On Ableism and Animals

[We need to crip animal ethics, incorporating a disability politics into the way we think about animals. It is essential that we examine the shared systems and ideologies that oppress both disabled humans and nonhuman animals, because ableism perpetuates animal oppression in more areas than the linguistic. To me, far from proving that animal justice is impossible and silly, the complexity of sentience and the vast array of mysterious life and nonlife on this planet show that we need a nuanced understanding of different abilities and the different responsibilities those abilities engender.

The problem is not reason itself but rather the ways in which reason has been held up as separate from and more valuable than emotion, feeling, and other ways of knowing and being. This definition of reason stems from a history of patriarchy, imperialism, racism, classism, ableism, and anthropocentrism, and too often carries these oppressions within it. These issues are particularly important to keep in mind when theorizing liberation for those who do or may lack “reason,” such as nonhuman animals and individuals with significant intellectual disabilities.

Intellectual inferiority has been so easily animalized because animals themselves have long been understood as intellectually inferior. The association of animals with cognitive deficiency must be challenged, not only because many species exhibit signs of human intelligence and because animal minds are complex in their own right (in ways that often cannot easily be compared and contrasted with human capacities), but because intellectual capacity should not determine a being’s worth and the protections they are granted.]

On Ableism and Animals | An excerpt from Beasts of Burden, which was published by The New Press in February 2017

Reckoning with What is Owed — and What Can Never be Repaid — for Racial Privilege

Nietzsche’s “guilt”, whiteness, and what the real cost is to live in the land of another | Oh, and the difference between freedom and liberty

[I once feared buying a house because I didn’t want to be owned. I had saved money with no purpose in mind other than the freedom to do whatever I wanted. Now I’m bound to this house, though I’m still free to lose it if I choose. But that isn’t the version of freedom that interests me at the moment. I’m more compelled by a freedom that would allow me to deserve what I have. Call it liberation, maybe. If debt can be repaid incrementally, resulting eventually in ownership, perhaps so can guilt.

What is the condition of white life? We are moral debtors who act as material creditors. Our banks make bad loans. Our police, like Nietzsche’s creditors, act out their power on black bodies. And, as I see in my own language, we confuse whiteness with ownership.]

 

The Eternal Greek Debt to Islam | The Abbasid Caliphate, al-Kindi and Philosophical Nuances

[European antiquity, philosophers largely wrote in Greek. Even after the Roman conquest of the Mediterranean and the demise of paganism, philosophy was strongly associated with Hellenic culture. The leading thinkers of the Roman world, such as Cicero and Seneca, were steeped in Greek literature; Cicero even went to Athens to pay homage to the home of his philosophical heroes. Tellingly, the emperor Marcus Aurelius went so far as to write his Meditations in Greek. Cicero, and later Boethius, did attempt to initiate a philosophical tradition in Latin. But during the early Middle Ages, most of Greek thought was accessible in Latin only partially and indirectly.

Elsewhere, the situation was better. In the eastern part of the Roman Empire, the Greek-speaking Byzantines could continue to read Plato and Aristotle in the original. And philosophers in the Islamic world enjoyed an extraordinary degree of access to the Hellenic intellectual heritage. In 10th-century Baghdad, readers of Arabic had about the same degree of access to Aristotle that readers of English do today.

This was thanks to a well-funded translation movement that unfolded during the Abbasid caliphate, beginning in the second half of the eighth century.]

alkindi

[Muslim intellectuals also saw resources in the Greek texts for defending, and better understanding, their own religion. One of the earliest to embrace this possibility was al-Kindī, traditionally designated as the first philosopher to write in Arabic (he died around 870CE). A well-heeled Muslim who moved in court circles, al-Kindī oversaw the activity of Christian scholars who could render Greek into Arabic. The results were mixed. The circle’s version of Aristotle’s Metaphysics can be almost incomprehensible at times (to be fair, one could say this of the Greek Metaphysics too), while their ‘translation’ of the writings of Plotinus often takes the form of a free paraphrase with new, added material.

