Sep 10, 2011

Violence Justified - Against Legal Terrorism

This isn't the post I was going to write about direct action... But it will more than do for what point I was hoping to make.

Like most who seek compassionate alternatives in their lives I would never think of "forcing" anything on anyone.  In the first place, I know that any authentic changes people make must come from their own desire in order to be lasting.  Secondly... "force", destruction and violence just isn't my style. Oddly enough even before I became aware of hidden injustices that I was participating in... I still always thought myself to be a "peace-nik".  If there was conflict, I consistently sought out a rational way through it.
After all, violence is never rational...  Or is it?

Now there are a few occasions that I recall using physical means as protection... Once even against a large, vicious dog that was attacking my vulnerable dog Midas.  It hurt me to do that... I actually kicked the aggressive dog in the face for him to release his bite from my dog... I felt ill at the force that was necessary for me to use.  

Even earlier than that... As a tween I remember being over a friend's house whose father (drunk I suppose), took a belt to her in a wild fit of rage.  The strap clapped on her small body, even tinier than my own, when a giant, confident voice of indignation rose from within me.  With all the strength that my 70 pound body had, I grabbed the man's hand and demanded: "Stop! You're hurting her!"  I think he did out of shame...

I think many times injustice requires stern confrontation to put wrong doing in it's place.  In the defense of ourselves and of others there is a line we all have that will tolerate "No more!".  But with nonhumans it's different.  Those lines we all have, become obscured or erased - as these beings who we know are being violated in the most brutal ways - are "possessions".  And society's rules and laws say because they "belong" to someone, it is not any one's place to interfere with that "legal" ownership... No matter what they do to their "property".

But society has been wrong before... And not all "laws" are right.  So how is it that the best among us still do not come to the direct aid of innocent victims, labeled as "food animals", "lab animals", "fur animals", "production" or "entertainment" animals?  How and why do we remain civil with such atrocities going on?

I think I know the answer and it is found in part in these articles.  Ironically, the first - Do We Need a Militant Movement to Save the Planet (and Ourselves)? is co-authored by Lierre Keith the writer of the Vegetarian Myth. And the other is written by Mikey Z: Our way of life is the problem
In both articles the agreement is that most of us live comfortably where the risks and possible sacrifices incurred in "illegal" dissent might be more than most of us want to make... 

Perhaps Peter Young speaking at the 2011 Animal Rights Conference touches on some truth when he suggests we might not fight so hard for nonhumans because of unacknowledged speciesism... 

But some do engage in direct action in spite of the consequences:  Like Daryl Hannah, the SHAC 7,  Kumi NaidooTim deChristopher, and less famous others...  And most recently it is Steve Hindi founder of SHARK who was assaulted a few nights ago - Hit by a vehicle whose driver was caught attending the shameful Berk's County Pigeon massacres.  This is not the first time Hindi has been assaulted.  Clearly animal rights activists risk personal safety, their very lives and liberty.  It's true... The blood shed goes beyond the nonhuman victims and to the activists themselves.

I hope that it is here that I can admit to sometimes being cautious for my own safety and that my courage lacks the follow through that I know the victims deserve.

But like many, what I do as an activist or what happens to me by being such, affects others in my life...  When you're alone - You can do what you want. When others love you - It's not that simple...  I can't and don't do what my heart tells me I should.  I stay within the laws even though I don't respect them... This I think for everyone - Is the hardest thing about knowing what justice is but not taking direct action to make it so. 

So... The point I wanted to make was that none of us really knows what will be the catalyst or the breaking point that lets us cross "that line" beyond lawful (peaceful) advocacy... But  for those who do - I hope we all support them as the heroes they truly are!    


veganelder said...

Mickey Z wrote: "“Our way of life” is based on violence, expansion, consumption, domination, and predatory capitalism." This is true. I fear we will be unable to admit it in time to prevent our on destruction.

'Violence' is a sticky wicket. I do not perceive activities that do no harm to living beings as 'violence'. It is heartening that, so far, no activity on behalf of our animal relatives has resulted in harm to living beings. I honor and support those who have placed themselves in jeopardy to save living beings.

Breaking 'laws' which support the way of life described by Mickey Z is life affirming in the best sense of the phrase.

'Law', 'legal', 'criminal are words many of us approach almost with reverence and/or foreboding. We would all do well to remember that the activities carried out by the Nazi regime in Germany were all 'legal' according to the 'laws' of that country.

Thank you for your thoughtful writing.

Olivia said...

As usual, reading PROVOKED involves more than a quick scan. Because, as usual, blogger Bea did the meticulous research for which she's famous!

I opened every link and read, watched or listened to each reference supplied. (Well, couldn't bring myself to watch the video from Spain because of the warning of its graphic nature, and I haven't watched Earthlings and probably never will.)

Recently I finished a fascinating book, DOING DEMOCRACY, featured on Humane Myth's recommended reading list: Its subtitle, "The MAP Model for Organizing Social Movements," sums up what author Bill Moyer (not Moyers!) has learned from his 35 years as an organizer of environmental and social movements.

Here's the publisher's short description of Doing Democracy: "Citizen activism has achieved many positive results. But the road to success for social movements is often complex, usually lasting many years, with few guides for evaluating the precise stage of a movement's evolution to determine the best way forward. Doing Democracy provides both a theory and working model for understanding and analyzing social movements, ensuring that they are successful in the long term. Beginning with an overview of social movement theory and the MAP (Movement Action Plan) model, Doing Democracy outlines the eight stages of social movements, the four roles of activists, and case studies from the civil rights, anti-nuclear energy, Central America, gay/lesbian, women's health, and globalization movements."

