Category Archives: Essay

On the privilege of eating other sentient beings…

I’m a vegetarian—not because I love animals but because I hate plants.

I’m not actually a vegetarian.

I’m paraphrasing a joke by A. Whitney Brown that’s funny to me…until I think about the fact that I’m quite fond of animals and plants: Living animals and plants—as well as those that are classified as food to me that I eat to service my culinary needs.

Yeah, I’m the sort of monster that is conflicted about my eating choices but continues to consume food out of habit and tradition. I eat meat because it’s available and I eat vegetables when it’s convenient.

Oh, I’ve flirted with vegetarianism over the years but I’ve never committed. I once believed it was a weakness of the will but I realize now it’s always been my refusal to be an accomplice to killing breakfast.

What would become of me without eggs cooked in a pan with real butter? Or cream cheese and lox for my bagels? And yes, oh yes—the absolute necessity of half and half for my coffee.

There’s some denial (it’s the coffee that needs the half and half, not me) that leads to feeling justified in having exceptions and compelling reasons for them.

Which brings me finally to bacon—the crack cocaine of thinly sliced animal flesh.

Recently, I sniffed the air and caught a whiff of bacon in the air and my first thought after the immediate Pavlovian salivation response was to wonder if somewhere nearby a vegan was fuming because they smelled animal flesh cooking.

My vegan friend, Laurel, replies to that thought.

“We don’t fume because bacon is eaten,” she tells me, “We fume because animal agriculture is taking us all down. We don’t realize that we have fucked ourselves out of the privilege of eating other sentient beings.

“With that said,” she muses. “Some fume. Some just have a moment of reflection and a reminder of what we give up in the name of saving a shred of anything beautiful here.”

2.

Jeanie’s biological dad was a butcher by trade and she was raised with the belief that she hadn’t eaten a meal if meat wasn’t a part of it. Jeanie and her husband, Joel, live in a small Midwestern town with limited dining options. Then, a terrible thing happened a few years ago that convinced her to consider a plant-based lifestyle.

In August 2015, Jeanie’s father-in-law had a fatal stroke.

“Joel’s dad was a fantastic guy, a larger than life personality, and loved by all. We watched him die and it tore me up. Plus, I work for a dialysis company and see really sick people every day.”

Watching Joel’s father die “really made me think about myself and my own health.” Jeanie felt like she owed her family more. “The thought of my kids watching me like that got me. If a stroke or cancer can be prevented I needed to do whatever I could to be healthy.”

So, she made the decision to be healthier, lose weight, and exercise more. Looking into healthy recipes, Jeanie learned about meatless Mondays, which led to the discovery of Forks over Knives—a 2011 documentary film that advocates a low-fat, whole-food, plant-based diet as a way to avoid or reverse several chronic diseases.

“The transition was easy for me,” Jeanie says. “I was repulsed by the thought of an animal dying for me. I don’t believe there’s a humane way to kill an animal—they feel pain and they feel fear.”

Jeanie has been vegan for nearly two years now and chose the lifestyle because of the environmental impact, health benefits, and because she cannot abide cruelty of any kind.

When the subject of the aroma of roasting flesh in the air comes up she says, “I hate to admit this, but yes, the smell of meat bothers me; frankly it smells like shit, literally it smells like feces to me. If you’re a non-smoker and the smell of smoke bothers you, it’s similar.”

3.

“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” ~Dr. Hannibal Lecter

The fictional character of Hannibal Lecter, portrayed by Anthony Hopkins in the film The Silence of the Lambs, is an iconic American cultural figure.

Lecter, a serial killer with highbrow cannibalistic proclivities, is described as a monster and a pure psychopath. He’s a man who prepares gourmet meals from the flesh of his victims; so it may seem strange that I’ve included him in this essay.

But, it’s not strange at all when you’re a hardcore vegan like my friend, Sean, who says he doesn’t have the energy to speak deeply with people that say they like animals about how he feels about the subject of eating animals “when they continue to perpetuate their murder for zero reason other than their personal pleasure.”

Sean has discussed the ethical reasons for not eating animals with his carnivorous friends so often he’s given up trying to convince them that they’re basically accomplices to murder when they eat animals slaughtered for food.

Sean admits that it’s painful for him to do so because there are many people he likes in spite of them being accomplices to murder.

“It widens the gap I have between my meat eating friends,” he says about talking with them about it, “to the point where it makes me question how I could continue those friendships.”

Sean has made a conscious decision to be part of society and live among meat eaters when doing so breaks his heart every day.

And, if it seems extreme that Sean seriously contemplates ending friendships with people based on what some consider to be a dietary habit you have to realize that in Sean’s estimation meat eaters are basically serial killers.

“They’re on the same ethical playing field as Jeffrey Dahmer,” he says.

Imagine gazing at the majority of the human population, your own species, and regarding them as a cannibalistic mob of Jeffrey Dahmers and wine swilling Hannibal Lecters—leering back at you.

To be continued…

***

Richard La Rosa is an American writer. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

On the hypocrisy of corporal punishment for children…

Imagine you’re at your job and your boss confronts you and demands to know why you didn’t get your work done on time. You begin explaining your reasons but your words are cut short—the boss yells at you, berating you for making the same old excuses. You try to continue speaking when suddenly your boss slaps you across the face and says, “Don’t talk back to me!”

Or imagine you’re that boss or manager or supervisor and your employee screws up on the job—or simply refuses to acquiesce to your demands. Do you believe, since they’re under your management, that you have the right to demand that they drop their pants and bend over your lap so you can spank their bare ass with your hand or with a belt?

What if that scenario was an acceptable dynamic in the relationship between employer and employee and that your boss or manager or supervisor was permitted to beat you as a form of discipline if you did some something they thought was bad or wrong?

Now, let’s switch out the word “boss” for “parent” and the word “employee” for “child” and imagine the same scenario.

Welcome to the double standard of corporal punishment for children—brought to you by a tone deaf society that has socially conditioned you to accept it’s justifiable to beat a child if they do something you don’t like.

Well, I call bullshit on the concept of acceptable violence against children under any circumstances. To hit a child, while harboring a belief that hitting others is wrong, is some kind of twisted hypocrisy. It’s one of the most baffling mixed messages we receive when we are children; the assertion that hitting people is wrong.

And the assertion that “you shouldn’t hit others” typically comes with extenuating circumstances like “it’s sometimes necessary to hit a person in self-defense” and “sometimes it’s okay to hit someone if you’re protecting someone else.”

This nefarious double standard creates cognitive dissonance in a developing brain.

~ Part 2 ~

When I was fifteen years old I made a vow to myself that I would never use corporal punishment or the threat of physical violence as a form of discipline or corrective behavioral therapy with my own child. This was a non-negotiable promise to my future daughter to ensure that she would never have cause to fear me or to feel humiliated or defenseless in my presence. It was a vow guaranteed to secure our bond of love and trust.

As I grew older I would periodically bring up the subject of corporal punishment in conversations with people and I was continually appalled by the casual acceptance of spanking as a legitimate method of disciplining children. And when I protested the practice as being psychologically harmful to children my opinion was dismissed.

The claim that mild punishment (slaps or smacks) have no detrimental effect is still widespread because we received this message very early from our parents who had taken it over from their parents. This conviction helped the child to minimize his suffering and to endure it. Unfortunately, the main damage it causes is precisely our numbness as well as the lack of sensitivity for our children’s pain. The result of the broad dissemination of this damage is that each successive generation is subjected to the tragic effects of seemingly harmless “correction”. Many parents still think: What didn’t hurt me can’t hurt my child. They don’t realize that their conclusion is wrong because they never challenged their assumption.

That’s Alice Miller, calling bullshit on the assertion that hitting children doesn’t have a lasting effect on their psyche, in an excerpt from Every Smack is a Humiliation – A Manifesto.

And here’s Paulo Sergio Pinheiro of The United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Geneva, proposing the revolutionary idea that children should never receive less protection than adults and that we must put an end to adult justification of violence against children, whether accepted as ‘tradition’ or disguised as ‘discipline.’

~ Part 3 ~

Accepted as tradition…

Okay, now we come to the part of my essay where I really start calling bullshit in earnest and I’m going to list some of the pervasive justifications I’ve heard supporting violence against children.

Tradition seems to be the default justification for hitting kids. It’s the reason the majority of people I’ve spoken with hit a wall in conversations about corporal punishment. And, while it’s true that tradition is a major roadblock to get past, it’s only one barrier that prevents me from breaking on through to the other side when trying to promote the revolutionary concept that hitting a child as a punitive measure is a really bad disciplinary strategy and just bad human behavior.

