Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, August 02, 2015

MHP Proposes Intersectional Analysis of Cecil the Lion Connecting White Racism and Human Animal Cruelty to Nonhuman Animals

Professor Melissa Harris-Perry really sets up the discussion with a thoughtful and provocative framing emphasizing the conceptual and historical connections of white supremacy and white racism and chattel slavery with human animal cruelty to nonhuman animals. MHP delved quite deeply into the topic, devoted two segments to the discussion, went into the ways in which selective anthropomorphization of some animals may facilitate empathy or may disavow the complexities of personhood and the complexity of the ethical responsibilities incurred by living others. I've been an ethical vegetarian for decades and wrote a critical theoretical piece years ago engaging some of these issues, Animal Rites and I take up these topics in my anti-futurological critique more often than you might think (as witness the texts in this archive). I strongly recommend Carol Adams' Neither Man Nor Beast for extended intersectional vegetarian-feminist anti-racist criticism and work.


jimf said...

> . . . Intersectional Analysis. . .

Well, you know those rich dentists and doctors who spend their money
trophy hunting (or deep-sea fishing, or whatever) are right-wing
Republican/"libertarian" "don't tread on me" assholes with
delusions of grandeur. Who have fantasy images of themselves
as Charlton Heston, or somebody similar. Of which there are certainly
plenty in the world. Whaddya gonna do?

However, I'm reminded of a couple of (left-wing wish fulfillment ;-> )
fictional scenes.

One of them is that scene in _Powder_ (a movie that's a mixture
of embarrassing silliness with genuinely thought-provoking themes)
where the stereotypical Southern redneck sheriff's deputy
has a faceoff with a superhuman boy after the deputy, in
charge of a gaggle of teenage boys, has demonstrated the
art of killing a deer.

"I let him see. I opened him up and I let him see."

The other is that scene in Arthur C. Clarke's _Childhood's End_
describing how the alien Overlords put an end to bullfighting
in Spain. They asked politely first, got the expected answer,
and then used their superior technology to settle the matter
ever so delicately.

The Plaza de Toros was full when the matadors and their attendants
began their professional entry. Everything seemed normal: the brilliant
sunlight blazed harshly on the traditional costumes, the great crowd
greeted its favourites as it had a hundred times before. Yet here
and there faces were turned anxiously towards the sky, to the aloof
silver shape fifty kilo-metres above Madrid.

Then the picadors had taken up their places and the bull had come
snorting out into the arena. The skinny horses, nostrils wide with terror,
had wheeled in the sunlight as their riders forced them to meet their
enemy. The first lance flashed – made contact – and at that moment
came a sound that had never been heard on Earth before.

It was the sound of ten thousand people screaming with the pain of
the same wound – ten thousand people who, when they had recovered
from the shock, found themselves completely unharmed. But that was
the end of that bull-fight, and indeed of all bull-fighting, for
the news spread rapidly. It is worth recording that the aficionados
were so shaken that only one in ten asked for their money back, and
also that the London Daily Mirror made matters much worse by suggesting
that the Spaniards adopt cricket as a new national sport.

No doubt the folks at the "Human Exceptionalism Blog" in your
blogroll would have a different view.


jimf said...

Speaking of lions (and lambs).

There's a new post on P. Z. Myers' _Pharyngula_ that reminded me of
an exchange on this blog from a few years ago.

somebody calling himself "Sean the Mystic" invoked the "Lucifer Principle"
(presumably an allusion to the book by Howard Bloom) as an elucidation
of the world-view of tycoon conservatives (confusingly called "neoliberals") --
which presumably also explains a lot of rich dentists:

> [T]he neoliberal billionaire types... see our universe...
> driven fundamentally by competition and will to power.
> If you disagree... you are... as deluded as any Christian
> looking forward to the day that the lions lie down with the
> lambs... [A] form of religiosity that is consistent with
> what we know about the universe... [is] some variety of
> Satanism or Sithism...

Myers points out that
Spencer and Galton. . . emphasized. . . how Nature, red in tooth and claw,
ruthlessly culls the weak allowing the survival of only the fittest. Spencerian
evolution is a very narrow and limited kind of biology, but unfortunately,
it often seems to be the only kind of evolution the general public has in mind.

And then I contrasted it with Kropotkin’s ideas about Mutual Aid, and the
greater importance of cooperation in survival.

> Thus by an unprejudiced observation of the animal kingdom, we reach the
> conclusion that wherever society exists at all, this principle may be found:
> Treat others as you would like them to treat you under similar circumstances.
> And when we study closely the evolution of the animal world, we discover
> that the aforesaid principle, translated by the one word Solidarity, has
> played an infinitely larger part in the development of the animal kingdom
> than all the adaptations that have resulted from a struggle between individuals
> to acquire personal advantages.

Kropotkin is the anti-Spencer. His is a position that we need to acknowledge more.
I’ve spoken about the importance of cooperative exuberance, as opposed to selective
pruning, several times now. . .

YMMV, I guess. ;->

jimf said...

> . . . rich dentists and doctors who spend their money
> trophy hunting. . . Who have fantasy images of themselves
> as Charlton Heston, or somebody similar.

Apparently the phrase I was looking for is "Bwana Tumbo".
AUG. 6, 2015


This is how you kill a lion:

". . . So Kermit, Sir Alfred, and I, almost together, fired into his chest.
His head sank and he died.”

The hunter was not a Minnesota dentist. . . This was Theodore Roosevelt,
bagging his first lion. Weeks after leaving the White House in March 1909,
he set off on a yearlong safari in Africa with his son Kermit. He wrote about
the trip the next year in “African Game Trails: An Account of the African
Wanderings of an American Hunter-Naturalist,” . . .

“The object of Mr. Roosevelt’s African expedition, it is explained repeatedly,
was purely scientific,” [said a reviewer].

“African sportsmen. . . were highly gratified to learn that
Mr. Roosevelt had refused the offer of the authorities to
grant him a special hunting license that would have permitted him to kill
game to an unlimited extent instead of confining himself to the two elephants,
two rhinoceroses, two hippopotami, &c., of the regular license. Lions and
leopards are classed as vermin, and consequently no license to kill them
is required.” . . .

Dr. William J. Long, a nature writer and former minister, . . . criticized
Roosevelt. . . in particular scoffing at Roosevelt’s contention that
he hunted for science, causing Roosevelt to respond that he was “not in
the least a game butcher” but rather “a faunal naturalist,”. . .

Dr. Long disagreed.

“The worst feature in the whole bloody business is not the killing of a few
hundred wild animals in Africa. . . but the brutalizing influence which
these reports have upon thousands of American boys. Only last week I met
half a dozen little fellows in the woods. The biggest boy had a gun and
a squirrel’s tail in his hat, and he called himself Bwana Tumbo.
They were shooting everything in sight. . .

How could I convince them that their work was inhuman? . . . Is not the great
American hero occupied at this time with the same detestable business?”

Meanwhile, Roosevelt was being serenaded in British East Africa at
the “Nairobi Follies.”

A Miss Shooter at this event. . . sang of “Felis Leo,” who “lurked in his
lonely lair, as African lions do”:

“He hunted game in the moonshine bright,
With never a thought of harm,
But he got quite a fright when there hoved in sight
Teddy armed to the teeth with a knife in sheath
And a rifle beneath his arm.
The Colonel plugged him with a laugh,
While Kermit took his photograph.”

jimf said...

> Lions and leopards [were] classed as vermin. . .

They may not be officially classed as such anymore, but
that attitude towards them persists in certain circles,
In Zimbabwe, We Don’t Cry for Lions
AUG. 4, 2015

When I turned on the news and discovered that. . .
a lion [had been] killed by an American dentist, the village boy
inside me instinctively cheered: One lion fewer to menace families
like mine. . .

Did all those Americans. . . understand that lions actually kill
people? That all the talk about Cecil being “beloved” or a “local favorite”
was media hype? . . .

In my village in Zimbabwe, surrounded by wildlife conservation areas,
no lion has ever been beloved, or granted an affectionate nickname.
They are objects of terror.

When I was 9 years old, a solitary lion prowled villages near my home. . .

When the lion was finally killed, no one cared whether its murderer
was a local person or a white trophy hunter, whether it was poached or
killed legally. We danced and sang about the vanquishing of the
fearsome beast and our escape from serious harm.

Recently, a 14-year-old boy in a village not far from mine wasn’t so
lucky. Sleeping in his family’s fields, as villagers do to protect
crops from the hippos, buffalo and elephants that trample them,
he was mauled by a lion and died. . .

The American tendency to romanticize animals. . .
has turned an ordinary situation — there were 800 lions legally
killed over a decade by well-heeled foreigners who shelled out
serious money to prove their prowess — into what seems to my
Zimbabwean eyes an absurdist circus. . .

And so it goes. . .