Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Women, Animals, Cyborgs, and the Fixx


All right, since my discussion with Will Wilkinson and Katherine Mangu-Ward on PJTV last night went well, I’m feeling sort of big-tent, so, while I’ll just briefly say again that it’s not clear to me that feminism constitutes “consciousness-raising” (to use a term deployed earlier in this conversation) any more than does touting some brutal form of Nietzschean machismo, I will move on to note something that both expands my usual philosophical horizons and arguably makes my lady friends look good.

For some reason, women are far more likely to be vegetarians or vegans than men are (and I even know a few vegans, principled vegetarians, or animal-welfare-proponents who are libertarians), and I have some sympathy for these positions, albeit not enough to stop eating tasty, tasty flesh — and in any case, animals would just spend all day mass-murdering each other without our help if we left them alone, making the whole thing seem rather futile from a utilitarian perspective, even if you believe that brute animal pleasures are as morally relevant as the rich, highly conceptual pleasures known to the frontal-lobe-advantaged mind of humans.

But I can appreciate, for example, the genuine heroism of this spontaneous dog-on-dog highway rescue clip from YouTube, pointed out by my evolutionary-psychology-studying, vegan, utilitarian friend Diana Fleischman (note the ironic last name), which is amazing even if the dragged dog still passed away (and the bold rescuer dog reportedly ran off before numerous humans could make good on their desire to adopt or reward him).  Moments like the one in that clip make some anti-animal-cruelty laws seem all the more reasonable, somehow.


Ironically, though, it was not one of my vegan pals but my conservative girlfriend Helen who I found myself likening to a “green anarchist” the other day, since she tends, even if sometimes half-jokingly, to say that the old, tribal, and primitive is always preferable to modernity, which seems logically to lead to wanting to live like the Amish or perhaps cave people — or, even more radically, like green anarchists want us to, they being a small, almost maximally-radical political sect who believe not only that the invention of agriculture was a mistake (as do many other radical environmentalists) but that even the development of symbolic communication was a step too far and that we should go back to living in the woods and communicating through grunts and smells.

Conservatives normally think of themselves as the great guardians of civilization, but, ironically, might it be Helen who belongs down in the dirt on all fours, grunting like an animal?

In a related question that might well be going through your mind, though: is there a progressive rock/New Wave band that paradoxically fuses green anarchist-sounding songs (about, for example, the desire to exist with “less cities”) with high-tech synthesizers and electric guitars?  You know there is, my friend, and it’s high time you cranked up the volume on the Fixx’s song “Calm Animals” so you can really hear the politics.  Oh, how I love this pretentious, grandiose song — even with lines like “Given one chance to think social/ But we choke on greed and excess!”  (I said big tent, yet note you don’t hear me trying to declare them libertarian — just cool.)

In other animal news, my favorite comic book writer, Grant Morrison (whose Final Crisis issue #5 comes out tomorrow), is also a militant vegetarian but, in contrast to some of his hyper-complex plots, managed to create a simple, elegant little fable of animal liberation several years ago in the form of a comic book miniseries called We3, the poignant tale of cute, experimental animal cyborgs who innocently escape from their military creators but are hunted down as threats to national security — as indeed they are, being festooned with rocket launchers and the like — while they make their forlorn way into the surrounding wilderness.  And best of all, this story is now likely to hit the big screen, directed by none other than the man who gave us Kung Fu Panda.

If I were an animal rights activist, I would plan my whole life and philosophy around the release of this film, starting today.


Kevin B. O'Reilly said...

Todd — loved the visual aids on the PJTV segment. Your TV background was showing!

Todd Seavey said...

Thanks — and I mostly conquered my “uh” problem. If I keep improving at this rate, I will soon be ready for Conan’s timeslot*.

*That’s the Hyborian Era, of course.

Diana Fleischman said...

Just found out that my ancestors were actually tailors and changed their name to Fleischman to sound more German.

Todd, if you are to continue to use this maddening argument about animals mass murdering/eating one another I’d like you to name one carnivorous animal you eat. But, as I told many of my vegan friends, perhaps the dog was actually dragging away his friend to eat him. Even if he was he would be no less worthy of adoption.

I liked your interview. From a utilitarian perspective though, I think your jacket increased the suffering in the world.

Todd Seavey said...

Shark, for one.

Don’t kid yourself, Timmy. If a cow got the chance, he’d eat you and everyone you care about.

Scott Nybakken said...

As a response to Diana’s well-stated challenge regarding animal eating habits, I will concede that cows and ducks are entirely herbivorous. However, I will also offer this bloody list of Nature’s Most Wanted:

The Chicken: Gramivorous and insectivorous. Seemingly innocuous, this strain of poultry is in reality a devastating engine of death for any insects unlucky enough to stray into its beady gaze.

The Pig: Omnivorous. Though not primarily a hunter, all members of the porcine race will certainly eat dead animal flesh when presented with the opportunity.

The Tuna: Carnivorous. An unstoppable killing machine, this apex predator is rivaled only by the world’s sharks in its hunting prowess and bloodthirstiness.

Diana Fleischman said...

Todd, because you think it acceptable to eat animals that eat one another we should coin a new term, “Seaveytarian”. That means you can eat sharks, chickens, tuna, cats, dogs and chimps (they kill and eat monkeys) but not cows, horses, ducks, geese or deer. I would say that pigs are a tossup since they only scavenge and don’t actually inflict suffering in order to eat. And of course none of the chickens you eat ever had a chance to eat insects outside but as Scott points out they have the potential to be insect murderers. Go forth with your new diet! bon appetit!

Todd Seavey said...

Interesting — except (and I apologize for wasting anyone’s intellectual energy) my actual position is more that animals who would _get_ killed and eaten if released into the wild might as well be eaten by us. You’re making me think the carnivores deserve it, too, though, so we may as well eat everything.

Diana Fleischman said...

oh, so you think these easily killed animals should not be bred in the first place. Excellent, that is also my position.

Todd Seavey said...

My long-term hope is for lab-grown artificial meat, like in _Legion of Super-Heroes_ comics and in the musings of Austin Dacey, one of the writers mentioned in my 12/10 entry (and with that, for now, on to our next topic)…