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Vegetable Morality April 17, 2006 by RedStar2000


For many thousands of years, humans have "debated" what were called "moral issues" as if those things had an objective existence that needed only to be discovered and "correctly" elucidated to evaluate human conduct in all possible situations.

We know now that this is not really true at all; what past generations called "morality" is simply a subjective preference that proceeds from perceived self-interest.

But it still crops up now and then.

Consider vegetarianism/veganism...a lifestyle fad popular in some sections of the "left".


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quote:

Evidently as anarchists we know the public perception of us is about as far removed from the truth as possible; we strongly oppose terrorism, we have a laid back anti-militant culture, and we are highly feminised in comparison to most radical groups with many anarcha-feminists among our ranks...

And, we also have a disproportionate number of vegetarians, myself included, again contradictory to our image in the popular psyche. Why is this, and what does it say about us? Is it negative; are the vegetarian anarchists the puritanical teetotal non-smoking vegetarian socialists that Orwell despised? Well, yes; straight edgers are far more common amongst anarchists than other sectors of society....

I would argue that, yes, vegetarianism is a key part of anarchism....

Which leads us to our conclusion-someone "good" is someone in a position of stable mental health, of being at peace with the world; someone "evil" is someone inadequate, and therefore consumed by hate and resentment....

Almost all vegetarians are middle class....


Well, if your purpose with this post was to delight the Leninists -- pleading guilty to every charge against anarchism they make -- you've succeeded. If I were them, I would note the url of your post and keep it in a little file called "anarchist confessions"...and link to it every time the whole anarchist critique of Leninism comes up.

I'm sure you've successfully alienated some people who might have been attracted to anarchism as a revolutionary option as well...you make it sound as appealing as a therapy group or even a cult.

Feminized? Straight-edge? At peace with the world?

The ghost of Emma Goldman is looking for you...and she's carrying her horsewhip! *laughs*
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First posted at RevLeft on March 29, 2006
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Rather surprising to see a "lifestyle" thread like this persist for so long.

But, ok, is it "ethically justifiable" or "unjustifiable" to kill and eat animals (as opposed to plants)?

Human cultures have historically devised a wide variety of "answers" to this question.

For example, some animals are considered "unclean" or "holy" and thus human consumption is discouraged or forbidden.

Consumption of other humans is usually either forbidden or else surrounded by rituals and is permitted only on "special occasions".

And then there are birds and fish.

If one thinks that animals have "souls", then it's possible to make an argument that it would be "immoral" to kill and eat them. If you add to that belief a belief in "reincarnation", then you might risk finding yourself consuming your grandfather.

Consider the life of an animal on a world without humans at all. The animal is born, it grows large enough to find its own food -- either by eating plants or by eating animals that eat plants -- and then...it dies or is killed and eaten by other animals (or micro-organisms).

We humans in the "west" prefer to have our corpses eaten by worms.

In some cultures, vultures are preferred.

It is normal and natural for animals to be eaten by other animals...it would happen even if humans had never evolved.

So what "standards" can be brought to bear on the question?

If there were an animal with intelligence very close to our own, should we still kill and eat it? People in the "west" don't like the idea of eating whales or dolphins...they are "too much like us".

Nor have I ever seen "monkey meat" in a supermarket...though I've heard that it's sometimes for sale in African village markets.

What of pigs, cows, sheep, chickens, ducks, and fish? None of them show anything that we can easily recognize as "intelligence"...in fact, their outstanding characteristic from a human standpoint is their docility. They seem "willing" to be "raised for food" in a sense that other animals aren't. They "live" to be eaten.

Which is why, of course, all predators (not just humans) prey on them.

What then could an "ethical" objection to meat-consumption possibly rest on?

We are doing what we evolved to do...and what would be done in any event even if we did not exist at all.

I dismiss with contempt the notion that if we all "became vegans" then we could "feed more people" -- this planet groans under the weight of more than six billion people now and, by 2050, perhaps ten billion.

If you want to "do something for the planet", don't make babies!

Recent scientific research promises the distinct possibility of real "factory farms"...growing meat in vats without any living animals being involved in the process at all. We're still a decade or two from this showing up on the supermarket shelves...but it will probably be the way we'll go.

Meanwhile, it seems that most humans, given the chance, prefer a diet rich in meats. Any suggestion that a post-capitalist society will be poorer in meat consumption is unlikely (to put it charitably) to meet with a positive response.

Any appeal based on one's assumed "moral superiority" usually fails to impress.
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First posted at RevLeft on April 5, 2006
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quote:

Then.....Malthus was..... right ?


We don't know yet. What we do know is that this planet appears to be too small to support 10 billion people at a modern first-world standard-of-living.

A civilization cannot endure half-modernized and half-degraded to total misery.

quote:

Why end the life of an animal just to satisfy your taste buds?


Why not? If I or some other human doesn't eat it, some other animal will eat it.

If it's right for that other animal, why is it "wrong" for me?

And plant-based foods really do mostly taste like crap!

Mortify your own flesh if you wish; leave mine alone. -----------------------------------------------------
First posted at RevLeft on April 6, 2006
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quote:

Could I be be a vegetarian? Probably, I see no problem with it. If anything, it's a morally superior choice than that of the carnivore for the simple reason that it preserves conscious life.


No it is not "morally superior"...which in fact is a meaningless phrase.

If "morality" is important to you, start a church. -----------------------------------------------------
First posted at RevLeft on April 6, 2006
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quote:

For if we were to compare them, one could claim, that "morals" aside, the Nazi ideology was "better" for society (society being the Aryan race). I do not hold such a stance, because I view the Nazi ideology as morally corrupt and ethical unsound. But if those phrases mean nothing, then what happens?


Is there such a thing as "the Aryan race"? Well, no, there isn't.

If there was such a thing, would you be considered "an Aryan"?

If so, then did the Nazis actually promote the well-being of "the Aryan race"? Well, no, it didn't; it got an enormous number of "Aryans" killed!

Thus, you might well accept the Nazi propositions that an "Aryan race" exists, that you are a member, and that of all the "races", the "Aryans" are "the best"...and still reject Nazism as a political movement because it failed to deliver on its promises!

You don't need "morals", just pragmatic self-interest.

Is a Nazi Empire worth risking your life for?

quote:

The fact is that morals and ethics do exist. We operate on them every day.


What we "operate" on "every day" is custom...and, I suppose, habit. The only time we're likely to stop and think about "morals" or ethics is when something unusual happens. We don't have a socially acceptable option readily to hand, so we have to stop and think, what "should" I do in this situation.

I find a wallet on the street. I look inside and discover there's only $30 in it and no credit cards. So I mail the wallet back to the poor guy, including his cash. But suppose I look inside and there's $350 in cash and a stack of credit cards. Well, I'd keep the cash and mail all the rest back to him...$350 means nothing to a guy like that. Suppose it was $3,500? I'd keep the cash and throw away the wallet and the cards; fuck that rich bastard!

quote:

To claim that morals don't exist is to claim that these people are in fact lying, or don't know why they really feel that way in the first place.


No, it's just saying that they are mistaken...they are acting on the premise that something "exists" -- objective morality -- that, in fact, cannot be objectively demonstrated to exist at all.

There's no "great scoreboard in the sky" that records all our "moral acts" and "immoral acts".
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First posted at RevLeft on April 7, 2006
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quote:

Where did these customs come from? And where did the customs before them come from? At what point did a custom originate, and what do you attribute it to?


Customs originate from perceived pragmatic self-interest. The historical details are often lost in the "mists of time", of course. And what would have "made sense" at the time a custom was adopted may now make no sense at all.

Savage tribes once had the custom of raiding each other's camps to steal women. We don't do that any more.

Because we're "more moral"? *laughs*

Or because mutual seduction is more fun than rape?

quote:

Pragmatic self-interest would imply that you should keep the $30.


No...because $30 is a trivial sum to me and the reasonable hypothesis is that this poor guy is even worse off than me and really needs that money.

quote:

So when a vegetarian chooses not to eat meat, they are mistaken about what? That an animal is a conscious being? That it has value?


That it has value in some "morally objective" sense. The universe was not "built" with a sense of "morality".

What some people do is make one up and impose it on the universe. As a rule, such people are superstitious and think that their imaginary "morality" will procure them "special rewards" in the "next universe".

Not much to say about that particular delusion that hasn't already been said.

But even the "secular" versions are suspect; vegetarians seem to believe quite sincerely that they are "morally superior" to us "sinful" meat-eaters.

Well, what do "morally superior" people try to do when they think they can pull it off?

Make all the rest of us "behave like them"...always "for our own good" of course.

Sound like fun?
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First posted at RevLeft on April 7, 2006
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quote:

Yet to treat men and women as equals is a moral choice, not one made by "perceived self-interest".


Playboy magazine disagrees; they assert that men should treat women as equals because then men "get more sex" and "better sex". *laughs*

The real difficulty in any appeal to "absolute morality" is that it has no foundation in objective reality.