But most people are going to defend their convictions to the death and the people I’ve observed with the most certitude are the older generations that think tradition is as necessary as breathing.

It’s like this…

“Back in my day we didn’t coddle children the way some of you youngsters do with your time-outs and your calm reasoning. Corporal punishment has been an acceptable practice for thousands of years in civilized society—people didn’t have a problem with spanking in olden times.”

Well, I’m sorry-not-sorry to break it to you, old timer, but you’re dead wrong. It’s actually not difficult at all to find someone from “back in the day” that has a problem with spanking.

Like this fellow that says,“Children ought to be led to honorable practices by means of encouragement and reasoning, and most certainly not by blows and ill treatment.”

That would be Plutarch, a Greek biographer and essayist, calling bullshit on punitive violence against children almost two thousand years ago.

And, to illustrate the illustrious nature of Plutarch as a personage of respect with regard to his opinions, I will add that Plutarch was also the fellow that wrote many stories that would be mined by William Shakespeare for the plots to a dozen or more of his plays.

~ Part 4 ~

Speaking of Shakespeare…

There was school teacher in England by the name of Roger Ascham who wrote a book called The Scholemaster which was published in 1570 when William was a boy of six. And while it’s true that it was a common practice to beat a child as a form of disciplinary punishment at school in England in the 16th century, not all teachers did it—and especially not one of England’s most famous teachers of the day.

So, if people still believe that children were better off when teachers were stern disciplinarians and lament that teachers in most schools are no longer permitted to mete out physical punishment they are believing a fiction and lamenting the demise of a barbaric practice.

I’m old enough to have been at school when corporal punishment was still permitted in some areas of my country in the early seventies and, though it wasn’t practiced at my elementary school in Berkeley, California, it was used aggressively at a school I went to in central Florida. Those were the worst teachers.

The best teachers—those that teach from a place of love and empathy for their students—already know the following:

“Chide not the pupil hastily, for that will both dull his wit and discourage his diligence, but admonish him gently, which shall make him both willing to amend and glad to go forward in love and hope of learning. Let the master say, ‘Here ye do well.’ For, I assure you, there is no such whetstone to sharpen a good wit and encourage a love of learning as his praise.”

And that’s Roger Ascham, who was also tutor to Queen Elizabeth when she was a girl, promoting a gentle and encouraging approach to educating children and calling bullshit on being a dick to kids in school.

Furthermore, in saying, “In mine opinion, love is fitter than fear, gentleness better than beating, to bring up a child rightly in learning,” he’s also calling bullshit on using punitive violence against children.

~ Part 5 ~

And then there is the religious justification regarding violence against children…

This justification is perhaps the trickiest one to unravel because it is tightly bound by fervent belief and faith and unquestioning obedience to the ultimate authority figure: Almighty God.

God told me to hit my children.”

But, really…did He?

“He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” (Proverbs 13:24)

Spare the rod and spoil the child is that old biblical chestnut that proposes it’s better to beat a child than not beat a child and that version comes from the King James Bible published in 1611.

Most religions are steeped in judgment and extremely high expectations and children raised in religious families are hardwired to resonate with a structure that has a clearly defined family hierarchy with adults as the authority figures at the top and children at the bottom; expected to be subservient to the wishes and whims and expectations of their parents.

No child can meet those expectations. Ever.

So when those wishes become demands that cannot be met and punitive measures are measured out in blows…

Bottom line here:

Adults are larger and much more powerful than children. Therefore, hitting children is a flagrant abuse of power that can cause physical and emotional damage that may last a lifetime.

Here’s this from Ashley Montagu, a 20th century humanist and anthropologist that popularized the study of race and gender:

“Any form of corporal punishment or ‘spanking’ is a violent attack upon another human being’s integrity.”

Montagu believed the effect of that attack:

Remains with the victim forever and becomes an unforgiving part of his or her personality—a massive frustration resulting in a hostility which will seek expression in later life in violent acts towards others.

The sooner we understand that love and gentleness are the only kinds of called-for behavior towards children, the better. The child, especially, learns to become the kind of human being that he or she has experienced.”

***

Postscript: This essay is divided into five parts with each part containing 336 words. I intend on writing a sixth part, eventually, when I’m ready to come back to the piece with something new. ~RLR

Image Credit: Child Abuse by Mauro Fermariello

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