Excuses

Facebook, June 13, 2015, fair use.

Fig. 1. Facebook, June 13, 2015, fair use.

The boy is saying goodbye to his calf, who is apparently about to be slaughtered. We can see that the calf responds to the boy’s affection, that whatever else, there is a relationship between them (figure 1). This is a sentient creature who is about to experience violence and a boy who is experiencing loss.

I have been told that such scenes are routine in the 4-H program, that this a way we desensitize children to the violence of our eating habits. But this is a violence not only to the boy and his calf. And the boy is not the only one being desensitized.

Raised in a meat-eating culture, we take this violence for granted. We accept it as normal, as natural, and as necessary. We, too, have been desensitized. Those of us who partake of animal products are complicit in this violence.

Inured to some violence, we more readily tolerate other violence. Vegetarian ecofeminism connects the violence against animals with the violence committed against the environment and the violence we commit against each other.[1]

We claim this violence is necessary. It’s always necessary. We wreak havoc on the environment in too many ways to count, even as doing so ruins our only home, even as doing so poses a dire threat to our own survival.[2]

We go to war and sing patriotic songs even as it is apparent that wars are principally about squabbles between rich and powerful elites over which of them will govern which territory, which of them will control which people, which of them will control which resources and even as it is apparent that war barely existed—if it existed at all—before we established an authoritarian system of social organization.[3]

We gleefully incarcerate people, even as doing so damages them further, damages their families, damages their communities, and even as doing so at best only marginally reduces crime.[4] We treat the poor as a threat, as undeserving, and resent every penny of assistance the government gives them.[5]

We say our economy depends on paying some people less than a living wage,[6] that we can’t honor all the human rights that have been a part of international law for decades,[7] and we try to deny that such violence is even violence.[8]

We rationalize it all as necessary and unavoidable. We refuse to challenge the ultimate causes of violence.[9] We refuse even to prosecute the most egregious criminals because, we say, their offenses are civil offenses rather than criminal offenses, but really because they are rich and powerful, and their crimes make them more so.[10]

We always have an excuse for violence. And so that boy cries as his calf is led off for slaughter. It’s necessary. It’s unavoidable.

  1. [1]Greta Gaard, “Vegetarian Ecofeminism: A Review Essay,” Frontiers 23, no. 3 (2002): 117-146.
  2. [2]Edward “Rocky” Kolb, et al., “Three minutes and counting,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January 19, 2015, http://thebulletin.org/three-minutes-and-counting7938
  3. [3]John H. Bodley, Victims of Progress, 5th ed. (Lanham, MD: AltaMira, 2008); William J. Burroughs, Climate Change in Prehistory: The End of the Reign of Chaos (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University, 2008); Gerhard Lenski, Power and Privilege: A Theory of Social Stratification (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966).
  4. [4]Ernest Drucker, A Plague of Prisons: The Epidemiology of Mass Incarceration in America (New York: New, 2011).
  5. [5]Herbert J. Gans, The War Against The Poor: The Underclass And Antipoverty Policy (New York: Basic, 1995).
  6. [6]George Lakoff, Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2002).
  7. [7]International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, December 16, 1966, United Nations, General Assembly resolution 2200A (XXI), http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cescr.htm
  8. [8]David P. Barash and Charles P. Webel, Peace and Conflict Studies (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2002).
  9. [9]Wanda D. McCaslin and Denise C. Breton, “Justice as Healing: Going Outside the Colonizers’ Cage,” in Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies, eds. Norman K. Denzin, Yvonna S. Lincoln, and Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008), 511-529.
  10. [10]Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004).

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