Listening is Anti-Oppression

Listen attentively. You will come out ahead.

Listening is an extremely important form of anti-oppression. Vegans listen to nonhuman animals. But we should, moreover, listen to people we disagree with, including non-vegans. We should not tell people that “meat is murder,” for it is not. We should not assume that we know more than people simply because we disagree with them, though in many cases we do know more. Sometimes we just disagree and will do better to agree to disagree if we want to continue respecting one another.

We can speak, too. But we must not forget to listen, lest we find ourselves forcing our opinion upon others, or we miss out on something important.

By calling forth the criminal punishment system as the standard for talking about violence, falsely naming nonhuman flesh “murder” actually does more to obscure the oppression of nonhuman animals than clarify it. It suggests an intentional and malicious act of interpersonal violence, when the consumption of nonhuman animals is the result of an ideologically-based system of violence.

Veganism is anti-oppressive, not consumerist. When people become vegan, they often have their interpersonal skills challenged and begin to see others as personally attacking animals. It becomes a challenge to listen rather than judge others. I understand, I’ve been there. But anger should not be directed at individuals (especially when speaking of ideology), it should be directed at injustice or let go. Otherwise, it tends to get in the way of listening. I have so much to learn from my non-vegan friends, it is very humbling (and let’s not pretend vegans understand each other completely either; I don’t completely understand myself). Our ideologies differ, but we share a desire to learn and to love. Surely I have more interpersonal issues than the non-vegan person who taught me to love unconditionally, without whom I may never have arrived at veganism.

I don’t think vegan is so much an identity as a strategy, like listening, but we treat it as an identity that we must cling to. Is it part of us? Or is it just part of the world we are in the process of creating? Who is 100% vegan? We “become” vegan, but when does one become an anarchist, an environmentalist, a feminist? What about the “vegans” who don’t believe in anti-oppression for humans? There are so many struggles in this world, and the more of the human struggles I pay attention to, the more I feel in solidarity with anti-oppressive non-vegans. The more I want to go to them and say, “I want to learn.” I want to listen.

To consume or not to consume is not a black and white issue. There are issues of access and individuals who, as far as I know, really do need to eat flesh in order to live. There’s the fact that veganism is a practice which must be practical.

One even wonders at times how well vegans are listening to animals. Do we take it all as a given, no more questions to be asked? Vegans, we must ask ourselves: are we listening to the non-human animals? are we listening to the human animals?

Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen. -St. Francis


~ by Louëlla on May 6, 2010.

3 Responses to “Listening is Anti-Oppression”

  1. “It becomes a challenge to listen rather than judge others…Our ideologies differ, but we share a desire to learn and to love… I don’t think vegan is so much an identity as **a strategy, like listening,** but we treat it as an identity that we must cling to.”
    __Great post! I’ll actually be posting something along these line as soon as I’ve got my major papers out of the way. In short, I think it is dangerous to think of veganism as another identity. Veganism should instead be conceptualized as a least violent conversation with others, an “environmental etiquette,” one without any ultimate self-certainty. Veganism is not something one does alone, but always with and amongst others.

  2. Thanks for your comment! I always look forward to your posts.

    “I’d like to move away from a metaphysical, ahistorical veganism of identity, non-violence, innocence, purity,and savior narratives toward a more conversational, relational, contextual, and responsive version. I think veganism is more of a theory/hypothesis to be tested than an end-all-be-all Truth. Thus it is a process of discovery and creation of something new, different…. Thinking of veganism as a conversation of least violence, a relation to undergo with others rather than a private act of purity and protest.Veganism is an affirmation of others and a promise to do as little violence as is fair. Veganism, then, is not about consumption (or the abstaining of consumption), or about identity, but about relationships, about affiliation and solidarity.”

    Love your words here! (If you don’t mind me sharing.)

  3. […] to do as little violence as is fair. Veganism as intersectional social justice can only begin with listening and can never end in […]

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