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 shade of moral tension.
what does it mean to love an animal? to love thyself: ego-projection! pet-rearing in america boils down to a social practice of ornamental narcissism (thus the resemblance between pet and owner).
how much the animal face resembles the human face becomes an important ingredient in our understanding of animal cogitatio. the metaphor is used by french philosopher emmanuel levinas: a face for levinas brings forth a more basic, essential connection: 1- the possibility of bridging a friendship, 2- an encounter, which opens up all sort of ethical possibilities.
the truth is that levinas didn't understand the animal face (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.
walt disney is against the grain. the legend goes that he loved animals & introduced a legion to the masses: goofy, donald, ronno, roger, minnie, goofy, bambi. (one could argue that mammal face-to-face is easier). but then there is jiminy cricket, kaa (python), ursula (octopus), sebastian (crab) & aladar (dino).
what am i getting at? they all talk!
disney, not levinas, tackles the problem. language is the divide of human/animal face-to-face. since the animal cannot articulate a sentence, they become, as german philosopher martin heidegger put it "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. he's loyal & generous. of course, crickets don't talk, but by imagining they could, we cogitate 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, evil. his goal is to eat the three little pigs. now animal-empathy ends up building animal-prejudice. how?
we hate bad wolf because we're competing for the same food niche.
in disney's dinosaur the evil carnotaurus is a carnivore. aladar, the protagonist is an iguanadon (a hervibore). we get a paradoxical view of animal otherness. hervibores are good, carnivore (predators) are evil. as anthropocentric as it gets, we're still blind to the fact that we are the top carnivores (we'll come back to this blind spot).
let's improve disney thought experiment: being aware of the animal-as-other makes for an interesting hermeneutic circle. let's get rid of moral simplifications: animals are neither "good" nor "bad." animals are not moral beings in the sense we understand the term. the received idea is that animals are not moral because they lack freedom (too complicated a question to be pursued here). therefore, our -anthropocentric- exploration of human otherness remains redundantly human.
is the systematization of suffering upon animals brought up by modern factory farming moral? twentieth-century biotechnological revolution has turned against animals & the environment. is this breeding/killing production cycle really about food? capitalist biotechnology produces cheap commodities for global trade, 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 contributes to 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 bigger the demand. in spite of the billions of animals killed each year, they never die. we end up having more of them. (packaging does the trick)
design 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 the male or female reproductive system): a lactating breast, a vagina, ovaries. they appear isolated, fragmented, a sort of pornographic display of meat-fragments to be consumed a bit at a time.
the label details provenance, processing company, weight, price, cut, calories, fat, safe handling instructions, etc. the animal's life separated and distributed into arbitrary categories. we should ask a different question: is a life designed as mere consumption really a life? is life defined solely as meat grade, cut, flavor, tenderness, cooking method?
the animal's suffering is seldom a topic of discussion.
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's face shows up we confront our bad faith. we cringe @ the idea that our meat comes from a vicious cycle of industrial suffering. but our pity is purely narcissistic. that is to say, us-as-them in the slaughterhouse -right before the 300 volt electric shock of the captive bolt pistol at the back of the head.
what we resent the most is our weakness at entertaining our "vicarious" suffering. a defense mechanism suddenly kicks in. now we wish to have it both ways: as non-human animals eating each other in a state of necessity, and as humans, enjoying the taste of meat at a restaurant.
this is what best expresses why human language doesn't necessarily preclude a face: having language doesn't make us any better.
is there a way out of this impasse?