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Recently, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has drawn attention to a 2018 "crash test" study1 at Wayne State University funded by the Ford Motor Company, in which twenty-seven living pigs were strung up by wires run through the adipose tissue near their spinal columns, and rammed with a high-impact lateral pendulum.

The study appears to reverse an organizational policy set by Ford in 2009 to refrain from using live animals in collision testing.

Given the difference in organ size and growth rates between humans and pigs, the research is of limited scientific value, as mentioned in the paper resulting from the study on pg. 374. In the next breath, the authors congratulate themselves on their "powerful research."

As it stands, the report is a masterpiece of dissociative thinking, covering over the brute fact of being with all the graphs and figures at the clinicians' disposal.

Posted Sat 16 Oct 2021 12:50:42 AM EDT Tags:

The Buddha told Subhūti, “Bodhisattva-mahāsattvas should pacify their minds thusly: ‘All different types of sentient beings, whether born from eggs, born from wombs, born from moisture, or born from transformation; having form or no form; having thought, no thought, or neither thought nor no thought — I will cause them all to become liberated and enter Remainderless Nirvāṇa.’ Yet when sentient beings have been liberated without measure, without number, and to no end, truly no sentient beings have been liberated. Why? Subhūti, a bodhisattva with a notion of a self, a notion of a person, a notion of a being, or a notion of a life, is not a bodhisattva1.”

We prefer our own lives to those of others. We can never fully shirk this preference, for to do so would mean becoming something other than human. This is why the extreme few who have achieved this level of self-abnegation are objects of as much misunderstanding and disgust as reverence: Shakyamuni Buddha, St. Francis of Assisi, Arya Asanga.

As every kind act we do for another being involves some measure of self-denial, it follows that doing anything truly worthwhile with your life requires a great level of self-denial. The road to authentic self-denial2 is long and fraught with difficulty. The first stage of this process leads one to asceticism, and more importantly, the paradox at the heart of asceticism: that you must "lose your life in order to save it."

The age in which the everyday person could be expected to understand asceticism has long since passed. To them, what passes for asceticism is more often than not basic ethical behavior: abstaining from meat and intoxicants, recycling, fasting, perhaps boycotting certain conglomerates. Their understanding of self-denial never rises above the level of mere acts or practices, for what they fail to understand is the perspective that binds these practices together. For the self-denying individual, practices (ἀσκήσεις) can be the royal road to this perspective, but practices in themselves are no replacement for it.

Pursuing asceticism is not a worthwhile end in itself, even when it is practiced for the purpose of one's individual liberation. This is the path of the so-called "pratyekabuddha," the one who practices selflessness for their own selfish benefit. The criticisms of Mahayana Buddhist commentators throughout the years ring true: it is not enough to lose your own life, and it is not enough to save your own life, even if such an idea of "absolute negation" is a comforting one. You must instead negate your own life to save another life, even every life.

It's common to say that those who practice altruism and empathy are selfless. The secret to true empathy is to take this as literally as possible, and internalize it, behaving as though you had no self. You yourself are not a being; you yourself are not alive. It is only in this way that the lives of the most marginalized will become meaningful to you: the 66 billion chickens and 500 million cattle slaughtered annually; the birds colliding into communication towers; the dying coral reef. This level of detachment is a supreme gift, and one of the few worth cultivating.

At any moment, you must be ready to see through yourself to see another, and indeed, to see every other all at once. You must learn how to deaden yourself and heighten your senses in order to feel what they feel. Then, lose your life to save them.

  1. Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, emphasis added.
  2. There are many who will try to pass their self-loathing off as self-denial. Self-loathing is in fact the antithesis of self-denial. Intense self-loathing is irreparably bound together with narcissism, for the self and its perceived flaws are the depressive's sole object of attention. The difference between such a person and what the world will call a "narcissist" is not in the amount of attention they pay to themselves, but the kind. The narcissist loves the one they see in the mirror. The depressive despises them. Both spend hours looking in the same mirror.
Posted Tue 12 Oct 2021 04:26:05 PM EDT Tags:

The best advice you can give to a child is to skip school as much as possible.

There is no better nourishment for developing the human personality, just as nothing works so well as a school in destroying it. The moment a child develops the curiosity and tenacity necessary to follow a plan of their own design, they should be advised to drop everything and take it. I say this from experience, for I am convinced that the regimen I developed for myself as an adolescent is one of the only things I can credit for my continual desire to live and think independently. I had no innate ability, no silver spoon, and not a single supportive adult. What I did have was a desire to learn and a hatred of school. I perfected the art of playing truant at a young age. It might be the only good thing I ever did for myself, and has served me beyond all measure.

We are used to treating children as unruly animals. As is fitting for unruly animals, we send them to "obedience school" to pick up a few tricks. These tricks are worthless compared to the instincts they trade to get them. A fleeting acquaintance with the Hundred Years War and racist novels of the nineteenth century are nothing compared to one's individuality and inborn yearning for liberty. For the school, like every factory, is in the business of making many things, very rapidly, and all of them the same. Those children who are homeschooled1 often fare worse.

