Saturday, September 27, 2014

Would You, Could You, in the Dark?

A question was posed on a Facebook page I follow:

"If we could successfully grow meat in a nutrient vat (which tasted exactly the same as normal meat and was the same price), would you eat it? Would you also stop eating normal meat?"

My answer:


Let's say I did. Let's say we all did. Demand for meat from living animals would decline until the industry went under entirely. With such an option available, arguments to ban the production and eating of meat from animals would not seem so unreasonable, and would probably gain enough traction in some places to become law. Barns would be torn down, pastures would be paved over. Breeds of livestock would go extinct. Entire species of livestock might become endangered.

So now we're committed. Not only are the animal farms gone, but nobody's growing feed for these now non-existent livestock. Those vast acres of prairies are now growing biofuels, or perhaps they've been paved over and turned into strip malls and housing subdivisions. Food now comes from high-tech laboratories. They use a lot of highly specialized chemicals that are manufactured specifically for that process. The conditions for growth are monitored and maintained by computers. The whole process consumes massive amounts of energy. There's demand for biotech engineers, but common farm workers are displaced.

And then, maybe generations later, something happens. Maybe bad weather causes a disruption in the supply chain. Maybe political turmoil causes a spike in energy costs, forcing food prices through the roof. Maybe someone hacks the software. Maybe a rare mineral used in the equipment becomes unavailable. The more complex the system, the more opportunities there are for failure.

The people can't rely on the factories to feed them anymore, so they decide to turn back to animals for meat...only they can't now. In this future, nobody knows how to hunt anymore. Nobody has any livestock. Even if they could obtain it, they'd have forgotten how to care for it, how to breed it, and how to butcher it. And even if all that knowledge was all archived in libraries or the Internet, nobody would have the stomach for it anymore. By then, every aspect of it would have been outlawed. The entire populace would be suffering such an extreme case of acorn tree syndrome that the very thought of killing an animal and cutting it into pieces for food would seem like cannibalism. Even if people got desperate enough to overcome their squeamishness, all the land for grazing the animals or growing their feed will have been reassigned to other purposes, and nobody's going to volunteer their house to get torn down to make pasture.

Earlier this evening, from a second-story window, I used a bow to shoot a groundhog that was going for my vegetable garden. I want to become proficient at making such weapons from materials that grow wild on my land, and teach my children to do the same. Those are skills we can count on to feed us. We can take them with us anywhere we have to go, no matter what happens in the Middle East or Washington or in the stock market.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Three Card Monte

Groups of white people sporting shaved heads and swastikas intimidate and harm people of color. But then when you get the leaders of those groups to talk about what they believe in, they'll tell you they don't believe in hurting anyone. They just want white people to be treated as equals and for whites to be able to preserve their culture rather than being taught to be ashamed of being white.

We see police officers beating and killing innocent people. We see them often held unaccountable for this, being protected from scrutiny by other officers. When an officer does try to blow the whistle on a colleague, we see other officers harass and intimidate the whistle blower. And yet, if you ask almost any cop about this brutality and the coverups, they'll say that they hate it as much as you do, that it's a handful of bad apples giving the whole profession a bad name. They'll tell you most cops get into the job because they want to protect people, not hurt them.

We've seen Muslim terrorists saying that Islam must dominate the world. We've heard them say that they are not bound by any law but sharia. We've even seen Shia and Sunnis killing each other. But go into almost any mosque in the world, and they'll tell you that Islam is a religion of peace, and that the Quran says that when you kill one innocent person, you kill all of humanity. They say those violent people aren't "real" Muslims.

We see the Westboro Baptist protesters yelling that God hates fags. We see the cross-wearing protesters outside abortion clinics intimidating staff and patients, sometimes doing physical violence against them. It seems every bigot in American government who wants to oppress others identifies as a very religious Christian. Christianity was spread through the world by force, and entire wars have been fought at the order of the Vatican. Protestants and Catholics have killed each other for hundreds of years. And yet if you ask them, they'll tell you that their Bible tells them to love and not kill, and that they should turn the other cheek and be endlessly forgiving and merciful.

We hear high-profile feminists throughout history denouncing men, regarding men as redundant, disposable, inferior, and as a threat to be eliminated. Feminists have rallied for equal pay, but not for equal financial obligations. They want women to have the agency that is afforded to men, but freedom from the responsibilities that go with it. They protest female--but not male--genital mutilation. They'll raise a stink about Boko Haram kidnapping a bunch of girls, but not even mention the same group murdering a bunch of boys.They elevate the emotional and sexual concerns of women above the literal life-and-death concerns of men.

But then if you denounce feminism on these grounds, someone will claim that feminism is simply about equality, and that to be against feminism is to be against equality.

Being against racism does not make you anti-white. Being against police brutality does not make you against protecting people. Being against terrorism doesn't make you against religions of peace. Being against worldwide repression doesn't make you against love and forgiveness. And being against elevating women above men does not make you anti-equality. Quite the opposite.

Frankly, I'm sick of the double-talk from the lot of them.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Radical Implosion & Radical Distillation

After long observation, I've come to a conclusion about something. The problem with any social movement aimed at remedying a perceived problem is that the leaders will tend to be the people most passionate about the cause. And the reason they tend to be the most passionate is because they're the ones who have been most harmed by whatever it is they're trying to change. The more vocal and committed the leader, the more likely they are to have been seriously traumatized by whatever it is they're fighting.

The problem is that they're also the people least capable of maintaining a sense of perspective about the problem. They become radical extremists who see the issue as black-or-white. They're difficult to reason with. They're nearly impossible to negotiate with. They're prone to making abusive statements about those who disagree with them.

When you've got loud, brash, unreasonable people leading a group and being the personalities the public associates with it, the group and its message tend to lose credibility (unless their views are widely accepted enough to become mainstream). Moderate people who would otherwise support the cause therefore feel alienated from it and make a point of identifying as not being "one of those crazy people over there." Moreover, if there is an opposing group, it will cite quotes or actions by those leaders to discredit the entire movement and its goals. In this way, the people who care most about the cause end up being the chief reason for its failure.

A wisely managed group, then, should be one where the radicals are put to work as foot soldiers, willing to sacrifice their reputations to the cause, but never allowed to ascend to positions of leadership or where they become the public face of the movement. The leaders can then maintain both an agreeable public image AND plausible deniability about the actions of their radical operators.

The problem is that if these people don't feel appreciated by the movement, they're highly motivated to go off and form their own organization, drawing all the radicals away from the more socially accepted parent organization. Call it "radical distillation." An example that comes to mind is the Tea Party. The GOP recognized the necessity of maintaining control of radical splinters like this, and to do so, you have to absorb them and offer them a sense of being more appreciated and more in control. That sense can be an illusion, but it must be present, or the radicals will continue to go their own way rather than serving the leadership of the larger organization.