On Radical Abolitionism and Guilt
Frequently, when I read Steve Best, I feel guilty.
"He's talking about me," I say to myself. Though I'm not a Francione-style abolitionist, and much of what Best writes isn't directed at me, plenty of what he writes is.
And I don't mean me personally (though I probably should).
The latest example of a Best article that makes me feel guilty is "Manifesto for Radical Abolitionism: Total Liberation By Any Means Necessary." Why the guilt? Because I don't take enough of a stand. I am not a fundamentalist pacifist. I do not believe that our war can be won by vegan education alone and that some day, the oppressors of humans, nonhuman animals and the planet are going to see the error of their ways and transition to a nonviolent, non-exploiting way of life. And I don't think that converting one person at a time to veganism via my spectacular baking or my blogging is going to make up for the people of China and India rapidly increasing their consumption of animals. And I don't think my Daiya pizzas, even if I could make a lot of them and distribute them about my comfy suburban town along with leaflets, are going to do anything to alter the power architecture of American society. This is not to say that I'm going to stop what I do; I'm just realistic about how far it will go to address the actual cause of the rampant exploitation and massive slaughter I want to eliminate.
As Best writes, "Psychological and ethical change is a necessary but not a sufficient condition of the large-scale social transformations needed for creating viable democratic and ecological cultures." He refers to Paulo Freire, a favorite of mine who, Best writes, "insisted-education can only be part of a much broader and multi-pronged movement of resistance, struggle, and change. Thus, like all prior revolutions, human and nonhuman animals will not win liberation because oppressors suddenly see the light, but rather because enough people become enlightened and learn how to rock the structures of power, to shake them until new social arrangements emerge."
I know how many feel about Best, and about Francione, and both of those discussions get very old for me, very quickly, which is why I decided to avoid them months ago. And both discussions often degenerate into all kinds of name-calling and ignoring of the issues. But when it comes to the ideas of alliance politics, total liberation, and expanding the idea of what might be necessary to even come close to our goal as vegans, how do you feel about Best's Radical Abolitionism? Are there parts of it that resonate for you?
And please, if you hate him, or Francione, or me, please keep that to yourself and stick to the question.