Empathy, narcissism and survivor status

I appreciate that this is a dismal issue, but… there’s an awful dynamic that can take hold in informal circles purposed to supporting survivors of abuse, or discussing the politics of support, and I guess it’s borne of a kind of black and white thinking; the victim can’t also be the perpetrator. By this, I don’t mean that we should blame the victim for their own mistreatment, but rather, that there probably needs to be greater recognition that abuse survivors aren’t magically immune from also enacting abuse against others, and further that they are capable, if willing, of enabling abuse if they’re not willing to get their hands dirty themselves.

Abuse, while providing a particularly horrid array of experiences, doesn’t actually qualify a recipient in combating or preventing more of the same further down the line. If this were true, it’d be marginally easier to break free from abusive relationships – some of the trap is often socio-economic, but so much of it is a mind game as well.

In social circles with an emphasis on empathy, we’re told to respect, and if we can, emulate other perspectives, particularly those of survivors. But this doesn’t actually provide terribly much in the way of solutions, so much as it provides a qualitative approximation of a set of problems.

Using empathy in dealing with survivors can be like walking the proverbial tight rope.

***

The other thing about empathy, in addition to being potentially perspective widening, is that it also makes you vulnerable to narcissists and other apaths. This doesn’t mean you should categorically suspend your empathy, but rather that you need to be aware that given the chance there will inevitably be individuals who view you as an easy mark.

This doesn’t mean that they have to see you as a potential victim – although they could – but rather that you’re an angle for gratification. Maybe you’ll provide them with their own victims, so they can feel better about their own experiences. Maybe you’ll provide them access to a potential pool of followers for their egos to be stroked because they’ve always liked their egos stroked since day dot.

Narcs are pervasive minority that cut across all manner of social groupings. Expecting that your group operates in isolation from this could very well be folly.

***

For seemingly the umpteenth time in the past few years, I’ve just seen a rape survivor condescend to another on the topic of what they’re allowed to feel anxious about (particularly in relation to the proximity of penises). There was no immediate indication in this case of whether or not PTSD was involved, wherein the sight of a penis was a trigger, but I’ve already run across a couple of incidents of rape survivors gaslighting rape survivors wherein it was.

It takes a special kind of callousness to barge into an online support group for lesbian victims of rape, and just tell them the harden the fuck up and get used to cocks; that “feminism” means they should be infallibly strong, and not so (supposedly) self-pitying. And yet I found out that a former acquaintance, herself a rape survivor, did exactly this. I’ve since resolved to pay more attention to the warning signs.

Who are you going to trust in these situations? Are you going to have a “who was raped the worst/most?” or a “who is the most oppressed?” competition to determine who to acquiesce to? Are you just going to acquiesce to the loudest party so you don’t get your own ears boxed, or your job threatened? Or are you just going to look at shitty behaviour and call it for what it is, knowing the damage it can cause?

It’s not like narcs are terribly good at showing genuine solidarity with other people even if they are in the same in-group; a part of the definition is that they’re self-absorbed, self-interested and have a poor conception of other people’s personal boundaries. How do you get to the kind of group-affinity required for a supporting environment from there? Well, you don’t.

I’m not arguing that the suffering of apaths is morally unimportant – it is important. It’s just that in the aftermath, involving them in any healing process, or in any attempts to stem ongoing damage, is a task fraught with risk.

***

You can’t envy people who have to deal with this shit for a living – to simultaneously care, and then have to compartmentalize. It doesn’t help that for any number of reasons, people look to narcissists for direction, sometimes even resulting in those who care – genuinely – taking a hiding.

The trick, I think, in many cases is this:

Step 1: Find a group of people who like you, have suffered a certain abuse, but unlike you, are not apaths. Preference those individuals with the most over-developed doubts – they’ll need you more. Identify with them on the basis of your shared bad experiences if you can. Even if you don’t belong to this group – even if you haven’t been abused at all – this trick can be pulled off by “good allies” as well. These broken people are your base.

Step 2: Find an argument or statement that advocates the interests of your base that is just and obviously so, except to the obtuse – you will need the obtuse; they’re your foil. “Abuse is bad” is far too obvious, but there’s just enough ambiguity around topics like victim blaming for you to never be redundant in condemning it, while importantly, for your supporters to harbor their own doubts and insecurities about certain specifics.

Step 3: Memeify your objection. Make it rote. Make it repeatable. Make it short. It needn’t be ill considered, but it can be, provided it rings true, provided it can be easily repeated by supporters, and provided it has the short, percussive force required of an interruption. It can educate, it can inform, but it is not purposed to this end so don’t bother wasting your time worrying. Also, don’t worry terribly much about plagiarism when working up your material, although you may need to develop a portfolio of memes to rotate through so as not to evoke ennui.

Step 4: Establish your creds by finding an obtuse, enabling sort who’s spouting horseshit about your people’s situation that you have just the bromide for – an easy if near-universally annoying target – and firing your rote objection at them for the benefit of your base as an audience. Your audience will see you being confident in the face of mendacity, in support of their cause, and they will feel more confident for it by extension. They’ll even try to emulate you. But not being narcs themselves they’ll be dependent on you for that confidence going forward too, which is by and large the point. Repeat as necessary to instill the required level of emotional dependency in your base.

Step 5: Reap the rewards. Construe any frustration or slight as being an attack on your person, and by extension an attack on your base by way of your shared social grouping/allegiance. Don’t worry too much about stretching the logic beyond breaking point. On the whole your base will gladly support you, and even overlook abusive behaviour on your part. Remember that for a lot of them, to lose you is to loose their newfound confidence. If you’re really canny, you can get them to attack people who’ve only ever had their best interests at heart, or attack other members of their own group. Maybe you can even get a medical practitioner fired!

Of course, all of this requires you to be a cynical narc. I’m not sure you the reader can actually manage this, and if you can’t, well good for you for being that much better a human being.

***

Stepping entirely back out of semi-satirical mode, I’m not actually sure that the various narcs I’ve seen engaging in this kind of behaviour have actually planned it. It just seems to come naturally to them; they just gravitate towards the exploitable, have a penchant for thinly-veiled self-serving ideation, and a need to weaponize people in the service of their own egos.

And yeah, I’ve seen it derail and break up more than one informal support group. This is especially when the narc in question no longer needs their base, and can benefit personally by doing a deal with some entrenched power broker.

Old support base? Get under the bus!

My point in all of this again, while simple to repeat but difficult to execute: If you want to take care of abused people, you have to entertain the possibility that some of their number may aim to further the abuse, and have some idea of how you’re going to respond. And yeah, if you’re obviously aware of this, any narc in question may just try to single you out in order to make things go more smoothly (for them). The fact that they may have survivor status doesn’t change any of this.

Leaven your empathy with situational awareness.

~ Bruce

Bluffing…

Debate and public discussions, even when hosted formally, often weigh in favour of the worst representations of fact. ‘Gish Gallops’ of dubious truth demand time and careful attention to verify or refute.

Worse, for every truth, there seems to be several intuitively satisfying falsehoods – each a contender for belief without recourse to evidence. This is all grist for the mill for the Skeptics (capital ‘S’, and a ‘k’), and there’s a lot authored on the topic for the most part I’ll simply defer to.

My interest is in how ‘woo’ manages to hitch a ride on the often legitimate moral anxieties of its victims.

Continue reading “Bluffing…”

Horrible meat…

The Age is running an article, and series of pictures, Inside Baiada, dire picture of health, safety. The pictures are of course, pretty disgusting, which you’d expect I’d say, being vegetarian.

What strikes me is people’s shock, almost as if Baiada were some exceptional case, as if poultry workers normally work in futuristic factories, all sleek, swish and white, spotless in 1080p HD. Let me tell you, while I don’t like what I’m seeing, I’m not shocked.

Ben Schneiders reports Baiada as claiming boxes labelled ‘Coles’ aren’t destined for Coles, but are instead ingredients sourced for use in production. Worrying apparently, because these boxes are in proximity to waste.

Nothing in the article however, shows that the pictured boxes were to be used in production, rather just that they were sourced for that purpose. Consider the imagery of boxes next to piled up (and bruised) chicken carcasses; I’ve seen this kind of thing, where boxes of ingredients approach their expiry date and are sorted with waste to be removed from the factory. I’ve done this work before, taking damaged chooks and boxes of frozen, aging stuffing out back to be disposed of.

News of maggots and cockroaches at the plant aren’t particularly abnormal either. Surely, you’d worry about this being in proximity to the produce end of the line, but poultry processing has an arse end as well, and flies, and cockroaches (and European wasps for that matter) will be attracted. The location of this kind of thing matters, and the photos don’t provide such context – the cockroaches for example, could be outside away from the produce, dead near a trap or bait.

Timing matters as well, and with the level of activity shown in the photos involving produce, it looks like the end of the day when processing is wound down, things are messy, and the cleaners are on their way in. Ugly, yes. Out of order, I can’t tell.

There’s nothing in The Age’s selection of photographs that suggests that food safety regulations have actually been breached (although this may still be the case). Indeed, some of the ugly photographs, like the one with the unattended pot of what looks like marinade, show no signs of anything suspicious. It may all appear shocking (and it should), if you’ve never been inside a poultry factory, but that doesn’t make the produce illegally unsanitary.

No, I’m not alleging deception by the photographers, but rather an unintentionally skewed, middle-class interpretation by the reporter (and likely by most readers). The original photographers may very well have had different inferences in mind; being poultry workers, their perspectives on the matter aren’t likely to be exactly the same as that of white-collar journalists.

No, this is not an apologia for the industry (being normal doesn’t make something right). If I could wave a magic wand and turn Baiada’s plants into vegetarian operations in an instant, I’d do it. What I’m saying is that people need to get their heads around the idea that the poultry industry, and indeed any meat processing industry, is at best, so very, very ugly behind the scenes.

The photos attest to a horrid work environment, but they don’t show how bad things could be, or how bad they often are. The reader is possibly led to underestimate through the inference that any of this is exceptional.

During my stint at Joe’s back in the 1990s, there were instances of my cleaning things up considerably uglier than anything in The Age’s photographic selection (or the embedded video), and this was in compliance with regulation. Heck, I’ve had AQIS inspectors watch me while I’ve been at it – with a tick of approval!

This is the industrial reality of what meat eaters put into their stomachs. This is the industrial reality of what poultry workers put up with.

As for worker safety, the stacking of boxes, the obstruction of exits and the like – none of this surprises me. Nor does the decapitation currently under investigation. While there weren’t any violent deaths at Joe’s while I was there, there was a near-miss just after I left – a fellow falling into a rotary chilling drum that had the safety cover removed, to be crushed between the inner and outer drums, breaking ribs and his collar-bone.

If I read as a little jaded, or a little numb, consider this the result of having been a poultry worker.

None of this is to pre-judge occupational health and safety investigations. Without qualification, I want Baiada workers to have justice and security. None of this is to claim that Baiada hasn’t done anything wrong, legally, with regards to worker safety. I simply make no claims about likely legal outcomes.

None of what I’m writing is to belittle the experience of Baiada employees. Again, what I’m saying is, is that if you’re shocked into thinking this is particularly abnormal based on what you’ve seen so far, then you’re underestimating how harsh the industry actually is, and just how rough Baiada workers must have it, even in a best-case scenario.

Really, you, and Schneiders, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

There is a lot that can still be done justice-wise, even without monolithic reform, and this involves people waking up about just how ugly the industry is, even when ‘ideal’ and legal.

~ Bruce

(I do think it’s pragmatic, and realistic, to consider what a future industry would look like for workers if they were producing vegetarian alternatives; chickens and cows have arseholes, textured vegetable proteins don’t. Even if you aren’t a vegetarian, which workplace would you rather work in? Which kind of workplace would you be more comfortable having people work in to produce your meals?)

HT: Rod and Neil.

Baiada…

I may be a vegetarian these days, but that not withstanding, I’d rather not see Baiada get their way in the current industrial dispute with poultry workers at Laverton. Maybe one day, Baiada will be growing drumsticks from petri dishes, or making faux-chicken nuggets like Fry’s, but until then, the difference doesn’t negate the industrial relations concerns. And I’m concerned…

Whatever the job, workers deserve fair pay and conditions.

I’ve mentioned before that back in the 1990s, amongst other things, I worked in a non-union chicken factory, staffed almost entirely by casual workers.  What I wouldn’t have given for a campaign like the one Laverton’s workers are waging.

I could be wrong about the working conditions at Baiada, and it’s not my intent to minimise the specifics of the exertion I know they must strive through, but I suspect Joe’s Poultry may just have been a little worse*. That being said, with the reality of the cited threats to the Laverton workers, if things aren’t as bad, then it seems likely the situation could easily become so, if not worse. The implications of my own experiences ringing true are at least grounds for solidarity, and even in a best-case scenario for Baiada workers, still cautionary.

