Quote for Thought: The Handmaid’s Tale

quote-for-thought-goth

“We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”

– Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

This quote really rings true to me. Most people see the bad things that are going on, but choose to ignore it. Especially if it’s something that’s happening to someone else. While I was reading The Handmaid’s Tale, some parts reminded me of the famous WWII-related poem by Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

And, in the end, what can one little voice do? How can I stop something that is so much larger than me? That’s a question no one really has an answer to. Turning the head away is the easy way. It gives us the comfort of not being seen, the freedom to live on, without danger.

We were the people who were not in the papers. We were the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom.

– Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

I’m not an optimist, or an idealist, so I can’t really find a good answer to all of this. To be honest, sometimes I don’t have faith in people, at all. But, hopefully, everything that’s going on in the world right now is not leading to another horrible period in history. And hopefully, we will always be able to speak up when we feel the need to.

Quote(s) for Thought: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

quote-for-thought-goth

As told by Kafka’s close friend Max Brod:

“Suddenly he began to speak to the fish in their illuminated tanks. ‘Now at least I can look at you in peace, I don’t eat you anymore.’ It was the time he turned strictly vegetarian.”

To be honest, I’m writing this post for myself. Because I want to put some of Foer’s thoughts on paper. Because I don’t want to forget.

I’m in a similar position as Jonathan Safran Foer was before he completely gave up meat. I wanted to become a vagaterian, and I did, several times, and then always somehow stopped. Now, I don’t want to promote anything here. And I don’t think that is the intention of the book, either. I just gives you facts, facts I think everyone should be aware of. Even if you eat meat, don’t you deserve to know where it comes from?

Let me just start by saying that I think Jonathan Safran Foer is an amazing author. I’ve read Eveything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and loved both of them. I love his writing style and I think it also shows in this non-fiction book. It is well-researched and it gives a great amount of information, but it is also very interesting. The author talks about himself, his family, his experiiences, as well as about his research. And research he did! He even spent time with both farmers and activists.

Some of these facts have become more videly known – for example the fact that the meat industry is responsible for about 40 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, planes, trains, and ships in the world combined. We are aware of the dangers of factory farming, I thin, but no just how deep these problems go. And then, some things most people are not aware at all.

Foer deconstructs some ideas people use to ease their shame. One of the notions he deconstructs is that vegetarianism is a form of sentimentality – which would basically mean valuing emotions over reality.

Two friends are ordering lunch. One says, “I’m in the mood for a burger,” and orders it. The other says, “I’m in the mood for a burger,” but remembers that there are things more important to him than what he is in the mood for at any given moment, and orders something else. Who is the sentimentalist?

And, yet, he asks himself if vegetarians actually are sentimentalists (idealists) if they believe everyone would follow their path. People are obviously not willing to do that. Yet, we know that eating is a group activity. We mostly eat with someone. We can influence some people, or at least contribute to the small progress that is being made. Big changes often come from small actions.

Another thing Foer touches on is the fact that most people don’t care for birds as much as they do for mammals. And even if we do, most of us don’t really care for fish. We tell ourselves that those animals are not as intelligent, which has lately proven to be false. And fishing is basically destroying fish:

For every ten tuna, shars, and other large predatory fish that were in our oceans fifty to a hundred years ago, only one is left. Many scientist predict the total collapse of all fished species in less than fiftly years – and intense efforts are under way to catch, kill, and eat even more sea animals.

The average trawling operation throws 80 to 90 percent of the sea animals it captures as bycatch overboard.

…sea horses are one of more than one hundred sea animal species killed as ‘bycatch’ in the modern tuna industry.

Even if some animals do get a “clean” death, fish never do. All fish suffer since there are no regulations as to how they should die. However, slughterhouses often neglect all the regulations, or the regulations just get changed. I won’t go into detail about what happens at slaughterhauses. I guess most of people are aware of that, and if you’re not, then let me just say it’s much worse than you think it is. I really don’t want to talk about it, because it makes me sick, so I’ll move on to farming. This is, actually, one of the most important issues this book speaks about.

Jonathan Safran Foer really looks at farming from different perspectives and leaves it to the readers to come to their own conclusions. He gives his own opinion, talks about his lifestyle and the reasons behind his decision to give up meat completely, but he lets other people speak, too, and share their worldviews. He also gives an example of a man who is a vegan but constructs slaughterhouses. How is that possible? Because there seem to be no more slaughterhouses that provide a “clean” death. The farmers that take care of their animals cannot find a slughterhouse that would’t make their animals die a horrible death. And that’s why good slaughterhouses seemed important even to someone who refuses to eat animals.

This book doesn’t really speak against eating animals as much as it speaks against factory farming, overfishing, hormone and antibiotics fed, mutated and deformed animals. Many animals are left to suffer and die, because it would cost more to heal than to lose some of them (and there are much more animals that die before it’s the time for them to be illed than you could imagine). Many are born deformed.

In the world of factory farming, expectations are turned upside down. Veterinarians don’t work toward optimal health, but optimal profitability. Drugs are not for curing diseases but substitutes for destroyed immune systems. Farmers do not aim to produce healthy animals.

Modern factory farming is destroying our environment in more way than you think. Fighting this kind of farms is crucial for the environmental sustainability. Crucial for our planet. Factory farms are nothing more than the product of human insatiable greed – it’s exclusively about money, not about feeding people. And family farms cannot fight them. Bill Niman, the owner of a family farm who cares about the treatment of his animals, was driven out of his company because the board wanted to do things more profitably and less ethically. Though his ranch is an example of good (or at least much better) treatment of animals, he said that he would no longer eat Niman Ranch beef. Not under the new conditions.

Factory farming hurts humas as well:

People who live near factory farms are rarely wealthy and are treated by the industry as dispensable. The fecal mists they are forced to breathe usually don’t kill humans, but sore throats, headaches, coughing, runny noses, diarrhea, and even psychological illness including abnormally high levels of tension, depression, anger, and fatigue, are common. According to a report by the California state senat, “Studies have shown that {animal waste} lagoons emit toxic airbornee chemicals that can cause inflammatory, immune, irritation and neurochemical problems in humans.”

The meat from factory farms hurts us and is responsible for many disesases from more people suffering from asthma and allergies, to flu. Factory farms are also known for horrible working conditions of their employees.

And factory farms hurts other animals besides those confined inside of them and unable to move of their entire lives (again, I don’t want to go too much into the cruelty that happens there) :

In only three years, two hundred fish kills – incidents where the entire fish population in a given area is killed at once – have resulted from factory famrs’ failures to kkeep their shit out of the waterways.

All of this also deconstructs the idea that animals have better lives on farms than they would have in the wild, where many would be killed anyway. These animals do not live happy lives before their slaughter.

This is becoming a more and more talked-about topic, which is definitely a good start. Some laws are being changed, though not as much as they should. Newspapers are writing about it (The New York Times was the first to do so), and Whole Foods was the first supermarket chain that committed to a systematic program of animal welfare labeling. There’s hope (dare I say it…) and everyone should contribute.

Yes, this is a long post and I don’t now if anyone’s going to read it, but it is very important to me, and I think it should be important to everyone. Eating Animals is a must-read. We must act – for animals, for our planet, and for ourselves.

If we are at all serious about ending factory farming, then the absolute least we can do is stop sending checkks to the absolute worst abusers. (…) We know, at least, that this decision will help prevent deforestation, curb global warming, reduce pollution, save oil reserves, lessen the burden on rural America, decrease human rights abuses, improve public health, and helo eliminate the most systematic animal abuse in world history.

 

 

Quote for Thought: Bicycle

quote for thought goth.jpg

“To ride a bicycle is in itself some protection against superstitious fears, since the bicycle is the product of pure reason applied to motion. Geometry at the service of man! Give me two spheres and a straight line and I will show you how far I can take them.”

Angela Carter, “The Lady of the House of Love” from The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories

A random little quote I wanted to sheare with you. I’ve recently read Angela Carter’s short story collection, The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, and I’m amazed by her writing. It’s brilliant. Her stories are dark, I’d even use the word disturbing, and each of them takes fairy tale imagery and makes something completely new out of it. For some reason, this quote stuck with me, even though there are so many wonderful ones. Maybe because it speaks of something mundane, almost random and not connected to fairy tales at all, but it’s still great. And it works great within the story, which I highly recommend. 🙂

DSC01921

Quote for Thought: Our Hieroglyphic World

quote-for-thought-goth

In reality they all lived in a kind of hieroglyphic world, where the real thing was never said or done or even thought, but only represented by a set of arbitrary signs.

– Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence

I’m currently reading The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, and it reminded me of another novel of hers, one of my favourite books ever, The Age of Innocence.

The Age of Innocence speaks about many things, but I think that it’s most of all a novel about human behaviour, the social norms imposed on people, prejudice, hipocrisy and injustice. It also deals with love, and asks whether love is even possible in this superficial world. Yes, Wharton’s novel deals with the morals of 1870s New York society, but many of its issues are still present today, maybe just in a different way. From the day we were born, we had to learn how to fit into different roles that we were “assigned”. Many of these we didn’t chose. And they shaped us more than we are comfortable to accept.

