption of motivation” is in terms of a good-faith/bad-faith argument. An assumption of good faith is the default: it’s reasonable to assume that a given human doesn’t mean you any harm unless you are given actual evidence to suspect otherwise—for example, the epidemic of rape perpetrated by men; the disenfranchisement of nonwhite people by white people; the abuse of animals by humans. It’s not unreasonable to assume that someone who was born and raised as an “empowered” person will be able or willing to see you as a person if you’re on the “powerless” side.

Bad faith is what is automatically attributed to those who are powerless, or who are fighting for the powerless. Their words are interpreted within the most unflattering meaning; on the other hand, when the “empowered” say bigoted things, they are defended and excused. Very often someone challenging the status quo is simply not listened to at all—my experience with trans commenters made me wonder, briefly but seriously, whether or not being transsexual actually impaired your reading comprehension. Simply by not agreeing, you can be accused of derailing or having impure, personally-motivated, bigoted motives:

1a. Animal experimentation has not brought about any serious medical advance; in fact, most medical advances have happened IN SPITE of animal experimentation and were slowed down by it instead of being helped. And in fact many diseases have afflicted humans specifically from their use of animals; it’s not good for humans, either.
1b. You care more about animals than humans!

2a. The gender dichotomy is fucked up. We should destroy it so that no one is gendered; then we can all be free to be people, instead.
2b. You’re transphobic! I worked HARD to be seen as a woman!

3a. Dude, what you just said is really racist; affirmative action doesn’t give non-white people an advantage.
3b. You’re just a reverse racist who doesn’t want to work for what you have!

And on a deeper level, the experiences and feelings of the powerless are unconsciously demeaned. Women are hysterical and overreacting about rape; women of color—people of color in general, but especially women of color—are “angry and militant” when they object to being alienated from a group (yes, as if it were undesirable); children and animals aren’t as complex or as rational and logical as adults, humans; and women who were forced to be “women” from the day they were born are just expressing “insecurity” about their “femininity” when they object to male-socialized people in their spaces.

Unreasonable. Hysterical. Irrational. Doesn’t know anything. Ignorant. Naive. Idealistic. Delusional. Doesn’t understand how the world works. Illogical. Emotional. Silly. Empty-headed. Airhead. Man-hater.

The Slant makes it impossible for you to know whether you agree with, or find persuasive or intelligent or competent, any “empowered” person because of the behavior/reaction sets they and you were indoctrinated into; similarly impossible to know whether your opinion of anyone on the “powerless” end—on the basis of age, race, sex, species, body shape, etc.—is based on your cultured filters of power or on who they really are.

No, scrap that: the Slant virtually guarantees that your opinion of anyone will be, in part, based on the place of power they are given in the Kyriarchy, regardless of how reasonable and logical you think you are.

And there are no easy answers. You can’t watch porn and pass out condoms to encourage sexual liberation; you can’t buy cage-free eggs and grass-fed cow products to encourage animal rights; you can’t put a Black or Asian person smack-dab in the middle of the photo amidst a group of white people and expect to be hailed as anti-racist or inclusive. You can’t decide that it’s okay for people to switch sexes in the gender binary, but not for anyone to object to the existence of a gender binary at all, and ever help anyone except the most privileged male-socialized people.

It is a long, hard, fucking cold road, and it’s one you have to take alone; there are no quick fixes. You can decide that every animal can feel and deserves not to be used as property, to be farmed; or you can give the fuck up and resign yourself to the fact that your unwillingness to dispense with the idea of property—with gender, with capitalism, with a “right” body to have, with the idea that sex can be power—has doomed everyone you claim to be fighting for. Because you are too fucking obsessed with getting yours to ever do anyone any fucking good.

Take people seriously. Listen to them; genuinely consider their experiences and feelings as valid; and don’t ever justify anything that is done to them in the name of oppression and power as “not as bad” as something happening to another person elsewhere.

White Privilege is a Thing

As much as I enjoyed this post by FAB Libber—an excellent takedown of how transphobic hate crimes actually have to be motivated by transphobia—I read through the comments and I cringed, again, at something I’ve seen repeatedly from white feminists of radical and non-radical stripes.

Any privilege that a woman has is bestowed on her by the individual or group of males she ‘belongs’ to, and can be taken away in a heartbeat.

… Specifically referring to white privilege.

Now, I want to make two things clear:

1. I am not “calling out” FAB Libber; she just sparked the thought process leading to this post, and not in a bad way. I mean this absolutely respectfully; I liked most of what she had to say, this subject just itches.

2. I agree that misogyny is the commonality between all women worldwide, even the very privileged who don’t think they experience any oppression or bias, and that women of color have their race used misogynistically against them and their sex used racially against them.

Privilege can best be conceptualized not as an object or substance, but as a set of behavior and reactions. There are two sets: “empowered” and “powerless,” that is oppressor and oppressed, because it takes some blinders to miss the fact that the “empowerment” of fun-fems is about making the oppressed into oppressors and pretending it’s all “individual choice” so that the systematic nature of oppression is obscured, not about actually eradicating oppression.

It is not inborn, regardless of what many misogynistic transsexuals would have you believe; if you swap and raise a child at the other end, they develop the “powerless” set of behaviors and reaction. The sets are learned, and very deeply; you also do not suddenly lose your set if your appearance changes. Many MTFs are, to put it politely, confused about privilege, mostly because they (like 99.9999% of men) don’t want to face the reality of their privilege—that it is not dismissable by being hurt or exploited at any point in your life; that is not canceled out by some other oppression; and that any recognition of it and attempt to counteract its effect is not somehow “oppressing” you.

That’s because privilege is not some kind of substance floating aimlessly in the air, just kinda hangin’ out bein’ malicious and crap; the behavior/reaction sets you learn from being socialized as empowered/powerless is the enforcement arm of the Kyriarchy. Behavior will out. The powerless are socialized to be deferent, meek, excessively respectful and polite, to keep their head down; the empowered are socialized to be aggressive, arrogant, sure of the objectivity and rightness of their own worldview, the superior quality of their suffering.

The behaviors of the “empowered” are calibrated to induce passivity and fear (specifically, fear-based passivity) in the powerless; their reactions are designed—perhaps not consciously, but viciously nonetheless—to reinforce the fact that the “empowered” poses a threat to the powerless, and to rub their face in it.

The behaviors of the powerless are mainly reactionary; they’re harm-reduction. “Powerless” behaviors are damage-control responses to a threat; a system that institutionalizes and legitimizes very real, very dangerous choices given to the powerless. Speak nicely to the man/white person/police officer; they have the ability to seriously fuck up your life if you aren’t polite enough.

And, of course, a large part of the set socialized into the “empowered” is simply to take this deference, this excessive politeness, this fear based on a real threat, and see it as default—as baseline. So that when they are not being deferent, excessively polite, agreeing with your superior knowledge, letting you into their spaces regardless of how uncomfortable you make them, you—the “empowered”—will see them as rude, bigoted, castrating, unfair, shrill… misandrist, “reverse racist” and transphobic.

I find it incredible that someone could possibly conceptualize privilege as some abstract thing that is based solely on appearance or some wishy-washy, internal “identity,” but somehow I’m not surprised.

The first MTF who ever commented on my blog invaded my space(poorly, since it is the internet); zie posted one over-the-top comment insulting me, and when I hadn’t posted it in the next few hours (since, you know, I have a life), proceeded to completely flip zeir shit and post eight successive comments, some of which were just copy-pastes of the original comment and two of which were just “GET UP STAND UP” one-liners about how zie wouldn’t let me quash zeir right to… post a comment on my blog!

The same person also asked me whether I understood what male privilege was.

Lest I fail to mention the similarities between the two, I have also experienced similar incidents from MRAs. Those people also completely lose their shit when someone in the world shows signs of disagreeing with them, and attempt to do the internet equivalent of shouting you down, because they can’t just loom over you and threaten you into silence that way.

The person who insisted that, because of zeir transsexuality, zie did not have male privilege acted with male privilege. Because that is what privilege, fundamentally, is: it means you get the right to bully others into acquiescence.

Because they fear you. Because you are a threat, and your behavior—not your appearance—is the primary indicator and proof of your ability to hurt them.

That’s how privilege functions and continues; that is the process. Privilege is not some mysterious woo-woo magical stuff that, like, sometimes you have but sometimes not; it’s a conglomeration of behaviors.

They are designed to produce the appropriate effect: submission.

And it’s universal to all power dynamic schemes. Adults intimidate and pressure children into obedience with the threat of hurting them unless they acquiesce; men do the same to women, and this doesn’t necessarily change when the former takes hormones or looks like the latter, since privilege does not have a biological fucking basis; thin people do the same to fat people; and white people do the same to non-white people. Humans do the same to animals, but animals aren’t necessarily expected to participate in their own oppression (they’re too stupid to see how superior humans are, after all), and anti-human supremecist humans will do just as well as a target.

So it seems unnecessarily obtuse to declare that privilege is something you just magically lose when you decide you don’t want to be part of a privileged group anymore, or because you “never really agreed with privilege,” when you still act like an oppressor. You still act arrogantly; you still act like you have the right to define the lives of a group of people whose oppression you weren’t socialized into; you still act like you have the right to be listened to above and over them, because you decided you are one of them and you think you have more right to decide who belongs in their group than they do; you still mistake the emotional upheaval you experience from being rejected from that group as de facto evidence of oppression.

And even more, proclamations that you don’t “really” have privilege, that you never really, like, had power because these other oppressors have more and they don’t like you—things like that seem to me to be very little more than a clear indicator that you do have privilege, but that you’re refusing to consider your own behavior. Because you enjoy, far more, being automatically listened to, and privilege warps your worldview enough that you can’t see clearly within it.

Privilege is not something we need to fight each other about; I think that “calling out” and aggressively confronting people on their privilege is counterproductive. And there are easier ways to address privilege internally—though not so much on the internet. Fucking listen to people; treat them with basic fucking respect; genuinely consider their experiences and feelings valid and important; and actively reject the urge to turn and listen more closely to someone with power—an adult, a pornographer or pimp, a vivisectionist or farmer, a thin person, a rich person, a white person, a man or someone who was raised to be a man.

In other words: if someone experiences their own life, they get to be treated like a person.

That is the only way you can fight privilege on a massive scale; humans are, after all, social little buggers, and they’ll imitate each other without really knowing what the hell they’re doing. Behavior, in that way, is contagious; if you treat people with gratitude and respect, and not like property, those around you will follow suit.

Honestly

This is not an issue that directly relates to any form of rights I’ve spoken about. It’s about boundaries, finding an ethical code that won’t tear you up inside with hypocrisy, and protecting yourself.

I was, like a lot of people, brought up to believe that honesty was one of the biggest virtues someone could ever have; at least where I grew up, kids were inundated with feel-good stories about “doing the right thing,” and not getting punished because they had the goodness of soul to stand up and proclaim The Truth. No, the world doesn’t work like that, which makes it an even shittier propaganda tactic to use on children, but the idea of honesty as paramount still looks awful good until you take a look at it in the context of reality—power, prejudice, inequality and defense.

Much like pacifism, the people most likely to benefit from widespread “honesty” are also the people least likely to have to practice it, because the power imbalance is heavily tilted to their side. The rich, the powerful, the white and the dickled have much less to lose from practicing (or not practicing) pacifism and honesty; there’s less of a line between a choice to do so or not to do so for them.