Mark Phillips cites ACTU President Ged Kearney stating the concerns plainly; casual labour, exploitative labour hire and health and safety. Poultry processing, as Kearney points out, is dangerous and unpleasant work. I’m thinking that as a result of necessity, Kearney’s terms are still a little abstract and boilerplate for many readers, so I’ll try to flesh out what these terms mean to me, as a former poultry worker, in the hope that it’s somehow helpful.

It seems a normal, and uncritically accepted work ethic, that casual labour isn’t a problem if only you’re a good worker (perhaps a product of fundamental attribution error related to that other myth, that if 100,000 unemployed people wanted work badly enough, they could all magically be employed in the 20,000 jobs available). This doesn’t ring true to me at all.

Your work life may not be as vulnerable, or if it is, it may be so fortunate as to avoid incident. Or maybe, like most humans, incidents do effect you, you can see them happening, and yet you overlook that shit happens to other people as well. This is understandably human, but it still presents an attitudinal problem needing to be dealt with.

I’ve known quite a number of good, hard, very hard workers on casual contracts, and I’ve seen them worn down thanks just to the combination of shit happening, and casual contracts leaving them vulnerable. (That this happens is hardly unique to my experience). For example…

‘Hey, don’t worry. If you don’t report this to Workcover, we’ll look after you!’

I’ve seen this consolation given to more than one hard worker on a casual contract. And if you’re feeling a little gullible, perhaps you’ll believe this is all legit, and that such good will from employers is the logical outcome of a strong work ethic by casuals.

Without exception, when I’ve seen this consolation offered to casual workers in poultry processing, the result has been that in coming back to work, and not getting back up to speed quickly enough, they’re dumped. Not fired, I might add, just told not to come in anymore – employed, but with zero hours a week (causing wonderful issues with Centrelink who want to see separation papers).

Casual contracts make this, and exploitations like it, incredibly easy.

The salt in the wound is that often, the injury slowing them down in the first place could have been avoided by occupational health and safety being properly observed by the employer – instead of for example, there being situations like safety guards being removed to speed up work, with the acceptance of supervisors themselves under pressure to perform.

When I was first interviewed for my job at Joe’s, I was told they chose to go with casual contracts despite the slightly higher hourly rate, because it worked out to be ‘convenient’ for them. Yeah, no shit. Cutting corners (and fingers) more than paid for the difference, I’m sure.

And of course, being in a non-union workplace makes this exploitation even easier.

As for labour hire, good grief. I was an underpaid lumpenprole back in the day, but wasn’t I surprised when I found out that the labour hire workers were getting paid less than me. At least, that’s after the labour hire joint got their cut. Only if a labour hire employee stayed around long enough, would they get their full pay.

Rhetorical question: Do you think labour hire employees lasted long enough to get their proper pay?

The upshot of this, for Joe’s at least, was that they got to outsource the expense of their personnel operations. As long as the labour hire company provided enough workers to replace the (incredibly high) turnover, who needed to care about a little exploitation, right? What a ‘convenient’ arrangement.

Then we come to health and safety (again)…

It’s bad enough that the job is as dangerous as it is without bad policy. Even in a far more ideal industrial relations situation, digits will still be severed, particulate matter from feathers will still be inhaled, workers at the start of the hanging line will still get covered in shit, cleaners will still be exposed to infectious materials and dangerous chemicals, and whatever the causes turn out to be, poultry workers are, and will continue to be, at greater risk of various cancers.

Oh, and don’t forget the stress of the job, coupled with the stress of being seen as a lowly poultry worker. (If you think the poultry work ethic sells well across the board, try ‘process worker’ on with white-collar employers looking for low-level office staff**).

Again, I’m not sure exactly how poorly Baiada employees have it, but they surely don’t deserve things any harder than they’re likely to be experiencing now, even in a best-case estimation. And personally, I really do not want them to endure as much hardship as workers at Joe’s Poultry had to put up with.

I think people need to sympathise more with poultry workers and workers like them, if not for sympathy’s sake in its own right, then because these conflicts are a picture of what more Australian’s lives may be more likely to become.

You may look down on poultry workers now, or dismiss their concerns as outside your interest, but what about when you become one?

With a shrinking middle class, and workplace ‘reform’ across the board, many Australians are the next potential chook on the line. A little forward thinking, if only out of enlightened self-interest, wouldn’t hurt.

If you want to voice a little solidarity with the workers at Baiada, you can sign a petition in support here.  (And please ‘re-tweet’, or ‘like’, on the appropriate social networks).

If you find yourself in much the same situation as Baiada’s employees, you can contact the National Union of Workers here, or The Missos here, who in turn, if they don’t cover your workplace, can hook you up with the right union.

~ Bruce

* Some or all of this may be mitigated against; my experience being prior to most of Peter Reith’s waves of industrial relations reforms back in the day, and obviously prior to more recent setbacks to worker’s rights.

** And no, being highly computer literate, and a fast typist able to slaughter data entry, word processing and database certificates in a swipe, will not help. Being a lumpenprole able to do these things will just get you stared at like Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes. Forget upward mobility you lowly human.

Depressing and wonderful at the same time…

I’ve been a (not entirely bleeding edge) user of social media for some time now, particularly taking an interest in what Australian political/media wonks of a generally left inclination have had to say about this, that and whatever. I’ve been lurking, mostly, satisfied to let other people do the speaking, despite finding a few incidents, and a few individuals, repugnant.

Anyone who’s familiar with my writing, I think will find that I’m one to extend the benefit of the doubt, taking accusations and the like seriously. Serious claims needing serious evidence, not just in the courts, but in discussion in general.

As you can imagine, there are a lot of incidents over the past six years of this escapade where I’ve given the benefit of the doubt. At not insignificant risk of being mistaken as naive, I might add.

(It’s funny in these instances, when people think they’re humoring you).

In most cases, I think I’ve been vindicated. Not in a ‘guilt has yet to be established’ kind of way, but rather in that in many cases, best expectations have been exceeded.

In particular (I’ll name names on this side of the ledger) I think Rod McGuinness, Dave Gaukroger and a handful of others, come across as being better than I’d ever given them credit for at first glances. Not that I ever thought they were slouches to begin with.

This is the wonderful upside. I’m glad these people are alive and sharing their minds with us.

