Excerpt From John A. Livingston’s Rogue Primate

From John A. Livingston’s Rogue Primate in the chapter “The Exotic Ideology:”

“As the rogue primate overran the world in the late Pleistocene and early10418292_778659628825562_4081410081902108848_n recent times, not all of the accompanying baggage was hardware. There were tools and weapons, to be sure, both of which improved to such an extent over time that the Pleistocene mega fauna before them. Destructive as the new hardware was, however, the new software—the accompanying knowledge of how-to-do-it –was downright devastating. Storable, retrievable, transmissible technique made the conquest possible, on any ‘natural’ timescale, virtually overnight. Technology, as an aspect of culturing, changed much more rapidly than the methods of avoidance used by prey species. It was no contest.

“After the peak extermination between 30,000 years ago and the most recent withdrawal of the ice, and after world human colonization was roughly complete about 1,000 years ago, the non-human world entered a period of relative calm. Humans having established their beach-heads (initially at considerable cost to the most vulnerable indigenous forms), there impact may have lessened—temporarily.  After the initial painful adjustments to the human presence, at least some elements of Nature, especially in extreme latitudes, appear to have been able to cope, for a while. This post-Pleistocene Camelot lasted about 500 years.

“By this time, the radiation of human populations into a variety of environments meant that cultural prostheses were now evolving independently of one another. Like Darwin’s Galapagos finches on the scattered and isolated islands of their archipelago, human societies had developed distinct differences. Cultural separateness, like reproductive isolation, produced new concepts. Descended as they were from a common ancestor, the various human populations (‘ecotypes’) retained their biological inheritance, including their domesticated dependence on how-to-do-it, but the particular content of their ideologies (including how to apprehend the nature of reality) became profoundly different from society to society.” …

Humans: Never Satisfied

Quoting John A. Livingston from his book, The Fallacy of Wildlife Conservation, in a chapter called “The Arguments: 243

“Before we go further, it will be useful to sum up those arguments for conservation that are based in individual and collective human self-interest, as put forward here. The most fundamental message is: if we can’t be good, at least we can be prudent. The message has been delivered historically and is delivered today in a number of ways: the ‘wise use’ arguments involve husbandry, stewardship, harvest, future resources…

“The guts of the self-interest family of arguments is that they are entirely and exclusively man-orientated, anthropocentric. Whether it is directed to individual, group, nation, or species, the appeal is to the human being and the human interest.

“Throughout we assume nature as ‘resource,’ whether for physical use or as a source of aesthetic enjoyment. In this sense, living sensate wildlife beings are no different from water, soils, and land forms, all of which were set in place by a beneficent nature expressly for human purposes. Whether man is good steward or renegade, whether answerable to God or to the bio-system or to the future human generations or not, there is no question about the locus of vested power and authority on Earth. This is illustrated best, I think, in the monumentally dull-witted arrogance of the concept of ‘harvest’ as applied to wildlife species.

“I no longer believe that there is, in practice, such a thing as a ‘renewable’ resource. Once a thing is perceived as having some utility–any utility–and is thus perceived as a ‘resource,’ its depletion is only a matter of time. I know of no wildlife that is being ‘renewed’ anywhere–not yellow birch or hemlock or anchovies or marlins or leopards or salmon or bowhead whales or anything else. ‘Renewable resource’ is self-contradictory in coherence, at least as applied to wildlife.

“If ‘resource’ continues to mean something that is put to human use, then no resource is renewable. Our demands have quite outstripped the capacity of those resources to satisfy them, and much less to satisfy them on a ‘sustainable’ basis. And we are, of course, never satisfied.”

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Taking Life Too Seriously?

Two weeks ago Thursday I had what they call a mild stroke that ended me up in the hospital for five days. It came out of the blue, as 55 seems a young age for that sort of thing. But only now did I learn that this is considered a prime age for genetic history and stress to catch up with a person. I wasn’t aware of any cardiovascular trouble; I’m not a smoker or heavy drinker; I’ve always been physically active–skiing, hiking and other outdoor activities; and I’ve been vegan for nearly twenty years. The only thing I can think of is that since I’ve immersed myself in the plight of animals and the Earth and fully taken on the animal rights cause, I’ve had a lot of unresolved stress. Different people respond to stress differently, and for me it came out as a partial cardiovascular meltdown.

Text and Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

I’m recovering rapidly, but I still feel the effects of this on my left side and sometimes can hear it in my speech. Since it has been recommended that I read aloud, I’m going to read to my typist from John A. Livingston’s 1994 book, Rogue Primate:

“…Nature is complex and multispecific; the human environment is essentially simple and monospecific. True, there may be trees and shrubs and gardens where people live, a scattering of squirrels and starlings and pets, and sun and rain and snow, but the overwhelming presence is that of ourselves and our fabrications.

“This is most easily demonstrated in terms of sensory nourishment we receive in urban concentrations. Virtually everything we see, hear, smell, touch, and taste is of our own making. Worse, most of it is not even delivered to us by people; the bulk of nutrition for our senses is mediated by machines. A teenager sits on a concrete slab, feet resting on asphalt, eyes closed, hands clutching a plastic case, breathing swirling exhaust fumes, a headset piercing and battering both eardrums with screaming, shattering dissonance at a frightening decibel level.

“Everything this youngster sees, hears, smells, touches, and tastes is a human artifact. His unidimensional experiential universe is one of homogenous, monospecific mass, with not the slightest differentiation. His sense organs, blunted as they are, need not be able to discriminate in any case; there is nothing to discriminate between. There is searing colour to be sure, and cacophony, and heat and cold, and there are strange metallic flavours, and surfaces smooth and rough, and there is terrible, unending qualitative sameness.

“Across the street there is a ‘park’ (a rectangle of mown lawn). On a bench lies a derelict, inert, unconscious and oblivious, his empty grail of solace is in its brown wrapper on the grass beneath him. As a child he may have encountered Nature. He may have once been wild. Perhaps he still is. Overlooking him there is a gigantic edifice of glass and steel, with guards and security monitors and air-conditioned seven-dollar-figure condominiums with chrome strips and tinted windows and mirrored walls, and with live beings actually inhabiting them. Behind, in a brick-walled protective enclosure, there is a children’s playground, with brightly painted climbing and crawling structures of metal pipe, padded with something made from synthetic polymers. There are sensate beings here, too. Little ones.

“I have described elsewhere what I call a kind of urban ‘sensory deprivation,’ and the perceptual (and thus conceptual) aberrations that follow from it. When perceptual and conceptual aberrations are shared across a society, they may be seen as institutionalized delusions. There are many of these in contemporary society, but none is more important, or more ironical, than the belief that high-tech urban ‘progress’ (i.e., emancipation from non-human environmental influences) is a major human achievement. R. D. Laing has said, ‘Human beings seem to have an almost unlimited capacity to deceive themselves, and to deceive themselves into taking their own lies for truth.’ It would appear that we have travelled so far in our cultural self-deceit that we actually believe we have no need of sensory stimulation or nutrition beyond that provided by ourselves. No need for experience of any influence that is not of human design and fabrication.

“Our willing (and indeed prideful) confinement within the many-mirrored echo-chamber of technological servitude is a towering irony, perhaps the ultimate in self-deceit. Like the feedlot steer in the dreary monotony of his experiential desert, we have lost all connection with being, all memory of sensibility of life context.”

Unlike the steer, humans have chosen this “life.”

 

Empathy and Anger

The following are quotes regarding animal rights advocates, from the late John A.Livingston’s 1994 book, Rogue Primate “…their motives are simple enough: empathy for living beings of sentience and sensibility, wrath at their maltreatment. There is nothing in the least puzzling about that; the activities of animal rights advocates are fueled in equal measure by two of the most powerful of human emotions–compassion and anger…
“The liberation of animals would be a conscious and unilateral act on the part of humans. It would not require the perception of ‘rights’ inhering in animals; it would arise from the evaluation of human behavior, wherever and however directed.”
In other words, do humans have the right to treat other animals like shit whenever, wherever and however they feel entitled?
Livingston goes on to talk about Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation, who “…systematically disposes of traditional ‘deviousness’ in such egalitarian philosophic positions as the ‘intrinsic’ dignity and worth of the human individual, which, as every observer of our activity well knows, do not stand up even in intrahuman affairs. Conventional philosophy’s further use in maintaining the human/non-human moral separation he finds ‘outrageous,’ calling our attention to ‘the ease with which not only ordinary people, but also those most skilled in moral reasoning, can fall victim to a prevailing ideology’.”
Such is the case with the romance between today’s Humane Society of the United States and the paleo foodie movement.
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“…to discriminate against beings solely on account of their species is a form of prejudice, immoral and indefensible in the same way that discrimination on the basis of race is immoral and indefensible.” — Peter Singer

They’re getting out of control!

From John A. Livingston’s The Fallacy of Wildlife Conservation:

“I happen to loath and abominate blood ‘sports.’ I think that killing any sensate being for recreation—for fun—is evil and contemptible. I have said so, for public consumption, many times.

“The most frequent theme in the resulting letters I receive is that I have absolutely no rational argument to present, and that as the result I (sneakily) resort to purelyDSC_0192 emotional appeals. Some of the mail, by the way, has to be opened with my asbestos gloves.

“An acquaintance of mine in the arctic town of Inuvik once said to me, ‘John, we’ve got to do something about all these ravens here in town!’ ‘Why so?’ I asked. ‘For heaven’s sake, man, look around you—there are so many of them they’re getting out of control!’

“Loss of control is the abdication of power. It is tantamount to chaos. The universe is orderly, therefore chaos is unnatural. …

“So, it is seen that the ravens of Inuvik (prospering on our garbage) are thumbing their amiable beaks at universal order and thus at us. …

“Death is the final sting, the ultimate victory of uncontrollable, unmanageable, immoral, chaotic nature—from which experience we are snatched at the final exhalation by the gorgeous rationalization. Spirit over flesh, man over nature.”

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson