In my previous post, I did a little bit of writing on some of the core-concepts(?) of my faith, and on how I can go about living those concepts in day-to-day ways. Which is great. Gratitude and mindful environmentalism and benign self-interest are all fantastic ways to live.
But it’s *easy* to say “I eat animals, but I only eat animals who have had a reasonably decent quality-of-life, and I’m grateful for their sacrifice, and I don’t waste their bodies” and so on. It can even be easy to live that way.
Where it gets harder is when the cat gets fleas or the fruit flies have started to take over your kitchen, or you otherwise have to figure out how to reconcile your desire for a clean and bug-free house and a (relatively) parasite-free body, with the desire of the fleas and fruit flies for food, shelter, and a sense of their own safety.
Maybe it’s because I’m a sadist, but I define “violence” more as “causing unnecessary suffering” than I do as “causing pain or hurt”. There’s an excerpt from I am a Red Dress (Anna Camilleri’s gorgeous book of essays on womanhood, power, femme, embodiment, and incest survival) that says:
“This is what violence does; it squeezes us down into creatures we are not meant to be, so self-loathing and fearful that it hurts too much to hope, constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, for things to begin badly, or end badly. Moments of joy and pleasure regarded with suspicion.
This is no way to live. […] We are not meant to be squeezed down, to be fearful – none of us, and one is too many.”
This is a definition of violence that I can live with, in part because it is broad enough to include emotional violence as well as physical violence, but – more relevant to this post – because it’s also fairly in line with what I believe as a sadist and an omnivore.
A turkey raised in a factory farm is a turkey raised in violence with all the misery that comes with it. A turkey raised on a farm where it gets to behave like a turkey is meant to behave and eat what a turkey was meant to eat, that is raised with its quality of life (as well as the potential uses of its body after death) in mind, is not a turkey raised in violence, even though it’s being raised for slaughter. Nor is a wild turkey that grows up in a world rife with predators and other dangers raised in violence, even though its death – by a human or non-human predator, by a parasite, by sickness, by hunger, by cold – will almost certainly not be a gentle one.
Abuse (of any kind) is violence. But mutually enjoyable consensual pain play, by this definition, isn’t violence. It’s meant to build the recipient up, not squeeze them down (to use Anna’s words), meant to give them pleasure even as it gives them pain and damages (in one superficial way or another) their body. It hurts, without a doubt. But it doesn’t cause harm. (Those who don’t do S/M may not see a distinction between those two things, but it’s there and it’s pretty significant, for those of us who do).
Similarly, I would rather kill a cockroach by crushing its head quickly and accurately, rather than leave one to slowly starve to death stuck in a glue trap. Yes, (for many reasons) I’d much rather make my home uninteresting to the cockroaches, and difficult-to-impossible for them to enter, than spend months trying to murder them all once they were inside. (Thus we have door sweeps and window screens and drain strainers to discourage them from coming in the first place). But I wouldn’t hesitate to kill them if I found them inside my house.
Anyway. That’s kind of where I’m at with this one.
How about you? How do you live out doctrines/philosophies like Harm None?
Drop me a note in the comments and let me know.
Meliad the Birch Maiden