"Providing an education" is not and has never been the goal of the modern school system. Its sole purpose is to practice the "systematic indoctrination of the servile spirit2," something it does by teaching obedience to the clock, punishing independence, and finding every excuse to instill a slavish deference to authority. There is a reason that the only indispensable part of the American school day is an oath sworn to a flag. They do this in the hope that, through sheer repetition, someone will be fooled into thinking it means something.

Authority comes in many forms, all of them illegitimate. There is not a single person who comes into the world believing in authority, and in fact, each of us are born resistant to it. The "temper tantrum" is our first attempt as children to revolt against coercive authority. It is a frustrated and ultimately ineffectual attempt, but a natural one. Too young to do anything else, and being denied both the opportunity and ability to articulate themselves, the child screams. From the classical age to our own, the good child is the quiet one, the one who is not so much a person as they are the mute satellite of their parents. Children are more or less expected to be in this state by the time they begin the first grade. If they aren't, they receive a mark on their report card: "no respect for authority." The meek and easily intimidated child receives a different one: "a pleasure to have in class." Such basic principles of "good behavior" are vital to those first few years of schooling, for only the passive person can be indoctrinated, and the one who has accepted defeat.

In a few years, even the most strong-willed and independent child falls silent, for there is nothing so destructive to the free spirit as a group. In the child's case, this group is the class. For eight or more hours, they are one of many. When they return home, they are lucky to have a few hours of recreation and sleep before it's back to the "single-file line." In time, and as their social awareness deepens, doing anything to deviate the norm seems ever more like wasted effort. It is much easier to remain silent, to go along with things, and to scrape by as best they can. Twelve years of this, for nine months out of the year, is enough to whittle one's individuality down to nothing. Whenever they do think independently and differently from their classmates, they perceive it as an embarrassment. Their classmates are of the same opinion. This is precisely how it becomes second nature to worry first about what others think, and what they themselves think second, if at all.

This is not to say that collectives are in every case antagonistic to the individual. Far from it. A person is never so content as they are when working with a collective toward a common cause. Indeed, it is only through collective strength that any human accomplishment can be achieved on a large scale. The exercise of collective power is in every case preferable to individual power, with one exception: the life of the mind. Here "the individual surpasses the collectivity to the same extent as something surpasses nothing, for thought only takes shape in a mind that is alone face to face with itself; collectivities do not think3." While the school system is to blame for any number of damages to the human personality, there is none more dangerous than its stated purpose: teaching one what to think.

For a child that is the product of the school system, "what to think" is always the thinking most in line with authority. It matters not whether this authority is a god, a nation, or a group, for the result is the same. When the right lever is pulled, and the right buzzword supplies, the graduate goes running -- into the open arms of the dictator, of whom the teacher is the archetype. After thinking of themselves as merely one of many for so long, it is only a short skip to surrendering their individuality to the "nation," "the public," or "social class." The moment an authority appears to martial the "nation," or a party to rally the "proletariat4," the graduate falls in lock step. For back in the classroom, they lost their ability to deviate from the group before they even knew they had it.

An understanding of reading, writing, and arithmetic is essential to functioning beyond an infantile level in life, but no amount or combination of these three things is worth losing the ability to think for oneself. The infant is happier and does far less damage to civil society than the sleepwalker. At present, this is precisely what the enormous and collaborative effort between the family, state, and religion that we call the "school" aims to produce. It bears repeating, and cannot be overemphasized: this collaboration has no object other than to destroy that uncompromising personality that is at enmity with every state and coercive authority, and leave in its place the "patient workslave, professional automaton, [and] tax-paying citizen5."

There is no doubt in my mind that the time I spent away from school, with very little more than TCM and an Internet connection was of inestimably more value than my years of formal schooling. I do not know why it happened, only that it did. I am never so happy as I am when I see that through some miracle, there are others that emerged with their integrity unscathed. To the individual, the child is a native of their own country. While it survives, that kindred spirit is there in their persistent questions, their disdain for authority and love of liberty, and their capacity for play. It can even be found in their affinity for cartoons, for let us not forget the high esteem the Situationists had for that sterling role-model for every revolutionary: Bugs Bunny. Until such a time as mass society awakens to the need for the child to be allowed to "grow from within," we remind adults of that old, but preeminently childish maxim: "Under the blacktop, the beach."

Don't stay in school.

  1. Homeschooling: the practice of placing one born a slave into a maximum-security prison.
  2. Emma Goldman, "The Individual, Society, and the State"
  3. Simone Weil, "Reflections Concerning the Causes of Liberty and Social Oppression"
  4. This is true in a special sense today, as now only a college graduate would know or dare to call themselves "proletarian."
  5. Emma Goldman, "The Child and Its Enemies"
Posted Sun 04 Jul 2021 03:13:20 PM EDT Tags: