All Earth is Alive and Akin

We have been socialized to treat [animals] as objects for our use rather than beings with intrinsic value and rights. It is easier easier to exploit when we depersonalize. Objectification and exploitation of animals parallels the objectification of women and cultural minorities…

— Linda Destefano

To “objectify” is to turn creatures into things objects without thought, without right, without need, without feeling. Objectification is a major obstacle to peace and justice on this bleeding planet.

Turning the living into things is precisely what the U.S. war machine did to the people and land of Southeast Asia. It is what that machine is doing to the people and land of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Such lethal objectifying can only occur insofar as military personnel are themselves objectified; i.e., desensitized and robotized. How and why does our culture foster such barbarity?

We need to resist objectification wherever and whenever we can. There are several fronts where the struggle must be waged. They connect and overlap. Struggle on one fortifies each of the others. When any one front is neglected, justice for all suffers.

Take sexism. Sexism entails objectifying women, often as sex objects, usually as work objects. To objectify half of the human species — especially that half doing the least to destroy and the most to nourish — is to deny and degrade all life. As long as there is sexism, violence will thrive. Eliminating sexism is crucial to eliminating war.

Take racism. Racism entails objectifying people of color. When people are reduced to things they can be exploited and war can be made on them.  A “nigger” is a thing. So are “gooks” and “hajis.”

Because, over the centuries, the people of pallor had a knack for weaponry we became world-striding conquerors.  Since we conquer people of color, extract their resources and live off their labor, we have to depersonalize them. To live with our righteous selves we can’t value those we exploit. Or those exploited on our behalf. Hence, racism.

Workers are likewise objectified. Under industrialism and corporate capitalism jobs are structured so workers are depersonalized and function as mindless machines, as drones. Their stupor is then used to justify their further exploitation.

The training and enculturation of higher functionaries (officers, engineers, executives, professionals, etc.) tend to compartmentalize their minds. Oblivious to their own co-optation, for them the consequences of their actions often remain opaque.

Industrialism and corporate capitalism – think oil spill — see not only people, but the whole of nature as dead matter. Air, earth, water, forests and rivers are treated as inert and not as the vital elements of the biosphere that they are.

The ecology movement, in exorcising our centuries-long amnesia, teaches us the intrinsic value of all nature. The recovery of this knowledge by the industrial world is essential to the struggle against violence on all fronts.
All oppressed and their struggles are one. Worldwide, most workers are women, most women are persons of color, most persons of color are workers. Even if they aren’t thus doubly or triply victimized, they share the same fate: they are dehumanized, brutalized — treated as animals.                                                     

As long as vast categories of humans are treated as non-human animals and as long as non-human animals are denied care and respect, workers, women and people of color will likewise be denied care and respect. Everyone loses.

This isn’t platitude, it’s common sense. It’s the pragmatism behind, for example, organized labor demanding a living wage for non-unionized workers. The higher the wage floor, the higher the wage scale for all.

The more respect for the least empowered, the more respect for all.  Long ago a Palestinian sage put it this way: “What you do to my least brethren…you do to me.”

Insofar as the objectification of any kind of creature is routinized, the barbarism of a culture grows. Our layers on layers of callousness, like proliferating systems of military ‘defense,’ threaten us all.  By objectifying anyone — human or non-human — we risk sharing her fate. The hardening of our hearts hardens our entirety.

What we do to animals in laboratories and on factory farms, the Nazis did in prison camps to defenseless minorities.  Their medical experiments, presided over by doctors and scientists, grew out of standard laboratory procedure.

Whether it be in some research labs or in Nazi death camps – or in occupied Palestine or among the tortured of Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo — the cold-bloodedness is similar. In each, caged, silenced, disenfranchised victims are met by clinical detachment and totalitarian power. By playing god the perpetrators deny their own humanity.

In all of these cages the victims and their tormentors are not so different from each other or from ourselves. How can we not consider them our kin? As ecologists and feminists keep reminding us: we are all connected. There is no heartbeat that is not somehow our own.

Ed served 14 months in federal prisons for his civil resistance against the SOA. More recently he has been one of the “Hancock 2,” the “Hancock 15,” the “Hancock 33,” and the “Hancock 38.” Reach him at: Read other articles by Ed.

15 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on May 10th, 2010 at 8:45am #

    I prefer the term scalar, gradational, or steplike invalidation-devaluation of not only biota and nature but also of people as the first cause for exploitation of person by person, warfare, our fearfulness-angst of just being,

    And for millennia people had been taught by clerico-politico-educational class that no other thoughts were valid.
    We had to be ruled for our own good because we r so insignificant, lazy, dirty, animalistic, so that only an iron fist cld keep us being human.
    Human, of course, in the eyes of our `teachers` and `well-wishers`

    And in just ab any `advanced` society, 50% of people are willing to even kill other people to defend the animalistic order of societies. tnx

  2. bozh said on May 10th, 2010 at 8:56am #

    Well, my apology for using the term “animalistic order of society“ as it seems to devalue animals. But i do suppose that our societies were ordered as they are now because priests, watching animals and their behavior, decided that such an order is also the best for us humans.

    Was it done in order that they preserve their rule over us or the feeling of superiority and plush life, we may never find out!

    In this connection, let us not forget that the first rule ever, had been a priestly one!

  3. bozh said on May 10th, 2010 at 8:58am #

    One more observation? I am convinced that we do not need a rule- we need guidance-tutoring-teachings and by timocrats and not necessarily democrats! tnx

  4. lichen said on May 10th, 2010 at 4:26pm #

    There is also sexism against men and boys, which women participate in. This takes the role of things like; males being stuck in most onerous, physically demanding, dangerous jobs, being cemented into rigid, hateful gender roles, and being subjected to so much more violence throughout their entire lives; from boys being beaten as children even where girls are not, to males being forced to fight the wars of the rich unisex elite. As long as children are still beaten, there will still be violence; that is where it comes from, including women who beat children. Children are an oppressed group that is not on your list.

  5. Deadbeat said on May 10th, 2010 at 5:00pm #

    I have to agree with lichen pointing out that men are objectified as well. Let’s not forget “family” courts which see fathers only as “breadwinners” and not as loving parents.

    However my remark as to do with the authors use of “corporate capitalism”. By using this phrase it implies that there is some other form of capitalism that does not behave in the manner described by the author. Does he mean that capitalism — back in the day — what day? — didn’t operate in the same objectified and divide and conquer manner that he describes in his article? Can the author elaborate?

    IMO why not refer to the system by what it is — Capitalism and get rid of the passive use of what are essentially obscuring and obfuscating adjectives.

  6. Deadbeat said on May 10th, 2010 at 7:13pm #

    The author his response via email but I think it should be shared in the public forum. I think what I am making here is an important point because the argument that this is not “good old” Capitalism this is the same argument being made by the Ron Paul Libertarians. This is a huge fallacy and it distorts and colors how as activist and radicals we should view Capitalism and the kinds of solutions necessary especially in light of the debt crisis, the crisis of inequality, and the environmental crisis.

    From the author …
    hi deadbeat, i use “corporate” to modify “capitalism” to emphasize the transformation of capitalism in recent decades whereby the u.s. supreme court has declared corporations to be legal “persons” entitled to “freedom of speech,” etc. and whereby corporate money is now pretty much in control of the electoral process. the capitalism of adam smith was a very different creature.

    My response …

    I think it is a huge mistake assume that the outgrowth of Adam Smith’s “Capitalism” is not the same Capitalism that exist today. Both Smith and especially Marx elucidates the TENANCIES of the Capitalist system. This is extremely important and anyone who uses some adjective in front of Capitalism is essentially ignoring the tendencies of the system to concentrate wealth and power, the social pathologies caused by capital accumulation and the ability of the Capitalist political economy to alter itself for any giving epoch.

    What Smith describes is how Capitalism was arranged in in 1776. Likewise Marx in 1850. We had the robber barons of the 1890’s and the modern corporate structures of today. In all epoch people, resources, and the environment were exploited and “objectified”.

    Here’s the oft quoted Smith’s description of Capitalism …

    It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.

    However these three individuals as described by Smith represents the petite-bourgeoisie and ignores the masses of workers who don’t have access to capital to even own a business and MUST rent themselves as wage or slave labor.

    What is missing in Smith’s quaint description is that the butcher, brewer and baker EXPLOIT workers in order to derive PROFITS. The only difference is that today the butcher, brewer, and baker are corporations so what’s the difference when viewed from the standpoint of workers — NOTHING!

    Therefore using a description like “corporate capitalism” infers a better from of exploitation under the Smith’s version. NO THANKS. It also infers that we should reform the system (in order to take us back to a mythical Smithian version of capitalism) rather than to seek to scrape the entire system of exploitation.

  7. Kim Petersen said on May 10th, 2010 at 8:13pm #

    Yes, indeed Deadbeat. To make a distinction of “corporate capitalism” is quite, quite far fetched. While there are varieties of capitalism, they have at their core gaining profit for the capitalist class, and corporations are mere fronts for the capitalist class.

  8. REDPILLED said on May 10th, 2010 at 9:54pm #

    Riane Eisler’s books The Chalice and the Blade and her most recent one, The Real Wealth of Nations, help us see beyond the dead-end of capitalism vs. socialism and conservative vs. liberal because within all those worn out dichotomies are what Eisler terms those who dominate others (whether sexist, racist, oppressing children or workers or anyone with less power) and those who treat others as partners. Dominators throughout istory, long before capitalism, objectified, oppressed, and cruelly exploited others (including animals). What is needed is a deep paradigm shift where we work with others in partnership relationships, including creating a partnership economic system.

  9. Deadbeat said on May 11th, 2010 at 4:52am #

    REDPILLED writes …

    Riane Eisler’s books The Chalice and the Blade and her most recent one, The Real Wealth of Nations, help us see beyond the dead-end of capitalism vs. socialism and conservative vs. liberal because within all those worn out dichotomies are what Eisler terms those who dominate others

    I disagree with is false argument. This argument fails to recongize WHO has created the “false dichotomies” and fails to recongize who FAILED to stand up to those creating the “false dichotomies”. In fact the FACT that there is a false dichotomy is representative of DOMINATION. Especially domination of the media — essentially the ruling class.

    In other words we should DEFEND socialism not run awat from it due to the factors of domination. In other words the only way to DEFEAT domination is to CHALLENGE it.

    Such aforementioned sentiments as expressed by REDPILLED is exactly why the Left is in such a sad and weakened state.

  10. bozh said on May 11th, 2010 at 7:21am #

    In the beginings, lasting eons, there was no states. Then, ca 7-8k yrs ago, city-states arose. After that came region and vast region-states and now come familly-region-state and a vast region-state or planetarianism.
    And then there is people as always before. In the beginings, not living in fear of another person or family.
    They fished, hunted; picked fruit, berries, nuts, plucked greens; sang, laughed together.
    Nobody was small, stupid, mean, etc.
    And then came clergy, ‘nobles’……..
    So the history is not any lngr a mystory; it is crystal clear, to me, anyway!

  11. Maien said on May 11th, 2010 at 7:41am #

    Hey Deadbeat, I’m missing something here. Wouldn’t Redpilled’s comments imply that the “dominators” are the “who'” , the ones responsible for at least building, if not creating the false dichotomy? I understood that he had implied that socialism had been turned into …just another pointless label ..perhaps lost to the world of polarised positions. Polarity is what Redpilled is discounting, not necessarily a socialistic system. Partnership (respect and recognition of the other in order to work/create with the other) is what would make a socialistic (is that a word?) even more possible.

    What did I misunderstand? What did i miss?

    I agree completely that ‘domination’ must be challenged but without the challengers becoming the new dominators. Sorry for being so dense, here..but nope I do not want to be a Lefty in a sad and weakened state. In fact, the one label I happily accept is ‘adult human’. Adult, implying that I am able to participate honestly within partnerships. Currently the majority of humanity functions with child-like behaviours (deceptive, manipulative etc etc) which have been accepted as being the norm as “humanity is limited”. Religion (although their original purpose was meant to ‘grow up’ humans into adulthood) has been a brilliant tool generally speaking, to insure that human children never become actual adults. How can they? they are told from day one that they are sinners.. never good enough. They are taught that they are not responsible for their actions… but their god can make them safe, if they are obedient. Talk about co-dependancy! Not a situation where honest partnership is nurtured or any form of socialism. This is the most fertile ground however to keep competition, capitalism and dichotomy fully functioning.

  12. Wingnut said on May 11th, 2010 at 10:44am #

    Hi. Wow, great comments and article… raises some juicy points of interest. I wish I wrote as eloquently as most, here.

    Ok, to start, putting adjectives on the front of the term/phenomenon of capitalism… is natural, I suspect. Capitalism might have the same tendencies as it always has, but capitalism might be more “in your face” in recent years, and its shortfalls may have become more prominent. That would “tend” to make a person install adjectives. And, capitalism HAS evolved, too, though it still shows signs of the original tendencies. And maybe, we are all just able to hear about easier, now, due to more communications and more public finger-pointing than ever before.

    Ok, down to Maien, and the bottom part of your post, regarding children. Good stuff, there. See, pre-18 years old, kids are “in here” and they are generally taught share share share. At 18, some kind of massive change supposedly happens, and the non-born-set-for-life kids… are nest-kicked into “out there”, where they are (do as you’re-) told to pull their weight, earn their keep, become successful, stand on your own two feet, be someone. And guess what? the parental policy reverses at this time… from share share share… to fight fight fight. At 18, they enter the dreaded “out there” of the earn’n’deserve servitude and inequality pyramid scheme known as capitalism. Or maybe more accurate, they are thrust headlong into the “life” or “world” of economies/ownershipism… a man-made-up thing. Capitalism is an “order” as stated above… pyramid… see back of USA dollar bill.

    Lets talk about “out there”. LOTS of politicians and others… refer to the American people… as “out there”. There’s lots of anger “out there”, and folks are losing their homes “out there”, etc etc. now, we haven’t accomplished a “everyone has a say” network communications systems yet, so not many “out there” really “count”. And here, the word “count” is very important, because the census is the way that concerned parties figure out just how many “people objects” are “out there”. Each person becomes a number. It takes power of some kind… to have a say. You have to run for political office or manage to land a director’s position within some government organization… to have much of a say. Sure there’s voting, but voting for which representative is far from egalitarian public voting/debate on ANY issue pertinent to a nation or planet. In the act of donning the powerlessness of being a number, that human also becomes an object. (I bet you didn’t think I could get back on subject, right?) 🙂

    Have you noticed a serious lack of satcom trucks flown into Iraq and Afghanistan… to cover the reality show called “occupation”? i say occupation because neither are a war. They are both what one might call “police actions”… but that’s not quite the correct term either. No matter the label, why can’t we get live TV coverage of the activities? Well, i think we ALL know why. It would make it all much to personalized, which is the opposite of objectified… as far as I know. When the victims of war, hunger, neglect, atrocities, discrimination… get put on TV where many can see that they are genuine human beings… our stomachs knot up and some of us start crying… or maybe get angry, or all the above plus some more emotions/reactions. This “personalized touch” does not bode well with the folks who are in charge of occupations and regime changes. The public is “out there” and what “they” (see US vs THEM wars) don’t know… won’t hurt them. Yes, the CIA and NSA and all sorts of black ops folk… HAVE TO avoid putting military operations on TV… because… it warns their enemey and puts soldier and civilian lives in danger. The “in heres” of the military… just cannot tell the “out theres” all the gathered spy goods. Not only would it cause information overload for the folks “out there”, but it would endanger them and us. The public is much too blabby. And thus, each no-need-to-know public “them” becomes the object called a microphone… which is a THING to avoid if you don’t want to leak secret information.

    And meantime, folks don’t see the gore on TV… so it is happening “over there” to those “thems”. The same happens with the starving kids reported by the W.H.O. and similar orgs. We don’t take the cameras there to SEE the disgustingness, and even when someone DOES shoot some disgustingness, its not “nice” tv. Its not “nice” to watch… because… it turns your stomach and brings out emotions… and level-headed emotionally-balanced YOU… are scared of such emotions. It might cause foolhardy bravery, and you might become some kind of activist. OH NO!

    Ok, as usual, I’m all over the place. So much to say, and so many piss-poor words in my wordsmith bucket to say it with. Best wishes, gang! Wingnut – Old Hippy Anti-Capitalism-ist in Michigan UP.

  13. Maien said on May 11th, 2010 at 11:42am #

    Hullo Wingnut. I do understand how humans are disenfranchised. I would suggest that perhaps in their entitlement many north americans and westerners …but especially americans make a lot of false assumptions about what they really are. Behaviours etc. are instilled in children before the age of five. after that, the behaviours are imprinted through practise. It is common in cultures which are “dominators” to use the term introduced in this thread … to educate their population to believe that they are righteous or that it is the fault of the institutions. Think of the constant polarity that north american children are exposed to, during their privileged lives. Even their games prepare them to kill others, to deny their natural femininity or masculinity in favour of child-like sex objects. You know the story.
    the institutions, systems are just a reflection of the individuals that make up the society/culture. sure… it may be divided into victims and tyrants. Wounded individuals make wounded societies. When you are taught to NOT take responsibility for yourself, it makes it plausible to rob others to make yourself safe… especially when your god always forgives whatever you do wrong and lets you keep the results of your theft. the Judeo-Christian world has especially had their religion subverted in so many ways, in order to keep their human herds in a child-like wounded state. They are so much more compliant when they are competitive and fearful. the infighting within the herd possibly serves as entertainment for the elites/power brokers. Why would they worry…. their herds still haven’t grown up enough to turn their own lives and/or local communities into..partnerships. thank ‘life’… that some humans are grown-up.

  14. lichen said on May 11th, 2010 at 3:50pm #

    Children in the US are treated with extreme hatred, locked into the punitive delusions of abusive adults; they are not “privileged” and further children have inalienable rights, so pretending that for instance not being beaten, yelled at, humiliated, forced to work, etc. is a “privilege” is BS. Every human being IS entitled to housing, healthcare, healthy food, clean water, education, fulfilling living-wage work; so it is good that some young people would beleive that; they would be able to change things unlike many adults that put up with poverty.

    There is nothing “natural” about the artificial, fake constructs of “masculinity” or “femininity” and those who choose something else other than those two lies are not somehow less natural than you are. It is the way of adults to be devious, hatefull; not children, who are born fully capable of being nonviolent, kind, open, sincere, so long as they are not hit, lied to, yelled at and dislcuded from decisions by adults. Indeed, what individual parents do or don’t do is the deciding factor, not overall “cultural” attitudes, not video games, television, etc.

  15. Wingnut said on May 12th, 2010 at 10:30am #

    “Indeed, what individual parents do or don’t do is the deciding factor, not overall “cultural” attitudes, not video games, television, etc.”

    Hi again gang. Lichen, that is true, but with stipulations. Parents rarely know HOW to be parents, as there are certainly no hardened rules other than the laws on the books. And nobody is in the home enforcing those laws. But the point is… parents often use traditions and norms and social “mores” to figure out proper parenting, and those laws, traditions, and “normal” policies… do indeed put pressure on bewildered or knowledge-seeking adults. What your child does to the family’s “good name” via the child’s “reputation” in the neighborhood… is very convincing and powerful. The clothes the child wears… is also a factor. The child’s eloquence, manners, abilities to “do as you’re told” in-line marching, etc… all apply pressure to raise kids to a social “norm”. Although your statement is absolutely correct, there are powerful factors that tend to shove parents around.

    And since I’m an economy and ownership hater, just how many parents are able to show or offer their children… the opportunity to participate in a moneyless/ownerless commune, where share is the them of the day, as opposed to compete? i think even the Amish and Quakers are using money and ownership these days… which, to me, is a corruption of their loving by-laws and purpose… but I;’m un-studied in those (and most) avenues. Thx for the responses… very interesting. Wingy