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  • Back to index of Reformer: My Blood
  • Reformer: My Blood

    Part the First: Emotion

    By Punkerslut

    Image by NiD
    Image: "Lies" by NiD

    Start Date: Tuesday, May 7, 2002
    Finish Date: Friday, May 31, 2002

         What do you feel when you hear that a Kansas worker has to work 70 hours a week to support themselves and their child, while only getting less than $9 a month as luxury money? What do you feel when you hear about the brutal science experiment where they burn the skin of a pig, just to see what kind of reaction it would create? What do you feel when you hear that the life of another Death Row inmate was snuffed? What do you feel when you hear about the corrupt government officials, the police brutality, factory farm conditions, corporate abuse, environmental destruction, among other cruelties?.... What do you feel?

         And just for a moment, I look around and see people not doing anything, I wonder if anyone really feels the way I do about the world around me. You can read almost any traditional book or watch any popular film and hear about all sorts of inspiration garbage: love, life, meaning, truth, purpose, destiny, etc., etc.. For a few brief hours, an individual will be captivated with these emotions, their mindset at the direction of an author or film director. But when it's over, it really is over. They do not incorporate themes of justice or purpose in their life. They simply go along, finding such concepts to be admirable on paper or on the screen, but do nothing about it. For a reformer, I really do feel about the concepts of betrayal and murder, of corruption and injustice, of meaning and purpose, of fairness and beauty. The way these topics influence me, it's not for a mere sake of entertainment, as the roving masses would prefer. But for me, it's my life. Seeing the inhumanity dealt by the thoughtless hand of authority, my reply is not simply to allow such malice. Life is about duty -- it is about trying to change the world. I don't mean to change the world by some simple injustice that occurs in society, as society would believe so. "Stop rape, child molestation, murder, stealing!" Those are considered forms of injustice, but a reformer's task is not to take his ideas to those who have disobeyed culture, but to take his ideas to those who have obeyed culture. It has been considered commonplace that Capitalism is necessity, it is a widespread practice to indulge one's self on the carcasses of other creatures, it is traditional to believe that a god exists and orthodox to believe that he causes miracles, and it is ingrained on our minds that monogamy is a moral option. A reformer sticks out in society, like a person walking backwards, and goes against these commonly accepted truths. And this, changing the accepted and orthodox world, is what reform is about.

         When I see the priests telling their herds that the world is lost, and when I see a puff of steam erupt from the closely huddled herd, I can reply that the world is not lost. It has always been this way. People have always been this way. In one way or another, individuals have often valued their own personal self-interest a thousand times more than the interest of those around them. Some people may call themselves ethical or upstanding for giving worth to those close to them; say, a child or a lover or a father. It is only natural to give worth to those beings. Two lovers can have an enjoyable time because they offer their affections for each other. A father and child have an immutable relationship because it was genetically made so. Such occurrences are only natural, yet the commoner will assert that their practice of such activities makes them moral or upstanding. The husband who nuzzles his wife's neck and makes the claim that he cares and is a good person, while the starving oceans of the Proletariat rise in tide, while the minds of our populace chained with religious superstition since, and while the two lovers enjoy a meal made from the limbs and bodies of their fellow creatures -- while injustice and ignorance, brutality and cruelty remain an inherent part of accepted culture -- yet this husband will engage in something natural, and then assert that he is moral. Such is a fraud. The only thing I will give a husband that pays attention to his wife is that he is better than a husband who pays no attention to his wife. He is not inherently moral or ethical for his actions.

         Yet, in the life of a reformer, there will always be that moment of unshaking reverence or kindness that touches the heart and leaves a mark, a mark that could not be removed with the erosion of a thousand decades. I remember once watching a documentary about trench warfare. The documentary displayed an instance of a truce, where the soldiers from the two trenches, soldiers for different countries, rushed out of their trenches, to greet each other, exchange stories, and drink each other's booze; holding each other's hands, assurance in the mind of affection, knowing that by the next morning, they would be ordered by their leaders to open fire on each other. I remember the thoughtful little children who, upon finding a spider in their house, would let them outside. I remember the preacher who held reverence for each and every church member, never forgetting their birthdays or anniversaries. I remember the teary-eyed girlfriends who had just ended a relationship with the man who they thought they would be with forever, and I remember their kind friends who offered words of compassion and love. I remember the times won and lost, the times where emotions of affection won over emotions of self-interest -- the times when the beauty in humanity was distinct and incomparable.

         Such incidents were normal, daily happenings that reassured me that there was a purpose in being humane. For this purpose of being humane, men have given everything. Percival Bysshe Shelley lost his children, being called an incompetent father because of his heretical works. Yet Shelley, this valiant Atheist, Vegetarian, Socialist, went on to attack the Death Penalty and revealed religion, to attack censorship and heartlessness. Giordano Bruno, the giant who stands thousands of feet above the figure Jesus Christ, more impressive than any ornery religious artifacts -- Giordano died for what he believed, refusing to allow his name to be recorded as a Christian. He was tied to a stake, wood piled at his feet, and priests surrounding him. They set the fire, burning this man to an indistinguishable corpse, giving his ashes to the wind, calling him a coward. For that one morning, there was a fire at his feet, but for his whole life, there was a fire in his heart. This story of Bruno is not told to be entertainment, nor is it told at all. It is a false rumor, spread by ghosts. If the story of Bruno is told by one of those who remember his fate, it is to inform others that there have been men who died in opposition to the cruel, vindictive institution called the Catholic Church, the triumphant beast. Just as I have seen the little children, their nimble hands carrying spiders outside, tip-toeing in an effort to avoid any damage to the delicate creature, just as I have seen this, I can envision Giordano Bruno, working over "The Heroic Frenzies," his work that was an affirmation of the beauty of compassion, of the purpose in being humane. Yet these are stories long told and forgotten.... As a reformer, I cannot forget. These are the memories etched on my mind and heart, never to be eroded by the winds of time.

