Beyond speciesism, beyond humanism, beyond
- contains video transcript & ALT texts -
There is a practice before memories. There is a story told in our language, told by those great storytellers, inventors, and creators, governors, artists, priests, and prophets, those that tell us the stories of the world and those that transform it through telling. There are many practices and many stories, yes, but we will speak of some that keep repeating and rolling off one tongue into another, we’ll speak of an order that keeps us, an order that upkeeps the story - an order of things, on which humanity is based on.
It tells us so: the Human is a Unique being. Humans, as a species, are different from all that surrounds them. The story is beautiful. In it, we win. Our species wins. Despite our condition, despite the “brutality” of Nature, we, humans, manage to stand above it and its “wildness”. We conquer, through our malleable nature, through our remarkable intelligence, through our surprising creativity. We win, we conquer, we dominate and take because we are “special”, “chosen” even to prevail over Nature, over the Animal within it and within ourselves.
In our language, there are two big categories, well-woven: Human and Animal. Although the human is, biologically speaking, an animal, socially, he is not seen or recognized as such. The Hu(man), with capital H, is seen apart from nature, aside and above it, he is master of it, paternalistic and domineering, rational and with free will. He doesn’t belong to Nature, but to Culture. He is seen as undetermined, the Human determines himself, he defines himself as unique, demiurge, different from all the other beings. Yet, when it happens that the human is called an animal, there’s a space of danger, of insult, of injustice. The Animal is that upon which you can do anything. When the human is animalized, when he is dehumanized, he can be mistreated. Exploited. Killed.
At this border between the Human and the Animal, lies the technique of ordering the world by species; the technique that leads to breeding of billions of nonhuman animals to be cut in pieces; the technique that allows for unimaginable torture, and yet happening every second; the technique that enables domestication, exploitation and killing of any being, any body that does not fit into the species that has called itself “special”, that has told itself it matters, that it is beyond anyone - Homo sapiens. This order is also called speciesism, the mechanism of arranging the world that makes the lives of some insignificant, giving others the privilege to consume them with impunity and without remorse.
Through time there were many kinds of relationships between humans and other animals, many violent, but not all, and not all with the same level of violence. Yet, with the European processes of colonization and commodification of nonhuman animals, the violence upon them intensified exponentially. Indigenous lands were brutally stolen by white Europeans and occupied by them and the animals they came with to enrich their colonies. Countless cows, sheep, and other animals were taken overseas and oceans to be bred, killed, consumed, and made into resources to cement the power and the colonizing drive that was taking place. From living beings, they were made into huge profits in the pockets of European elites. These processes constantly amplified, the farms industrialized, occupying other lands of humans and nonhumans, farms in which death comes every other second, automated, farms in which migrant workers can’t take a break from butchering, from cutting, from blood. So many and so persistent that their numbers are unimaginable, and cannot tell us anything. So much suffering under the shadow of this colonial, capitalist, speciesist process. For whose whims? For whose whims is this worth it?
There is a practice, and after the practice there is also a story. A practice and a story that have allowed an industry. There are countless things that keep the world stuck in its old ways. A wall built with myriad bricks, of words, of material and social structures. This wall that keeps them, all others, apart from us, humans. So-called humans, because not even humans are seen as Human enough, because this build-up wall wasn’t built by all humans. Some were left at the margins, some beyond it. This wall of those in power, that told us, and tells us, who is edible, disposable, endlessly breedable. This wall belongs to humanism, to that European, white and colonial humanism. It doesn’t belong to humanity.
The story of this humanism was told many times, in many tongues and ways. It was carried beyond words, cities, borders, laws, graves and deaths without engravings. But it is not that easy to be Human, as not all humans fit in the definition of Human, with capital H. Throughout history, the white, abled, adult, heterosexual, rational and neurotypical man from Europe - not anyone, anyhow - ended up sorting, arranging how this Human ideally looks, and what characteristics define Him. But this ideal of modernity, this model of “civilization”, left many identities behind. Many of them, untamed, nurtured with emotions, were left out or pushed a step behind Him, who makes the rules. Their work is minimized, although without them nothing could go on. You can recognize them; they are the ones whose voices are ignored, whose languages are in minority , whose hands work the land though they cannot own it - dominated, objectified, sexualized.
Only by withdrawing from this unsurpassable border, from the wall, the binary, the abyss between Human and Animal, that which keeps the Human unique and the Animal exploitable - only so, can we have a world for us all. We are, each of us, breath and flesh both. All animals can be food for others. And yet, we are much more than that; we know that, we know that well when we swell our chests in the warm sunlight. This recognition is needed for the other animals as well, to find again what we have in common, the pressures we are all underneath, just by being alive, environmental and social pressures, shared vulnerabilities.
And what if the story of the Human changed? What if the walls crumbled and the dust settled over the rules of the Human? What would other stories look like, what would they say, what world would they make?
What is human would not constitute itself in opposition to animal, civilized to uncivilized, cultural to natural. Animality would just be our shared condition, not a preceding stage, inferior and contrary to humanity. It wouldn’t be a dangerous discourse, as it is now, for those at the margins, over which violence often falls and is justified through their closeness to animality. When you’re treated like a bitch. Like a piece of “meat”. Like a pig. Like a wild animal. These are the mechanisms, these are the metaphors. When we say this, we recognize what it means, in the current moment: to be a bitch, to be a pig, to be made into a piece of meat, to be an animal. That complete estrangement from anything that would mean others care about you, that impossible pain of being seen so different, that you are only an object upon which violence is manifested, a thing, lost in a world made for others, a world that is not fitting to your size, shape, feelings or wishes. All of these beings live and breathe, although the world steals the air from their lungs as much as it can, to make a profit. They are countless: animals made into objects, into property, be it in the house of the Human, the plate of the Human, or covering His feet. Beaten, tortured, pushed, shoved, stabbed, they are thrown away, invisibilized, at the margins of cities, inside slaughterhouses, labs, cages, sheds. They are tagged yet countless. They are numbers. They are kilograms.
How do we revise the story of this Human who stands above all? The Human who defined himself through freedom and independence from other animals. The Human who saw them as caught in a closed-loop, a loop of instincts and external pressures, a loop of determined behaviors that Him, the Human, defined and labeled. The Human who defined himself through the capacity to choose, seeing other animals as part of a background, resources on which to make his choices and satisfy his whims. The Human who separated himself from animals and nature, transforming himself into the only maker of worlds, making a world for his own wishes and after his own image. How do we revise, how do we re-make this modern European, colonial, maybe even Mesopotamian story?
We can start. At least, let’s start. To see them, to recognize them: their bodies packaged and weighed, of which nothing is left. Their voices, weak and tortured, behind the glasses of the shops that sell them for company. Their company, which we take for granted as if their existence belongs to us.
Yet we must continue. We must make trouble because this world is troubling. And even if the revelation of the suffering of this world brings suffering, it is better to look at it than to stare away.
How do you learn to live beyond your own being?
Beyond one’s own skin, one’s own hands, one’s own vision. To let the world enter you, to feel from somewhere else. To recognize someone else in your own features. To see these features and their long history, the way they came to you, trying variations and variations. Variations and variations, meeting one another, surviving together, constituting each other, in the same environment, with similar pressures, within the same long histories of which all beings are part.
The line of difference is not so easy to draw when we see the similarities. The line of difference is not so easy to draw when the differences are recognized and celebrated, not used to dominate. The line of difference is not so easy to draw when we see who drew it, and with what purpose. Who draws it, and over whom it is drawn. It is not more special to be able to speak a human language than it is to hear at a great distance. Why would it be? It is not more special to be able to do complex mathematics than to fly. One ability shouldn’t justify who lives and who dies, who is worthy from who isn’t, who deserves protection, and who doesn’t. Each body is particular, each body is specific and yet caught up in a network of bodies and worlds and pressures - human and nonhuman.
To be an animal means responding to the world creatively. It means feeling, moving, being in the here and now, as well as choosing how to use what you inherited under the influence of different social and environmental pressures - not because desires and interests are subsumed to pressures, but because in the face of these, our subjectivities appear. Both humans and other animals act, make decisions and choose, and these desires and interests, common and particular, have political meaning.
