A Glimpse of the Peaceable Kingdom
This devoted pair, Henry (left) and Baloo (right), are actually members of a foursome, the others being two humans, Cynthia Bennett and Andre Sibilsky, mountain hikers. Not only does Henry enjoy their expeditions, remarkably, Baloo, unlike most cats, has no attachment to a territory, and happily takes part in the adventures as well. See Buddies
Editor’s Corner Essay:
Obedience, Conformism, and Flesh-eating
Probably the best-known social science study ever performed is Stanley Milgram’s 1961-64 inquiry into obedience to authority. Milgram, who was a young professor of psychology at Yale and strongly Jewish, launched his series of experiments during the trial of Adolf Eichmann partly to gain insight into why so many ordinary Germans gave active support to the genocidal program of the Nazi regime. Was this mostly because of the German culture’s authoritarian tendencies? Were Eichmann and the other participants monsters of evil, as many thought, or were they otherwise normal people whose participation arose from something endemic in human nature? Could this sort of thing happen anywhere, even in the United States?
The basic outline of the tests was as follows: the subjects, volunteers recruited through advertisements, were told that they would be participating in an experiment to determine the effectiveness of punishment upon learning. The subject, and a supposed second subject who was in fact a confederate--a slightly rotund Irish-American accountant of genial manner--would draw slips of paper to see which one would be “teacher” and which the “learner.” The lots were rigged so that the naive subject would always draw “teacher.” In the teacher’s presence, the “experimenter, an actor dressed in an official-looking lab coat, would strap the learner/victim into an “electric chair;” and offer the teacher a (real) sample shock of 45 volts, which is relatively mild. Then the teacher, in an adjoining room, was put before an impressive-looking “shock generator,” and told to read a series of word pairs, one of which the learner would have to respond to correctly. Each time the learner made a mistake, the experimenter would order the teacher to press the next lever, each of which would deliver to the victim a shock of increasing intensity, ranging from 15 all the way to a very dangerous 450 volts. An appropriate noise would be heard when a lever was pressed, but in fact no shocks were actually delivered to him. However, after a certain point the victim would start to protest, finally screaming that he couldn’t stand it, demanding to be let out, in some cases saying he had a weak heart. Before the 450 volt level was reached, he would fall silent altogether. Whenever the subject showed distress and expressed a wish to stop, the “experimenter” would order him in an authoritative but unemotional voice that he had to continue, that he had no choice, and the like. Nothing was said about penalties for those who disobeyed and quit. Over time the experiment was changed in greater or lesser ways, with each variant being carried out multiple times (usually forty) so that generalizations could be safely made from subjects of different social, professional, and educational levels.
Before beginning the series of tests, Milgram described his scenario to three audiences: psychiatrists; college students; and middle-class adults of various occupations. Then each individual in the audiences filled out a form indicating at which point, if any, they themselves would break off the experiment if they were subjects. All predicted that they would do so, though at varying points, mostly low. They also were asked to predict at which point they thought most subjects would stop. In general, their response was that all subjects would break off except for perhaps one or two percent who were pathologically disturbed. Milgram expected much the same thing. These expectations were based on a view of human nature as essentially decent, and assumed that in situation when they were commanded to hurt an innocent person, subjects would operate out of this basic sense of kinship for the victim..
However, to Milgram’s surprise and dismay nearly two-thirds of the subjects continued to obey the experimenter all the way to the 450-volt mark. Many of these compliant folk showed signs of distress and protested the cruelty of what they were told to do, but could not bring themselves to disobey. Afterwards, each subject was given a debriefing, in which s/he was told that no shocks were actually delivered, and the compliance or disobedience s/he showed was supported.
To find out whether the rather luxurious psychology lab and the prestige of Yale were important factors in the results, for some versions of the experiment Milgram moved his operation into a plain suite in an unimpressive office building in another city, and took the vague name “Research Associates” with no reference to Yale. But these changes did not alter the results.
Some of the variants of the experiment itself, however, did. To help determine whether a tendency to sadism widespread in human nature explained the high level of compliance, in the Experiment Eleven series Milgram left the choice of voltage completely up to the subjects. Under these conditions, nearly all the subjects kept the voltage very low. Milgram concluded that sadism does not seem to be involved in any significant way. In most of the experiments, the victim was in the next room, although in some cases visible through a window. However, in Experiment Three, the victim was placed in the same room as the teacher and right beside him. When this was the case, the level of disobedience rose from thirty-seven percent to sixty. When the shocks were delivered by the victim’s placing his hand on a plate in Experiment Four, and at a certain point the victim refused to touch the plate, the teacher was ordered to force the victim’s hand onto the plate. In this situation, disobedience rose to seventy percent. In the Experiment Seventeen series, each naive subject worked together with two others as co-teachers, the other two being confederates. At points in which the victim was complaining strenuously, one and later the other confederate would protest and defy the experimenter’s orders by getting up and taking a seat at the other side of the room, and refuse to return. With their example and support, and under their (potentially critical) observation, thirty-six of the forty subjects also defied and disobeyed. It appears that the original assumption of basic human decency is correct, but that other important factors in the situation often prevented subjects from acting on it.
Milgram was aware of important differences between the Holocaust/Shoah and his study. His subjects spent only an hour in the laboratory, whereas the Germans were immersed in a Jew-demonizing culture for years. Milgram’s subjects were told, sometimes repeatedly, that the shocks they gave would be painful to the ‘victim” but would cause no permanent damage; most of the Germans in question, like Eichmann (pictured) knew or came to learn that they were participating in mass murder. The experimental subjects were prodded to go on if they became upset and wanted to stop, but no penalties were threatened; the Germans carrying out the Final Solution knew they faced serious repercussions if they balked. For one thing, they were in or only just emerging from the Depression, and they badly needed to keep the jobs they got under the Nazi regime. For some, there were even more serious consequences; they risked death if the were suspected of trying to undermine the monstrous system or protest their involvement in it. These significant differences between the real and the experimental conditions couldn’t be helped; the experiments have been criticized as unethical as it was, and pressures on the subjects could not have been increased without engaging in criminal actions.
Was the knowledge of human nature gained worth the stress caused to subjects? Many observers have thought so; even many of the subjects, during a debriefing or in answer to a questionnaire sent them about a year after their participation, were grateful for what they had learned. But some observers remain convinced that the experiments were unethical.
Perceptive readers will already be sensing some of the parallels between Milgram’s experiments and the situation of flesh-eaters in our culture. (Note: although an important goal of Milgram’s study was to cast light on the involvement of ordinary Germans in the Nazi death machine, I am not venturing beyond the Milgram study to engage in comparing the Holocaust itself with the killing of animals for food.) In recent years, awareness of the violence underlying flesh consumption is reaching more and more persons in Western culture. They know that the “meat” they buy results from killing the unwilling and innocent, a situation out of keeping with the basic values of the the great majority, just as Milgram’s subjects knew (or rather believed) that they were hurting an innocent person. Flesh-eaters think of themselves as decent, caring persons, but the bloodshed is out of sight, deliberately and systematically hidden, which enables them to keep eating. If the violence was happening in front of them, especially if they had to do it themselves as in the Experiment Four series, flesh-eating would very likely decline markedly.
Milgram points out that the behavior of persons in a group is influenced both by obedience and conformism: obedience to properly constituted authority, and conformism to one’s peers. These factors, especially the former, were the crucial influences that he and others he consulted initially failed to take into account in their expectations of the way subjects would act. They are important for animal advocates as well. We are more or less aware of them, but sometimes advocates do speak as though it is only self-indulgence that keeps people laying down their dollars for those shrink-wrapped styrofoam packages. There is much more going on.
The authorities are of several kinds. Whenever we hear “But where do you get your protein?” the shadow of the white-coated physician or nutritionist, or school teacher--and before them, of the parent--falls over the diner and the table. People feel all those tall authorities just can’t be wrong, and many of the authorities themselves are equally confident. For example, a colleague of my physician is so certain that humans need meat that she has been known to get positively militant about it. Eventually she will learn how wrong she is, because the medical scene is finally changing. PT has referred before to the Kaiser system’s detailed recommendations, since 2013, of a plant-based diet; one of the NewsNotes in this very issue mentions an editorial in The Lancet d that makes the same main points.. In time, the majority of medical authorities will be making more health-building (and compassionate) recommendations. Not all listeners will hear and heed--there will probably always be some flat-earthers--but when authorities speak, most people do listen.
