In the former post we have argued that despite some specific relative successes, some optimistic prospects, and mostly despite the “we’re winning!” rhetoric common among many activists, we are still very very far from wining. Despite the vegan hype and the occasional launch of new plant based products, global consumption of meat is still on the rise. So not only that we are not “winning”, it is still the case that each year more animals are being exploited in severer ways.
In the following posts we’ll argue that not only that we are not winning, there is no reason to believe that we would win simply because we are right. The world doesn’t work like that. We very much want to believe that it does, partly because of an honest, naive and real belief in our goals, but also because people rather believe in a just world theory (that eventually what is true, right, ethical, fair, and just would win) than that there is no causal relation between what things should be like (because that is what is true, right, and just), and how things are actually like.
Many activists are saying that after the working-class liberation, black liberation, women liberation and gay liberation this is the animals’ time. Discrimination on the basis of species is the last form of discrimination to be fought against.
Thinking that this is animals’ time since other forms of discrimination were already successfully addressed is false from at least three different aspects. The first is a factual one – all of the so called revolutions are still far from occurring. The second is conceptual – the belief that eventually the truth has got to win, requires falsely observing history as a purposeful force moving in a linear way from bad to good, from chaotic to ordered, from irrational to rational. And the third one is analogical – even if human social struggles were successful, we can’t infer from them about nonhumans’ struggle, because they are fundamentally different.
The following post address the first aspect.
No social struggle has ever really ended.
The working class struggle for example is definitely not over. In fact in global and absolute numbers, many more humans are working much harder nowadays, than in any other time in history. The lives of hunter-gatherers are often being falsely romanticized by animal rights activists but at least in that perspective, the average hunter-gatherer’s life was most likely far better than the average modern worker’s in a factory. Even the working conditions of farmers after the Neolithic revolution were better than workers in modern factories. Surely they were more prone to hunger in cases of droughts or floods, but they worked less hours, they were much more fitted to the lives they conducted, they were less bored and much less alienated from their work as they directly consumed the products they made, as opposed to production line workers who are usually making one part of a whole product, doing the exact same repetitive action, hour after hour, day after day, for most of their lives.
Nowadays, instead of most humans being farmers who are working very hard while others get richer at their expense, most humans are factory workers who work even harder while others are getting even richer.
Most of humanity is working extremely hard just to survive, with no reason to expect that their lives would ever change for the better.
Even after the major Neolithic and Industrial revolutions and after relatively smaller ones such as the French Revolution, the Communist Revolution and the modern struggle for workers’ rights – no matter the political and social order – the most important stipulation for a chance for a good life is to whom one was born. In many societies there is some room for social mobility but still the most important factor is which social group one was born to. Humans don’t have equal opportunities to develop their abilities. Other factors such as education (which is of course also mostly a factor of the social status) and natural talent are not negligible but are still extremely inferior to wealth and social status. Both can usually compensate for the lack of any other factor, and as for the ones who happen to be born into poor and low-class family, the existence of other factors (such as education or natural talent), in the vast majority of cases, is almost meaningless.
The class war is here to stay. Every society in history had some sort of social stratification within it. The differences are only in the various invented categories which humans are divided by, such as ethnical origin, race, religion, language or class.
There was never a truly egalitarian society in history and this struggle is only getting worse. Nowadays the world’s classes are spread very unevenly across the globe. This way the higher classes, don’t have to face the lives the lower classes (half way around the world) have to maintain, mostly so the higher classes can maintain theirs.
In addition, currently the neo-liberal capitalistic viewpoint is not even under a serious political threat. Many treat it as the natural state of humans. It’s true that every ideology always claims that it exemplifies the natural way of life to base its ideas, but so far there were always serious opposing alternatives. We are not arguing that capitalism is here to stay (though it does seem to be very strongly based), we are arguing that classism is here to stay as no matter what is the political order, it is always there.
Another form of discrimination which is cross-cultural, era, and social order, is discrimination against women. No matter where on the globe and when in history, women are always discriminated against.
It is not just the obvious women rights violations such as imposed dress codes, the appalling female genital mutilation inflicted on millions of young girls, the denial of the right to vote, to maintain assets and to marry whom they desire, or being formally and officially men’s properties, the discrimination and exploitation is everywhere. http://only-one-solution.org/multimedia-articles/mutilate_to_dominate.htmlFor every “unenlightened” society in which certain professions are formally prohibited to women, there are many societies that certain professions, as well as social and political positions, are culturally and subliminally prohibited to women.
Western societies count women’s liberation struggle as a success, but even they are still far from being gender equal. For example, the wage gaps for the same profession are still huge. There is not even one parliament in the world with a women majority in the Upper House or Senate and there are only two parliaments where there is a women majority in the Lower House. Less than a quarter of all national parliamentarians are women. Only 17% of the world’s total cabinet ministers are women.
