We have failed the test

A test that any species in an ecosystem must pass in order to survive is to successfully adapt to its ecosystem. Humans have, since the Neolithic, imagined we are different, that we can adapt the ecosystem to our needs instead.[1] This is very likely a deadly arrogance on our part as climate change is but one of several existential threats we now face.[2]

I have now lost hope that we can pass this test. And yes, the U.S. presidential election outcome is a factor in this. The premise of vegetarian ecofeminism is that how we treat each other is connected to how we treat the environment and how we treat non-human animals. These are not coherently distinguishable.[3] As pattrice jones explains two of these relations:

Speciesism and sexism are so closely related that one might say that they are the same thing under different guises. Women and animals, along with land and children, have historically been seen as the property of male heads of households. Patriarchy (male control of political and family life) and pastoralism (animal herding as a way of life) appeared on the historical stage together and cannot be separated, because they are justified and perpetuated by the same ideologies and practices.[4]

jones goes on to explain how “[m]ilk is a feminist issue,” “[r]ape is an animal issue,”[5] “[c]ockfighting is a feminist issue,” and “[d]omestic violence is an animal issue” because of how these issues are intertwined in how women are treated and how animals are treated. “And the list goes on and on,” she writes.[6] And she doesn’t reach even the half of it.

Consider, for example, how abused and underpaid slaughterhouse workers[7] take out their frustrations on animals about to be slaughtered.[8] Consider as well how we attempt to dominate, commit violence upon, and exploit the earth. These are all symptoms of the same underlying disease.

Now, as I watch the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election, it is apparent (and unsurprising) that President-elect Donald Trump will exacerbate these power relationships. But I have also been deeply disappointed by the response on the left, which has been to demonize and vilify white men. Where I had thought the examples I had seen before the election were exceptions, I have now seen that they are the rule.[9] Which is to say that there is no space in the U.S. political spectrum that is truly inclusive and that truly cares about all oppressed humans. This, of course, does not reach the rest of the world, except in that U.S. policy has so great an impact on so much of the world. But as I look around, I am hard-pressed to see many places where we treat each other better.

We cannot even begin to unpack the problems we face and we cannot even begin to save ourselves if we cannot treat each other as human beings. I see now that we can’t. Which is to say that we have failed our test. And now where before I acknowledged the extreme unlikelihood that we could save ourselves, I am now persuaded that we can’t.

  1. [1]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); Max Oelschlaeger, The Idea of Wilderness (New Haven, CT: Yale University, 1991).
  2. [2]Nathan Curry, “Humanity Is Getting Verrrrrrry Close to Extinction,” Vice, August 21, 2015, http://www.vice.com/read/near-term-extinctionists-believe-the-world-is-going-to-end-very-soon; Dahr Jamail, “Are We Falling Off the Climate Precipice? Scientists Consider Extinction,” TomDispatch, December 17, 2013, http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175785/tomgram%3A_dahr_jamail%2C_the_climate_change_scorecard/; Cheryl Jones, “Frank Fenner sees no hope for humans,” Australian, June 16, 2010, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/frank-fenner-sees-no-hope-for-humans/story-e6frgcjx-1225880091722; Edward “Rocky” Kolb et al., “Three minutes and counting,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January 19, 2015, http://thebulletin.org/three-minutes-and-counting7938; Rachel Roubein, “Doomsday Clock one minute closer to doom,” McClatchy, January 10, 2012, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/01/10/135466/doomsday-clock-one-minute-closer.html?rh=1; Ian Simpson, “Doomsday Clock stays unchanged at three minutes to midnight,” Planet Ark, January 27, 2016, http://planetark.org/wen/74074; Robert Socolow et al., “An open letter to President Obama: The time on the Doomsday Clock is five minutes to midnight,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January 14, 2013, http://thebulletin.org/open-letter-president-obama-time-doomsday-clock-five-minutes-midnight; Phil Torres and Peter Boghossian, “The Looming Extinction of Humankind, Explained,” Vice, August 18, 2016, http://motherboard.vice.com/en_au/read/armageddon-comma-explained
  3. [3]Greta Gaard, “Vegetarian Ecofeminism: A Review Essay,” Frontiers 23, no. 3 (2002): 117-146.
  4. [4]pattrice jones, “Mothers with Monkeywrenches: Feminist Imperatives and the ALF,” in Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals, Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella II, eds. (New York: Lantern, 2004), 139-140.
  5. [5]pattrice jones, “Mothers with Monkeywrenches: Feminist Imperatives and the ALF,” in Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals, Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella II, eds. (New York: Lantern, 2004), 140.
  6. [6]pattrice jones, “Mothers with Monkeywrenches: Feminist Imperatives and the ALF,” in Terrorists or Freedom Fighters? Reflections on the Liberation of Animals, Steven Best and Anthony J. Nocella II, eds. (New York: Lantern, 2004), 140.
  7. [7]Chris Grezo, “Factory farms are the new sweatshops,” New Internationalist, November 20, 2012, http://www.newint.org/blog/2012/11/20/factory-farms-are-new-sweatshops/
  8. [8]For examples, see Peter Singer and Karen Dawn, “Echoes of Abu Ghraib in Chicken Slaughterhouse,” Los Angeles Times, July 25, 2004, http://articles.latimes.com/2004/jul/25/opinion/oe-singer25; David Zahniser, “Central Valley slaughterhouse closed over inhumane treatment,” Los Angeles Times, August 22, 2012, http://articles.latimes.com/2012/aug/22/local/la-me-0822-slaughterhouse-20120822
  9. [9]David Benfell, “Why Donald Trump won,” Not Housebroken, November 9, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=9093; David Benfell, “Making enemies of the white working class,” Not Housebroken, November 10, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=9105; David Benfell, “Democrats must own Donald Trump,” Not Housebroken, November 13, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=9112; David Benfell, “Farewell to the left,” Not Housebroken, November 28, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=9133

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David Benfell holds a Ph.D. in Human Science from Saybrook University. He earned a M.A. in Speech Communication from CSU East Bay in 2009 and has studied at California Institute of Integral Studies. He is an anarchist, a vegetarian ecofeminist, a naturist, and a Taoist.

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