March 26, 2009
I recently listened to a recorded version of Temple Grandin's book Animals Make Us Human. Hers is an interesting story. Diagnosed with autism as a child, she was able to use her experiences to great advantage as an animal scientist.
In the book, she discussed core emotions for animals (including us). One of these was rage, which some scientists believe to be a response to extreme restraint, such as a situation of being captured and held immobile by a predator. It occurs to me that poverty, which Earl Shorris once described as a "surround of force" is a similar kind of extreme restraint.
As I mentioned in earlier posts this week, this month marks 20 years for me of working on economic justice issues for the American Friends Service Committee. But before all that, I spent several years in involuntary poverty, a situation that can make you feel like a hunted animal.
El Cabrero is a big fan of Simone Weil's essay The Iliad or Poem of Force, where she describes force as that which turns a human being into an object, either literally as a corpse or metaphorically as one who loses freedom. Poverty can do that too. At times it makes you feel more like the object of others or of impersonal forces than an active subject.
And it can produce rage. I felt it then and I still do when I see poor people degraded and abused. The experience seems to have made me a bit edgier. After living that reality, I'm grateful to have had the chance to do something about it when the opportunity arises.
(And, speaking purely as an animal, it is way more fun to hunt than to be hunted.)
All human motivations are complicated and ambiguous, but part of mine, frankly, is payback.
THE ECONOMY AND THE DEFICIT. Here's economist Dean Baker's advice to deficit hawks who are missing the point.
THE BUDGET. The main priorities of President Obama's budget may survive congressional changes. It wouldn't hurt to give your senators and representatives a nudge.
WHITHER CAPITALISM? Will it morph into a kinder, gentler variety in the wake of the global economic crisis?
THIS IS YOUR BRAIN on receiving "expert" financial advice.
GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED