A large part of the reason I started this blog is to introduce others to Marshall Rosenberg's nonviolent communication. I ran into his work about a half-decade ago, shortly after going vegan. It resonated with me very strongly, because he and his work showed me not just why it is so easy to lose sight of the fact that everyone's needs have equal value, but also how we can learn to listen for and express what's alive in ourselves and in others, and how to separate the strategies we come up with to meet our needs from the needs that we try to meet that way, and to always focus on the latter. Briefly put, NVC showed me how language enables and reinforces domination structures and inequality, both inside our heads, and in the societies we produce through our actions.
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, though people obviously differ greatly in how broadly they apply this logic. As such, few of us manage to (completely) ignore the many distractions (skin color, nationality, gender, ethnicity, intellectual ability, wealth, mannerisms, religious affiliation, and so on) we are taught to care about, and to embody the kind of inclusiveness, egalitarianism and solidarity that, abstractly, nearly all of us know is appropriate (and required). The question I want to talk about here is how this relates to our stance on the use and killing of other animals, and how our thinking about the other animals as inferior affects how we think about how we may treat and view other humans.
Until 2008, I had mostly ignored economics as an area of study, as the subject bored me, and I found the mindset too unpleasant. The 2008 financial crisis made me realize that was a mistake, however: economic policy couldn't be left to experts. But where to start reading?
Since I figured I should avoid economics textbooks, I did the next-most responsible thing: I started reading the serious and specialist media, paying particular attention to how critics explained matters. Most of their explanations struck me as unconvincing for the same reason, though, as they said little about the role played by elite fraud and grifting, even though it was perfectly obvious that the run-up as well as the "rescue" were wildly profitable to the already-rich. And I'd already noticed that the media carefully avoided making an issue out of the perfectly blatant grifting that was going on in the context of the invasion and "rebuilding" of Iraq and Afghanistan. So I broadened my search until I encountered Naked Capitalism, and shortly after that David Harvey's work.
Reintegrating the dismal science
There are a number of ways to explain what money is, and what it allows us to do. Sadly, the "origin story" that we were all taught in school is a very misleading morality tale, in which exchange of goods is presented as a wholly separate sphere of life. Supposedly, humans were stuck with a so-called "barter economy" until they invented money. This is a complete fairy tale, and this matters a great deal.
I am a dutch white guy with a lower middle class background, among the first in the family to go to uni, and with an extended family that strongly encouraged me to embrace petit-bourgeois (Calvinist) cultural values and aspirations, in a society that does the same. As a youth, I encountered few positive role models or like-minded folks, while I got lots of confirmation that I was different, which I didn't know what to do with. Due to social awkwardness, some early bullying and the like, and because I equated social status, likability and attractiveness, I also long doubted both my general likability and physical attractiveness. This gave me the freedom to not care much about people's appearance beyond basic hygiene, as I saw these as facts of life for everyone.
(Note: this post probably won't be interesting to people who haven't read (part of) ASOIAF and watched most of Game of Thrones. Before reading this, please first watch Ellis's video. :) )
Visitors to this blog might wonder as to why I'm posting about this show. Obviously, this whole universe is miles away from the kind of egalitarian solidarity I espouse. But what I find interesting about it was how enthusiastically and uncritically this show was embraced, given how reactionary this universe is, with the partial exception of Daenerys and those she converts to her cause, what with the mass of the population mostly counting for nothing, being trod underfoot by elites who go about their business. The fact that most (re)viewers don't comment on the politics of it all disturbs me, as even Ellis (who -- to her credit -- at least makes the politics a topic of discussion, and has done so in the past with other shows, even if her expressed opinions are very safely liberal) is either unwilling or afraid (for reasons of branding, monetization or sponsoring?) only calls it out the ending for being lame writing (which it was), without pointing out that this is par for the course when it comes to "entertainment".