It’s a particularly dramatic example of something that is characteristic of the Greek-Arabic translations more generally – and perhaps of all philosophical translations. Those who have themselves translated philosophy from a foreign language will know that, to attempt it, you need a deep understanding of what you are reading. Along the way, you must make difficult choices about how to render the source text into the target language, and the reader (who might not know, or not be able to access, the original version) will be at the mercy of the translator’s decisions.

Here’s my favourite example. Aristotle uses the Greek word eidos to mean both ‘form’ – as in ‘substances are made of form and matter’ – and ‘species’ – as in ‘human is a species that falls under the genus of animal’. But in Arabic, as in English, there are two different words (‘form’ is ṣūra, ‘species’ is nawʿ). As a result, the Arabic translators had to decide, every time they came across the word eidos, which of these concepts Aristotle had in mind – sometimes it was obvious, but sometimes not. The Arabic Plotinus, however, goes far beyond such necessary decisions of terminology. It makes dramatic interventions into the text, which help to bring out the relevance of Plotinus’ teaching for monotheistic theology, repurposing the Neoplatonic idea of a supreme and utterly simple first principle as the mighty Creator of the Abrahamic faiths…]

Full article here | AEON

 

To the Anemic Pedants Amidst Our Pseudo-Progressive Academic Narrows | Or… Someone has a Beef with Slavoj

Hamid Dabashi draws a sharp line in the sand between European and post-colonial philosophers in this provocative introduction to Can Non-Europeans Think?

[Other people are also entitled “to recapture” – as, of course, is Žižek – a world beyond their imagination. Žižek is correct that “In no way does my basic vocation have to be drawn from the past of peoples of color.” But those very “people of color” (as he categorizes them, according to his prerogative) do not only have a past; they also have a present, and a future. Žižek is blinded to that present unless he assimilates it backward into his present, and is indifferent to that future unless he gets (singularly) to define it. He is unconditionally correct that “In no way do I have to dedicate myself to reviving some black civilization unjustly ignored.” But a “black civilization” unjustly ignored is peopled by other people, by other thinking people, kicking people, people who talk, and talk back, and talk past Žižek. He is entirely entitled to say “I will not make myself the man of any past” – and he should not, as no one should. But the people of color he just buried alive in their past are also living and breathing a present of which he seems to be blissfully ignorant. He is, of course, pulling my colored beard when he says, “My black skin is not a repository for specific values.” But mine is, and I am a living repository of not just “values” but universes, emotions, words, sentiments, rebellions that he and all his Horatios have not yet dreamt of in their philosophy.

Žižek and his fellow philosophers are oblivious to those geographies because they cannot read any other script, any other map, than the colonial script and the colonial map with which Europeans have read and navigated the world; conversely they cannot read any other script or map because they are blinded to alternative geographies that resistance to that colonialism had written and navigated. The condition is exacerbated any time people around the world rise up to assert their geography as the ground zero of a world historical event. At these times Žižek and his followers are all up and about trying to read the world back into what they already know. There is a new condition beyond postcoloniality that these Europeans cannot read, hard as they try to assimilate it back into the condition of coloniality. The task is not a mere critique of neo-Orientalism, which always is commensurate with immediate and short-sighted political interests, but to overcome “Europe” as an idea and make it behave as one among any number of other exhausted metaphors, neither less nor more potent, organic, or trustworthy. Europe was “the invention of the Third World,” as Fanon fully realized – both in material and normative senses of the term. I have already argued that we need to change the interlocutor with whom we discuss the terms of our emerging worlds. We should no longer address a dead interlocutor. Europe is dead. Long live Europeans. The Islam they had invented in their Orientalism is dead. Long live Muslims. The Orient they had created, the Third World they had crafted to rule and denigrate, have disappeared. If only those who still see themselves as Orientals would begin to decolonize their minds too.]

Fuck You Žižek!

