Nature is an ecoterrorist!

Posts tagged ‘nature cannot be owned’

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!

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 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.

“I Paid for You.” Capitalism’s Inherent Property Ethic

Even amongst the less capitalist circles, there’s not a whole lot of talk about the totalizing objectification created by a system run by exchange. Pretty much everyone understands the basics of classism: that you’re perceived as being inherently worth more and a better person if you’re richer, and given more opportunities based on that, whereas the reverse is true if you’re poorer. In other words, socioeconomic class is perceived as a reflection on one’s personality in capitalism in a similar way to beauty in medieval Italy. The richer or more beautiful you are/were, the better a person you are/were.

Yeah, that’s basic. And pretty obvious. But classism is inextricable from capitalism in another way—and ageism, racism, and sexism insofar as these groups are capitalistically disadvantaged, too—because, to put it gently, our entire system is based on the value of currency given to anything in general… and it invades everything.

There’s a particular transactional model of oppression that states thus: the more money that others have to give you in order to support your survival, the less you are worth and the more you are owned by them.

You see this everywhere. Look at the anti-welfare crap going around; look at the anti-socialized medicine crap going on in the U.S., the fire being rained down on unions in Wisconsin and Indiana, the sabotaging of jobless benefits. Resentment is bred because the people who feel they are “paying” for these things without benefiting feel as though they’re getting ripped off—because they’re having to buy something without getting to benefit from it.

When you look at it from an item perspective, it makes sense: if a store charged you for items you didn’t buy (and therefore didn’t get to use), you’d be pretty pissed too. It makes sense, except for the fact where we are talking about peoples’ lives instead of an actual object.

… But thanks to capitalism, the monetary value assigned to someone’s life and/or quality of life is the signal that they are property—an item or a product that you are having to pay for without being able to use.

You know those old “jokes” about how wives are merely bad prostitutes—they take men’s money and then don’t even put out in return? This is why. They are being “paid for” as products, but the men, their “purchasers,” don’t get to use them at all. This follows other forms of oppression, too—ageism, for example. Literally, by paying for their children, parents feel an entitlement to force/abuse them into doing something just so because they are effectively buying them.

A person becomes a product when a monetary value is assigned to them for whatever reason—their survival, their quality of life, maybe just a momentary indulgence. It even applies to employers: Aslan, at a previous job, would be stocking about $20,000 of product every night—usually mostly on zeir own, too—but zeir manager wouldn’t even let zem get fucking overtime. That’s another problem with the product-purchaser capitalist worldview: it brings into play the “natural” desire of a purchaser to get the most for their money.

This is endemic, too, unless and until we cut the line tying someone’s survival and basic quality of life to a monetary value. Food, shelter and water must be upheld as basic human rights, inalienable, such that they cannot be sold unless they are luxury products—as with exotic fruits like passionfruits (in some places), animal products, several kinds of sweeteners, sodas, prepackaged “junk” foods, etc. Outside of luxuries, whole foods are your right. So is shelter. Until capitalism falls or compromises, you will be objectified just by surviving.

News: Nature is Awesome, Humans Intent on Short-Term Gain (Still)

In animals and nature news today, another species of beetle native to the UK has been discovered. It’s a rove beetle with an average length of 6.5mm (i.e. pretty damn small). A handful of new beetle species are identified each year in the region, which doesn’t include other species of insects and animals. I find a great many people who insist that we know a whole fuckin’ lot about animals, which usually provides the basis for their assertion that we know non-human animals are inferior to us, but this just isn’t true. (And it doesn’t help when you repeat basic inaccuracies like, “bees aren’t animals, they’re insects!”)

Out of a scale of everything there is to know about humans, the knowledge humanity possesses accounts for probably one millionth of one percent. I say “probably,” because we know so little about ourselves—even separate parts of the body, like the circulatory system—that it is basically impossible to estimate unless you’re using my scale (which is extremely practical but widely ignored and/or denied).

For example: did you even know there were 1,500 varieties of potatoes in existence? (I did. Plants are awesome.) There are also over 600 varieties of mangos… although they are quickly being destroyed by global agriculture, capitalism, and… hey! Carnism.

When you include everything else in the world… well, dudes, our knowledge is basically the equivalent of a single single atom among all the atoms in all the molecules of every material thing in the world.

However, we do have some knowledge by trial-and-error—not passive knowledge (that something is), but active knowledge: what happens when you do something. Actually, humans have such a long history of fucking up that we have a massive repository of straight-up facts for what will happen if you try to fuck with the world around you… This is being stolidly ignored in the UK; to reduce tuberculosis rates in farmed cows, farmers want to shoot badgers.

Aside from the outstanding evidence that “pest management” is a bad fucking idea, shooting badgers actually increases the spread of TB outside of the immediate area because of the upset to their social networks, so any badgers that foraged nearby will range farther instead of remaining in the area. No, of course that doesn’t imply badgers feel so strongly about others in their social networks dying that they will actively avoid the area—that would be sentimental and obvious reasonable evolutionarily sound anthropomorphism.

Apparently, it’s a better idea to fuck up another animals’ social system than it is to simply eliminate the problem by not farming cows. Because if you did that, nature wins! And nature is an ecoterrorist.

That’s officially my new tagline.

News: UK Forests Safe, also: Paradigms

David Cameron has abandoned his plan to privatize most of England’s forests. This is unequivocally a good thing. As a primitivist, public ownership of nature is not something I find ideal; I don’t think any species has a right to lands they have not biologically adapted to survive in (i.e. without tools or weapons), which certainly excludes humans. It’s still infinitely better than the case in the U.S., where almost all land is privatized and even outside of that, only a tiny modicum of public land is in any way available for public enjoyment, even while it is still being shilled out for private exploitation.

I am given to understand that in many non-Western countries, this is not the case—for example, Japan has hot springs that don’t really belong to anyone, they’re just there for public use and you have no right to fuck it up. Not because it would ruin others’ enjoyment of it, just that you have no right to fuck it up.

The idea that nature can ever be owned is bad enough in and of itself, but the fact is, privatization of land only serves to further marginalize people who had no choice to live there in the first place. It’s interesting, though, just how those in the Western Three (UK, US and AU) have almost no ability to imagine something that is not owned. Nature must be owned publicly if it’s not owned privately, just because there’s no concept of something being outside ownership or possession unless they are at the very top of the power scale… you have to be white, rich and male to be in any way yours.

The past day I’ve been reading Undercover Punk, specifically Innate sexuality, a THEORY, and why it hurts women and the comments thread underHeterosexualism and honestly, I’m connecting these two things on a very shiftly subconscious level.

Beyond the obvious nature/sexuality wild-dangerous/safe-tame comparisons, the direction of sexuality is something never questioned. Proponents of compulsory heterosexuality are always “questioning” homosexuality, but they’re not questioning sexuality at its basis ’cause they’re afraid to do so. Maybe this concept of sexuality is fundamentally connected to an idea of ownership, where something deemed “property” can never belong to itself—an ecosystem, a deer. It’s already patently obvious that sexuality exists in more forms than we are given words for, but I haven’t met a lot of people who realize that possession is written into every facet of the sexuality we take for granted—that sexual desire necessitates objectifying someone, or that sexual activity is automatically using someone (because you can’t feel their pleasure, or something. Which strikes me as being profoundly ignorant of the naturalness of empathy and also smacks of those “you can never be altruistic because you’ll always feel good for doing it!” philosophical-reject arguments).

The possession philosophy of sexuality is written so deep that most people take it for granted that wanting to have sex with someone is reducing them to a set of genitalia regardless of their desire, or that true sexual desire can even adequately exist without your partner’s returning desire: sexuality as sharing, as encompassing rather than dominating, is almost nowhere to be seen. You like girls… or you like boys… or both, or maybe you like gurls and bois too. But sexual desire never exists for a person because of that person: it is directed at a group of people segregated by appearance and genital arrangement, or at an action (as with BDSM) instead of a person at all. Sexuality is directed at—the object of your desire.

And it’s so normalized. You have to be sexual; you can’t just not have any interest in sexuality because sexuality itself as seen as a separate, not-optional part of human nature as much as lungs or stomachs. And sexuality having a target also justifies the harassment of asexuals, because they just can’t help it.

Sexuality is a kind of human connection—a very popular one: unlike chimps, we don’t have an estrus period, which puts us into the same socio-sexual ring as bonobos. But as someone who lives with my best friend, who I am not sexually/romantically attracted to and never have been—as someone who’s been there and experienced love and sex, all of it is the same damn thing. Love is love is love, and that’s what we need: humans are fundamentally more social beings than we are intellectual ones, but like all animals, information—whether told or observed—informs our emotions instead of controlling them.

I think that, like nature, we strip sexuality of most of its meaning when we see it in this context, and when we use day-prison to indoctrinate children to see it the same way. I do not hate humans; I don’t think they have any “special” intelligence that should necessarily condemn them to suffering as most capitalists and pro-civs do. Maybe, by trying to define sexuality with these words (an inept and unwieldy tool), we are injuring it—as we would any other living thing handled carelessly and roughly with unyielding tools.

It’s a thought.

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