Tuesday, July 14, 2009

On Elitism and the Utility of Not Being Gary Francione

I think one reason why vegans are often labeled elitists stems partly from the fact that the logical arguments usually made in defense of animal rights run directly counter to the anti-intellectualism that is prevalent, especially in America. Lay out a beautifully-reasoned and perfectly-argued position and you are likely to be ridiculed for your snobbery and eggheadedness. The pressing problems of a nation opposed to logic and rationality aside, the aversion to a familiarity with "anything that's too complicated" is a block to many omnivores who might otherwise, if not go vegan, at least think twice about the whole matter.

Yet the beauty of abolitionist animal rights theory is that it is both deeply complex and baldly self-evident. The issue is not new: 500 years prior to the birth of Christ, Greek philosophers were hashing out the same questions. Everyone from Thomas Aquinas to Michelle Malkin has thrown in their two cents on the issue. Careers have been made, prison sentences have been served, books have been authored, songs have been written. Yet, all stems from this one fact: animals are our equals in the interest of not suffering and living a life that is valuable to them.

No amount of ridicule, rage or red paint will ever change that fact. And that is all you need to know.

There is a fine line between confidence in one's ethical stance and snobbery. I have the former in spades: abolitionist veganism
is completely, beautifully watertight. Yet, it ought to be ingrained as a basic social value integral to the commonest standards of everyday ethics. If we can teach our children the inherent right that humans have to their own persons ("Keep your hands to yourself!"), we ought to make it clear to them that animals are every bit as worthy of that right. The only way for veganism - as a fully integrated ethical system and not merely a "lifestyle"- to break out of its cocoon of cultishness and into the mainstream, where it belongs, is for it to become an ethical koine for everyone who realizes that nonhumans have any significant interests, a universally common currency that informs every single social interaction on the planet.

That is not, of course, to say that the message needs to be dumbed down, or worse, diluted. What I am trying to say is that the message in its undiluted form is logical enough that it needs no dumbing down. Educate yourself, by all means. But there is no excuse for a lengthy education to become an extension of a life lived upon the blood of other sentient beings, nor is there any reason why age or education should serve as a blank death warrant for nonhumans.

I do not intend to denigrate the amazing amount of (excellent) theoretical material out there; I have read and reread a good number of the major pertinent works and have a decent working knowledge of the major branches of AR philosophy. Doing so has made me more confident in my stance and more sure of myself when discussing the issue with omnivores. But I have never yet made any headway in convincing them to sit down with a copy of "Your Child or the Dog" and "Rain Without Thunder". If I have made any progress in this area, it has come from the one thing easiest to do: living openly as a vegan, answering questions politely and simply - being a human textbook. No one in my current social network is at this point going to listen to what Gary Francione or Bob Torres is going to say; I have no choice but to be Nathan Gilmore, because that is the only person they will listen to right now. As ineloquent and relatively uneducated as I am, I have both a privileged position and a heightened sense of responsibility: I am the only available voice for those who have none.

Go vegan, and ground yourself in solid theory. But don't ground yourself so firmly that you cannot meet people where they are with the truth.

Monday, July 13, 2009

I thought, for the first (well, second) official post of Alia Porci, you might enjoy a photographic introduction to the characters and environs that are a part of my life, as well as a little information on them, too. This is home. And, as Jane Austen says, "There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort." 

This is my house. Originally built in 1963 as a gift for the children of our neighbors, we chose it for the proximity to the high school I was attending. We moved in the summer of 2001. 

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Our newly-installed porch swing. Though it's not exactly on the porch, it does all the things porch swings are supposed to...creak comfortingly, hold your weight and that of a friend nicely and crush your legs on the downswing if you're not careful. I love this swing; it's a simple pleasure, but one thing we never had in Pakistan. And it's so quintessentially Southern- y'all come on down and sit a spell.

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My beautiful mum. Making faces! 

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Jasper, my canine companion and co-conspirator. A shepherd-rottweiler mix that someone abandoned on my sister's college campus; their loss entirely. He brings joy and happiness to me every day (provided, of course he gets the odd tummy-rub).

Oscar, our African Grey. Attached mostly to my dad, the rest of us are his loyal and fearful subjects. He is the feathered center of the universe (and sings a mean cover of "Who Let the Dogs Out?").

Where the magic happens. Our kitchen.

Next time, join me in downtown Franklin, where the South lost its Cause, where you can get antiquarian books or a brass-topped cane a quick walk from homemade hashbrowns and where your classmates' dad probably has a Grammy.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

And Introducing....yet again....

Hello, and welcome to Alia Porci, the sometime blog of one Nathan Gilmore. This is my digital soapbox, my  never-ending open-mic night. Here, you will find, in varying amounts and frequencies:  poems, photos of vegan food and random things that can be found in Franklin, essays, rants, raves, reviews, library finds, wishlists, hit lists (okay, maybe not), kudos, castigations and other things that generally make up a blog. Specifically, you will probably get anarchist/lefty politics,  abolitionist theory, Christian spirituality, classicist poetry and very nerdy-sounding social critique. 

Why should you be interested in this? What sets me apart from any of a million-odd presumptuous blowhards with half a brain and a half-baked idea? What gems of insight should you expect to glean from the fortuitous happenstance that deposits you at my door? I say to you, verily: Nothing.

Keep those expectations low, my friends. And then Huzzah loudly when I surpass them. So, please bear with me.   I am, in the parlance of one John Steinbeck, wending my way "ad astra per alia porci"- "to the stars on the wings of a pig."