Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Democrats : humans :: vegetarians : animals

Democrats are to humans what vegetarians are to animals.

I'm a socialist and a vegan, so naturally I think of Democrats and vegetarians as being well-intentioned but, well, wrong. But it wasn't until today that I realized that both groups are wrong for essentially the same reasons. Vegetarianism and liberalism do seem to go hand in hand to some extent, while vegans are typically on the left fringe of liberalism shading into different sorts of radicalism. I wonder if I might be onto something.

The Democrat looks at society today and sees many problems. There is a widening gap between rich and poor in this country. Millions of people have no health insurance, and many who do have it still pay too much for the care they receive. Economic power is centralized in multinational corporations. Jobs are being outsourced. There is an unpopular war in Iraq that is costing American and Iraqi lives. Democrats see these things and think they are real problems to be solved.

The vegetarian looks at the treatment of animals today and sees many problems, too. Factory farms result in horrible cruelty to animals, from cramped quarters to mutilation to pumping them full of drugs and hormones. Agricultural animals produce an enormous amount of waste, to say nothing of greenhouse gasses. Vegetarians see these tings and think they are real problems to be solved.

The Democrat seeks to solve the problems of the country by stricter regulation and reform. Raise the minimum wage and increase taxes on the rich to bring incomes closer to parity. Offer single-payer health care to cover those who lack it. Enforce strict monopoly laws and protect American jobs. Bring the troops home! The vegetarian seeks to reduce the suffering of animals by refusing to eat them. Vegetarians are often involved with animal welfare charities such as the SPCA and local animal shelters. They are not opposed to the use of animals, provided it is done humanely, so they typically try to eat only cage-free eggs and free-range organic milk.

Democrats and vegetarians are the liberals of their respective domains. Liberals see the problems of society and think they are the irrational outcomes of a rational system, so they try to correct the outcomes. Radicals see that the system itself is irrational, and that the outcomes that flow from it are only to be expected. It is the system that must be changed.

The problems with society that the Democrat seeks to regulate away are inherent in capitalism itself. They will not go away until capitalism goes away. By the same token, simply not eating animals doesn't end animal cruelty because animals are still property. They cannot consent to be used at all, ever, and so they ought not be used any more than humans should be used without their consent.

The only solution to these problems is a radical solution, one that strikes at the root causes of them. Capitalism is the root cause of most of the ills of society, and thus socialism -- not well-regulated liberal capitalism -- is the abolition of capitalism and the solution to those ills. The property status of animals is the root cause of most animal cruelty, and thus veganism and animal rights -- not animal welfare reform and vegetarianism -- is the abolition of the property status of animals and the solution to animal cruelty.

However, Democrats and vegetarians both believe they are part of the solution, and so they can be. The way to achieving the shared goals of Democrats/socialists and vegetarians/vegans is not to say "Fuck you guys, we have all the answers and you're morons." The solution is to work together on those things we agree on and use the good old-fashioned art of healthy debate, persuasion, and evidence to bring people further and further towards the solution. Revolutionary socialists must participate in the everyday fights for rights and social justice that liberals are involved in, but constantly draw attention not only to symptoms but to illnesses. Protest the Iraq war, and while doing so draw the inherent connection between capitalism and imperialism. Campaign for universal health care, and use it to highlight the way the market fails to provide even the minimum welfare for the people who make it work.

Vegans and animal rights activists can support certain reforms in animal use while consistently maintaining that all use is always wrong, no matter how humane. Go naked rather than wear fur if you like, but point out that you can't be opposed to fur and not be opposed to eggs and milk. Turn people's compassionate decision to become vegetarian into an opportunity to explain the inherent cruelty involved in more than only meat.

Democrats and vegetarians can be part of the solution, but not without changing their views in the process.

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