The Red Scare: Once More, With Feeling

June 5, 2011

Last night, I had the pleasure to go see a talk by Will Potter of Green is the New Red at a local vegan coffee shop. Potter is an investigative journalist who has made a name for himself by tirelessly exposing the post-9/11 erosion of civil liberties in this country. After the talk, we schmoozed for a little bit and I picked up a copy of his excellent new book in which he tells the stories of non-violent animal liberationists and environmentalists whom the FBI has aggressively targeted as “the number one domestic terrorist threat.” Using legislation quite literally written by pharmaceutical and agribusiness corporations, the federal government has applied “terrorism enhancements” to the prosecution of activists who are pushing the envelope of the green movement.

If you know much about the history of the FBI, you are already aware that they have existed more or less as a social movement busting organization since their inception as the General Intelligence Division in 1919. At that time, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer handed over half a million dollars to a young J. Edgar Hoover and told him to “fight radicalism.” We all know where that went. Historically, the U.S. government has debuted repressive techniques first on easy to marginalize minorities before casting a wider net. The Palmer Raids occurred in an era when hardworking Americans, many of them immigrants, were attempting to reorganize society in a way that they felt was more just and equitable. While we should avoid making direct equivalencies, there is a clear parallel between that historical moment and this one.

As Will Potter will tell you, the issue here is not whether you agree with the politics of vegan abolitionism or earth liberation. In the past few years, we have seen the slow emergence of a national conversation on what it means to be a sustainable society. The world is overwhelmed by war, violence, ecological degradation, alienation and indignity. Things cannot continue as they are if the human race is going to make it out of the 21st century. We need real systemic change, not the rebranding of the same ignominious policies that have impoverished the world.

As this consciousness shift coalesces into action, we find ourselves running up against the inflexibility of a system where the pursuit of profit has killed the drive for innovation. It’s species-wide maladaptivity and we’re borrowing to pay for the privilege. As humanity struggles to evolve in a rapidly changing landscape, entrenched corporate and political interests push back against us with everything they have. Why? Because if we grow into something greater than mere consumers, then the primitively accumulated wealth and privilege of the upper class will wither into irrelevance.

It’s great to argue over visions of a peaceful new world sprouting from the ashes of the empire. These are discussions that need to happen and I find it incredibly encouraging how much they abound these days, even in completely mainstream locales. But there’s something we need to push out of the way before any of us can begin laying cornerstones. If we approach this monumental task through the framework of consumerism, then we have already lost. We can’t afford to let a vested interest in stagnation sell our ideas back to us, de-fanged and castrated. Don’t let them tell you that spending a few more dollars a pound for “humane meat” is the answer to that sinking feeling in your gut when you first saw raw footage of a steer bleeding out on the kill floor of an Iowa abbatoir. You can’t buy revolution at the supermarket. You can’t vote it into office. You won’t read about it in articles from the vanguard party’s newspaper. There will be no hyperlinks to it on this blog. Revolution starts with taking responsibility for changing yourself from the inside out, not giving it up to someone else in the hopes that they’ll change the world to suit you. Real change isn’t safe but you’re not the only one who wants it. Look around. Talk to people. Find something you can lock arms over. And if you’re the last one out of the era of corporatist militarism, please make sure you turn out the lights. After all, we’re going green.

Advertisements

Changes to the blog!

May 29, 2011

Hey, friends.

Carolyn and I just wanted to let you know that we’ll be making some changes to the way we run our blog over the coming weeks. We initially started this project because we were so disturbed by the intellectual dishonesty of The Vegetarian Myth. As frustrating as it has been at times to engage with such willfully obtuse writing, we feel like we’ve done a credible job of deconstructing much of the text. Our past posts will stand as a contribution to a growing knowledge base compiled by those who are skeptical of the ecological sustainability and ethical legitimacy of paleo-diets.

Food politics are more of a national conversation than ever now and that is a good thing. Even if they’re not sure what the answer should be, more and more people are trying to shake off the nightmare of agribusiness cartels, monocrops and CAFOs that have typified the last century’s food production systems. As radical vegans, we feel compelled to take part in this conversation on how to transition away from a manifestly unsustainable system. Specifically, we want the world to understand that there is no such thing as an “ethical” mode of food production that depends on the systematic murder, reproductive and sexual domination, castration and confinement of nonhuman animals.

Naturally, the marketing agencies employed by those aforementioned agribusinesses want to have their say as well. With budgets in the millions, you can bet that their voices will be heard. Major corporations seeking to appear ahead of the curve are aggressively selling us images of “happy” meat and dairy and, with them, a lower threshold of guilt. Carolyn and I have been at turns disturbed and disheartened by recent trends in what seems to be an anti-movement of reactionary ex-vegans and vegetarians. What made Lierre Keith’s book infuriating enough for us to dedicate so many hours of our lives to its deconstruction is that (presumably) she’s not on the take from corporate marketers! Rather, she purports to come from within our own movement: a self-described ecofeminist who nevertheless believes that other creatures actually appreciate her desire to violate their bodies owing to a connection she projects upon them.

But at the end of the day, though we feel the need to debunk her neurotic and manipulative narrative, we don’t find her personal contribution to food politics all that noteworthy. There comes a point with projects like this at which you either have to change topics or write a book. The Vegetarian Myth does not merit a rejoinder on that level.

What follows from here is going to be our contribution to the ongoing discussion of what our food should be, where it should come from and how it should get to us. We will be lending context to the status quo account of current affairs with the hope of enlivening our readers’ understandings of the ongoing relevance of radical veganism. We’ll be making connections between animal liberation, anti-capitalism, human rights, feminism, and other modes. We’ll be continuing to expand upon the conversation about ecology, agriculture, veganism, and carnism– especially carnism that’s wrapped in radical language. We will also be soliciting essays and articles from outside contributors on their own personal stories of ethical living and ecological wisdom. And if Lierre Keith says anything that’s just too dumb to pass up, we’ll probably comment on it.

Check back here soon for new content.

Peace,
Carolyn and Alex


James McWilliams: What’s Being Butchered Here is Logic

May 27, 2011

James McWilliams’ recent piece in The Atlantic has been making the online rounds recently. I read it this morning and thought he highlighted a few interesting points about nonhuman animals that often get passed over when people are discussing sustainability and food production. Namely, McWilliams discusses the ways in which Darwinism problematized the binary human/nonhuman paradigm which, for a stone age throwback, still gets a lot of play in certain quarters.

When humans and non-human animals are part of a continuum, rather than qualitatively distinct forms of life, human meat-eaters confront a serious quandary. It becomes incumbent upon us to forge a contemporary justification for carnivorous behavior. Aristotle and Genesis will no longer do. By undermining the long-held basis of inherent human superiority over non-human animals, the science of evolution obliterated the framework within which thoughtful carnivores long justified their behavior. As it now stands, human meat-eaters, unless they reject modern science, support the killing of non-human animals without the slightest intellectual or ethical grounding.

I can’t say I’m a fan of foodie-ism as it pertains to real solutions for the problem of food production, distribution and sustainability. It rankles just a little bit to see people turning food into an expensive hobby when you know that over a billion humans worldwide are starving, to say less of the 45 billion nonhumans being murdered every year for a nutritional need that does not exist. I’m glad that there seems to be a consciousness shift away from CAFOs and industrial monocultures, but sometimes well-meaning people can be frustratingly blind to matters of class or species privilege. Food is not a toy. We live and die by it. Or, as Josh Harper put it: “reading a Michael Pollan book doesn’t excuse you (or him) from having to consider the lives you are taking and the suffering you contribute to.”