Adonis Diaries

Archive for November 22nd, 2016

Humans of New York

“I was in the home for 13 years. It was a very abusive environment for everyone there. There were four staff members in particular that were especially bad

Humans of New York's photo.

“One of their favorite forms of punishment was the ‘full burn.’

First they’d make you take your clothes off and lay on the carpet. One of them would sit on your back, and the other one would pull you all the way down the hall.

The worst was The Ice Man. If I saw him today, he’d be dead.

He was like one of those guys you see in the movies, where even when he smiled, it was ice cold.

He’d come in your room and tell you that you had a date with The Ice Man. Then he’d fuck you and make you suck his dick.

Afterward, he’d tell you when your next date was going to be, just so you’d have to worry about it all week.

Ten of us tried to escape when I was seventeen. I had a date with The Ice Man coming up so I figured I had nothing to lose.” (2/3)

Note: There are orphanages in Lebanon who practiced sex on the kids till they were grown up enough to vacate the institution.

A young man came out and testified on the horror stories, committed in an Islamic institution in Beirut.

Not a single minister took up his case to investigate.

Not a single judge cared to activate his file. This young man is currently a very active leader in the youth movement. And targeted by internal police forces in every demonstration.

“I want people to know that I’m not just a story they threw on TV. I’m a person that has real feelings, just like her, that wants to be heard and wants their story to be out there.”

Michelle Knight is one of the world’s most famous survivors.
But that doesn’t pay the rent or buy back the life that was ripped from her.|By Abigail Jones

Do stories of personal experience help drive change

Great social movements often have one thing in common: they are created by people with the courage to talk openly about their lives and experiences.

Women have sparked movements to end street harassment, generating new public dialogue about safety and respect. Autistic people have formed communities to embrace their identity and push for better understanding of neurodiversity.

Formerly incarcerated men talk about their past crimes with the hope of shifting systems away from punishment and towards rehabilitation.

Patsy Z shared this link TED, September 24, 2015
Aspen Baker explains why the key to dealing with sensitive issues is to allow those with direct experience to feel heard.

This isn’t what happened with abortion.

The movement to liberalize abortion laws in the United States was led by people who cared about helping women get safe abortions, but those who had actually had abortions were rarely at the forefront. In the meantime, polarizing political debates, violence, social stigma and the desire for privacy have pushed women who have abortions even further to the margins.

It’s time to change course and insist that all sides do more listening to the women who have had abortions — and their loved ones. Their experiences must take center stage in these public conversations — and that’s going to require us all to learn how to listen without judgment.

When I started talking about my abortion 15 years ago, I was told that my voice didn’t matter.

One major barrier to listening to someone telling a stigmatized story, like abortion, is that often the person with a real, first-hand personal experience is seen as someone who needs to be fixed or saved — even by their own advocates.

As for being smart, capable, wise or a leader to be followed? Forget about it. “She’s had an abortion so she must need my protection,” the thinking goes. “She’s so oppressed, she doesn’t need the burden of leading, too.”

When I started talking about my abortion 15 years ago, I was told that my voice didn’t matter. I was a 24-year old bartender from Southern California who grew up pro-life, and I had a lot of mixed emotions about my situation.

Politically, abortion was portrayed as a simple black and white issue, where women could feel either relief or regret, a dialogue characterized by an “are you with us or against us?” battlefield stance. My story didn’t fit neatly into one side or the other, so people tried to ignore it and ignore me.

We need to see the people who have lived through a particular experience as the expert on their issue.

I’m not alone, and abortion isn’t the only issue where this type of sidelining happens. A friend of mine, Susan, runs a program that supports battered women and their families. Yet when she revealed to her colleagues that she was in an abusive relationship, she was advised that she should leave the field. According to them, her own experience with domestic violence prevented her from helping others.

Then there’s my friend Sabrina, an award-winning leader in technology and media. When she accepted a top position at an organization to help recruit more people of color, she did so because as a black woman she knows the kind of barriers that often keep people like her out of influential positions. Except, once she started dismantling those barriers, the white men who had put them in place there told her she was doing it the wrong way and publicly derided her efforts.

These responses are upside down and back-to-front. We need to see the people who have lived through a particular experience as the expert on their issue. No one is smarter about domestic violence than someone who’s experienced it, just as no one is smarter about inclusiveness than a black woman who’s worked her way to the top. No one is smarter about the experience of abortion than someone who has actually had one.

We need to think about how to give power to those who have faced stigma to take leadership on those same issues; to think about how to help them help others in situations that have affected them so significantly. Otherwise, the people who talk the most and make the decisions will too often be people without first-hand experience of the topic.

Like Bill Clinton (who changed his stance on abortion once he entered the White House), Mitt Romney (who changed his mind — the other way — when he ran for President) or even Donald Trump, who has also flipped from being pro-choice to pro-life.

In private, women say more — a lot more — about their abortions than they do in public.

Maybe this is just wishful thinking, but I can’t help but imagine how different the abortion conversation would be if the women who had had abortions were leading the charge for change. Would groups of women talking about what they went through really draw a battle line between those who felt relief and those who felt regret?

Would they avoid talking about the fetus and what happens to it after an abortion? Of course not. In private, women say more — a lot more — about their abortions than they do in public. Without the unique wisdom and insight of people who really know what it’s like, everyone suffers from a lack of understanding and awareness.

Other women who may have their own abortions one day, friends and family are left not knowing what to say or how best to provide support to a loved one having an abortion. And without women’s voices and leadership, politicians are left with no alternative but to operate in a vacuum without the knowledge that comes from real life experiences.

This gap, the gap between what gets said in private and what gets debated in politics, provides a unique opportunity for deep, transformational change. It’s also a problem that we can help to solve.

Instead of speaking on behalf of a woman hidden by stigma or conflict, take a stand by bearing witness; by creating the space where she can finally be heard.

Aspen Baker

Featured illustration by Hannah K. Lee/TED.

Industrial farming is one of the worst crimes in history

Animals are the main victims of history, and the treatment of domesticated animals in industrial farms is perhaps the worst crime in history. The march of human progress is strewn with dead animals.

Even tens of thousands of years ago, our stone age ancestors were already responsible for a series of ecological disasters.

When the first humans reached Australia about 45,000 years ago, they quickly drove to extinction 90% of its large animals.

This was the first significant impact that Homo sapiens had on the planet’s ecosystem. It was not the last.

Friday 25 September 2015

Pig carcasses hanging in an abattoir

‘The march of human progress is strewn with dead animals.’ Photograph: John Eveson/Rex

About 15,000 years ago, humans colonised America, wiping out in the process about 75% of its large mammals.

Numerous other species disappeared from Africa, from Eurasia and from the myriad islands around their coasts. The archaeological record of country after country tells the same sad story. The tragedy opens with a scene showing a rich and varied population of large animals, without any trace of Homo sapiens.

In scene two, humans appear, evidenced by a fossilised bone, a spear point, or perhaps a campfire.

Scene three quickly follows, in which men and women occupy centre-stage and most large animals, along with many smaller ones, have gone.

Altogether, sapiens drove to extinction about 50% of all the large terrestrial mammals of the planet before they planted the first wheat field, shaped the first metal tool, wrote the first text or struck the first coin.

The next major landmark in human-animal relations was the agricultural revolution: the process by which we turned from nomadic hunter-gatherers into farmers living in permanent settlements. It involved the appearance of a completely new life-form on Earth: domesticated animals.

Initially, this development might seem to have been of minor importance, as humans only managed to domesticate fewer than 20 species of mammals and birds, compared with the countless thousands of species that remained “wild”.

Yet, with the passing of the centuries, this novel life-form became the norm. Today, more than 90% of all large animals are domesticated (“large” denotes animals that weigh at least a few kilograms).

Consider the chicken, for example. Ten thousand years ago, it was a rare bird that was confined to small niches of South Asia. Today, billions of chickens live on almost every continent and island, bar Antarctica. The domesticated chicken is probably the most widespread bird in the annals of planet Earth. If you measure success in terms of numbers, chickens, cows and pigs are the most successful animals ever.

Alas, domesticated species paid for their unparalleled collective success with unprecedented individual suffering.

The animal kingdom has known many types of pain and misery for millions of years. Yet the agricultural revolution created completely new kinds of suffering, ones that only worsened with the passing of the generations.

At first sight, domesticated animals may seem much better off than their wild cousins and ancestors. Wild buffaloes spend their days searching for food, water and shelter, and are constantly threatened by lions, parasites, floods and droughts.

Domesticated cattle, by contrast, enjoy care and protection from humans. People provide cows and calves with food, water and shelter, they treat their diseases, and protect them from predators and natural disasters. True, most cows and calves sooner or later find themselves in the slaughterhouse.

Yet does that make their fate any worse than that of wild buffaloes? Is it better to be devoured by a lion than slaughtered by a man? Are crocodile teeth kinder than steel blades?

What makes the existence of domesticated farm animals particularly cruel is not just the way in which they die but above all how they live. Two competing factors have shaped the living conditions of farm animals:

on the one hand, humans want meat, milk, eggs, leather, animal muscle-power and amusement;

on the other, humans have to ensure the long-term survival and reproduction of farm animals.

Theoretically, this should protect animals from extreme cruelty. If a farmer milks his cow without providing her with food and water, milk production will dwindle, and the cow herself will quickly die.

Unfortunately, humans can cause tremendous suffering to farm animals in other ways, even while ensuring their survival and reproduction. The root of the problem is that domesticated animals have inherited from their wild ancestors many physical, emotional and social needs that are redundant in farms.

Farmers routinely ignore these needs without paying any economic price. They lock animals in tiny cages, mutilate their horns and tails, separate mothers from offspring, and selectively breed monstrosities. The animals suffer greatly, yet they live on and multiply.

Doesn’t that contradict the most basic principles of Darwinian evolution? The theory of evolution maintains that all instincts and drives have evolved in the interest of survival and reproduction. If so, doesn’t the continuous reproduction of farm animals prove that all their real needs are met? How can a cow have a “need” that is not really essential for survival and reproduction?

It is certainly true that all instincts and drives evolved in order to meet the evolutionary pressures of survival and reproduction. When these pressures disappear, however, the instincts and drives they had shaped do not evaporate instantly. Even if they are no longer instrumental for survival and reproduction, they continue to mould the subjective experiences of the animal.

The physical, emotional and social needs of present-day cows, dogs and humans don’t reflect their current conditions but rather the evolutionary pressures their ancestors encountered tens of thousands of years ago.

Why do modern people love sweets so much? Not because in the early 21st century we must gorge on ice cream and chocolate in order to survive. Rather, it is because if our stone age ancestors came across sweet, ripened fruits, the most sensible thing to do was to eat as many of them as they could as quickly as possible.

Why do young men drive recklessly, get involved in violent rows, and hack confidential internet sites? Because they are obeying ancient genetic decrees. Seventy thousand years ago, a young hunter who risked his life chasing a mammoth outshone all his competitors and won the hand of the local beauty – and we are now stuck with his macho genes.

Exactly the same evolutionary logic shapes the life of cows and calves in our industrial farms. Ancient wild cattle were social animals. In order to survive and reproduce, they needed to communicate, cooperate and compete effectively. Like all social mammals, wild cattle learned the necessary social skills through play.

Puppies, kittens, calves and children all love to play because evolution implanted this urge in them. In the wild, they needed to play. If they didn’t, they would not learn the social skills vital for survival and reproduction. If a kitten or calf was born with some rare mutation that made them indifferent to play, they were unlikely to survive or reproduce, just as they would not exist in the first place if their ancestors hadn’t acquired those skills.

Similarly, evolution implanted in puppies, kittens, calves and children an overwhelming desire to bond with their mothers. A chance mutation weakening the mother-infant bond was a death sentence.

What happens when farmers now take a young calf, separate her from her mother, put her in a tiny cage, vaccinate her against various diseases, provide her with food and water, and then, when she is old enough, artificially inseminate her with bull sperm?

From an objective perspective, this calf no longer needs either maternal bonding or playmates in order to survive and reproduce. All her needs are being taken care of by her human masters. But from a subjective perspective, the calf still feels a strong urge to bond with her mother and to play with other calves. If these urges are not fulfilled, the calf suffers greatly.

This is the basic lesson of evolutionary psychology: a need shaped thousands of generations ago continues to be felt subjectively even if it is no longer necessary for survival and reproduction in the present. Tragically, the agricultural revolution gave humans the power to ensure the survival and reproduction of domesticated animals while ignoring their subjective needs. In consequence, domesticated animals are collectively the most successful animals in the world, and at the same time they are individually the most miserable animals that have ever existed.

The situation has only worsened over the last few centuries, during which time traditional agriculture gave way to industrial farming. In traditional societies such as ancient Egypt, the Roman empire or medieval China, humans had a very partial understanding of biochemistry, genetics, zoology and epidemiology.

Consequently, their manipulative powers were limited. In medieval villages, chickens ran free between the houses, pecked seeds and worms from the garbage heap, and built nests in the barn. If an ambitious peasant tried to lock 1,000 chickens inside a crowded coop, a deadly bird-flu epidemic would probably have resulted, wiping out all the chickens, as well as many villagers. No priest, shaman or witch doctor could have prevented it.

But once modern science had deciphered the secrets of birds, viruses and antibiotics, humans could begin to subject animals to extreme living conditions. With the help of vaccinations, medications, hormones, pesticides, central air-conditioning systems and automatic feeders, it is now possible to cram tens of thousands of chickens into tiny coops, and produce meat and eggs with unprecedented efficiency.

The fate of animals in such industrial installations has become one of the most pressing ethical issues of our time, certainly in terms of the numbers involved. These days, most big animals live on industrial farms. We imagine that our planet is populated by lions, elephants, whales and penguins. That may be true of the National Geographic channel, Disney movies and children’s fairytales, but it is no longer true of the real world.

The world contains 40,000 lions but, by way of contrast, there are around 1 billion domesticated pigs; 500,000 elephants and 1.5 billion domesticated cows; 50 million penguins and 20 billion chickens.

In 2009, there were 1.6 billion wild birds in Europe, counting all species together. That same year, the European meat and egg industry raised 1.9 billion chickens. Altogether, the domesticated animals of the world weigh about 700m tonnes, compared with 300m tonnes for humans, and fewer than 100m tonnes for large wild animals.

This is why the fate of farm animals is not an ethical side issue. It concerns the majority of Earth’s large creatures: tens of billions of sentient beings, each with a complex world of sensations and emotions, but which live and die on an industrial production line. Forty years ago, the moral philosopher Peter Singer published his canonical book Animal Liberation, which has done much to change people’s minds on this issue. Singer claimed that industrial farming is responsible for more pain and misery than all the wars of history put together.

The scientific study of animals has played a dismal role in this tragedy. The scientific community has used its growing knowledge of animals mainly to manipulate their lives more efficiently in the service of human industry. Yet this same knowledge has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that farm animals are sentient beings, with intricate social relations and sophisticated psychological patterns. They may not be as intelligent as us, but they certainly know pain, fear and loneliness. They too can suffer, and they too can be happy.

It is high time we take these scientific findings to heart, because as human power keeps growing, our ability to harm or benefit other animals grows with it. For 4bn years, life on Earth was governed by natural selection. Now it is governed increasingly by human intelligent design. Biotechnology, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence will soon enable humans to reshape living beings in radical new ways, which will redefine the very meaning of life.

When we come to design this brave new world, we should take into account the welfare of all sentient beings, and not just of Homo sapiens.

Buy Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (Vintage) or Animal Liberation by Peter Singer (Bodley Head)









November 2016

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