Thomas Paine’s Corner – January 2nd, 2009
Norm Phelps and Steve Best exchange thoughts on their differences concerning direct action and alliance politics in the animal liberation movement
We include the following email and thoughtful exchanges between noted authors Norm Phelps and Steven Best in the hope that the yin-yang flow and point-counterpoint arguments might interest our readers and stimulate wider debate on these issues. Rather than pretend that controversial differences – such as over direct action and alliance politics – do not divide this broad “animal advocacy movement” into separate and conflicted zones, or, worse, suppress any mention of controversial debates in a way that brings the menacing chill of the Green Scare into our conference rooms, meeting halls, and mailing lists, as if differences had to be steamrolled by dogma, conformity, and bureaucracy. This dialogue shows how topics such as direct action, violence, and social revolution can be openly and intelligently broached without acrimony and recrimination, without defaming or fear of being demonized; in the spirit of friendship rather than under a cloud of fear, stereotyping, and objectifying judgment. The exchange began in late January, when Phelps sent an appreciative but critical response to Best’s tough but nonetheless positive review of Phelps’s recent book, The Longest Struggle: Animal Advocacy from Pythagoras to PETA in the last issue of The Journal for Critical Animal Studies. Despite Phelps’ intent that his missive be for private rather than public reading, Best was sufficiently impressed by the warmth, humanity, and intelligence of his new interlocutor to want to respond, engage in a lengthy dialogue and debate, and ultimately to publish the exchanges, and Phelps graciously agreed. Despite a mutual recognition that some of their core beliefs were incommensurable, clearly their similarities outweigh their differences, such as bond them in their unwavering commitment to animal liberation. But whether in agreement or disagreement, their dialogue unfolded in a context of mutual support, respect, and stimulation. With the exception of Phelps’ initial letter, these exchanges were edited (at the expense of existential flattening) to maintain focus on philosophical, political, and tactical issues, rather than on personal matters such as health, travel, and cats (as interesting as the cat conversations were!).
The entire article is here: http://www.bestcyrano.org/THOMASPAINE/?p=1497#more-1497
Thursday, January 1, 2009
A Fox River Grove art teacher who was fired last year for telling his students about veganism, is still causing controversy.
Last month, Dave Warwak contacted some of his former students over the Internet and asked them to meet him at a Fox River Grove restaurant. He passed out 20 copies of his self-published book, “A Peep Show for Children Only“.
According to published reports, at least one parent complained to police, upset that a picture of an unidentified group of students in the book included her daughter. Police investigated the incident and confiscated six books, but no charges were filed in the case.
Warwak was fired from his job at Fox River Grove Middle School last September. He was initially suspended with pay after he offered copies of the book “The Food Revolution” to some of his students. He was reprimanded for giving out literature that was not authorized by the Illinois Board of Education and the school board later voted 7-0 to fire him. District officials said during his dismissal hearing that he was teaching veganism instead of art.
But Warwak said he was trying to teach humane education and get kids to have compassion for animals. According to transcripts from his dismissal hearing, he refused to teach unless all posters promoting drinking milk were removed from the school, and he also refused to stop speaking to the students about his beliefs.
“I want these kids to care,” Warwak said. “So I create lessons that teach kids to care, and I incorporate these things into art.”
Warwak’s 487-page book is available for purchase on the Internet. It contains transcripts of Warwak’s dealings with the school board over his firing, some of his art, and correspondence with some of his former students.
“People use the word lifestyle to describe veganism, but it’s more of a philosophy,” Warwak told NBC5 Next. “I think when you don’t eat animal products and you don’t use them in any way in your life, that’s what you strive for. It’s very hard in today’s world.”
Warwak said he began to tell his 5th through 8th grades students about the health benefits of a plant-based diet because he wanted to show them the other side of eating meat. He had about 80 students in his classes during the 2006-2007 school year.
“If you go to school and you learn about vegetarianism, veganism, and meat-eating and make your own choice isn’t that better than having people do it for you? That is what school is supposed to be,” Warwak said.
Warwak has appealed the school board’s decision to fire him. Fox River Grove principal Tim Mahaffey said he was told by the Illinois Board of Education hearing officer not to comment about the case.
