what's behind this face?atRifF
my previous post brings forth a different conversation that needs to happen. after the cambridge declaration a carnivore pet owner cannot say "i love animals" without a moral contradiction.
modern cities exclude all animals except for pets, which are kept confined. there is a possibility that as human animals ourselves, we seek non-human animal company. what does it mean to love animals? i don't mean love as ego-projection. for instance, pet-rearing in america, which boils down to a social practice of ornamental narcissism (thus the resemblance between pet and owner).
but there's an important difference: our faces are different. the metaphor is used by emmanuel levinas: a face for levinas, brings a more basic, essential connection. the face-to-face encounter means 1- the possibility of bridging a friendship, 2- the encounter opens up all sort of ethical possibilities.
levinas didn't really think of animals as "faces" (more of this later). for now, i'd like to stretch levinas' idea to fit non-human animals. the more human the animal looks, the easier the human projection. here, walt disney is a model. the legend goes that he loved animals & introduced a legion to the masses: goofy, donald, ronno, roger, minnie, goofy, bambi. though mammal face-to-face is easier. then there is jiminy cricket. later we have kaa (a python), ursula (a sort of octopus), sebastian (a crab) & aladar (a dino!).
what am i getting at?
disney, not levinas, tackles the problem. language is the divide of human/animal face-to-face. the animal cannot protest the treatment imposed on it nor articulate its environment, which is why heidegger thought animals are poor in world. this is why levinas doesn't walk the walk with bobby (the only animal in the prisoner camp where he spent the war years). jiminy cricket talks and acts smart, loyal & generous. of course, crickets don't talk, but by imagining they could, we can speculate a face all the way down to hexapoda.
the whole idea of face-to-face is that it should presuppose otherness unqualified. if i choose my other face all i'm doing is projecting myself-as-other.
jiminy has a cute face, only too human-like
on the other hand, disney's anthropocentrism reinforces animal bias: big bad wolf is, well, bad. his goal is to eat the three little pigs. so animal-empathy ends up building animal-prejudice. how?
we hate bad wolf because we're competing with bad wolf for three little pigs' meat!
in disney's dinosaur the evil carnotaurus is a carnivore. aladar, the protagonist is an iguanadon (an hervibore). a preselected view of the animal other: hervibores are good; carnivore predators are evil. yet, we don't see that we are the top carnivores! (this is a human blind spot we need to come back to).
disney's thought experiment can be improved. being aware of the animal-as-imagined-by-a-human hermeneutic circle, let's get rid of moral simplifications of animality: animals are neither "good" nor "bad." animals are not moral beings in the sense we understand the term (how about these moments of moral convergence even sacrifice?). the received idea is that animals are not moral because they lack freedom (the question of animal -or human- freedom is too complicated to be pursued here).
but wait, are we really moral?
is the systematization of suffering upon animals brought up by modern factory farming moral? twentieth-century biotechnological revolution has turned against animals & the environment. can one really say that this breeding/killing race cycle is about food? capitalist biotechnology produces cheap commodities for global trade. the intense breeding/killing cycle carries a dangerous trade off of environmental pollution and pandemics.
meat eating uses about three-fifths of the world's agricultural land yet produces less than 5% of its protein and less than 2% of its calories. meat production causes global warming through its effects on deforestation, both directly through pasture and indirectly through its use of feed and forage, and also because of the methane, which comes from the stomachs and manure of cattle.
the more animals we kill, the more demand there is and the more animals we breed. as meat consumption increases our environment gets more depleted, thus, producing more need for meat. can we stop this vicious cycle? not anytime soon. in spite of the millions upon millions of animals that are killed each year, they never die. we end up having more of them.
where do they go? packaging does the trick!
it absorbs brutal suffering and waste & turns it into a clean artificial display. packaging reminds one of standard anatomical representations of the human body with insets of representations of the male or female reproductive system: a lactating breast, a vagina, ovaries; body-fragments. they appear isolated, fragmented, in a way that reminds one of pornographic magazines, fragments to be consumed, devoured a bit at a time.
the label details what's valuable: processing company, weight, price, cut, calories, fat, safe handling instructions, etc. what is missing here is the animal's life. but, is a life designed to confinement & suffering really a life? the animal becomes a meat-tasting experience: we discuss cuts, flavor, tenderness, cooking method, etc. if the animal's fate or suffering is brought up, it's considered unpolite.
wolf man reinforces the unbridgeable duality of the "animal" in us. but we can turn the metaphor on its head: wolf man is the pressing to fact coming from the inside (the "other side", our truer? face): the expression of our self-destruction
the moment the animal face shows up we confront our bad faith. we hate the idea that our meat comes from a vicious cycle of suffering of our own design, but make no mistake, this suffering is narcissistic, i.e., briefly us-as-them in the slaughterhouse (right before the 300 volt electric shock of the captive bolt pistol). nah, what we hate the most is ourselves: our weakness at suffering their suffering.
a defense mechanism suddenly kicks in: now we wished we were animals (i.e., we want to have it both ways: as animals, eating each other in a state of necessity; as humans, enjoying the taste of meat at the restaurant). this second order of hate best expresses why human language doesn't necessarily precludes a face: having language doesn't make us any better.
is there a way out of this impasse? perhaps animals don't need language to have faces (as we conceive of language, anyhow).
we'll try to tackle the issue in a forthcoming post.