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Posts tagged ‘anti-ageism’

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.

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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.

I Ain’t Dumb III: Intelligence Can’t be a Quantitative Measure!

At some point I found myself having to seriously consider the idea of “intelligent” or “smart.” I don’t know if it was because of my veganism, my primitivism, or my utter repulsion to the very idea of mandatory schooling, but it inevitably had a lot to do with the school I went to.

It was an alternative public school that’d been around for about thirty years running an individualistic curriculum—basically, you could just go to classes and write your evaluations and be done with it, but there was one extra piece to it: the Passages. There were six Passages in all—Career Exploration, Logical Inquiry, Creative somethingorother, Global Awareness, Practical Skills and Adventure. Social debate and peer review was built right into the grid: you had to have meetings with your “triad,” which could consist of at least three people, and your advisor (a teacher/counselor) before you could either “propose” (start) or “wrap up” a Passage.

The interesting thing about this, and the difference between this and most traditional schooling, was that there were no templates for the Passages. You couldn’t just pull it out of thin air: you had to work. If you wanted to learn, you had to reach for it.

The past few years I’ve come to realize that much of the school’s benefit to students was that it was a sort of anti-school. It was a detoxification center for students who had been taught to hate learning in traditional schools. And the emphasis was always on learning—as an active, not a passive, ability. You don’t go there to “get educated”; it wasn’t a choice someone else could make for you. You weren’t encouraged, as you are in 99% of other classrooms—including ones that “have good teachers!!!1″—to just lie back and think of England, so to speak. Learning was something you did for you, indigenous to your soul, and as such no one could give it to you or force you to endure it. You had the right to learn; therefore, it was your responsibility whatever you chose to learn. Choice. Freedom. Not compulsory. Not mandatory. No excuses, no shortcuts.

And honestly, I just kind of sat around for three years and then got incredibly fucking bored and decided to do something about. From what I hear, that’s not unusual, though it doesn’t make up the majority of the students. That was basically the point where I realized that learning is inevitable because, hell, it’s fun, isn’t it?

In my fourth year I met a German temporary student, Fabienne, with whom I’d be staying in Germany (for the most part; I had family there, too). She had… this attitude. My peers were used to people from other schools looking down on ours because it was so “easy,” I mean, they didn’t force you or threaten you into going to classes and learning. We were irritated about it, but it’s sort of like most fruitarians I know: Bob Torres will bitch at them and they’ll just roll their eyes and be like, “whatever dude, like you’d know anything,” and then they leave it.

While I was in Germany, Fabienne told me that our school was “easy.” (I’d retort and point out that no, actually, most traditional school systems are just fucking prisons—but eh.) She thought that the students there were stupid because they weren’t being challenged—that is, forced into “learning” things they didn’t want to learn and had no use for.

“Fabienne,” I said, “do you like learning?”

“No. Who likes learning?” she replied.

I’m aware she disagrees, but honestly, I won that debate right then and there.

What my “alma mater”—typically reserved for universities, but I think “soul mother” fits this situation perfectly—taught me was something slow and growing, like a seed gestating in warm, damp soil, as veganism and primitivism were for me. Learning had much more to do with joy—with the will to learn—than it did with how much you learned. And as such, learning couldn’t be measured by how many things you knew; it had to be measured by how gleefully you went after them.

And that’s where I broke from the idea of intelligence as quantitative.

Quantitative intelligence is a factor that underlies almost every fucking prejudice in the world. Using adult humans as property has been justified with, “they’re not as intelligent as us.” Same for non-human animals, and children; they’re stupid and unintelligent because adults are too self-obsessed to realize that the knowledge they have isn’t basic or even valuable for the real world. The natural one. No; they’re stupid, obviously. And you could tell that, see, because they didn’t know as many things as us! At least, they didn’t know as many things that “we” considered “important.”

A line between meaningful and non-meaningful knowledge was drawn and, in general, the more abstract the knowledge, the more valuable it was. It was harder to get—like eggs and dairy used to be—and therefore prestigious. And, as with eggs and dairy, this society is still built from the top down off of no longer pertinent concepts of prestige. Baked goods “need” eggs, despite the fact that they were included only because it was a “rich” thing to do. If you want to be smart, you “need” to read Judith Butler and Plato and some other godawful-dry, self-absorbed authors.

I am just so fucking tired of the idea that intelligence and smartness is quantitative. Let’s talk about what intelligence really is.

Intelligence is basic, and expressed in behaviors that allow an animal to navigate the world. The presence of greater intelligence in someone does not make them more valuable; having less intelligence than that person does not make you less valuable. Okay? Good. Now we’ve gotten the excuses for carnism out of the way.

I think the behaviors of intelligence are intensity, curiosity, critical deduction and observation. These all have different parts that make a whole.

Intensity refers to passion, emotional/mental; having emotion enables someone to process and remember information gathered. I disagree that emotion automatically makes you less reliable and trustworthy—after all, the most “objective” people have also historically had the privilege to agree with the present power structure; they had the least to lose from its perpetuation and as such generally didn’t much care to exert the energy to change it.

From my observation and critical deduction, I have come to the conclusion that animals have the capacity for emotion because it is an excellent way to store information about the world in which they live, although significantly less so in cases of trauma. You’re not supposed to be God, here. Your best guess is all that’s required.

Also in my observation, I’ve noticed that the smartest people I know are also extremely emotionally intense. That’s not data and I don’t intend to present it as fact, but simply because you cannot base an entire argument off anecdote doesn’t mean that anecdote is worthless and contemptuous. Something that is not A is not necessarily B if C is present.

Curiosity is the drive to learn things—that’s pretty obvious. It doesn’t necessarily apply to books, either. A hunger for information will drive you to learn, and you will learn much more than those who aren’t very curious.

Lierre Keith, for example, isn’t very curious. She spent twenty years trapped in an eating disorder and even though she had misgivings from the first few months, never seriously questioned them. She was never curious about veganism, or she would have went looking and found out that eating only brown rice and soy wasn’t healthy, and she would have found out that eating eggs and dairy about once a week doesn’t count as “twenty years of veganism.” She was never curious about women’s rights and feminism, or she would have stumbled into the discussion of eating-disorder-as-patriarchal-ideology and realized that the symptoms she was attributing to “veganism” were the symptoms that describe the lives of anorectics.

By the same coin, parrots are hella smart. As is my cat.

Critical deduction allows you to question what you’ve observed and found, and to trace together the lines connecting supposedly disparate topics and phenomena. When a cat does a trick someone meant to teach to the dog, that cat is employing critical deduction. Similarly, when you realize that transphobia is yet another form of patriarchal sexism via gender-policing, you’re employing critical deduction.

At the same time, critical deduction is necessarily critical. Reading a condemnation and carnism or intellectualism and thinking, “But animals aren’t humans—they’re obviously inferior to us,” or “But there’s only one kind of intelligence and reasonable deduction,” is employing the very antithesis of critical deduction. Genuinely thinking about it and saying, “Might be right. Have to seriously think about that, and if I decide they’re right then I’ll have to change,” is critical deduction.

Observation allows you to actually receive information from your experience of life. It can be, and often is, distorted through a lens of ideology—for example, thinking of children as stupid or less intelligent because they express themselves in a limited way.

Observation can only be free when not fettered by the paradigms we are taught to believe. Fundamentally, these ideologies—racism, sexism, ageism, carnism, capitalism, intellectualism, etc.—are invalid because they are taught: you are predisposed to them from a very early age, the shrapnel lurking in the back of your mind. I am always unimpressed by microbiologists that start believing in “a” creator, because even Hinduism is fundamentally monotheistic in its creation story. Come back with something that isn’t floating around in preality and we’ll talk.

Intelligence can only be measured by behaviors, and you might rightly argue that they then can’t be measured at all. But hell, that’s just honest—psychology, at least, recognizes that you can only know what’s going on inside someone’s head via the conduit of their body language, behavior and/or speech.

Ought to come down from your high horse, ffs. Y’can’t smell nothin’ but horseshit from up there.

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