The Event, According to Master Henri Cartier-Bresson

When Henri Cartier-Bresson first picked up a tiny Leica 35mm film camera in 1931, he began a visual journey that would revolutionize 20th-century photography.

His camera could be wielded so discreetly that it enabled him to photograph while being virtually unseen by others — a near invisibility that turned photojournalism into a primary source of information and photography into a recognized art form.

Cartier-Bresson’s concept of the “decisive moment” — a split second that reveals the larger truth of a situation — shaped modern street photography and set the stage for hundreds of photojournalists to bring the world into living rooms through magazines such as Life and Look.

Though he often focused on the human condition in his photographs, Cartier-Besson would often look at his contact sheets or prints upside down to judge the images separate from any social content. They stood as rigorous compositions on their own.

His signature shooting technique was to find a visually arresting setting for a photograph and then patiently wait for that decisive moment to unfurl.

The director Louis Malle remembered that, despite all the turmoil at the peak of the student protests in Paris in May 1968, Mr. Cartier-Bresson took photographs at the rate of only about four an hour.”

With the primacy of digital photography and social media in the 21st century, slow, painstaking image-making is becoming a relic. Photographers and their images now move at a pace as fast as the events swirling around them. Technological advances in cameras and methods of distribution have heralded in a new visual era, not unlike what Cartier-Bresson’s Leica did almost a century ago.

Photographs are no longer rare artifacts, nor primarily a means of learning about the exotic or unknown. They arrive instantaneously on our phones every day from every corner of the world and from all kinds of people. With a smart phone, everyone is a photographer, and images compete for crowd approval on social media channels like Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.

Which raises questions on this anniversary of Cartier-Bresson’s death: Do these changes make a master’s carefully constructed images irrelevant? Or are they even more instructive today?

Read the full article here | The New York Times

PHOTO

“Neutrality” as Collaboration | For Journalists (and not only) Covering Trump, a Murrow Moment

[AS EDWARD R. MURROW wrapped up his now-famous special report condemning Joseph McCarthy in 1954, he looked into the camera and said words that could apply today. “He didn’t create this situation of fear—he merely exploited it, and rather successfully,” Murrow said of McCarthy. Most of Murrow’s argument relied on McCarthy’s own words, but in the end Murrow shed his journalistic detachment to offer a prescription: “This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent—or for those who approve,” he said. “We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.”

We’ve reached a turning point, and the two criteria for journalists to abandon their objectivity have come to pass: Trump is widely criticized, even by his own party, giving journalists a lot of company in their criticism of him. When Trump suggested that Judge Curiel was incapable of trying a case because of his parents’ birthplace, even House Speaker Paul Ryan, a fellow Republican, called the comments “racist.”

And Trump’s views appear increasingly deviant. No respected journalist would seek a balancing quote from someone who held such a view about a judge or who suggested, as Trump did last month after the Orlando shootings, that a sitting president was in cahoots with a mass murderer.

Murrow felt compelled to end his broadcast by warning his audienceabout the dangers of staying neutral, as journalists too often do, when the stakes are high: “Cassius was right,” said Murrow. “‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.’” If a politician’s rhetoric is dangerous, Murrow implied, all of us, including journalists, are complicit if we don’t stand up and oppose it.]

Read the full article | Columbia Journalism Review

Chickens Coming Home to Roost

One thing Mr. Trump has been consistently doing the last few months is not challenge this country’s sensibilities, ideals or democratic convictions. Mr. Trump stands defiantly upright, proud and stubbornly in the middle of the room, seemingly uninvited, like a thorn under the foot -infected- being a crystal clear, non-distorting mirror.
And looking at ourselves in that mirror after a 300-year orgy with street hookers, expired pills and moonshine, hangover, blackout and all, seems like encountering an intruder. Pants down.

And without a gun.

[George Erasmus, an aboriginal leader from Canada said, “Where common memory is lacking, where people do not share in the same past, there can be no real community. Where community is to be formed, common memory must be created.”]

The Problem the Republican Party, and now the Nation, has with Donald Trump