Paradigm Shift

In the first post ("Ask not what our health can do for us; ask what we can do for our HEALTH"), I expressed that one of the four goals of this blog was the "develop[ment] [of] new discourses for non-confrontational and non-judgmental engagement with the moral intuitions of those overlooked and/or ostracized." Since then I've become even more conscious and dissatisfied with popular discourse in mainstream and even radical environmental, food, and animal movements. After a semester of reading John Dewey, Donna Haraway, and Gianni Vatimo, I've become more convinced that a fresher and weaker discourse is urgently needed.

The strong moral discourse of right/wrong, good/evil, superior/inferior, etc. seems to cut-off conversation and inquiry with colonized and marginalized others, turning ethics into a winner-take-all debate that creates vicious opposition rather than building solidarity across movements and interests. I think a different moral vocabulary one that is empty of narcissism, purity, and self-certainty. This isn't to oppose all normative statements, only loaded ones that have more rhetorical bark than substantive bite.

The following list is a work-in-progress of a paradigmatic shift to a less violent discourse, one that is more humble, generous, open, and playful. What I present here is perhaps "weaker" (that is, a weakening of metaphysical assumptions) but I think weakening moral discourse is a good thing. As Lao-Tzu wrote, "the hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and subtle will prevail” (76). The youngest and most vital are soft and flexible while the old and inflexible are dry like corpses. His point is that dynamism is the principle of living while that which is immutable and unyielding is the principle of death. Thus, "the Master is content/to serve as an example/and not to impose her will” (58). To live well and be just requires “simplicity, patience, and compassion” (67). Only when these virtues that embody HEALTH are forgotten do we end up with illusions like "goodness," "morality," and "religion" (38).*

It is my belief that this weak moral language is more democratic and less ideological/dogmatic/theological than the strong moral discourse popular today. As such, weak normative language promises greater participatory, enrichening, and transformative potential. If veganism is a principle of least-violence (or anti-oppression), it seems that veganism is a means as much as an ends, an endless end, an ideal that is utterly empty of idealism.

HEALTH (coflourishing)
vs health (self-preservation)

intersectional interspecies justice (fair sharing of enriching opportunities and burdens)
vs animal rights (competitive atomistic interests)

alliance politics (social and ecological solidarity)
vs single-issue politics (identity-based, oppression olympics)

social and ecological capital (growing solidarity, greater sustainability)
vs cultural and market capital (social climbing, wealth hording)

responsibility (contextual response)
vs morality (fixed system)

etiquette (everyday attentive care)
vs ethics (special code of conduct)

conversation (mutual growth)
vs debates (winner-take-all)

empowerment (humility and phronesis)
vs power (self-secure and control)

Human-Animal-Food Relations:
systems thinking (large-scale, nuanced)
vs linear thinking (small-scale, cause-effect)

farms as cooperatives (public, participatory agriculture)
vs corporations and “family farms” (private, labor-commodity agribusiness)

food as crystallization of bioculture
vs commodity and nutrient assemblage

animals as partners and participants
vs property and victims

veganism as creative process of human-animal enrichment
vs calculated identity of human-animal abstention

*Quotes are from a different translation:
Lao-tsu. Tao Te Ching. Trans. Mitchell, Stephen. New York; Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.

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