What’s the worth of a white person’s choice to be a pacifist in a society that does not target them with violence, inequality and disenfranchisement? It’s not like that white pacifist won’t be hurting the people of color who do suffer those things; they’re institutionalized. One white dude’s symbolic gesture of non-participation—especially while zie is still participating in other oppressions that highlight and entrench racism like capitalism, carnism, technocentrism, for a start—doesn’t do a whole lot to reduce the impact of racism on actual people. Not even talking about it will stop that shit; it’s not in your hands.

And what does pacifism symbolize to the power structure when taken up by a person of color, except a willing acceptance of victimization?

I’m not asking about the personal value of these beliefs, whatever they may be. I’m asking about what they do. I’m asking where these supposed “subversions” of the power structure become actual subversion, actual sabotage. Especially since I do want to enact violence against the power structure—I want to destroy it utterly. Again: I’m trying to chop down the tree of oppression. You don’t have to join me, but you had better stay the hell outta my way while I’m swinging the axe.

What effect does honesty have on the power structure? How does it help, or harm?

The first time dishonesty as a political act, instead of as simple self-protection, was driven home to me was when Aslan and I were homeless together, living out of a tent bought with the money I’d saved up as our last vestige of hope. We had an average income of $0/mo. I’m the black sheep of the family and have never had any kind of financial support from them; Aslan grew up on the streets under a welfare mother and zeir working-class stepfather was seven hundred miles away, assuming he’d be willing to help the kid he abandoned at four. No trustifarians we. So you can imagine how we got food. Not through a dumpster; they’re mechanizing them all nowadays. Anyway.

We ate better than we had in months, even walking a minimum of 30,000 steps every day. Not particularly because we got “a lot,” but because we managed to get enough. It helped that we’re vegan—carnist foods are much riskier to shoplift than anything else. Some karma thing, I dunno. But it struck me, the first time I went in with Aslan with a goal in mind, just how much capitalism has invested in imbuing this strange, distorted “honesty” into you: the entire structure of a corporate grocery store is designed to hide the underhanded shenanigans occurring on every level of the capitalist establishment while at the same time trying to make it so that you do not have the ability to hide anything from them.

And most of that attempt consists of psychological tactics. Most people don’t know not to twitch, to act as if you have a right to be there, and to do your best to remain as invisible, unforgettable, and impersonal as possible.

There is a direct line from one to the other here. You have to ask: who is profiting from these beliefs? In other words, who is profiting off of making you too nervous and guilt-ridden to ensure that you can eat, regardless of whether or not one of the upper caste will accept your petition to work? Because the answer is fairly clear. Instilling the belief that honesty is a necessity, even and especially when it harms yourself, in order for those who hold power over you to cement that dynamic straight into the ground.

Put another way: if you are honest, who is going to hurt you?

As a matter of policy, I don’t particularly believe that anyone is obligated to tell the truth when they are long the power imbalance. There are a few caveats to that—the consideration, for example, of whether or not you’re going to be directly hurting someone else by lying—but the rest stands. In many cases, I see lying as an obligation, such as with the quintessential “he went thataway!” misdirection of oppressors in search of a revolutionary. The only person you should ever make a policy of total honesty with is yourself. And maybe your best friend/long-term lover, but I’m pretty sure that requires negotiation. A lot of people start “opening up” and then take it way too far because they have no experience with what is an acceptable and desirable limit to that.

Question these social norms you are given at their premise. Why is honesty desirable? Why is pacifism? Why is femininity? Why is carnism? Why is nationalism? Why is the human race? Ask not just why but how—how are these things desirable, and whose interests do they serve?

Your ethical code needs to be informed of this, to be malleable, so that you needn’t sacrifice yourself to the power structure in order to live by your ethics, and so that you needn’t betray your ethics in order to protect yourself. Revolution is not an easy path to walk: you need to set aside a lot of your honesty for yourself, so that you will be neither willing nor able to tolerate or make excuses for yourself when you veer too close to being the kind of person you do not want to be.

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