14 December 2010

Dreaming of Steve Austin in Space

Or, the Bionic yearns to be extra-Biotic.

I've been having a bit of back and forth with some folks on FB about the "nature" of the human and our destructive and manipulative ways. I am empathetic to the Vegan way of being but I think it's unlikely that humans will stop eating and using animals unless of course we create ways to not need them to sustain our current way of being anymore (that would lucky for them, I think).

So, I've noted over and again my distrust and distaste for the "mastering" impulse in humans most notably those that practice "science", or as Bottero says in the linked post, technologists. (See here for one brief example:

And because I value all of the detritus that falls out of my brain through my fingers onto this screen (damn you, technology!) I thought I'd share a little of that FB talk.

The FB conversation (and I'll only reproduce my own words and try to provide context as needed) took place (is taking place) on the page of an Animal Rights activist. I am in agreement with their ideas and goals. But I tend to disagree that it's likely there will be any massive change in human use of the non-human (hell, and human) animals barring some kind of catastrophe that necessitates it.

I've been trying to really find my way into this. I think it's impossible to detach oneself from the cycle of "use" among beings. While I agree that the human animal is a horrible creature due to its too-big brain and self-creating nature... I don't think its viable to not see us all as "usable" beings. The government of that use is what's in question. Creature eats creature, the tallest trees strain for more light...and in the middest is the rest. It's very true that without the use of animals, not even really the consumption of such, but the use of animals...there would be no robust human population.

And perhaps this is finally the "truth" of the vegan position. The ills of the world, the destruction of the planet, the hope that "only" resides in the human mind AS ingenuity and technicity would not even be a question if we had not EXPLODED into prominence.

But we are here and we are too much. You know that humans will not halt the use of animals. I am not advocating for "welfare" but look around--we are species that doesn't even really grant welfare to itself.

We will, of our own devising, destroy our numbers and then, maybe then, we will learn the harmony of nature and "smallness".

My point is that the biotic relies on all other parts of the biosphere and that the "problem" in this discussion is that it's very hard to... detach this discussion from a moral and ethical perspective that comes out of the "mind" of humanity. This anthropocentrism is even evident in this very discussion. You and I cannot think very well outside of the sense of the human position.

I am in complete agreement that fewer humans is better, just as fewer cows, pigs, etc. are better for the health of the biosphere. At this point we are then stuck with the prospect of how we allow the dying off of animals and humans as we need to reduce our species footprint.

Humans abuse everything; even and perhaps especially ourselves. If one claims that the entirety of the planet is a living being (which I think makes some sense when one considers that certain forests are made up of thousands of acres of a single root system) then any activity that "takes" from that entity without giving back to it is an act of desecration in some respect.

Unfortunately, everything we do is bound up in a technological way of living...how can we maintain our ways of living without losing all we have gained--in material wealth, in comfort, in ease of labor?

Much of all of our discussion about changing our world to better serve ourselves and our planet and its other inhabitants requires us to lose nearly all we consider "routine" of our daily life. The eating of animals is abhorrent in many ways--more specifically in the ways in which it has become simply another "technical" aspect of production.

I think the horrors of our endeavors are manifold and that Western culture has left an imprint of pain and wretchedness for all but a very select few among the billions on the planet. Humans are also abused and used for labor and starved and killed daily in this "civilization".

How does one combat all of this? I agree that it should be contested on every level...I agree that animals should not be farmed as they are now. But i also believe that we must change radically at our core if this is ever to happen and I believe that it will likely require catastrophe.

I do believe the philosophizing is an important aspect of this--one has to find arguments that make sense regarding the interest of other beings. As we argue all the time--the human-centric is nearly impossible to overcome. And as we see time and again, most folks seem to work in the opposite direction of their personal interest, politically and economically (to say nothing of their health).

Our issue now is one of scale. One can easily imagine a small community coming to terms with its place in an ecosystem.

But we are creatures of large ambition--we dream of space in order to leave this very earth. We very likely have some kind of mission to destroy this world so that a "man-made" environment (whether underground) or on another planet becomes a necessity. In truth, I am nearly certain humankind hates nature--hates the necessity of a natural existence, hates the fate of the mortal being--and in this very deep-seated animosity we work against nature in attempts to tame it then conquer it. This will not change as it is ancient within us.