The quote I chose doesn’t address these issues directly, even though the book does. The quote is maybe more about language, and how we express the “real thing”. We learn to express everything by words, but words are not “real”, they are arbitrary – as Saussure discussed in his semiotics, in a completely different context, of course. And words are signs which do not denote a particular “real thing” but a category of things.

The truth is, we rely entirely on words. Words are the way we see and understand the world, categorize things, put them in their proper boxes. Without language, we would not be that same beings that we are now. We are creatures of signs. Is it so strange that, in a certain way, our society is also based on putting everything, including people into boxes? Well, no, of course it’s not the same thing. And we are, I hope, intelligent enought to know that.

DSC01787

 

Quote for Thought: Just Write!

quote-for-thought-goth

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

-Toni Morrison

I haven’t done this kind of post in a while, and this time it’s more inspirational than food for thought. I love this quote by the wonderful Toni Morrison. I love how it makes you want to write even more. It reminds you that you truly have something to say, that you can offer something new to the world. You are writing something that nobody has written before.

There are many authors here on WordPress, and I wanted to share this quote with all of you, even if you’ve already heard it. It’s nice to be reminded that your writing is important. Art is important. Expressing yourself is important. It’s neccessary. It’s wonderful! 🙂

And thank you, Toni Morrison! She is a great writer, and she even had a mural depicting her, in Spain. Apparently, it’s been removed, which is really sad…

Vitoria_-_Graffiti_&_Murals_0392

Mural depicting Toni Morrison in Vitoria, Spain. Picture from Wikipedia.

 

 

Quote for Thought: Anne Brontë and Censorship

Images from Wikipedia

Images from Wikipedia

“…when we have to do with vice and vicious characters, I maintain it is better to depict them as they really are than as they would wish to appear. To represent a bad thing in its least offensive light is, doubtless, the most agreeable course for a writer of fiction to pursue; but is it the most honest, or the safest? Is it better to reveal the snares and pitfalls of life to the young and thoughtless traveller, or to cover them with branches and flowers? Oh, reader! if there were less of this delicate concealment of facts – this whispering, ‘Peace, peace,’ when their is no peace, there would be less of sin and misery to the young of both sexes who are left to wring their bitter knowledge from experience.”

Anne Brontë, preface to the second edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Let me start by saying that The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is an amazing novel. Sadly, Anne Brontë had to defend it from the critics who thought it was overly graphic and disturbing – and her sister Charlotte was one of those critics. Anne Brontë never became as popular as her sisters during her lifetime and only lately was her novel re-discovered and given the attention it deserved.

So, what was so disturbing about The Tenant of Wildfell Hall? It is a story about a woman who escapes from her abusive, alcoholic husband and in the end finds happiness. The husband, Arthur Huntington, and his lifestyle are presented in a realistic, honest manner. And that was what bothered Anne’s contemporaries. Today, no one would find the novel too graphic. However, this opens some questions about many books that get banned today for similar reasons.

I have to say I agree with Anne Brontë completely. Life can be gruesome and horrible, and literature should be allowed to present it as it is. I know some people are sensitive to graphic imagery, and that is fine, they should be warned about it so that they can avoid the books which disturb them. However, this doesn’t mean that such books should be banned. Literature, and art in general, has the right to question and to provoke.

You can read the entire preface by Anne Brontë HERE, it is great, and short. But I can’t resist to add just one more sentence:

All novels are, or should be, written for both men and women to read, and I am at a loss to conceive how a man should permit himself to write anything that would be really disgraceful to a woman, or why a woman should be censured for writing anything that would be proper and becoming for a man.

Quite opiniated and maybe not as meek as she was usually protrayed, eh?

Quote for Thought: Life goes on

quote-for-thought-goth

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”

Robert Frost

Life can’t really be explained and it has no rules, even when certain magazines claim there are. It is as diverse as the people living it. But we all know one thing for sure – life can be hard. It doesn’t ask for our opinion, it just goes on, whether you had the time and strength to keep up or not. You will get sad, disappointed, let down, insecure, anxious, stressed, and hurt. But there will be times you’ll simply feel good about yourself. You will look back on your past sorrow and feel no pain at all.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not even trying to be inspirational. If you’re sad, be sad. Cry. Hit your pillow. And I admit that sometimes there will be things in your life that you will never be able to remember without evoking some old feelings. Time doesn’t always heal all of our wounds, but it teaches us to live with them. Then, you will remember something, or someone, and still feel a little bit of that past hurt. But you will also know that you have survived it. You will say to yourself: “I feel much better now.” You will know: “My life is better today.” And it will give you strength to go on.