“We are waiting for a decision from the hearing officer,” Mahaffey said via telephone.
According to an article in the Northwest Herald, the parent who complained about her daughter’s appearance in Warwak’s book could file civil charges.
But Warwak remains undaunted. He says throughout history, people with radical ideas have suffered a worse fate then he has.
“They didn’t put me to death — they fired me,” Warwak said.
Normally intelligent fine people never question much of anything under the trance of meat and dairy–especially when coupled with the idea–whatever the status quo is, must be normal and right. Conformity and denial allows otherwise good people to eat meat and drink milk unimpeded as no locust in a swarm feels individually responsible for the ravaged crops left in its wake.
People should be outraged at what the meat and dairy industries have done to our parents, us, and now our children in schools–the very places our children trust more than anything to deliver truth and to model how to behave and survive in the world.
We have been bought and sold long ago and now they are coming after our children.
Sad to think, most parents are ignorant and apathetic as they have adopted schools’ “they are only kids” attitude that further explains “we can’t change, this is how we were raised”.
We have choices. We can go with the status quo and do to our children what the meat and dairy industries have done to our parents and us; or, we can avoid the nonsense and tell children the truth about meat and dairy today. Silence is complicity.
source: Vegan School 101
Of speciesism, capitalism, and shaking their foundations
December 28th, 2008
By Jason Miller
Even the most ardent reactionaries, deluded ‘patriots,’ and apathetic cynics, whose myopic, Panglossian perspectives ensure that they continue to reflexively genuflect to the deeply criminal enterprise of American Capitalism and rationalize the savage imperialism of US foreign policy, are beginning to concede that we are in the midst of a crisis of epic proportions.
So lack of awareness, which is usually the first obstacle to solving a problem, isn’t the real enemy here. Our chief foe is a swarm of greed-driven, self-absorbed, mean-spirited locust-like human beings who are dedicated to “reforming” and perpetuating capitalism, the very system that has led us to this woeful state of environmental, economic, social, and political affairs.
Capitalism, the systemization of greed, selfishness, subjugation, and exploitation camouflaged by the narcotic of consumerism, the irresistible illusion of equal opportunity for all, and its ostensible compatibility with liberal democracy, has seduced hundreds of millions of people into ignoring its contradictions, injustices, and malevolence.
Capitalism has inflicted deep wounds upon the Earth and is the persistent infection that must be eradicated to avert the sixth mass extinction, the ongoing torture and murder of billions of non-human animals, an acceleration of Climate Change, further economic collapse, mass starvation, severe shortages of potable water, perpetual resource wars, and a host of other catastrophic events.
While much of its foul stench emanates from the United States, the foul odor of capitalism has wafted its way into the nostrils of nearly every citizen on the globe. Capitalism’s cockroach-like apologists, propagandists, beneficiaries, enforcers, and power brokers scurry in and out of nearly every nook and cranny of the planet.
Global and dominant as it is, capitalism is the culmination and perpetuator of a number of vile social, economic, political, and cultural elements and dynamics, many of which began rearing their ugly heads with the advent of agriculture, domestication and civilization. Starting about 10,000 years ago, as humans became “civilized,” we alienated ourselves from nature, psychologically enabling us to exploit non-human animals and savagely abuse the Earth for our enrichment, amusement and comfort.
As a collective, we human animals have hubristically determined that we are the master species, endowing ourselves with the right to dominate, enslave, torture, humiliate, murder, and eat any sentient being on the planet (with the almost universal exception being the taboo of cannibalism–which is a bit perplexing considering the numerous other evils we inflict upon one another and the fact that human over-population is a tremendous problem).
Speciesism, the mental perversion that afflicts most people–causing them to view themselves as superior to all other species, is the one of the most blatantly exploitative and reprehensible of all human ideologies. Yet it remains “socially acceptable.” Inextricably linked with the bourgeois belief in the supremacy of profit and property over life, speciesism reveals the ferocity and grotesquery of savage capitalism. Animal exploiting capitalists of all stripes, including ranchers, biomedical researchers, meat processors, egg producers, fast food restaurateurs, and their ilk spend billions of dollars on agitprop each year to ensure that both the law and those who consume their products continue to view non-human animals as property, worthy of no more consideration than a lawn-mower. In fact, many people treat their Lawn Boys far better than factory farmers treat “their” sows.
Remember that human slavery, in which certain members of the human species were reduced to the status of property, was once institutionalized. The United States, the self-proclaimed land of the free (and not coincidentally the nexus of parasitic and decaying capitalism), was one of the last “advanced” nations to abolish slavery. And abolition wouldn’t have occurred had it not been for great sacrifices by many people of conscience and a civil war. Such is the pernicious and relentlessly cruel nature of capitalism.
Patriarchy and racism were once institutionalized too. Yet despite the fact that women and minorities have made significant legal, political, and social strides, the white man still wields tremendous power in this world, much of it economic in nature.
Overt and unapologetic imperialism and colonialism may be relics of the past, but conquest and subjugation still thrive under the guise of humanitarian intervention, loans to developing nations requiring corporate-friendly economic reforms, and aid to puppet regimes amenable to the rape of their country. All this to satisfy capitalism’s insatiable appetite for new markets, cheap labor, and natural resources.
Many people are concerned about the devastating and noxious impact we humans are having upon the Earth. But thanks to corporate green-washing, the globalization of the American Way of Life, and the deep allegiance many people have to capitalism (a system that is based on infinite growth on a finite planet), the rape and plunder of Mother Nature continues at an alarming rate. Relentlessly bludgeoned by the unquestioned supremacy of capitalist “ideals,” potential solutions that might interfere significantly with growth and profit are beaten to death before they can fully emerge from the womb.
Meanwhile, anti-capitalist radicals, including Marxists, socialists, anarchists, deep environmentalists, anarcho-primitivists, animal liberationists, members of indigenous movements, feminists, and many others who recognize that the problems we face are systemic in nature and that capitalism must go, remain marginalized, persecuted, ridiculed, vilified, and perhaps worst of all, divided.
An example of the agitprop the ruling elite successfully deploys (despite its obvious absurdity) to throw the true left to the margins of society. Obama is, AT BEST, center left on the political spectrum, yet the deeply indoctrinated amongst the working class–who remain faithful to their capitalist exploiters–swallow this nonsensical portrayal of him as a communist as if it was gospel….
American Capitalism’s power elite, comprised of the upper strata of the economic, corporate, political, and military hierarchies, enjoy tremendous advantages over those who oppose them. Despite their obvious economic and military might, their most powerful weapon is actually their seemingly omnipotent abilities to prevent any ideology from challenging the national religion of capitalism, to maintain the allegiance of most of the working class, and to demonize those who dare to blaspheme against their economic rape.
In a recent interview, internationally-renowned progressive political analyst Michael Parenti described the means by which the ruling class manipulates the masses into supporting such an obviously wretched system:
“Through control of the universe of discourse, including the media, the professions, the universities, the publishing industry, many of the churches, the consumer society, the job market, and even the very socialization of our children and the prefiguring of our own perceptions, the ruling interests are able to exercise a prevailing ideological control that excludes any reasoned critique of the dominant paradigm.”
It is imperative that those of us who recognize that electing a Democrat who is a racial minority and who talks a progressive game is a band-aid, at best, and that the real solution is to drive a stake through the heart of vampiric capitalism by uniting and by finding a means to take on the corporate media in such a way that we begin winning significant numbers of hearts and minds.
Anti-capitalist academics, writers, publishers, organizers, speakers, community leaders, politicians, and activists need effective conduits through which they can meet, communicate, educate one another, derive a sense of solidarity, and coordinate their efforts.
It is essential that we break down the perceived barrier between intellectuals and activists so that we can unify against regressive forces that thrive on inequality, injustice, environmental abuse, speciesism, and hierarchy—or in other words let’s come together and crush those loathsome bastards who prosper via the domination and abuse of the Earth and its sentient inhabitants.
Derrick Jensen has called on rational people of conscience to form a culture of resistance against the soulless insanity of a status quo that empowers and rewards those who are the most sociopathic and the most devoid of empathy. And if we are to create this culture of resistance and strive to forge an egalitarian, just, ecological, non-speciesist and democratic society, it is crucial that we expand our moral circle and bring animal liberation into the fold.