Gilgamesh set out to be immortal--along the way he destroyed Humwawa--the monster protecting the Cedar Forest--and journeyed to find Utnapishtim who was a human immortal to find the secret of eternal life--he failed and in the place of conquering death he built and performed great deeds. That is our oldest recorded tale and it informs our being.

I think you should continue with your goals and you will be the better for it--and you should continue to proselytize and perhaps you will win some converts. I am one of you. But I do not hold out hope.

Our hubris is too great; All that we see we are masters of. We are in the thrall of our scientific knowledge...I think it's more likely that we begin actually creating and growing animals "from scratch" and in so doing tell ourselves that even more than before we are immunized from the morality of eating a being...how can we not be masters of the very flesh we create?

[One of the FB discussants offered this Youtube video from Jeremy Rifkin to show me that we are empathetic beings and that our civilized "virtues" are perhaps not serving our true biologic/neurologic selves best.]

I hadn't seen this, but I am aware of the science he's describing, however, we are the creatures that have decided to try to "learn" our responses by science though we can simply look around to understand that we are creatures of empathy--understanding the "wiring" behind this will not lead to peace on earth. And his descriptions of extended empathies to interest groups is somewhat simplistic--how many Xtian sects are there and how many actively dislike what the "other" believes? But further--this is "science" trying to take the machine apart (for no good reason really)--and what have we learned about science from its very inception? It does not operate (and those that practice it) do not operate for the good of all creatures great and small. Science works to manipulate and "master" nature--that's all. Mirror neurons are simply a biological "reason" that we "ape" each other again, nothing new there.

There are so many "scientific" stories out there now--so many neuropsychologists and evolutionary biologists, and so on, trying to explain our very ways of walking and talking. This really is part of what is likely an "error" of the human mind--again the "too-big" brain doesn't know how to simply "be" a part of the earth. It must understand and explain it and create stories and ultimately--all the stories become, as Steiner has shown us, ONLY anthropocentric in the Western mind.

Our hope lies in the destruction of Western ways of living. "smallness" is our best bet to really "empathize".

As for "hate of nature" I should be more clear--I don't believe that you and I and Carolyn or anyone else actively hates nature in the way we might "hate" other things. I am suggesting, and I am in no way the first to suggest it, that we are believers in our specialness. We don't understand--as smart as we are, as creative as we are, as godlike as we are becoming--why we die. It is "hateful" to us. And we are creatures of nature who hate being "thrown into" this world of finitude. And most of science works now to take us beyond nature. With a mind that yearns to be outside of nature, to deny its own dying, we will never be creatures of planetary empathy.

Accepting death, accepting finitude and mortality, is immensely difficult for people. Rifkin, in the video Liz (I hope I can call you this as I see others do, I apologize if it's too familiar) shared, "speeds" this process up as if we can change our ways in the same speed at which the video is shot--this is human culture, human civilization is wrought out of the idea of creating permanence--even though the very evidence of impermanence is everywhere around them.

I have a strange feeling that many resent the longevity of the forest. "Why do I, greatest of all beings, have to disappear so soon and nature around lives on?" And remember too that most humans did indeed live very short lives for most of our history.

So, nature is wonderful and sustains us and we are of it--and you and I will agree with this. But there is something in us that finds it foreign to our Will--to our desire for never ceasing and as nature is really the master of our beginnings and endings we will always resent this--and work, through science, using our too-big brains, to find a way outside of this limit. So, you see, I'm not talking about those of us who understand and are at peace with our ending. I am talking about those with the technology to see galaxies. (It is interesting to note that these very "knowledge" seekers have explored virtually nothing of our ocean.)

You know this to be the case with science--look at the "will to extend" into computer life. It is a nightmare of "change" of "evolution"...humanity, if it survives in the world it seeks to destroy, will move beyond flesh. Our Frankenstein's monster will not be pieced together of flesh but of circuitry.

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