Globally, there are 38 States in which women account for less than 10% of parliamentarians in single or lower houses, including 4 with no women at all.
Only 10 women are serving as Head of State and 9 are serving as Head of Government.
Some countries still do not have women suffrage.
It is really an endless dry statistics list, but we feel very uncomfortable with these examples since they are very institutionalized and even capitalistic, and also because the problems are much more basic. As it is not just the obvious and the formal discrimination that supposedly happens only in “unenlightened” societies (and as we argue happens in great extent on the so called “enlightened” societies), it is the fact that every woman in every culture feels like a sex object during her lifetime no matter where she lives.
Women are still being treated as maids inside their houses, and when they are outside they are treated as ornaments in the least-worst cases and as sex objects in the worse ones.
The estimations are that one out of four women is forced to have sex against her free and full will at least once in her lifetime, one in three is sexually attacked, and each and every one is sexually harassed.
The physical predominance of men puts women in a continuous worry. Women don’t feel safe. They don’t feel safe being alone in the streets, in some cases even in their own neighborhood. What can be more basic than that?
In many places in the world, rape within marriage doesn’t even count. When a woman is married “no” to sex is not an option. A woman is supposed to give in to her husband. She is his property, his belongings.
According to the World Health Organization 20% to 80% (depending on the country) of women are regularly beaten at home.
In the United States a woman is physically abused by her intimate partner every 3 seconds. In India, more than 8,000 women are murdered each year because their in-laws consider their dowries inadequate.
Women’s vulnerability is not only derived from the threat of direct violence.
Women have been the historic victims of political and economic exclusions and have suffered the ravages of patriarchy, sexism and discriminatory practices that have kept them outside of social, political and economic power structures.
Women are still the poorest of the world’s poor, representing 70% of the 1.2 billion people who live in absolute poverty (incomes of less than $1 a day).
Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, produce half of the world’s food, and yet earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property. The association between gender inequality and poverty can’t be more obvious.
Another thing that is here to stay is Racism. Currently it is even “thriving” with the revival of extreme right wing political groups, including some white supremacy advocators, in Europe and the U.S., but that is too anecdotal in historical terms to serve as a serious basis for the claim that racism is here to stay. The reason we think so is that the human brain is structured to classify, categorize and generalize information, ideas, objects and also humans.
Humans are not built to categorize others by race (as of course, race doesn’t even exist in biological terms), but they are wired for tribalism – the natural ‘us and them’ mechanism, in other words humans have a cerebral apparatus for discrimination. So despite that race is an invented category made up by humans who used it and are still using it to serve their own interests, the mechanism for discrimination wasn’t invented along with racism, but was there all along.
Some argue that the fact there is not even such a biological category as race proves how weak racism is and that it can be eradicated, but the fact that such a fictional concept became so evident that most humans are sure it really exists shows how powerful it actually is.
Racism is a product of humans’ brain features and psychological tendencies. And evidently humans have been discriminating each other all along history on the basis of what others look like, what they wear, what they eat, where they are from, what they believe in and etc. It is always us and them.
Racial discrimination can definitely be reduced by knowledge and education and so it did along history. But there is a reason why it is such a strong phenomenon in every culture, at any era and to such great extent. It takes a lot of work to fight against such basic biases, as favoring the ones who are similar to me and thinking less of the ones who are not. Some are ready to do it and fight hard against this unfortunate trait, while others are taking advantage of it by using it to gain political power or to accuse others for their problems or for every social problem. However it is so abundant and so fundamental because humans are built to protect their own group and to see others as enemies or threats.
The combination of innate brain traits – tribalism, classification, prejudices and other biases, the self-assurance that our group is the best and all the others are at least not as good if not the worst, along with the strong sense of social order and benefits that come with discrimination of others, is too powerful to be eradicated. It certainly doesn’t mean we are bound to accept racism and stop fighting it, but that we are bound to always fight it. It is an endless struggle. Social discrimination will always be part of the human society, just as classism and male chauvinism.
No human struggle is, or will ever be, over.
We are still so extremely far from humans’ time. Nonhumans’ time is not even on the far horizon. Not that humans are more important than nonhumans. Obviously this is far from being the case. But since it is the case that humans absolutely rule the world, and so unfortunately nonhumans’ fates are in humans’ hands. And as long as humans’ lives are so disposable in so many parts of the world, it is extremely unlikely that nonhumans’ lives would be considered so nondisposable.
For that reason, as well as many others, we must take nonhumans’ fates out of humans’ hands.