Once people discard "the commandments of God", they are free to define "morality" according to what advances their own perceived material interests (which is what they were really doing all along, of course).

"Thou shalt not steal" is a commandment of those who have addressed to those who have not.

Slavery is "moral"...to a slave-owner.

And very "immoral" to a slave, of course.

Well, what do these constructed "moralities" have to do with vegetarianism and veganism? Who benefits (or thinks they benefit) from this stuff?

It's a complicated question because it's so far removed from material reality. If people who raised plants for food argued that vegetarianism/veganism was the "moral choice" while meat-eating was "immoral on its face", then we'd have something nice and clear-cut to deal with.

My guess is that vegetarianism/veganism is an ideology chosen by well-to-do "city kids" who have had little or no contact with modern agriculture at all...raising plants or animals for food.

Butchering and meat-packing is not a "pretty" industry; it's bloody and messy and, for that matter, one of the most dangerous of modern industries to work in.

Possibly vegetarians/vegans find this so aesthetically displeasing that they conclude that it "must be immoral".

It wouldn't be the first time that humans have equated the "ugly" with the "immoral"...just look at the old stereotypical image of the "witch".

Another factor that may be at work: adolescents must, of necessity, either accept one of the available "identities" provided for them by existing capitalist society or create a new one. Since modern capitalism does emphasize "infinite consumption", a dissident might well choose instead the "opposite" of that -- refusal to consume. Some kids actually attempt to starve themselves to death in search of an identity of their own...others are satisfied by "giving up" this or that product. Giving up "meat" is a way of "really being different".

To elevate such choices into a "universal morality" is perfectly understandable...if rationally indefensible.

If one has convinced oneself of one's own "moral superiority", does that not lighten the "burden of existence"? You may well live "in the shit", but "at least" you're not one of those "immoral" people who "celebrates it".

quote:

I'm well aware of the misuse of morals throughout society, but this doesn't mean they don't exist.


Well, they can't be objectively demonstrated to "exist"...except as a "cosmological justification" for acts in one's own perceived self-interest.

It seems to me that when someone makes a "moral choice", it's purpose, at the very least, is to enhance one's own "self-esteem". I did this or refused to do that because I, unlike others, am a "moral person".

That's not "objective existence"; it's just subjective conceit.
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First posted at RevLeft on April 8, 2006
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I don't perceive it to be in my own self-interest to steal from people at my level or even poorer; but I do see it in my self-interest to steal from the rich bastards.

A social order in which murder was "morally neutral" would contradict my own self-interest; I am too old and feeble to acquire the skills of a professional killer...so I would be a likely victim.

Most people feel inadequate in that regard...which is why murder is always "immoral" within one's own community. Killing people in other communities is an entirely different matter, of course.

Though somewheres between 100,000 and 500,000 Iraqis have died as a consequence of the American invasion, no mainstream voice has accused Bush of "being immoral". Everyone (except a tiny number of clergy) seems to grasp that "morality" has nothing to do with imperialism. What counts is did you win or did you lose?.

The Republicans risk the odium of being thought "losers at war"...rather than "immoral killers".

quote:

And as such it had to have been founded somewhere.


It was "made up" because people thought it in their own perceived self-interest to "have it". Humans invent all sorts of cultural artifacts...and then alter or dismantle them when they no longer serve any purpose.

quote:

Also, what does 'perceived self-interest' have to say about our more well-to-do comrades (those with money, social stature, etc...) who are still fighting for the proletariat, even if they do not belong among them in regards to class? Certainly they could continue a life of luxury, and live peacefully as they see fit with no regard to the poor what-so-ever?


It says that we should engage with them on a very cautious basis...because their class interests are not really the same as ours.

There are already groups in existence which won't accept for membership people who are not actually working class (however they define that term). They don't want a group that's "led" by people who are not workers.

They appear to be willing to work with other groups that may be led by "well-to-do" people...but they want to avoid organizational subordination to their "social betters".

I am not denying that, on rare occasions, someone who is pretty well-off (or who comes from that background) may not sincerely want to act "in our interests". But that is, when you get right down to it, a very hard thing to do.

Suppose I were in a situation where I could "save the life" of a guy who I knew was a rich bastard. I'm telling you that I would turn my back on the turd and walk away! And I wouldn't feel the least bit of remorse!

I am not "universally pro-life". For exploiters and oppressors, I am pro-death!

To me, that's the "moral position". *laughs*

From a vegetarian/vegan standpoint, the logic of their "morality" is that those humans unwilling to stop eating meat should be executed.

If "meat is murder", then what do we do with those we consider murderers?
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First posted at RevLeft on April 9, 2006
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