Because I'm vegan, people will from time to time ask me why I choose to live without using animals, or products made from or by them. When this leads to a discussion of the ethical dimensions, people (who I know to value or care about animals) will ask questions and make arguments that are really quite difficult to reconcile with the fact that they say they value animals, as the statements they make are things they'd never ask or argue at other times, or if they were thinking through the question how to treat other humans. For instance, it's only when people feel they have to defend their animal use, that they will claim "plants have feelings too" [in the same way sentient beings do].
As explained by Gary Francione, there are clear reasons why we find it so easy to come up with these kinds of objections and concerns, especially while we still use animals ourselves. This is because we are raised to view and treat animals as property, in a society that legally defines and treats them as such in every way.
Because of this, it is very easy for us to ignore or dismiss the fact that animals value their own lives just like we do, and to not recognize how bizarre it is to put a human's "wish to eat an animal's flesh" on the same level as the animal's interest in survival, and to argue that it's reasonable to let the wish of the murderer prevail over the needs of the victim (and to see this as a dilemma, outside extreme conditions), because of the -- circular -- 'fact' that humans are 'superior' to the other animals because we have traits that we say bestow or 'prove' our higher moral value.
Last year, as I was going through a bunch of Noam Chomsky's talks, I noticed a similar problem and pattern underlies the arguments that he was exposing as problematic and (often) incoherent.
Chomsky's way of exposing elites generally involves quoting the positions defended by supposedly more 'progressive' elites at length, which he then juxtaposes with facts that are acknowledged/confirmed by official channels, but that they choose to ignore or contradict. This is one way to make it clear that even these more "progressive" commentators are misleading their audience, and that their positions are highly reactionary.
For example, when you listen to his talk "Deterring Democracy", you're confronted with a constant stream of casual racism, problematic behavior, and lies, offered up by "liberal paragons" from the time of FDR all the way through to the Bush 1 (and by now Trump) eras.
What I find most interesting about this is not their casual racism and elitism as such, but two other things. First, that liberals use exactly the same reactionary arguments that conservatives or so-called "reactionaries" do, except they will only do so openly when talking about non-nationals, or people with different ethnic backgrounds or beliefs, or people without what they consider to be proper credentials.
Second, the fact that readers who see themselves as progressive but who consume the output of these commentators are either sufficiently comfortable with these opinions to want to read them, or at least not sufficiently bothered by them to dismiss the author wholesale, and to protest to or unsubscribe from the publication in question for publishing such tripe. (And in fact, many self-identified progressives will cheerfully cite these pieces, or refer others to them.)
This blindness to the fact that their arguments are rotten, as well as to the fact that they're accepting arguments that they would never accept if they were made about people who they count as their peers, suggested to me that there is something seriously wrong with how we are taught to think through moral issues.
And since most of the western curriculum, as well as almost all of our institutions (including animal use) are premised on lockean liberalism, it seemed to me that this is something that we on the left should be talking about, as I cannot imagine that the well-meaning people around me who accept most of these arguments at face value most of the time would be citing and agreeing with these positions and authors if they were aware of this.
This blog is my attempt to lend people a hand, by offering my explanations of why these things trouble me, and how I think our blindness to the moral bankruptcy of these types of meritocratic arguments ties in with the rise of what's called neoliberal politics, and the attendant demographic and economic changes during the same period. And besides that, exploring or pointing towards alternatives that seem to me worth considering, if you value nonviolence, egalitarianism, solidarity, inclusion.