Friday, May 8, 2009

Brain Like Meat

What kind of an argument is the statement that vegetarians secretly want to eat meat? A profoundly stupid one that is more telling of the quaint polemicist's baseness than the secret drives of all vegetarians. How does one arrives at a sweeping dismissal of vegetarianism by a smug revelation of the supposed desires of humankind?

One reoccurring ethic I encounter in confrontations about vegetarianism is "Meat tastes good; therefore, it is right to eat it, and I shall eat meat." But, can they show me how this thought process is different from "Rape feels good (for the rapist); therefore, by their hedonistic principle, rape is justifiable." Am I comparing eating meat to rape? Yes, it's not as outlandish as it seems in the context of the assertion that meat consumption can be justified by how good it makes one feel; this ethical principle allows for any action to be justified that feels good. You must justify your meat consumption by something outside of "it tastes good" in order to not be complicit with rapists. That I must clarify this to people is baffling. Most never ask "why?" in considering their behavior, and when they are forced to think, an irritating experience, they see no need to justify or explain anything. Meat is pleasurable. I do what pleases me.

The other argument: vegetarians are not outside a human nature that craves meat. Most, including myself, are unwilling to refute the argument that humans are physiologically omnivorous, making the deduction from our anatomical structure and the omnivorous eating-habits of closely related species such as the chimpanzee. Though, it should be considered that humans are built to be geared toward carbohydrate consumption, the main source of our energy. Nearly all mainstream councils on human diet have formulated a nutritional guideline with carbohydrates as the largest percentage of a diet compared to protein and fat; most traditional human diets before industrialized farming consumed many more grains, fruits and vegetables than the much more difficult to acquire meat. Have humans always desired meat as they desire it now?

We begin to unravel nature as a historical event. When we speak of desire, can it be something universal, written into our biology? History says otherwise. The human body, its nature, has a measurable history. A history that cannot be refuted if we are to consider the measurable consequences of the body in dialouge with humanity.

An incessant need to consume meat at every meal is not natural, but rather, it is a manipulation of the omnivorous human by a consumerist economy. How have humans become more obese than ever before in human history? Has this natural desire the polemicist speaks of always existed in human nature? Something in history has changed to make people fatter, and this something must be outside of human nature. Meat, and the desire to eat meat, do not exist in our current world as a natural phenomenon. The formation of identities by corporations through mass-marketing (i.e. commercials, etc.), the supplier controlled market, and government-industry alliances have formulated a world view from which all of us peer. A way in which we view our bodies, exist with our bodies, and formulate a nature which dictate our bodies in a dialogue of restless conflict. Not being able to fit into your pants and dying from heart disease are not only everyday physical events for a large percentage of Americans, but also the physical unfolding of metaphysical events occurring between a human body that has its own physiological reality and the human-made nature from which we attempt to analyze and contort the body. Unprecedented profits and government subsidies make industries such as the meat, dairy, and corn incredibly wealthy and their product abundant; therefore, their wealth buys them political power in the form of lobbyists, and market power in their ability to sell their goods at the cheapest prices ever in history. An entire system is born of this power, and it produces a mindset, a way to view, a way to view the world. Human nature is formulated as a human idea in the context of a society and historical period.

What is the new "innate" nature? Buy. Buy. Eat. Eat. Consume. Consume. It is your nature, and it is who you are! How convenient this identity works to the fattening of wallets. Hmm, suddenly the oh-so-important human nature, the genetic structure that predetermines all of our actions seems to be taking a backseat to the economic-driven rape of our supposed nature with the intention of gaining as much profit and power as possible.

But what of nature? We have the highest ability to overcome our nature, to manipulate nature to our needs, to needs distinctly above and beyond nature. In a sense, we can destroy our nature; we destroy nature daily at an alarming rate -- why not our own!? Meat tastes good, meat is good -- but I am no longer human by your American estimation if I deny my love of meat -- I'm vegetarian! I am seizing my own nature and saying that I am going to cease to be omnivorous. I will be vegetarian, seizing nature, reforming it to my needs, and wrenching it from the hands of a society that attempts to quietly manipulate nature by recreating it to their benefit and profit.


Mike said...

physiological drive among humans and other omnivorous animals took form in an environment where meat and other nutritionally dense, but fatty foods were scarce. BECAUSE they were scarce, we inherited a stronger desire to pursue meat. Because our ancesters pursued meat thoughtlessly and violently, they recieved extra boosts of fat and nutrition from time to time, and reproduced those characteristics.

Now we live in an environment where fats and meats are always available, and we are maladapted to that environment. We are plagued by this persistent need to consume fats and meats, and can do so at our liesure. Vegetarians today, those that can and do resist this inherited tendency may be the better adapted among us. Brandon, it's up to you to have lots of babies and improve the human race. Eugenics. Out-pregnate the meat-eaters. Teach your descendants your ways!

Brandon The Unqualified Critic said...

Your analysis is symptomatic of what I am talking about. The essentialization or naturalization of desire, and the sort of covert ontology or metaphysics behind much of positivistic science that conceals its actions as empirical, objective analyses.

Not only is it the complex web of power interests in the form of industrial agro-business that use the hyper-reality of commercialization in a post-modern, consumerist world, and the lobbyists that buy political control, it is also the unchecked "rigorous" scientists and doctors in the comfort and safety of the reverent professionalism that helps to propagate, create and extend the "irrefutable" and "objective" nature of human desire, want and need. We are so quick to fall in love with the assumptions of science in our times, but many of our strongest objective foundation of knowledge fall apart as merely pathologies of a time period's prejudices.

While your evolutionary perspective may hold some useful truth to it, I think it's an incomplete, limited and dangerously misleading take on the issue of overconsumption of meat and its objective consequences -- alarming levels of obesity and heart disease. Your evolutionary argument would most likely support a solution that pathologizes human nature so the problem and solution is with dealing with the "natural" human desire. The creation of pills, fat therapy and surgery and the propagation of individualized, guilt-ridden dieting. This won't resolve our health problems because the true culprit and the real problem is the system that propagates such behavior. Without adopting an analysis of power into your evolutionary argument, you're doomed to be a theorizing pawn of greater issues at hand.

Consider that France and England have been exposed to American consumerist food for roughly the same amount of time. England's obesity rates have sky rocketed while France continues to keep obesity levels relatively low. France and England are not made up of two different species. France has used culture and tradition to, for the time, make a system of consumerism in the realm of food unsustainable. The French have be studied, and their relationship to food is not one of primal need that is uncontrollable and overpowering. France has as much access and wealth to act out their innate, animal "desire" but, granted they do eat meat, fatty and salty foods regularly, they eat far more whole foods, vegetables and fruit than their Anglo brothers, eat them slower, savor them and appreciate smaller portions What does evolution have to say about this? Not much without breaking its theoretical limits.

And I do recognize your second point was in part mean to be humorous, to take parts of it seriously it seems that there is nothing special about my nature that has allowed me to resist meat. I'm a glutton as much as the next American. Vegetarianism is inspired by and chosen within the materially real social reality. To try and understand any of my behavior without a deep contextualization that includes histories, narratives, powers, etc. would be a waste of time and a very alienating way to look at another person.