In the meantime, it is encouraging to remember that peers, especially when they speak to one’s conscience as in Experiment Seventeen, can outweigh the toxic commands of authorities. We already knew that support was important to maintaining a nonviolent diet/lifestyle. When we hear that two/thirds of those who try a vegetarian or vegan diet fall away, we can’t help but suspect that they lacked the necessary support from family and friends. At least this view fits well with Milgram’s findings that about two-thirds of his subjects, despite the scruples many had, caved in to the authority of the experimenter. Those of us whose commitment is tried and tested are the peers who, even if lacking authorized medical status, can strengthen the resolve of newcomers to follow their hearts.
The brilliant Stanley Milgram’s life was cut short in 1984 during his fifth heart attack at age fifty-one. Perhaps he had too much regard for dietary authorities?
Florida Bans Greyhound Racing
A measure on the 2016 ballot that will end commercial greyhound racing there in 2020 passed with sixty-nine percent of voters on the side of the dog angels. (I expect our canine neighbor, Kolb, who was permanently damaged by his stressful days on the racetrack, will rejoice for his fellows.)
See Empty Cages
--Contributed by Lynda Pinizzotto and Richard S.L. Ellwood
Report: Sixty Percent of Wild Life Destroyed
Since 1970, more than half of the world’s wild residents have been killed by the human ones, primarily as a result of habitat destruction, and mostly in support of animal agriculture. See
--Contributed by MFA
Lancet Editorial Sketches Harmful Consequences of Meat
An editorial in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet describes both the environmental and the health damage resulting from many cultures’ pattern of heavy meat-eating. See Harm
--Contributed by PCRM and JoAnn Farb
A German Shepherd, Doberman and a Cat died on the same day All three appear before
God, who wants to know what they believe in.
The German Shepherd says: “I believe in discipline, training and loyalty to my master.”
“Good,” says God, “then sit down here on my left.”
“Doberman what do you believe in?” asks God.
The Doberman answers: “I believe in love, care and protection of my master.”
“Aha,” God says, “then sit down here on my right.”
God now looks at the Cat and asks,
“And what do you believe in?”
The Cat answers: “I believe you’re sitting in my seat.”
--Contributed by Richard S.L Ellwood
One of the staff members of PT received this note from actor Ewan McGregor, the star of Christopher Robin, the film reviewed in the Editor’s Corner Essay of the Sept-Oct issue:
I enjoyed reading "Adventure into the Heart"--very thoughtful
and insightful! Please thank your [editor] for me.
Did You Miss This One?
Compassionate Vegetarians: An Illustrated Journey
Holly Harlayne Roberts, Compassionate Vegetarians: An Illustrated Journey. Anjeli Press, 2006. $8.00 softcover. Order through Amazon.
Here is another work by Holly Roberts, whose Vegetarian Christian Saints was reviewed in the August 2018 Peaceable Table. Compassionate Vegetarians is a very different kind of book. Its 151 pages consist of only one brief aphorism on each page, accompanied by a simple but attractive line drawing, usually of a nature scene. But many of them are indeed unforgettable.
Roberts starts out in the Preface by saying that here she has tried to express the sentiments of all those "who have chosen to live without taking the lives of other beings to sustain their own existence." Then, despite using the word in the title, she declares that she has always thought it unfortunate that the term vegetarian, in some ways a narrow, limiting kind of word, is used to describe what is truly an expansive, abundant way of life. She suggests phrases like empathetic dieters, thoughtful sustainers, merciful consumers,or followers of non-violence, but comes back to compassionate vegetarians, and the book is a deep-level exposition of what this is all about from the idealistic side.
Here are a couple of examples of pages. The picture with the first is of a cow nursing a calf.
that longs to protect its young
is a being who feels fear,
Then, accompanied by a picture of three pigs:
“Vegetarians believe that only when
toward all beings --
will there be peace
on this planet.”
If you get a feeling this is a book you might to have by your bed or favorite chair to pick up, read, and contemplate over the coming days, weeks, or the rest of your life, then Compassionate Vegetarians is the book for you. It's clearly meant to inspire, to be taken gently, little-by-little. Think about it.
Pioneer: Leo Tolstoy, 1828-1910, Part II
Resist Not Evil
I would first like to remind readers of the myth of redemptive violence, as presented by the theologian Walter Wink and described in Part I of this essay. Basically, the concept of redemptive violence postulates, by example after example, the notion that the way to correct evil is through violence. The only way to stop bad guys is with a fist or a gun. Wink points out that, whatever we may say in church, the myth of redemptive violence is what we get over and over again the rest of the week: in television shows, beginning with those for children; in movies up to and including sophisticated war films and science fiction; all too often in the speeches of politicians advocating for a strong military. Even though wars at least since 1945 have generally ended in ambiguity, and household guns are more likely to kill family members than assailants, we believe--we want to believe--that it will take violence to end violence.
It is this "myth" that Leo Tolstoy vehemently opposed, in his emphasis on three words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:39, "Resist not evil" (King James translation). I propose that reflection on these words in light of Tolstoy's thought can be of help to animal activists today in two ways: in how we resist those who perpetuate evil against animals; and in the continuum the great Russian novelist perceived from violence against animals to that among humans.
Needless to say, the Matt. 5:39 admonition has been difficult for many Christians. It has been rendered as "Do not resist one who is evil" (Revised Standard Version) and as rational- sounding advice "not to try to get even with a person who has done something to you" (Contemporary English Version). Not a few cautious commentators have insisted this stark commandment, like those that come after it--turn the other cheek, give away your tunic (as well as the cloak demanded by a creditor), and carry a soldier's pack two miles instead of the mandatory one, are intended only for private individuals in individual encounters, but not for the state with its police and armed legions. Those in uniform and wearing badges come rather under Romans 13, where the apostle Paul exhorts us to be subject to rulers who bear not the sword in vain, who punish only the wicked and praise those who do good.
For Tolstoy, those rather idealistic lines of apostolic advice regarding rulers were actually part of the problem. In effect, he asserts that the myth of redemptive violence, whether proclaimed in the Roman Senate or the latest Star Wars movie, has never worked and never will. In Chapter 4 of What I Believe, he says "You believe that your laws reform criminals; as a matter of fact, they only make more criminals. There is only one way to suppress evil [according to Jesus], and that is to return good for evil, without respect of persons. For thousands of years you have tried the other method; now try mine, try the reverse." Affirm, that is, a myth of redemptive non-violence instead; bear love instead of the sword; give more than what is asked for.
Leo Tolstoy was called a Christian anarchist; perhaps he was. We cannot here sort through all the ramifications of his ideas and their application in practice. I would like to refer now just to our confrontation with those who do evil, and whom we thereby feel we must resist.
It is here that the example of Mohandas K. “Mahatma” Gandhi (pictured), who was greatly influenced by Tolstoy, may be adduced. Gandhi, with great courage. certainly faced off against opponents; but his non-violent method, satyagraha (truth-grasping or -holding), meant not hurling accusations or insults at the other, but rather endeavoring to speak to, reach, take hold of, the truth in the other: what there was, however deeply buried, of moral or divine light in that person.
Confrontation for its own sake, even if technically non-violent, just feeds the fires of antagonism. It is only likely to pump kilowatts of energy into the opponent, and in response make for a counter shrillness of mind in the pro-animal advocate. We think in ”us versus them” terms, and get us into the kind of arguments that change no one's mind but leave each more sure than ever that he/she was right from the start, the other a dangerous rattlepate. In the case of animal activist confrontation, Tolstoy's and Gandhi's way means treating the factory farmer or butcher as a friend (so giving good for evil) whether s/he wants our friendship or not, speaking to whatever love of animals, feeling of compassion, and moral doubts there may be somewhere in that heart. Help out in non-violent ways. But let the person know you are there, are not going away, and that your beliefs about what is being done to his animals are not going away either.
The way to non-resist evil, then, is not to collapse weakly in front of it, nor feel a need to get out of town in a hurry, but simply give it no power. Let evil bring you to neither fight nor flight, but just be there with the evildoer like a brother or sister, speaking in love, a secret agent of the Spirit on a spy-mission to unveil the soft light behind the hardness in the other's eyes, and the beating heart within the rough skin. Find that other life in its hiding place, and gently talk to it.
Tolstoy tells us that such conversations were part of his adventure in vegetarianism. Showing more courage than many of us, he visited slaughterhouses and talked with butchers. He found that at first they gave the expected responses, that killing animals for food was necessary, that it could be done almost painlessly, that they had to make a living, and so forth. But in time something more would come out. "Not long ago," he wrote, "I also had a talk with a retired soldier, a butcher, and he, too, was surprised at my assertion that it was a pity to kill, and said the usual things about its being ordained; but afterwards he agreed with me: 'Especially when they are quiet, tame cattle. They come, poor things! trusting you. It is very pitiful.'
"This is dreadful! Not [only] the suffering and death of the animals, but that man suppresses in himself, unnecessarily, the highest spiritual capacity—that of sympathy and pity toward living creatures like himself—and by violating his own feelings becomes cruel." I am sure that in many cases we too, meeting enmity with friendship, resisting evil with good, could bring a conversation all the way to a realization like this of the pity of it all.
So, to reiterate, Tolstoy's point was that non-violence toward humans and animals is all of one piece. To be morally viable, each leads to the other and requires the other. Yet that is not always what we find. There are those, including many Quakers, who are strongly opposed to wars and individual violence against humans, yet eat meat every day, thereby endorsing the betrayal of thousands of trusting animals who are potential friends. There are strong vegetarians who are not advocates of human non-violence: I have known some who were military men.
It is not for me to judge any of these persons; one cannot without knowing the whole story of the person's life. We must judge their actions, but not the persons themselves. "Judge not, that ye be not judged." Instead, maybe a conversation like Tolstoy's with the former soldier who was a butcher could be initiated. We need to have those conversations with ourselves as well.
Recipe: Christmas Nut Roast With Gravy
6 oz chopped mixed nuts
3 oz. bread crumbs
2 T. ground flaxseed
¼ C. plus 2 T. warm water
2 C. celery, mushrooms, and
onion, sliced and steamed
½ C. minced fresh parsley
½ teas. salt
Pepper and nutmeg to taste
Stir the flaxseed into the water; set aside to gel while you chop the nuts and slice and steam the veggies. Mix all ingredients and place in an oiled baking dish. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 - 25 minutes. Serve with Mushroom Gravy. PT has featured this delectable, low-fat gravy recipe twice before, but it is presented again for convenience.
1 cub low-salt vegetable bouillon
1 ⅓ C water or veggie broth
¼ onion, finely chopped
33 T. whole wheat flour
1 T. Worcestershire or soy sauce
3 - 5 mushrooms, sliced
In a small pan heat water to boiling and dissolve bouillon cube in it; turn heat to very low.
In a medium-size nonstick pan, place a splash of water and shake in a little of the flour, stirring with teflon-friendly scoop, over low heat. Continue alternating flour and water and stirring until flour is used up and mixture is smooth. Add the Worcestershire or soy sauce and continue to simmer. When half-thickened, add chopped onions and sliced mushrooms and continue simmering. Taste, adjust as necessary, and serve with the nut roast.
--Veganized from an original by Ivan Baker
Poetry: Laurence Housman, 1865 - 1959
Father eternal, Light of all creation,
Spirit of life, who moved ere form was made;
Through the thick darkness covering every nation,
Shine on our blindness, O be Thou our aid:
Thy kingdom come, O Lord, Thy will be done.
. . . . Lust of possession worketh desolations;
So little kindness in the great of earth!
Led by no star, the rulers of the nations
Still fail to bring us to the holy birth.
Thy kingdom come, O Lord, Thy will be done.
How shall we love Thee, holy, hidden Being,
If we love not the world which Thou hast made?
O give us boundless love for better seeing
Thy heart made flesh, and in a stable laid:
Thy kingdom come, O Lord, Thy will be done.
Image from Rehoboth Center website