I’ve had reason to reflect a little (actually a lot) of late, especially after a brief online conversation with Tammi Jonas. I’ve been scratching my beardless chin in rumination about what it is to be genuinely left, as opposed to being someone who merely identifies uncritically with concerns seen to be left, as if these were accessories to be worn like a scarf. Moreover, I’ve been thinking about how this can actually constitute a kind of right-wingedness, when superficially espoused leftishness is a means to a purely self-interested end (career, attention-seeking and so on).

(You can imagine what I think of so-called progressives who peddle the Othering of bogans).

There is a downside to all of this of course. I’m rummaging through the sum of my experiences over a long period of time, in a way I’d usually parse in an ad hoc fashion.

The downside is that while some people seem better, more genuine upon reflection, others…

I’ve defended some of these others, on occasion, and on the merits of these defences, I can’t say that I regret doing so. I can’t say in any honesty though, that everyone I’ve interacted with online, or who’ve I’ve been watching, specifically those who outwardly demonstrate typically left leanings, fare very well against a charge of fake leftishness.

And this is assuming a pretty broad definition of left – I’m not assuming that people have to be a politically radical Marxist to be genuinely left, rather just committed to increasing the lot of the down-and-out. Even then, I’m finding myself losing respect for people on account of not being what they claim to be.

I’m occasionally seeing what I once passed off as human error, as more significant that I’d admitted. I’m finding that I’ve been too fair in the past with people I’ve associated with. I’m finding that I may have been inconsistent.

(The fear is that this is a tribal thing, which would make me somewhat of a hypocrite, because I don’t like political tribalism).

I’m finding I can’t agree to disagree on a lot where I have in the past. While there are many things with many answers and solutions, granting ample space for people to reasonably disagree, some things just can’t be right, by definition.

At worst, it’s when one of these supposed lefties have expected some kind of deference, or peer-status, or recognition, when they are obviously wrong, and when it’s obvious they haven’t done the legwork of someone who genuinely cares. I’m finding good reason, upon reflection, to really not like some people.

So I’m glad for the upside, of course!

~ Bruce

That would be the smell of hypocrisy cooking…

I don’t know that it’s hypocrisy, technically. The public recantation of my meat-eating has long since been made.

Finding this photo from a few years back, posted in one of my Facebook albums, has prompted some curious thoughts.

I joked about finding a tofu alternative – May 2009.

Actually, no, no, it was hypocrisy. Assuming my values at the time, vegetarianism followed.

I suspect this may be a good part of the reason some meat eaters resort to ad hoc rationalisations, defensiveness, and outright silliness, when someone merely discusses vegetarianism in their presence. That their own values point towards not eating meat, yet they’re for whatever reason unable to realise these values, having their noses unintentionally rubbed in it whenever someone else’s ethical success reflects poorly on them.

It bothers me, a little, when I’m told I’m denying myself by not eating meat. What exactly am I denying, my instincts or my values?

Sometimes, being human, it’s my instinct to throttle people. You don’t get to live in the land of the bogan without being tested like this sometimes.

But still, I don’t go around thumping people left right and centre (or much at all whenever I can avoid it). This kind of aggression is contrary to my values.

Would people have me change this – that I deny my values and indulge my instincts? What if we all lived like this? Yeah, I thought not.

So if we’re talking about values, who’s denying themselves?

Maybe the defensive omnivore has other values in addition to what we share about the well-being of animals – pragmatism and other mitigating values. But why then the ad hoc defensiveness? Why not just state these mitigating values coherently?

It’s not convincing, really.

‘Well I’m glad you’ve got it all worked out now, Mr Lah-dee-dah’.

Yeah, I guess I don’t want to get too cocky. I’ve eaten meat for most of my life, actions out of line with values.

I often give converts of one kind or another (theist-to-atheist, left-to-right, working-to-middle-class etc.) shit for being too overzealous, and I stand by the judgement. I guess I’ll have to make sure my behaviour as a convert to vegetarianism falls in-line with this ethos.

~ Bruce

Ethical vegetarianism and compromise

Early last week, I had a little chat via Twitter with the Spark The Conversation crowd on the matter of choosing between a principled but poor life, and selling out your morals to be wealthy. Notably, I’m a piss-poor lumpenprole.

I’m not sure what the boundary between developed-world poverty, and developed-world getting-by is in monetary terms, but I’m close. I get by on less than the aspirationals, although it helps that I don’t have a housing loan or children to burn money on.

So what would be the upside of my selling out? Well, I’ve been told it’s not too late for me to enter into the world of professional fishing. I could probably still make quite a bit of money this way if I applied myself to it.

There’s the obvious barrier of course. I don’t kill animals if I don’t have to, and I don’t get other people to do it for me; I’ve made an ethical decision not to be a party to inflicting this kind of suffering. Obviously, this rules out fishing.

There are degrees of commitment, and a spectrum of values in relation to the matter. Some people are weekend meat-eaters attempting to lower their environmental footprint, while others are lacto-ovo vegetarian every day of the week because it forms a Diderot unity with their newsboy caps and teashades. Others again won’t drink milk in order to keep the fairies at the bottom of the garden happy, and then of course, there are those who eat meat with an array of motivations for doing so (and those who don’t think about it at all).

Now unless you’re the vegetarian Übermensch (is that even possible?) or the last human on Earth, you’re going to have to deal with other people holding at least some of these values. You’ll have to treat these values as either rationally non-binding (within practical or definitional boundaries – I’ll spare us all the meta-ethics), or even just practically outside the realm of discussion. You’ll have to compromise at some point (even ending your association is a kind of compromise).

Which brings the discussion up to about last Friday night, when I was out having dinner with a couple of local Humanists. Vegetarians outnumbered meat-eaters two-to-one, and a conversation was sparked!

I was the overzealous new guy on the vegetarian block (it’s been about two years now), being a bit of a know-it-all (not that it got me into trouble), when I had the issue of compromise raised smack bang in front of my face. I managed to swerve at the last-minute, only clipping the corner of my ego.

I was feeling pretty happy with myself, having been able to say (to Spark The Conversation) that I’d chosen not to compromise myself, that this had saved me having to engage in all sorts of mental gymnastics, and that I had no regrets. But at what juncture can you practically compromise with the rest of the world, without compromising your values?

I have for example, let someone eat a hamburger in my house – months ago, mind you. Just how much then, has my moral agency contributed towards the demand for beef? What percent (if any) of a dead cow am I responsible for on account of this tolerance?

What if I did have kids? What if they refused vegetarian meals?

What happens if in the workplace, I become part of the chain-of-custody of an animal-product that involved suffering?

The rule I think, in preventing compromise from becoming moral bankruptcy, is down to how much agency you’re allowed by other people. That without allowing yourself to become too small, you make sure undesired moral choices are reasonably outside your control, and that within the scope of your agency, you consistently make decisions in-line with your values.

Then the question then becomes one of how to get on with other people in a way that either increases your agency, or at least doesn’t see it sidelined, in addition to challenging other people to think critically about ethics. Welcome to politics (and confusion).

~Bruce

Note: Spark The Conversation will be holding an event at the Melbourne Fringe Festival on the 1st and 2nd of October, where ‘Eloise Maree facilitates the participant’s engagement with their own personal truths and subjective opinions’. The event will be live streamed, and involve online participation via social media.

(Photo source: Davide Vizzini)

The virtue of paying attention (to theological ethicists)…

Sometimes us Gnu Atheists, secular fundamentalists, and religious fifth columnists can be dismissive, even totalitarian when the need arises.

Not that we’ve come to power quite yet, or that we’re necessarily restricted to anti-theistic dictatorship when we do (the dwindling Christian minority can still spout its nonsense in public, and we can allow this to continue), it’s possibly time for a change in the mode of engagement. The Enemy is beaten.

Before the First Atheist International secures its first English-speaking nation at the Global Atheist Convention in 2012, it’d probably be worth considering the baby we risk throwing out with the bath water. It’s time – the first time – for us to truly consider what sophisticated theologians have been saying, without our snickering, and without ridicule.

It’s time, now that we have the time, and that victory is already assured, that we consider these things in a scholarly manner.

Consider gay marriage. We’ve been shutting down that particular discussion for decades now, by calling opponents ‘homophobes’ without any consideration of their actual position. Terrible for sure, but necessary for the revolution, at least up until now.

We’ve won the debate. Public sympathy is now irreversibly against the church in this matter. It’s now safe for us to consider the more sophisticated ethical arguments against gay marriage without fear of a loss of hegemony.

“It is significant that everywhere the issue has been debated it begins on the issue of fairness and justice and with majority support but that soon changes when people realise that there are deeper issues involved. After their legislature experimented with same-sex marriage, the people of California voted against the revisionist concept of marriage.” – Emphasis added.

(Rod Benson et. al., 2011)

There are deeper issues involved, and the revisionist concept of marriage, our revisionist concept of marriage, doesn’t account for them. You don’t have to be religious to note that if we assume power, and follow through by riding roughshod over these deeper issues, it could mean disaster! It could turn out to be just another facet, in possibly yet another failed secular revolution! We don’t want that.

“Changing the law so that marriage includes same-sex unions would be a change to what marriage means. Currently marriage involves a comprehensive union between a man and a woman, and norms of permanence and exclusivity. Marriage has a place in the law because a relationship between a man and a woman is the kind of relationship that may produce children. Marriage is linked to children, for the sake of children, protecting their identity and their nurture by a mother and a father.”

(Rod Benson et. al., 2011)

Think of the children! You’d never had heard of it, or come across the idea during the past two decades of discussions of revisionist marriage, if you hadn’t bothered to take down your blinkers – to pay attention to what sophisticated, scholarly, religious ethicists had been telling you all along.

Think of the children! You’d never had heard of it!

Clearly revising the definition of marriage opens up all sorts of terrible possibilities. First we’d let the gays marry – couples who can’t produce their own offspring naturally – and then we’d have to grant the right of marriage to barren heterosexuals as well. Why it’s a slippery slope!

And you just know that secular fundamentalist ethicists have never considered the ramifications of giving IVF and adoption in combination with marriage, to straight couples. I really feel like we’ve dodged a bullet here. We really weren’t prepared for this!

“If children happen to be in a same-sex household they will always have come from outside that relationship, either through an earlier relationship or through the use of some other biological parent and technology.”

(Rod Benson et. al., 2011)

You see, it is just the same as with all of the heterosexual couples with reproductive problems the state has conscientiously been barring from marriage all along!

“If the law were to be changed so that marriage included same-sex relationships [or heterosexual couples with reproductive problems], then marriage would no longer be about children. It would be about adults only.”

(Rod Benson et. al., 2011)

The state wouldn’t be thinking about the children anymore! Fellow ultra-secularists, I implore you to reconsider, whichever future your goodwill for gays and the infertile may lead you to, do you want it to be one where the state isn’t looking out for our precious, vulnerable younglings?

“Given the marital relationship’s natural orientation to children, it is not surprising that, according to the best available sociological evidence, children fare best on virtually every indicator of wellbeing when reared by their wedded biological parents. “

(Rod Benson et. al., 2011)

Never mind that the first study Benson et. al. cite in support of this, is a largely interpretative meta-analysis by the ‘independent’ Witherspoon Institute, isn’t peer-reviewed, is funded by the Templeton Foundation, and when statistical, is purely correlatory; worrying about such matters would be both prejudicial and reductionist. How often in the past have we secular fundamentalists stonewalled discussion by being prejudicial and reductionist, in addition to our use of ridicule and ad hominem? As necessary as it was then, it’s no longer a useful strategy. We need to change.

Never mind that the second study cited by Benson et. al., in as far as it addresses the issue of non-biological parents, concerns non-biological parents married to, or in defacto relationships with, biological parents, not at all considering married adoptive parents, or the use of IVF; such nitpicking would be missing the spirit of the concern. Sampling the population be damned, it takes only a little imagination to see these concerns as applying to gay (and infertile) couples as well. Don’t let statistical scientism prejudice your imagination!

Again, we’ve already won. Religion is an endangered species in Australian politics. We can finally afford to listen, and listen we should; we were all heading for disaster!

“In a liberal democracy, others can form other types of relationships; but ‘marriage’ is a term reserved for a particular kind of relationship that brings with it obligations to others beyond the two parties. Marriage is shared obligation for children.”

(Rod Benson et. al., 2011)

In other words, dear gay marriage advocates; think of the children because gay and reproductively challenged parents won’t, and nor will the state if we change the definition of marriage!

Finally, it all seems so… clear!

Honestly, I’m glad I took the time to delve through the cited material and the expressed argument, because in twenty odd years of watching this discussion unfurl, I’ve never seen anyone present a case quite like this. Think of the children! It never sprung to mind!

Never again will I write off an instance of theological ethics as unscholarly from such a piddling detail as the drawing of conclusions not supported by the cited research – this prejudices imagination! Why those pesky, unimaginative sceptics often marginalise alternative medicine in precisely the same way!

Never again will I dismiss the accumulated wisdom of tradition, like the long-established practice of barring non-reproductive heterosexual couples from the institution of marriage. There are rational reasons why traditions become entrenched, and change doesn’t occur in a vacuum.

The major difficulty I have in all of this, is how in light of my own secular totalitarianism, and that of my peers in the movement, I’m going to justify all of this while we send the theological ethicists off to the gulag political margins. I guess it’ll have to be a carefully crafted plagiarism that hides the original source, and the hypocrisy of using it.

We just can’t get by without this wisdom!

~ Bruce

The Dinner Party Shaman

If you’re developed-world, middle-class enough, perhaps even cashed-up-bogan enough, you should know what I’m talking about.

You’ve gone to a dinner party or a barbeque or some similar gathering, and you’re trying to relax with a beer when someone starts talking about their health issues. There’s nothing wrong with this per se, but inevitably like ants at a picnic, this draws the attention of The Dinner Party Shaman.

They’ve traveled all the way from Nimbin, or some other realm of haute-hippie-culture, with the kids Starshine and Moonbeam, begrudgingly in tow, sullenly carrying the funky lettuce salad and the chimichurri-marinated guinea pig kebabs.

Spiralling into your lives like a tie-dyed dervish on acid cast in a David Lynch film, descending amidst an invisible cloud of jasmine and patchouli, The Dinner Party Shaman has arrived to regale you with just how roolly (née really) deep and culchooural (née cultural) they are. To show you how culchooural they are by taking control of the concerns of you suburban philistines.

You just wanted to relax, kick back, and maybe show a little empathy for your ailing or aging friend or family member. A chin wag over a drink about how you’re both getting on.

‘You need a coffee enema!’

‘I have this dong quai tincture that’ll really strengthen your yang!’

‘There’s this aromatherapeutic poultice I could apply…’

‘Hear, let me activate your chakra…’

‘Relax! Touch is a normal part of human communication. You need to lower your barriers and let me touch you where I want to touch you!’

Roughly a third of the audience, seeing spirichoooal (née spiritual) brownie points up for grabs, will nod in the affirmative, listening attentively and urging The Shaman onward with their exposition of supposedly sage advice.

The poor suffering sod you sat down with will listen patiently for the first few moments, nodding, nodding, subtly making anyone with actual empathy aware of their distress, while waiting for the first polite juncture to point out that they’re seeing a doctor, and that they’re really doing as best they can under the circumstances. All they want to do is relax.

But relaxation is not the prescription, especially if you’ve seen a doctor. The Dinner Party Shaman won’t have any of that!

‘Oh no, you don’t want to do that! Doctors will fill you up with poisons!’

‘That’s not nachooral [née natural]!’

‘Come here and let me…’

No ailment is so serious, no suffering so much, no agony so pervasive that they can’t trivialise it by showing everyone their super-psychic, hero-holistic, magical-imaginary, wonder powers. Be the problem big or small, The Shaman has what The Shaman thinks you need!

Irritable bowel syndrome? They know all there is to know about that! Just bend over!

Cancer? Why that’s just another word for opportunity! An opportunity to show everyone just how earnest they are!

When your friend who’s been a bit under the weather, after wearing of having their rest and personal space violated, points out that they’re confident in their doctor’s experience and education, that’s when the show really begins. You see, you mustn’t imply that The Shaman doesn’t have what you need. That would be disrespectful!

‘I studied aromatherapy for eight weeks at the WEA!’

‘I have a stall each year at the Body, Mind and Soul Fair where people come from miles around!’

‘Are you saying that my qualifications aren’t equal to a doctor’s, if not better? Reductionist! I treat the whole person!’

The uncritical parsing of anecdote and bare assertion is all the study that’s required of such deep, deep people. Gifted intuition does the rest.

By this point in the proceedings, you and your busted up friend have really gone and done it. You’ve offended The Shaman. How rude. You’re ruining the dinner party, with your scepticism, incredulity, self-respect and personal space.

Where do you get off thinking you can behave like that? Who died and made you Shaman?

It’s a bit like Benjamin Franklin was supposed to have said…

‘There are no greater liars in the world than quacks — except for their patients.’

Except again perhaps for shamans and their acolytes, and maybe the wording’s a little too harsh; not so much ‘liars’ as self-obsessed, bullshit artists.

There are no greater self-obsessed, bullshit artists in the world than first-world, middle-class, Dinner Party Shamans – except for their acolytes.

With your slight and that of your friend, the party takes a turn for the serious.

You’re in league with oppressive forces; Big Pharma; The Man; Western Imperialism; The Spanish Inquisition (who nobody expects); The Third Expeditionary Invasion Force of The Illuminati-Reptile-People.

Your facts you are told, conflict with and discriminate against their equally true ‘facts’. Something that they, Shamans and Acolytes, have suffered against since the first witch was burnt at the first stake; facts contra alternative facts.

The child who’s died of whooping-cough because their community is sufficiently anti-vaccination to have lost herd immunity, is both dead and living happily in an incense imbued laa-laa-land. Why can’t you see this.

Both can be true. Accept this and you’ll be well on the way to seeing how you’re wrong and they’re right!

You just need to be open-minded, and then you’ll learn. The acolytes are of many persuasions, the better to foster erudition.

The resident visual arts academic will school you on how scientists get more funding than basket weavers as part of a plot to destroy beauty in the world.

Elders in the group through the bare authority of their age, can tell you how modern medicine deliberately obscures the fact that before street lights, there was no such thing as hay fever. Such deliberate obfuscations as how the supposedly much, much older diagnosis of hay fever by Hippocrates around the start of the 4th Century B.C.E., is really a history fabricated into the textbooks by the corporations that fluoridate your water.

Learn how public schooling secretly plots against free-spirited students who would otherwise learn the evils of aspartame, vaccination and shadow government mind-control, by learning in the ideal Steiner school, or in home schooling.

Convincing? No? Then you must be a shallow, close-minded monster. No wonder you’ve upset The Dinner Party Shaman. You boor!

Perhaps you’ve had enough. Perhaps you’re sick of yourself and your friends being poked and prodded by egoists with no respect for other people’s boundaries. Perhaps your sick of the self-deception and banality of this veneer of the considered life. Perhaps you’re sick of the enablers who make it worse and worse every time.

The pretensions of The Dinner Party Shaman and their Dinner Party Acolytes are intrinsically self-absorbed to the point of absolute myopia and screw everyone else. It’s not just their social appendages that they don’t give a hoot about either.

Children avoidably dying of pertussis, or measles, as a result of a reduction in herd immunity and prompted by anti-vaccination disinformation is incredibly tragic. How does it happen? Disinformation. Who spreads it? New Age Shamans. The advocates of alternative(s to) medicine.

But this is just a shallow foray into the consequences of privileged spiritualism. The toll, shockingly, gets much, much worse.

A serious diversion from the sarcastic is in order.

***

Except perhaps for the most oblivious of the most provincial, it’s well-known that many African nations are suffering an AIDS epidemic, particularly in South Africa. What’s not so well-known, is the extent to which this suffering has been avoidable.

Between 2000 and 2005, in South Africa alone, it is estimated that 330,000 people painfully and unnecessarily died because of government obstruction of the availability of antiretroviral drugs even when freely donated, and of Global Fund grants (Chigwedere, et al., 2008). Why?

This tragedy occurs in a context where the South African President of the time, Thabo Mbeki, condemned antiviral medication as toxic and counterproductive, while adopting the position that only medications for opportunistic infections, rather than drugs preventing the advance of the HIV virus, were to be supported by public funding.

How did Thabo Mbeki come to such an appallingly stupid policy position?

I’ll let you glance across Ben Goldacre’s description of how barrister Anthony Brink, after reading alt-med ‘AIDS dissident’ material, was elevated to the status of an ‘AIDS expert’ by Mbeki. Brink would later become an employee of ‘AIDS dissident’ Matthias Rath, of Linus Pauling Institute fame; the same Matthias Rath that declared that the answer to the AIDS epidemic was not antireterovirals, but megadoses of vitamins, while taking his perverse circus of suffering, masquerading as research, on tour through South Africa.

AIDS denialism and the subsequent lethal obstruction of real medicine as policy in South Africa, has clearly and unambiguously been enabled by the developed world luxury known as ‘alternative medicine’, even egged on by parts of the industry. As Goldacre points out, Matthias Rath is still a darling of the alt-med revolution, even with some academics.

Over three-hundred-thousand is a large number of people to die unnecessarily, much, much worse than the number of deaths by pertussis brought about by anti-vaccination disinformation campaigns in the developed world. It’s no act of hyperbole to call this tragedy genocidal in scale.

The developed world exported this tragedy; exported it in the form of luxurious, lavender-scented ignorance.

When Naomi Campbell complained that her testimony concerning a gift of blood diamonds from former Liberian dictator and alleged war criminal, Charles Taylor, was ‘an inconvenience’, people were rightly concerned at her lack of perspective.

Campbell however can call on the defense of having been intimidated, having expressed concern for possible consequences for her family members should she talk.

When The Dinner Party Shaman starts to peddle their blood diamonds casually and without regard for the consequences of their denialist culture, their ginseng tablets, their homeopathic strength ‘cures’ and all the attendant cod-epistemology and conspiracy theory, they don’t have the ‘intimidation’ defense. They aren’t under pressure from the cronies of some warlord somewhere; the greatest threat to their families comes from their own negligence.

What vanity. What empty posturing, calling this self-important, self-absorbed quest for recognition, ‘spiritual’; a quest that through provinciality and in the fashion of the worst solipsism, cuts people off from mere human concerns like the health and well-being of hundreds of thousands of people.

If the word ‘spiritual’ can mean anything, this isn’t it.

Time to return to the party.

***

So there you and your sick chum sit, holding your beers or your Champaign, lectured by The Dinner Party Shaman and told off for your lack of deference by the acolytes, you rude, rude person. Your scepticism and incredulity cast as cynical, reductionist, scientific imperialism, or something approximating such things, you’ve been put in your place.

You’ve ruined the mood. Not the spirichoooal (née spiritual) types, who naturally by virtue of their well-meaning nature, rightly have access to every aspect and orifice of your being.

You’ve ruined the mood. Not the spirichoooal (née spiritual) types, their absorption in the roolly (née really) deep and culchooural (née cultural) too important to be distracted by consideration of human consequences on the mere material, mortal planes.

The Dinner Party Shaman, the person so privileged in their middle-class cocoon as to both be a victim of imperialism while at the same time having their cult’s toxic bilge conveniently exported out-of-sight-out-of-mind to the developing world, is beyond your attacks on their dignity. The acolytes are unimpressed with your reliance on facts, reasoning, and material concern. Bah! Materialism!

So comes the conclusion to the gathering, the obvious obligation; you have to apologise. Otherwise there’ll be no dessert, no second invites for you!

And we all know what’s right and decent at these events, right?

~ Bruce

(Picture Source: Allegory of Vanity, Trophime Bigot).

Urrrrrrrrggh… More on people who can’t cope with your vegetarianism

It’s been almost half a year since I wrote a piece about how people, meat-eaters in particular, try to resolve dissonance brought on by vegetarians, by externalizing guilt, or feelings of insecurity, in typical passive aggressive fashion.*

Things haven’t changed. Indeed it seems more the case in the festive season than any other time, you’re the bringer of bad yule-tidings for not joining the meat-eating collective.

If you’re the vegetarian, it’s you who’s being the aggressive trouble maker.

It doesn’t matter that you avoid didacticism on the grounds of it being a poor means for the proliferation of an ethic. Never mind that you only discuss it where it’s raised as relevant; in public discussion, or where (surprise, surprise) you’ll be eating.

Never mind that you aren’t trying to force any given eating practice on any given person.

“There’s chicken in the fridge! Help yourself!”

“I’m a vegetarian. I don’t eat meat.”

“Not even chicken?!?”

Forget for a moment the obvious taxonomic error that sees chicken as a vegetable, the worst part is this could be the squillionth time this kind of thing will happen with any given problematic person.

“What? Not even fish fingers?”

Not that it isn’t relevant (or funny) but the problem isn’t taxonomy. The problem isn’t memory either, even if the path is well trod.

The response is always obsessive, self-pitying and defensive;  the interest is too deeply riven to be something that just arrived in their mind on a whim. They aren’t so stupid so as to not be able to tell that a rabbit isn’t a fruit either.

The problem, their problem, is that your vegetarianism, your choice (not theirs), reflects upon their character and they aren’t comfortable with that. It’s not about memory.

Yet, you’re told when they are caught for the umpteenth time…

“Oh I forgot! You can’t expect me to consider these things if I forget.”

Just like they can’t expect you to believe that they forget such things, what with the great big deal they make out of you refusing meat. Every. Damn. Time!

Perhaps you think I’m over-reacting in my response to their supposed forgetfulness. Consider then that not only do they make a big deal out of it again and again, more than one of them has kicked up a stink about the last time I wrote here about them kicking up a stink about my vegetarianism.

Surely if it matters as much as they make out, my criticism of their carnivore-dissonance, if it matters so much they write to make editorial demands upon my blogging, they can’t also plausibly claim they forget I’m vegetarian.

Of course “forgetting” comes in convenient when giving “apologies” for offering meat for the 100th time, not realising that I don’t eat “vegetables” like chicken and fish fingers. It also comes in handy during those circumstances when my meal is “accidentally” contaminated.

“These chips have chicken salt on them”.

“Oh sorry, I didn’t think…”

“I asked you less than half an hour ago to get plain salt because I’m vegetarian.”

“I must have forgotten, I usually remember…”

“Yes, you usually do. You worked three years in a job selling hot chips to people who ordered them without chicken salt.”

It also seems more likely to occur when you’re more vulnerable as well; like when you haven’t eaten in a while, and are too worn out to prepair something. When you have less fight in you it’s easier to make you an honorary meat eater by slipping something into your food.

Of course food contamination isn’t the only “forgetful” passive-aggressive trick in the book the insecure meat-eater uses. Oh no.

You’re at a family occasion hosted by a family member you haven’t seen in a while, one who probably doesn’t know you are a vegetarian yet. It’s okay, or it should be okay because you’ve brought your own food.

If it inadvertently becomes an issue, if your host in perfectly good faith offers you some food with meat in it, you’ve done the necessary preparation to manage things without awkwardness. Problem solved, right?

Wrong.

Along comes one of those people who “forget” you’re vegetarian. They search the food prepared by your host for something with meat, then doing their best impersonation of a bad actor in-character as a thoughtful host, proffer the carcass in front of your host.

The moment you refuse, no matter what you say, they’re instantly offended on behalf of your host. They highlight how you’re insulting such fin cooking. And of course they give no hint of knowing you’re vegetarian, no matter how many times they’ve been told.

The opportunity to explain yourself, your choices, on your terms and with those who actually have any standing in the matter has been stolen by someone with an axe to grind.

Yet despite this, it’s usually you who’s created the awkward situation, allegedly.  And not acknowledging they knew you’re vegetarian goes a long way in your antagonist not having to admit they set things up; that they’ve attempted to recruit your host and family member into their pathetic little ego struggle.

It’s only when it starts to become obvious to others that they’ve been dragged into something pre-existing, something that’s become more acrimonious than it ever needed to be, that the old excuse comes out of the deck.

“He’s been pretending to forget I’m vegetarian, and trying to start arguments between me and family members for some time now, because he doesn’t have the cajones to confront me directly, by himself.”

“I did forget! It was an honest misunderstanding! It’s you who’s upsetting people!”

***

The crux of all of this, the reason why I bother writing about it, is because being vegetarian isn’t easy.

I don’t avoid eating meat because I don’t like the taste of it. I don’t do it for health reasons; the research doesn’t pan out.

I’m a vegetarian because I’m not okay with the suffering of those that can suffer; non-human animals included.

Meat is still tempting. Walking past Mc Donalds is more tempting now than it’s ever been.

Being offered meat, even innocently, is stressful. It’s worse when deliberate and repetative.

Then there’s the “self-denying” crap.

“If you want to eat it, then just eat it!”

Consider for the sake of argument, that I told you I had an urge to punch in the face, those people who laid unnecessary temptations in front of me. That this urge is just, if not more tempting, than eating the meat.

Would you have me, to avoid being self-denying, eating the meat and kicking their arse? (At least you’d be being consistent).

I mean, if the suffering of animals doesn’t matter, if it’s all about pure self-affirmation, then you can’t complain about me slicing off someone’s face and throwing it on the barbecue to make crackling, can you? Especially if they tempted me to do so.

I was first taken hunting at two years old. I’ve worked a shitty job in a meat factory. I’ve had attempts on my life. I’ve survived amongst some of the nastiest people in Australia. I’ll be screwed if I’m going to tolerate the gastronomic directives of human herd animals!

In light of this, the step from non-human to human in matters of survival and eating is probably less a graduation than you imagine. My vegetarianism not withstanding, there’s more of the predator inculcated into me than you’ll ever learn from browsing pre-slaughtered, plastic-wrapped, corpse-cuttings at market.

(And technically, I’ve already eaten human flesh – fun story).

I think the emphasis on the logical implications of harm-as-immoral could afford to be reversed for once. Reframed if you will.

Vegetarians often talk of extending the rights of persons to all beings capable of experiencing harm. I adopt the same logic, more or less. But rhetorically turned-on-its-head, morally, the criteria stopping me from eating non-human animals, is the same one stopping me from eating you.

It probably wouldn’t hurt for a few people to learn a thing or two about empathy for animals, and I dare say that if I put them through the experience of being hunted, they’d have such a learning experience. Or taste good trying and frying. Nom nom nom.

This is of course quasi-hypothetical, and I’m having a bit of a laugh. Honest. I’m not about to actually start slaughtering people; I believe I’ve explained why I’m a vegetarian.

But the moral absurdity from this half-reality-half-thought-experiment remains in the real world as well. It persists. It’s annoying and I believe I’ve conveyed adequately why.

Yet it goes on and on, because some people, quite unnecessarily, seeing someone else doing something different, are urged by their frail egos to defend their choice to remain amongst the herd, using disingenuous and universally cowardly means to do so. Nietzsche didn’t cast his net wide enough; you don’t have to be a predator to be an object of ressentiment.

If someone wants to take a shot at my vegetarianism, they should be direct in articulating something logically coherent, factually sound, argued in good faith and at an appropriate juncture. If someone wants to raise the matter, especially when they demand I don’t discuss their antics elsewhere, they should at least endeavour to provide a climate conducive to honest discussion.

It’s telling that instead they resort to stupid mind-games, lame high-school sophistry, pubescent politics, back-handed jabs, egocentric posturing, puerile food-tainting, mock politeness, victim-feigning and infallible fight-starting while I’m just trying to eat!

But hey, I’m the one who started it, right? I didn’t have to start a fight just by being vegetarian.

Merry Christmas!

~ Bruce

* I use the psychology terms more as literary device, than as actual, technical psychology.

(Photo source: Davide Vizzini)