Tag Archives: exploitation

Calling all crew

Why is everybody so quiet? by Ari Evergreen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Creative Commons License
Why is everybody so quiet? by Ari Evergreen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

we think we’re the smartest species on the planet
and yet we’re the only species that has to pay to live

what does an animal need to live?
food, water, shelter
every other species can meet its needs for free.
we have to pay for all of our needs.
to pay for things we have to allow someone to exploit our labor – that is, to make a profit off of it.

the problem here is capitalism
instead of humans joining together to ask ourselves,
what are our needs and how can we best meet them?
we are stuck playing a game, capitalism

the point of capitalism is not to meet people’s needs
it’s to generate profit
so the primary goal of industrialized, capitalist society hasn’t been to meet people’s needs,
but rather, to make money.
the result is that some people (the ones with the most money) make more money,
while others make so little money they can barely afford their needs
and many more just don’t get their needs met at all.

by way of example let’s pretend some folks are shipwrecked on a tiny island
there are two builders who could make shelter
there’s someone who knows how to make sandals and raincoats
there’s someone who knows how to find and prepare food
there’s someone who knows how to make fire
there’s someone who knows how to collect and store rainwater for drinking
there’s someone who knows how to keep people healthy

logically it would make sense for everyone to work together to meet their needs
each would contribute and each would benefit

but imagine that someone on the island says,
i own all the land, and you all have to pay rent to me to live on it

imagine that the doctor says,
you have to pay me for the care i give you

imagine that the person who makes fire says,
i’ll only make fire if you pay me

imagine the two builders each have insufficient tools
but they keep their tools to themselves, rather than pooling them together, because they’re competing
they save up the best materials to try to attract the business of the doctor and the landowner
they can only offer sub-par houses to the rest of the people
but the people will take what they can get

now no one’s needs are met.
or rather, they’re only met if people are making a profit.

there’s no money on an island, so they’d have to come up with some other way to pay
humans are creative, and can be cruel
we make each other pay in all sorts of ways when we don’t have money, don’t we?
maybe they’d make each other pay with their bodies, as so many men have made women and other men pay with their bodies
or maybe they’d make each other “work off” their debt
maybe the landowner would end up with a big, fancy house while others sleep on the beach
maybe the doctor would have all the best food
maybe the person who makes fire would sometimes withhold their power, just to make others realize how needed he is, so he could raise his prices

imagine someone on the island doesn’t have any special skills or tools
do they get to live in a house?
do they get sandals, or healthcare, or food, or water?
what do they have to do to be allowed near the fire?

could it be better to just give and take
for each to give their gifts freely to others
and to expect to receive others’ gifts in return,
regardless of their contribution?

then the people’s needs would be met
they might even have free time
maybe they could join together to build a lookout tower, or keep a signal fire
maybe they’d use their free time teaching each other everything they know
maybe they’d use it dancing and singing
or maybe they’d learn how to climb trees and harvest coconuts
maybe they’d have a good time on the island

we’re not on an island
we’ve got a whole world
we’ve got so many skills
and so many resources
but so many of our needs are not met

it might be hard to imagine changing our ways
but it’s hard to live in this way
so maybe it would be worth it to do the hard work of imagining
and maybe we could learn how to meet all of our needs
instead of just making some people richer and richer.

Buckminster Fuller saw this
he said our planet is our spaceship.
Marshall McLuhan pointed out,
“There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.”

our ship looks pretty dysfunctional
we’re pretty much destroying it and its ability to sustain us
and how is our crew doing?
is it okay with us that some crew members can have everything they could ever desire, even the lives and bodies of other crew members?
is it okay with us that so many crew members’ needs are not met?
is it okay that so many crew members are treated as expendable?
if this was a ship, what would we do?
would we have a mutiny?
would we call a crew meeting and change up what we’re doing?
would we just say, “this is the way things are”?
would we just continue to allow some folks to destroy the lives of other folks?

i think we need a crew meeting
i think we need to ask big questions
and look for big answers
or our spaceship won’t continue to function
and our crew will be unable to live, let alone work for the common good

if we’re truly such a smart species,
we need to ask ourselves,
what are our needs?
what is the most equitable and efficient and healthy and joyous way for us to meet them?

Oppression in Games: What are we learning?

Awhile back we got a smart phone for the first time, and I downloaded a game based on the cuteness of its icon. It turned out to be Triple Town, and I got briefly obsessed, even finding it on Facebook when I ran out of credits or points or whatever it is they give you until you have to start paying money to keep playing.

It’s an addictive puzzle game, which is what I found appealing about it. You combine icons to make higher-value icons. But these icons tell a story. They’re not just little jewels or tiles or something. Triple Town is set on land, populated by bears. You combine grass until you have flowers, and you combine those until you have bushes, and those in turn become trees, which then become buildings, and then churches and cathedrals. Along the way you trap the bears, turning them into tombstones. Enough tombstones and you’ve got a church. You encounter “ninja bears” who can move around more freely and block your moves, and you kill them, to turn them into tombstones, too. At some point the game tells you you’ve been working on colonies; there’s a mainland which sends out ships to them to get their resources to bring back to the “Capital City,” where they can be used to build monuments, armaments, and coin-making farms and factories to fund further exploitation of the islands.

So not only was I a bear-killer, I was an imperialist. I got deeply uncomfortable and after a while it wasn’t even my “guilty pleasure” anymore, it was just an addictive thing I felt creepy about. So I stopped playing.

In the back of my mind I wondered about Triple Town. I imagine a lot of people don’t have issues with killing tiny animated bears and stealing their resources; the game is very popular. Were the game producers just idiots, unaware of what they were teaching people? Or were they deliberately brainwashing folks? Continue reading Oppression in Games: What are we learning?

10 things you can do to help bees

This morning I started to read Bee Deaths From Colony Collapse Disorder On The Rise As Researchers Point To Pesticides on Huffington Post, and then I realized I’d rather find out how I can help, instead of just feeling bad about the problem. Here are some suggestions I found on the interwebs.

  1. Stop buying GMO, non-organic food, and support organic agriculture instead. Buy used and/or organic clothing.
  2. Learn about where your food and clothing comes from and how much pesticide went into its production.
  3. Stop using pesticides in your own lawn and garden.
  4. Sign petitions banning pesticides, and support the use of organic alternatives.
  5. Encourage your local government to do more to help bees.
  6. Attract bees by planting clover, flowering trees, and herbs that bees like. Provide a water source so they can take a drink when they visit.
  7. Let your veggies go to seed after harvest, to help fatten up your bee neighbors for the long winter.
  8. Educate yourself about bees so you can be more sure of how you relate to them and what you might like to do to help them.
  9. Pass on your knowledge about bees. Your voice is powerful, and the bees can’t speak for themselves! Make sure that kids understand that bees are an important part of their ecosystem.
  10. Provide bee habitat, but make sure you’re keeping bees and humans safe from hurting each other by marking bees’ homes.

    The only one I saw folks mention elsewhere that I didn’t put here was “become a beekeeper / support your local beekeeper.” I don’t feel that it would be my place to confine and manipulate others and take things they make, or to encourage others to do that. It takes the average worker bee her entire life to produce just one twelfth of one teaspoon of honey. They make it for their colony, not for us.

    If you do choose to use bee products, please make sure they’re locally produced and that you feel good about the way the bees are living, from birth to death. Since your decision impacts the lives of other beings, you may want to educate yourself about some of the ethical problems with beekeeping, honey, and beeswax. Thank you!

Should animal lovers eat Peeps?

Poster that says Easter Peeps are made out of gelatin, which is made out of boiled bones.
“say no to peeps” by Ari Evergreen

Did you know that Easter Peeps are made out of boiled skin and other byproducts of the farming industry? Please find out where gelatin comes from if you’re supporting its production – it involves animals suffering and losing their lives.

Never fear, vegan Easter is sweet! You can get vegan marshmallows and easter candy. You can make Devilish Potatoes (via Mercy for Animals) instead of deviled eggs, dye and hunt for vegan eggs, or make a vegan Easter basket. Start some seedlings for a spring garden or plant a tree or flower bulbs.

Easter is supposed to be a celebration of renewal and new life, and is often celebrated in a very child-centered way. Rather than objectifying and exploiting rabbits, chickens, cows, pigs, and other animals, why not set an example for children that demonstrates our respect for others of all species, and for the earth that we all call home? In the words of William Blake, “For Everything that lives is holy, life delights in life.”

Is Iditarod Dog Racing Animal Cruelty?

Karyn Zoldan says yes; the facts may astound you. Sometimes things that seem like they must be really fun are actually hiding a lot of violence and exploitation. Read for yourself to see if you agree.

Why not use leather?

I used to like leather. I really did. I thought it was rugged and sexy and practical. I liked the smell. But then I fully came to understand that it was someone’s skin, and couldn’t enjoy it anymore. Oddly, this didn’t happen until after I’d been calling myself vegan and otherwise living a vegan lifestyle for several years – I somehow had a blind spot around items I already owned, though I didn’t buy any new leather goods. But then it finally sank in, and the smell became disgusting, when I fully comprehended it. When I feel its texture, I have to wipe my hand off on something else – it gives me the willies. It was someone’s skin. It’s exploitative, macabre. I see it now. It’s amazing how a person can change.

For more about why vegans avoid leather products, read What’s Wrong with Leather? by Christine Wells, at Gentle World.

Loving sloths

If you haven’t heard, Kristen Bell likes sloths, and her husband, Dax Shepard, got one brought to their house for her birthday. Here they are telling the story in a cute segment from NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! (with a transcript if you prefer that over audio). And here’s the video they talk about in the segment — personally, I think it’s pretty adorable to see someone so excited to meet a sloth that they break down.

This story is so great on one level — I love that Ms Bell loves sloths so much. I love that her husband is so thoughtful to set this up for her because he knew it would mean so much to her, and that he’s so supportive and sweet about her emotional reaction. I love that when they got the sloth in their house that they were responsible about it, adjusting their homeowners insurance and bringing in a professional handler and a little play structure for the sloth — it looks like she mostly just played around while Kristen gazed at her adoringly. I also feel like it’s really great that humans are starting to love animals so much that this is a part of our popular culture.

On another level, and I hate to be a downer, but animals shouldn’t be treated like actors, or party entertainers, because they’re not able to consent to the situation, and are deprived of their autonomy. I guess I could imagine a situation where an animal is somehow orphaned and rescued, and for whatever reason can’t be rehabilitated to live freely in a safe, natural habitat, so they could maybe be a mascot for their species to help educate people about how awesome they are (some wolves come to mind, but don’t quote me on that). But why wouldn’t an animal in that situation be given safe haven at some sanctuary? For every two-toed sloth (or pony!) who has a lovely afternoon at an adoring fan’s birthday party, there are a whole lot of other animals who probably have a really crappy day sitting in a cage or being forced to do the same uncomfortable movie shot over and over and over. (This is why I’m such a fan of Andy Serkis.)

No judgements here for Kristen and Dax — they obviously have their hearts in the right place. But if we really love animals, how should we treat them, ideally? Is it appropriate for our love to be objectifying, focused on our own needs and desires? Or should love come with respect for others’ autonomy?

“Would you be willing to use a living animal as a respirator or dialysis machine?”

io9 asks, Would you be willing to use a living animal as a respirator or dialysis machine? Read the comments. People hold some interesting opinions. Such as, “pigs aren’t sentient.” Oooooohkaaaaay. If you disagree, make your voice heard.

This is why I’m a vegan environmentalist


Warning: This video contains cartoonish but nonetheless gruesome depictions of violence.

MAN from Steve Cutts on Vimeo. Music: In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg.
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Copyright 2012 http://www.stevecutts.com

Cross-posted at Inner Whale (Tumblr)