Saturday, September 30, 2017

I've been re-reading

an essay/article by Dr. Alison Bailey titled: "Despising an Identity They Taught Me to Claim". It's one of the pieces in an edited book: "Whiteness: Feminist Philosophical Reflections".

Dr. Bailey took the title of a book of poems by Michelle Cliff (Claiming an Identity They Taught Me to Despise) and reworked the wording around to reflect the content of her essay. When I looked up Michelle Cliff to find a link for her I learned she was the long-time partner of Adrienne Rich (who is a writer and poet that I've read before...it's a much smaller world than I often think).

In the essay/article, there's a sentence that just jumped at me, it goes:
"These defensive moves are, to use Ruth Frankenberg's (1993) phrase, "power-evasive repertoires" designed to alleviate the white guilt, pain, and self-hatred that almost always accompanies privilege awareness."
 That sentence, especially the part about "guilt, pain, and self-hatred" resonates with me because I've been wrestling with feelings like that (they wax and wane in strength, but never really go away) because of some of my social identities (white, male, human) ever since I first experienced what Victoria Foote-Blackman called "The Fluther Transversion".

My "discomfort" (a euphamism) over my obliviousness to how we humans behave toward our sister/brother Earthlings began almost 10 years ago, then several years ago my "discomfort" received a serious rocket booster of intensity when I started grappling with my whiteness (and maleness) and how we white men have been being giant a**holes regarding race/racism and sexism. There's something bizarre and disorienting about being a white, male, human and being so adamantly opposed to the numerous awfulnesses that originates from those who occupy those same social identities. Jeez.

Dr. Bailey's essay made me think about the fact that her dismay with her white identity is (in some small measure) ameliorated by the fact that (at least here in the U.S.) white women had no formal political power (being able to vote) until 1920. I don't mean that white women necessarily comported themselves with compassion and kindness in reference to race/racism up until that time (they really didn't, at least most didn't)...but...it is the case that they had no voting power from the founding of the nation till then.

They (white women) have been chipping away at their decreased formal responsibility because of their voting behavior ever since and they really blew any claim to that small refuge as a result of the outcome of last year's presidential election where the majority of them (who voted) supported the current occupant of the white house. The delusional destructiveness that underlies such voting behavior is...well...stunning.

It's like they said hey...we (white women) will vote for an openly racist man (even though he's misogynistic) over one of our own. And they did this even though this is the first time ever there was a good chance that they could have placed a woman (white though she is) in the presidential office. 

There's something sort of breath-taking in the degree of whatever it is that supports such anti-compassion and absence of commitment to fairness and equality on the part of white women. (I'm not even mentioning white men, I don't have any words to describe what I think about most of us)

I recently ran across a bit of mind-boggling (to me at least) information which noted that never, since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Legislation (which was sponsored and signed into law by LBJ), has the majority of white people in this country voted for a democrat for president. What a deplorable and sh*tty statement about us white folks here in the U.S....especially considering some of the demeaning and pitiful white men the repubs have offered as presidential candidates.

I realize I write much more about the ugliness of racism in this blog than I used to, it's not because I'm any less passionate and committed to the notion of not harming our sister/brother Earthlings than I used to be...rather it's (in part) because it seems absurd to think that we're going to behave decently toward them while at the same time upholding white supremacist and misogynistic behaviors and ideals. It could be done, I suppose, but such an imagined situation is too morally deplorable and ridiculous to even be considered (to me, anyway).

Naw, we white folks gotta quit engaging in such ugly harmfulness and we gotta start by working towards treating our sister/brother humans with fairness and equality...that's way way way way overdue. There's nothing says we can't live vegan and also work to oppose and resist racism and sexism.

But...it can't be done just by thinking good thoughts...it's much more difficult and unsettling (see the sentence from Dr. Bailey) than that.

We white folks here in the U.S. (and worldwide for that matter) have devoted much more effort to disguising and obfuscating our recognition of and responsibility for our racism and sexism than we have devoted to disguising our lethalness toward those Earthlings we call "animals".

I am a lot more flim-flammed and confused by my own "whiteness" and "maleness" and all that entails than I am by my "humanness". That's mostly because my culture works really really hard to convince me that being a "good guy" doesn't take much effort (it says that I just gotta have "good intentions") but it's a hell of a lot more complicated and hard to grapple with than our dominant cultural narratives would sucker you (me) into believing.

I'm appalled at thinking and living according to choices made by people who lived before me and who I think were really morally deficient, ya know? (of course I've been the goofy one who swallowed their ugly harmfulness without deeply thinking about it)

It's much more demanding (for me, anyway) to figure out how to identify and comprehend and work toward trying to interrupt racism and sexism (and additional "isms") than it is to figure out that we gotta quit hurting our sister/brother Earthlings. If you think living vegan is tough...if you're white...just start getting serious about studying race/racism here in the U.S. and you'll find out what tough really means. 

Does that make sense to you? It seems to hold together to me...but...I wouldn't be surprised if I were missing somethings.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Intent and Impact.

It seems to be that we (and I include myself in this mess) seem to have profound difficulty comprehending that intent amounts to almost nothing when weighed against the impact of our behavior.

The photo is of the feet of a bunny recently brought to Heartland Rabbit Rescue by a "well intentioned" human who said he "couldn't care for" the bunny anymore due to his work demands and wanted a "good home" for the bunny. He seemed to "care"...at least he didn't dump the bunny onto the street. That's not nothing...and yet...his "good" intentions didn't mean an absence of avoidable suffering for the bunny.




The bunny (and the bunny's bother) had been enclosed in a small space with a wire floor for nearly 4 years...with the subsequent neglect and damage to their feet. He said he didn't trim their nails because he was afraid of hurting them.

Well intentioned? Apparently so. The cause of suffering and pain...yup.

Whatever your intentions might be...for the recipient of your intentions what counts is the impact of your action (or lack of action). Intentions are mostly stories (fantasies) you tell yourself to convince yourself of your "goodness" or "innocence".

Don't misunderstand...mean people doing mean things is terrible...but what might even be worse are people who think they're "good" all the while they're doing awful things (or failing to do the right thing).

At least an out and out villain is recognizable as such...folks who believe themselves to be "good" while promoting harm...well...that seems to confuse the hell out of us.

Ever wonder why we apparently have such difficulty comprehending that the two (intent versus impact) have little or no relation to one another?

I suspect, at least in part that's because societies structured by oppression encourage this kind of dysfunctional thinking because that way awfulness can keep on keeping on...but...all of us who participate in awfulness and uphold and support it can keep on keeping on thinking we're "good people" even though destruction and harm and horror surround us...somehow we think it is not associated with us and what we do or fail to do.


Advice from an old man (which means I've lived a long time and thought about many things)....enjoy your "good" intentions if you want but realize they count for nearly nothing when compared to the impact of what you do (or fail to do).

That's your lesson in demystifying living for today.