This has been mind-blowing, hasn’t it? Alright, so, a round of applause for the organizers.
Alright, so if your brain is anything like mine – although you might hope it’s not, from the way it feels sometimes inside my head – your synapses have just been snapping and making connections and you can’t possibly say “Here’s the one big thing I’m taking away today.” But there are a number of things and I just want to turn to somebody and tell them one of the many things that you’re gonna take away from today or that was particularly striking to you, or just what’s on your mind this second. Okay? Go.
Alright, I’m hearing the noise just slightly die down so, and we don’t have that much time and I don’t want to at all trample on Breeze’s time, so let’s come back. But, please do continue talking. I hope the bus ride back to Toronto is just gonna be so noisy, which will be a nightmare for those who are introverts like me, but mostly it’ll be good because you’ll been talking, talking, talking and you’re gonna carry this into your activism. I couldn’t possibly hope to summarize the themes in all of the scribbled notes. But I can tell you that my scribbled notes are just filled with arrows from what one person said to what another person said, and these stars because this is a theme that came up a few times and I can’t even tell you all the stars.
mandy said, “Everything I say was already mentioned”. But it wasn’t – I mean that was the beauty part about when she said that, because on the one hand, yes, yes, people had been on that same theme, but everything was new and different. Like, each time somebody said something on the one hand it was connected, it was sort of the same thing, and yet it was completely new and different. This was brilliant. This was beautiful. I’m so happy. I am really happy. I don’t know how many of you know that what happened, how we got this conference, was that one person came to a pathetic little session on the commonalities of oppression at the U.S. Animal Rights Conference where Lisa, lauren and I were in a back room on a Sunday with like 10 minutes each to explain all of the commonalities. And we were predictably cranky about being asked to do this so this person then said, “Well, how about if we have a whole day?” And this is what we got. And I am just so extraordinarily happy about this. Another round of applause for the organizers.
And you know we just scratched the surface. That’s what’s so amazing. There’s so much more to think about and do. Here I did come up with a few themes, at least, and one thing that I noticed was that even though this conference was filled with extraordinarily, intellectually stimulating ideas, and actually even though people were talking in words that regular people can understand, this is actually really high-level theory that we’ve been talking about, but it hasn’t been at all abstract.From the very first moment, when we remembered the land, the material has been here with us the whole time. We’ve heard about land, we heard about bodies, from the cats on the bed to the hens in the battery cages. And speaking of cages, we’ve heard about human bodies in cages, but also human bodies blockading roads, and our bodies and their bodies, and our bodies in relation to each other and their bodies and the ecosystem. So it’s all been very, very, very real. That makes me so happy.
Next, I think I would call, if I had to call it something else than the theme of the conference, would be “relationships versus profit”. We heard about relationships, right? And so the person who welcomed us, I think not accidentally, had an experience with the cats on the bed and decided to sing the Friendship song rather than the Welcome song, remember? And I can’t help but see that as like very similar to Sharky, the former fighting rooster, making sure that I saw him before I left. And then we heard about the frogs, and so many other relationships, caring relationships, but then also hurtful relationships between human and nonhuman animals. And then we were also thinking about our relationships to each other, all these questions about “allyship”. That’s really about relations, relationships, how to be in relationship to one another, how to be in right relationship to one another.
Oh, and then lauren, who said, “Extend your circle of compassion”, right? And that would be sort of another theme for the conference, because whether it’s asking feminists to extend their circle of compassion to nonhuman animals who are being subjected to relentless repro-centrism, or asking vegan animal liberationists to extend their circle of compassion to care about human animals, whether to care about farm workers, to care about chocolate, that’s been a big theme. So it’s been about extending our relationships and our understanding that there are many aspects of this logic of domination, and they all fit together.
Profit is one that kept coming up and I think that’s not an accident. You know, profit is a kind of pleasure, right? Nobody needs profit. What you need is a living wage, housing, groceries, healthcare. Profit – that’s extra. That’s pleasure and that’s pleasure purchased with suffering, right? And it’s a false pleasure. Any of us who know the joys of real relationships – real relationships to other people, real relationships to other animals, real relations to the land, to the water – know that just like that cheap chocolate made out of slave-picked beans and then the fluids of captive cows, that’s a false pleasure. It’s fleeting, it’s a little sticky.
And that sort of brings me to another thing that lauren said, when she’s asking vegan or animal activists, she says: “I’m not asking you to give anything up. I’m not asking you to give up what you’re working on now.” Right? That was the context in which she said it, but it made me think of how when we forgo false pleasures for real ones, when we do the hard work of giving up privilege and that feels like you’re giving something up – oh my god – sometimes, it’s a sickening process to really recognize your privilege, to really
grapple with it. But oh my gosh, on the other side of that: the integrity, the feeling of integrity that comes with being a real ally, that comes with trying to do right, messing up and then trying again. That’s just so much more sustainably pleasurable than anything you could purchase with any of these violence-based profits.
And so we come to the upside of intersectionality. The upside of intersectionality is that it really is all connected, and what that means is that when you take one that you can come up with projects where you work on two things at once, three things at once. Also, even if you’re only, it seems, working on one thing at once, it really is all connected to the others, and so if you do it well, if you’re willing to recognize that the diversity of tactics means that you’re going to have to think carefully about what tactics will work here. But if you do it right and you make some headway on that one problem, that’s gonna reverberate out through that system and help to destabilize the system. So that’s the upside: understanding that as long as you’re mindful of intersectionality and you don’t trample anybody else on the way, even if you’re only working on what seems like one problem, you will be making progress against the whole system.
And then finally, that it is all connected in that ecological sense as well, and that – I don’t know what you call the totality of our biosphere or ecosystems. Different people in different places at different times have different words. I say “Gaia” myself, but my point is: that system that sustains us all, that we all depend on, that we are part of, that we’re not a part from, is way more powerful than all the money and guns that all the government and corporations can come up with. If we put ourselves in alliance with that, and we do that by keeping intersectionality in mind. There’s two kinds of web: the web of life and this awful web of the logic of domination. If we keep both of those sets of relationships in mind, and we can bring ourselves into accordance with that power. Then, it’s like working with the wind. Anybody bike here? Any of you bicycle? It’s like bicycling with the wind at your back. And I vary from day to day in my faith about whether or not we’ll ever be able to manage to do that, but when I come here, to an event like this, and I hear all these talks, then you know what? I think we can do it. So thank you for participating in this, thanks to the organizers and just thanks.
pattrice jones is the cofounder of VINE Sanctuary, an LGBTQ-run farmed animal sanctuary that works from within an ecofeminist understanding of the intersection of oppressions. Her activist work dates back to the 1970s and includes anti-racist education, tenant organizing, and direct action against AIDS as well as work within the feminist, peace, and LGBTQ liberation movements. She has taught college and university courses on the praxis of social change, and her contributions to movement thinking appear in numerous anthologies as well as her book, Aftershock.