Lust for Life

lust-for-life-kirk-douglas-anthony-quinn-1956

Why do people do most of the things they do? Is it because they have arduously thought out the repercussions of each acts and decided rationally on the best course of action? No, of course not. We choose overwhelmingly with feeling. Our partners, our products, our political candidates. We might justify those decisions with logic and evidence, but it does not begin that way. The consumption of life without remorse (or even recognition that it was once life) demonstrates the fallacy of attributing/reducing ethics to mere logic. We are instead mostly governed through affective means, biopolitical and learned nonetheless, but not strict reason. It must feel good to unshed the skin of animal abuse, or more likely it must feel bad to exploit animals. The problem that this poses of course, besides binaristic moral reductionism, is that all too often the means through which we access pleasure is via the mechanisms of capital. Feel good about avoiding meat, dairy, leather by purchasing meat-alternative, dairy-alternative, leather-alternative. Do your part to defeat those evil industries of the past through the assembly of the new, totally different, definitely not evil, progressive industry. It doesn’t care about species-race-sexual identity as long as you purchase it. This would of course not be problematic if the very core tenets of capital didn’t themselves rely on exploitation. Those vegan-commodities are a bit more expensive, but that extra goes to ensure that your product is ethical. Fair trade, organic, local, artisan, each buzzwords of hypermodern capital. But who collects on that surplus? Are the fair trade coffee empires anything but rosy facades that obviate the mechanisms of hierarchy production? Have we transcended work? Have our wages risen in the least? Has our healthcare improved? Do we still breed animals for other purposes?

The problems of veganism lie in the problems of its very fractured ideological trajectories. If the postmodern was an exploration/deconstruction of those uniquely carved cultural cubbies for each of us to identify ourselves, a search for authenticity, then the hypermodern is an embrace of the artifice of reality, its cyborg possibilities. The ethical implications are far-reaching. The locavore acknowledges (at least in some minimal way) the evils of large-scale capital and decides to buy the ‘ethical’ product. The bait and switch of the contemporary artisan, therefore, lies in their authenticity, which stands in for morality. They have done nothing to unhinge the tendrils of capital. AS THERE IS NO ETHICAL CONSUMPTION UNDER CAPITALISM. The locavore, however, sees themselves as bypassing the machinations of capital by hearkening back to a time of pre-capital, when objects had true craftsmanship and value. I go buy handcrafted cheeses, from my local butcher, and drink locally-sourced cocktails (disregarding the suffering built into these practices as well). I believe we will begin to see this change in the proliferating era of hypermodernity. Certainly the trend towards authenticity (which can be seen in arenas as diverse as: food, design & architecture, labor, leisure activities, etc.) will not outright end, but I believe it will be overshadowed by an embrace of ‘artifice.’ This is not so much ironic detachment, but an acceptance of the irreality of reality, its mediation. Products like artificial meat and augmented and virtual reality are emblematic of this cultural shift. Problematically, however, the question of consumption remains. What are the ethics of Beyond Meat? Of Pokemon Go? The old mechanisms of capital denied humanity to particular groups, that it itself helped construct. In its new form, to ‘transcend’ the human, capital co-opts the boundary itself.   

Certainly, then, it (veganism) must be more than just about food, or even direct products. Is domestic abuse a vegan issue, if it’s a dog or a partner? (Yes it is) Why, then, continue to participate in a system that masquerades as just, while it commits atrocities around the world.  Palm oil destroys forests, Capital is that which attempts to silence its enemies not only through brute force, or legal decree, but by making that which once existed into a cartoon, into a joke. While Iggy Pop beckons us to paradise at sea, cows, and chickens, and pigs, invite us to consume them. Those radical ideas about anarchy, or the abuse and slaughter of billions are rendered innocuous in their repurposed appropriation. Capital consumes all touches. There is nothing it cannot repurpose, and sell us as ourselves. ‘It ate everything’ and it must be stopped. 

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