Aside from the morally indefensible fact that we enslave, torture, and murder sentient beings who feel pain and fear just as we do, consider Charles Patterson’s powerful argument he advanced in Eternal Treblinka. Patterson demonstrated that there is a frighteningly thin line between the abuse, objectification, and industrial torture we routinely inflict upon cows, for example, and that which we inflict upon other members of our own species. Many of the techniques the Nazis employed in the Holocaust came directly from the livestock and meat-packing industries.
Because our delusional notion of superiority is so deeply ingrained in our psyches, even many people of good conscience ignore the fact that non-human animals, who have no voice, no legal rights, and no viable means to defend themselves, are the ultimate victims of the ‘might makes right’ capitalist mentality. As the radical front line of a culture of resistance against a brutal social structure that thrives on abuse and exploitation, we need to attack the problem at its root. Leaving racism, sexism, classism and even Zionism in the dust, speciesism is the most enduring, savage, and widely accepted of the cultural ethos that enable capitalism to thrive, as it enables morally retarded wretches to pitilessly damn billions upon billions of innocent beings to a nightmare of Hobbesian proportions.
If we truly intend to subvert the dominant rapacious paradigm and replace it with something that will serve the greater good and heal the Earth, we must put animal liberation on our agenda.
So, how can we create a formidable culture of resistance and establish animal rights as one of the pillars of the radical agenda?
The Transformative Studies Institute (TSI) at http://transformativestudies.org/, a radical educational entity that “fosters interdisciplinary research that will bridge multidisciplinary theory with activism in order to encourage community involvement that will attempt to alleviate social problems,” is sponsoring Thomas Paine’s Corner (TPC) at www.bestcyrano.org/THOMASPAINE/, which partners with Cyrano’s Journal Online (www.bestcyrano.org) to provide a media platform for radical writers, scholars, poets, playwrights, activists, and groups. No significant social movement will take place if the intelligentsia is cloistered in ivory towers, alienated from the activists who need them for education and guidance. We have an abundance of theory, but a dearth of praxis. TSI and TPC intend to get ideas into the heads of those who will translate them into action!
Both TSI and TPC will work in conjunction with the Institute for Critical Animal Studies (ICAS) at http://www.criticalanimalstudies.org/ to promote “critical scholarly dialogue and research on the principles and practices of animal advocacy, animal protection, and animal-related policies in the fields of social sciences and humanities.” ICAS, TSI, and TPC will push to catalyze the inclusion of animal liberation into the broader radical agenda through critical pedagogy and again through facilitating the conversion of theory into praxis.
With noted scholars, activists, thinkers, and writers such as Steve Best, William Blum, Ward Churchill, Anthony Nocella II, Richard J. White, John Asimakopoulos, Lisa Kemmerer, Gary Corseri, Jason Bayless, Michael Parenti, Adam Engel, Ed Duvin, Gore Vidal, Richard Kahn, Joe Bageant, John Steppling, and many others behind this ambitious under-taking, the project has great potential. We desperately need ventures like this one to succeed.
As Adorno wrote in Minima Moralia, “A breed of men has secretly grown up that hungers for the compulsion and restriction imposed by the absurd persistence of domination.”
Capitalism and speciesism are woven into most of the world’s cultural and socioeconomic DNA. This ensures that the sociopathic “breed of men” to which Adorno referred enjoy the perpetual existence of the “absurd persistence of domination.” Which in turn is ensuring the rapid acceleration of widespread suffering and calamitous events.
As radical scholars or activists, we face the daunting task of exterminating capitalism and speciesism. And time grows short. Yet we can find solace in the fact that resistance is NOT futile!
Jason Miller is a tenacious anti-capitalist and vegan animal liberationist. He is also the founder and editor of Thomas Paine’s Corner, associate editor for Cyrano’s Journal Online, blog director for The Transformative Studies Institute and associate editor for the Journal for Critical Animal Studies.
TSI and ICAS do not endorse the content of TPC. TPC and CJO are independent media sources for writers to express themselves in an open democratic manner. TPC, CJO, ICAS and TSI do not intend to encourage illegal/unethical activity or behavior. The information herein is solely intended for entertainment, educational, research, academic, or other lawful purposes.