Nature is an ecoterrorist!

Posts tagged ‘unschooling’

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.

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 Ain’t Dumb: Language Fluency and Perceptions of Intelligence

It seems really obvious to me, having been a child, that children are not property. They’re not particularly intellectually or emotionally inferior, either—I have vivid memories of my childhood, actually. Ones where I can actually remember my own thought processes at the time. Most people don’t. They have vague memories of events: sights, sounds and feelings, but not of their thought processes.

At five years old, I went on a field trip to Six Flags in TX along with a Little Peoples’ Landing day-trip group and went on a roller-coaster, which basically made me hate the damn things for the rest of my life. As we were going up, I was sitting next to one of the women who worked at the LPL and I was nervous as hell; the shocks of our cars being levered up were rippling through my chest and I was so… focused. I decided, quite deliberately, to speak because I thought it would relieve some of the tension, so I mumbled over and over again: “I want my mommy.” I never called my mother “mommy;” it was completely unlike me to do this (to an observer)… it felt awkward calling her what I did at home (momma) and I wanted to convey it outwards: that I was freaked out. I did it fully aware of the social connotations of what I was saying—in part because those things were what I wanted anyone hearing me to think. All of this shit, going on inside my head.

And no, it wasn’t as laid out as this—that would have taken too long. All this recall-recognition thinky shit was going on inside my head all at once. Fucking simultaneously. That’s what I’m trying to convey—that my thoughts were incredibly intricate and self-aware, even from an age that adults think is basically drooling and pulling shit off shelves becuse it’s fucking shiny. I was calculating as hell, deliberately so.

I wasn’t a sociopath, however. When I was four, in Kindergarten, previously in the same school year (deductively; never had a head for timelines, but we moved out of TX after that), I got a “black card” one day at school. In a way that to this day, because of still wanting to rip my lungs out and throw them in the trash they feel so dirty from thinking about it, I have no qualms at all labeling “sexual abuse,” my mother came into my room, laid down behind me in my bed… and told me that she was either going to spank me or that I wouldn’t get to go to some amusement park in the area the next day with them.

And you know, that’s a pretty prime opportunity for a kid to be completely fucking self-centered—the war over not wanting to feel pain right now and wanting to go to Distracting Stimulation Fun Fun Land tomorrow. But I wasn’t having an issue with that, really—at least, that wasn’t all (or even most) of it. I was torn between several much stronger feelings: having her behind me, knowing I couldn’t escape, and feeling completely exposed and trapped and… pinned down. Wanting her out of my room as soon as possible because of how threatened I felt. And what finally made the decision for me—I didn’t want to inconvenience someone else, because although I knew the adults didn’t feel the same about the amusement park as I did, I didn’t want to force someone to miss out and have to stay home to take care of me.

That’s not what I’d call self-absorption, there. I fucking fought off feeling profoundly unsafe around my mother because I didn’t want to inconvenience somebody else. And remember: I was four. This was Texas. Supposedly, I wasn’t yet capable of such advanced powers of empathy. Or, at least, that I could convey via language—it’s a common mistake that people assume that if you do not speak their language fluently, you’re actually unintelligent.

But this is my point: my mental and emotional processes have not gotten more complex as I’ve gotten older. Because they were always complex as hell; years have added new intersections of conflict—sex, are there men around, will men judge me and threaten me, who’s seeing me, will somebody start a fight, tension, confrontation: avoidance/conscience, what about the cops, what if I can’t get away, will I lie awake all night brooding on this, will I be able to live with myself after this. But those intersections haven’t increased the intricacy of my thoughts; they’ve only made them more confused and less likely to move into action. More hesitant, not more intricate.

My thought processes—a lot of them, anyway, in the realm of critical thinking and not-believing-you-until-you-fucking-show-me—actually got more simplistic inside, and because of, school. I wasn’t supposed to question capitalism, or colonialism, or even the two-party system. I certainly wasn’t supposed to question the authority of my mother or my teachers.

So excuse me if, based on my vivid memories and experiences, I doubt the intellectual and emotional inferiority of animals. As a child, I was told that I was inferior, too, even when I could argue logic better than the goddamn adults—but my experience as an adult hasn’t borne that out: it’s proven it irrevocably wrong. I have no reason to believe that this prejudice against animals is right, and every wasn’t-handed-down-to-you-by-a-privileged-douche reason to believe otherwise. They said the same things about me, and I know they were wrong; and the way animals act, they’re wrong about that, too.

And, here’s a thought—maybe if your thought process wasn’t all that complex as a child, you’ve just deluded yourself into believing it’s gotten moreso because you think you’re smarter now, and you were never really all that complex or intelligent a person in the first place. That might be a bit offensive, but it’s a helluva lot better than deciding children deserve to be treated like property because they are Inferior Things.

Also, I refuse to believe that I am in any way a genius. It’s not that I rock—you just haven’t stopped sucking long enough to catch up to me. (Furthermore, it’s an interesting and useful way to defuse any latent I Am So Much Better Than You smuggity smug smugness. Angry I may be, but the anger kind of defuses my potential smugness when you are fucking torturing people to death because you think you’re so much better.)

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