On Myths, Religion and Innocence

Everybody knows that human societies have long been organized hierarchically, and many people in fact believe that complex societies require this. But what most will not know is that there is a great deal of evidence that suggests that institutionalized hierarchy is very much a late-comer to human evolution, and that this became the dominant mode only after a very long period in which women and men cooperated to maintain a rough (if violent) egalitarianism, with this egalitarian period being instrumental to our evolution into the big-brained apes that we are today (and that neanderthals also were).

Remarks on Violence, War and Terrorizing

As Walter Wink has pointed out, violence is a tool that allows us to realize certain outcomes that seem desirable to us: to change either the person we inflict it on, or those around them, by 'making an example' of them. Resorting to violence as a matter of policy (as our current justice system does) presupposes that people willingly act badly, so that there's no point trying to change their thinking: all we can do is declare undesirable behaviors 'punishable offenses,' so that the 'bad people' will have 'reasons' to not do the thing. Yet, as Marshall Rosenberg has noted, if fostering lasting behavioral in people is our aim, then violence never works, because while people may comply, they lack intrinsic motivation to act differently. For that, we need to ask -- and care about -- why people choose to harm others, so that we can to try and show them ways to meet their own needs in ways that don't involve harm to others.*

Veganism, and "so long as we accept violence in any form, we accept violence in every form"

As I've explained elsewhere, pretty much everyone is taught how to systematically devalue the equal needs of (at least some) others. By the time we reach adulthood, this 'skill', and the meritocratic moral logic that undergirds it, are deeply rooted. And while people differ greatly in how broadly they apply this logic, basically none of us are able to ignore the many distractions (skin color, nationality, gender, ethnicity, intellectual ability, wealth, mannerisms, religious affiliation, and so on) that we are taught to take into account when it comes to recognizing and valuing other people's needs. As such, hardly any of us are able to embody the kind of inclusiveness, egalitarianism and solidarity that most of us do see as the ideal (that we mostly fail to live up to in practice).

The questions I want to explore here are, first, how we apply this 'skill' in the context of our thinking about the other animals, second, how this affects our treatment of them, and third, how the fact that we allow ourselves to behave and think this way towards the other animals affects how we treat and view other humans.