Here's a tiny sampling: Moyer lists 10 hallmarks of effective activism, and the "peace paradigm" is one of them. He also lists 10 hallmarks of ineffective activism, and "any means necessary" is one of them.

Another sampling: Moyer explains in depth the four roles of social activism -- citizen, rebel, change agent, and reformer -- and points out the traits of the effective and ineffective representative of each role. His conclusion is that the ideal activist knows how to fill each role effectively.

This book got me thinking. One lesson I learned from it is that unraveling speciesism is a mission that requires patience, persistence, wisdom, humility, and willingness to study history.

For those who want to see the full scope of what we animal rights activists are up against as a justice movement, this book is a "must read."

Bea Elliott said...

I am quite tired and frustrated of "talk" myself... If I were younger - If things were different I'd have no problem contributing to the just "violence" that the liberators have thus far meted out.

But at the rate we're going we'll be at this a billion, billion lives from now and on the course of our own destruction as well.

"We put our Dachau and our Chelmno and our Auschwitz-Birkenau and our Sobibor and our Ravensbruck right out in the open and no one storms the fences or kills the guards." Veganelder

And where is the outrage??? I'm just baffled as to what will bring it on. Totally and completely stumped. :(

Nicola said...

I've been thinking about this very thing today...I suppose I've been trying to convince myself that other (legal) ways to help are more productive, perhaps they are, I can't decide, but I certainly do lack courage and completely admire those who are brave enough to take real risks to make things right.


Harry said...

Bea, incredibly powerful and thought-provoking post. As yours usually are. Thank you.

I hope you don't mind my posting the following quote from one of the articles that you guided us to but I feel it articulates clearly what so many people would rather not know and, armed with denial of such knowledge, they are therefor not driven to action (I mean any action here, not just the direct action you discuss):

"Lierre Keith: ... if you live in one of the rich nations, you live behind a military barricade, and the only reason that you don't know that every single thing you buy is based on violence is because of that military barricade. So we can turn away in complete denial to the real cost of every single piece of food we eat and everything we buy — the cell phones, the ipods, the cars, whatever. There are a whole bunch of dead people and dead bioregions behind everything that we buy. And it is that military barricade that keeps us safe and keeps us in a complete land of dreams. But it is all based on violence. All we are saying is that we want to stop the violence. We don't want to make violence." In other parts of the article different types of militant action (eg economic) are discussed - important as I think most of us immediately equate violence with physical violence but there are other ways of being militant and fighting back.

A favourite quote of mine came from the lips of Thomas Edison, "Restlessness is discontent. And discontent is the first necessity of progress." Most of us are content, or content enough. Not restless. And hence there are no uprisings for fear of losing what we have. I believe continued education that opens our eyes to the atrocities that we're so dependent on, but blissfully unaware of, will lead to the restlessness in us that this planet so desperately needs.

Bea Elliott said...

Thanks A Diary of an Animal Lover... I agree that it's a tough call to know what is effective to inspire cultural change. Who really knows what influence direct action has on the public? But - In terms of justice, (for me) there is no doubt that open rescues and "monkey wrenching" that harms the abusers is totally acceptable.

I think as long as we all proceed with the brave intent to squash the lies and confront abusers (even though only verbally) - Our place is called for too! It is only the cowards that go along with unquestioned habit... Who never change themselves or never demand change from society. You are an "animal lover" in the truest sense of respecting lives - I think that's courageous too!

I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. x

Bea Elliott said...

Hi Harry - Yes! You've highlighted the essence of what is at stake here... There truly is hidden violence in everything we consume. It's daunting trying to weigh the lesser of two evils with every purchase.

In fact, just today I read an article about the Frito Lays company... I never thought about this before as I bought their corn chips or canned bean dip --- They are also the largest manufacturer of "pork rinds"! This is just one example of the hundreds of ways that it is impossible to avoid contributing to the violence we're so against. All these companies are so tangled up with each other I cringe in not knowing the details. Another example... I like chocolate flavored almond milk on occasion --- What conditions they source the cocoa from is anyone's guess...

I like your quote and thoughts on restlessness. It's totally true - We're just not hurting badly enough to be stirred (shamed) into seeing the bigger picture. It's a humbling (and humiliating) concept... Thus far, there are no options for "cruelty-free" only "less harmful".

Thanks for further validating what I was restlessly trying to say...

David Ashton said...

Bea, This is a terrific post - I'm with you 100%! Many difficult choices, so many alternatives, but a clear goal. I relate to having to temper our actions to prevent hurt to those we love. In my eyes, you're a hero for doing what you do!

Bea Elliott said...

David... I think sometimes because of the world we live in it's actually "heroic" to even recognize that problems (and victims) exist. We live in such a time of personal pleasure at any cost, that it's easy not to know...

Because you see and care and do what you can to change things for the better - You're a hero in my eyes too.

Thanks so much for that and for your kind words.

Anonymous said...

How merciless does someone have to be to beat up a baby elephant?! Equally astonishing footage exists elsewhere of a "trainer" hurting an older 60 year old elephant. I wish I could help and give some love to these poor babies.

Bea Elliott said...

Hi Anonymous... My thought is that you help by acquiring the knowledge. By wanting to know. And by being a voice for the victims whenever you can.

I thank you for your visit here. And for the compassion you've chosen to extend to others - Much appreciated!