We know resistance is political, and we’ve seen it: horses pulling their harness, sows escaping farms to give birth in the forest, chickens flying off the trucks in which they’re crowded. These, too, are acts of resistance.
We know that movement, mobility, can be a political choice; it can mean refusing one space and claiming another. And we’ve seen it: birds in the city looking for nests and food, crows learning to open up nuts on our roads, geese choosing a lake of their own, bears getting closer to houses as their habitats are being destroyed, and many more.
We know that other animals feel, that they have their own families, languages, cultures. Yes, even cultures, which means teachings from their parents, important information on how to live within an environment, songs, dances. They have their own answers, willful, spontaneous, adaptable, intelligent, modeling their characteristics, changing their trajectories according to the experiences they have.
Animals are human and nonhuman.
We know. We must only recognize it. And with this recognition, change everything.
Antispeciesism is an “against”, but it is also a “towards”. It is also a “beyond”. Beyond what we know now, towards something else, something we can only find out together, recognizing those that were invisibilized, marginalized, silenced, whose languages aren’t recognized, whose lives are outside any responsibility.
This antispeciesism we speak of is posthumanist; it criticizes the Enlightenment-humanism that made humans less-than-human and created animality as an inferior category.
This antispeciesism we speak of is not one but many, connecting with other movements and theories against domination.
An antiableist antispeciesism refuses hierarchies based on abilities, it doesn’t stand for just one sort of body/mind as being “good”, but supports all bodies, human and nonhuman, fat or thin, healthy or unhealthy, all ways of communicating or thinking, it rejoices in the diversity of how we exist in the world and finds creative solutions for each - it asks for accessible cities, prostheses regardless of species, unpolluted ecosystems and the minimization of climate change.
A feminist antispeciesism practices care towards other beings, it refuses the objectification and sexualization of bodies without consent, it refuses reproductive control and domestication, it claims its own embodiment and it defends the embodiment of others, together with their independence ours is born, going towards an interdependence that lets us, allows us, encourages us to breathe.
An antiracist antispeciesism refuses the image and the rules of the white Human, it is undisciplined and undisciplinary, it recognizes privilege and colonial processes and sees liberation as being possible for all, at once, not in turn.
A queer antispeciesism goes towards that which can not yet be known, a world impossible to label or categorize, a world in which our lives are freed from the order of the Human, freed from the patriarchal, cisheteronormative gaze.
We won’t be able to think of another world if we’ll think it with the same minds we thought this one. Humanism as a negation of animality, the project which sees the Human as the only world-maker and “demiurge of his own destiny” can’t take us further. Organizing the world through Human eyes, ordering species after His words, desires and treaties only strengthens his devastating power, power that sees a resource for Him in all others. Therefore, we can say that speciesism is also a humanism and that the antispeciesism that is to stay is posthumanist, anticapitalist, antiableist, antiracist, queer and feminist.
So goodbye to the binaries such as mind/body, thought/action, human/animal, culture/nature, man/woman, goodbye to the hierarchical order, the order of profit, capitalist and humanist, the order of race, of gender, of species. Let there be disorder! The disorder of those that learn to make, think, play, build, with those that before they didn’t see or know. The disorder that comes from the refusal of the current order. The disorder from which another world can be born. Let there be disorder among species, skin next to skin, life near life, gaze within gaze, let this make a home! Let us have a home! Let us live there where each can decide for themself. Where coexistence is not without conflict but worldly, woven and unwoven. Let us be home, where the interdependence of being together is not restraining, but liberating.
Written by Aron Nor & M. Martelli
Recorded by Aron Nor & M. Martelli
Illustrations made by Mina Mimosa
Directed & Edited by Aron Nor
More about the video:
This video was part of the Teoreticențe project, supported and curated by the queer-feminist collective CUTRA.
A part of the text and ideas we explored in this video were part of an article written by M. Martelli and illustrated by Mina Mimosa, made for the same project. The article is in Romanian and can be read right here.
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