14 April 2015

The ironies of reason and rationality

In preparing for my Phd General exams next month, I have just come across a text that perhaps I should have read months ago. It's somewhat irrelevant for what I want to say here which text it is, since it has only confirmed things that I have been reflecting upon and reading about since first embarking into Animal Studies and all topics connected to it just about a year ago.

The unfortunate thing is, I'm sure most of you who just read that last sentence have now had some form of the thought, "Oh, so she works with animals, or on animal ethics." Yes, but no. The thing is, and what this text I'm in the middle of is making glaringly obvious, is that we don't get to choose between animals or humans. We need them and their environment (which just so happens to be our own, too) and yet they are completely disregarded by us in the ways that the Western world deals with them and with their bodies. We are trashing the earth (whether we see it or not) and as soon as they are gone, we will be soon to follow. "What of science?" you ask. Well, the thing this text is reminding me is that we haven't actually adapted to our changing environment. We still eat the most meat in the world in the US (by a LANDSLIDE.) and are so used to being able to buy strawberries whether it's Christmas or summer that we don't contemplate what it means to produce or import them from the places that can grow these things off-season. If we expected to outlive animals (which we clearly do, given the amount of information out there that tens if not hundreds of species will go extinct in less than 50 years, but we continue to live life as usual) then we should probably consider adapting. Science and knowledge won't help us if we refuse alternative types of nutrition. This is a complex issue, but it's pivotal to the existence of animals and its impact on the existence of humans.

To "love animals" is, in our culture, often connected to emotions, and not in a good way. Consider the tone people take when they say things like, "Oh, she's just being a woman." or "Stop being a girl about it!" Read="She's being emotional, and thus she must be acting "like a woman"...because men have never experienced a freaking emotion in their life! Or, "Stop being weak already!" I'm sorry, but I think one of the biggest reasons our society has so much trouble with the LGBT community and issues related to this, as well as women and animals, is that the "rationalism" that infuses every inch of our capitalist culture is only allowed to come from the hetero, white, Western man. Why are men considered to be less emotional or connected to their bodies, when it seems that they are so much less in control of their physicality, sexuality, etc. than women? Women can go weeks without sex, thank you very much, but a man? Oh, no. Because this is, after all, what has always been meant when people say men are "more rational". They can control themselves better. Then what do we make of Caesar's murder, or Jesus' death on the cross (whether you believe he was resurrected or not), or perhaps cops killing non-cops? I just don't see the line of reasoning. The problem is, what is "rational" doesn't actually employ reason. It is working out of a broken system that idolizes physical, financial, and social power - a power, let's be clear, that is only attainable by a small percentage of huge populations.

These thoughts are coming out quicker than I can edit them properly, but I am so worked up about it that I need them to be read. So me, it's obvious that things need to give in our attitude towards how we use nature and non-human beings. I would also put forth that it's about time we start respecting all the other human beings around us, but this issue is one that I must leave in the previous paragraph. The ecological crisis was likened in the text I'm reading to the Titanic. I will close with this quote, for fear of becoming so convoluted in my thoughts that it becomes completely unintelligible.
"...we have received the iceberg warning, and have made the remarkable decision to double the engine speed to Full Speed Ahead and go below to get a good night's rest. A change of course might be bad for business, we might have to slow down, lose time. Nothing, not even the ultimate risk of the death of nature, can be allowed to hold back the triumphant progress of the ship of rational fools."       (Emphasis mine.)
-Val Plumwood, Environmental Culture: The ecological crisis of reason

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