         The sun rises and it's another day. If it's a weekday, I'm forced through the cruel machine of public schooling, only to retire to my room, where I can invoke some change in the world. If it's Saturday, then it's probably my 200th or 300th weekend spent alone, writing, reforming, debating, thinking. Thinking about how Robert Green Ingersoll tried to give a speech in England once, only to end up fleeing as angry churchgoers threw bricks through the windows of his forum. Thinking of the physician Servetus who was burned at the stake over the course of a two hour period, at the hands of the cruel John Calvin. Thinking of how I would change my life if I could start over, thinking of how physical intimacy might feel, thinking of sexual fantasies or of grand luxury. Possibly thinking of new theories, questioning old orthodoxes, examining ideas and thoughts, inspecting for myth and superstition. Or maybe the day will be spent in the gloom of a deep depression; caused from loneliness, boredom, anxiety, fear, hate. Only with music to calm my mind, running its soft hand over the erect hairs on my skin. I will sit and do nothing, thinking that my impact on this world has been insignificant, probably being hard on myself. Longing for the passionate and gentle touch of another, denied this, and left back to my depression. But then, more depression and anxiety. I forget that there is a world full of things that need to be done, and I remember how there are only a few people I can call my close friends. What makes this so hard to accept is that I have probably conversed with more than ten thousand individuals, and only a few are left. Only a few have decided to stay around.

         If it's a weekday, then I will probably end up sleeping in school. Every night, I labor myself to midnight. And every time I am in bed, I will be covered with a blanket and a stream of thought. Images, visions, sounds, movies will all be played in my head. I will think back to the times of ancient Greece, where Epicurus addressed the masses and claimed that if a god exists, he is indifferent to our reality. I will go back to the times when Joseph McCabe offered his humane, gentle, affectionate insight into the world around him, of how he stood with the Feminist movement from its very beginnings, only to be ignored and neglected when it obtained the blessing of the church. In its early days, Feminists were physically attacked by the clergy and churchgoers. Yet, as it developed, many churches aligned itself with Feminism and the rights of women. McCabe was an ardent Atheist and he stayed with Feminism from beginning to end, with or without the blessing of the corrupt institution. I will go back to the time when he speaks of how he visited a women's gathering, where church banners glittered the platforms, and over 100 speakers addressed the crowd, half of them introducing Jesus and the Bible, and in the end, he was on the crescent of the crowd, alone and forgotten, his effort and blood not given any recognition. McCabe was a bright star in a dark night -- he fought against oppression and injustice, against the church and against Fascism. He was, in a real sense, a reformer. He requested that his tombstone read what is precisely true: "A rebel until his death."

         At night, in bed, my mind will be in a flurry with thoughts of McCabe and Epicurus, of Ingersoll and Bradlaugh. I will think of the time that Bradlaugh debated the Christian apologist Roberts, I will think of the Scopes monkey trial argued by Clarence Darrow, I will think of Henry Stephens Salt and his effort to end inhumanity in all its forms. I will think of the times when a reformer has stepped up against an uproarious crowd, holding no sense of dignity or compassion. A reformer is not simply one who gathers a crowd by standing at a podium while screaming, "Oh, the injustice!" a thousand times, or by easily throwing the title of "brutality" around. A reformer is an individual of intellect and cunning, quick and responsive, impressive and dedicated, an individual with depth in duty. As my mind goes over these happenings and occurrences, these times when reformers had offered their insight to the world, I will toss and turn in bed, not able to sleep. And finally, at around 1:00 or 2:00 AM, I will finally capture that dream of unconsciousness, and I will be gone. Only to be disturbed only four or five hours later by a family member waking me up for school. I'll force myself to get up, mechanically putting my socks and boots on. Normally, I don't have to change clothes -- the previous night, I had already dressed for school and slept in those clothes. The warmth gathered and protected under synthetic threads provides me with a deep feeling of security as I meet the cold, morning air. I will go to school, attempt to sleep in class, and do some work. Perhaps I will have an exchange of wit with a teacher who feels the need to persecute those who differ, or perhaps with another student. A student who ends their argument with, "I simply don't care."

         After a long day at school, I will come home and work. I might lie down sometimes, tired and exhausted, just to try and rest up. Unthinking, I fall into a deep sleep, waking up only hours later, to find it night time. With the dark embrace of depression, there have been days I have slept for 14 hours straight, from afternoon to morning. Because I am tired, I am weak, I am exhausted. After a few hour nap, I will go back to work, writing letters or essays, doing anything to convince my fellow man to mend his ways and be humane. I will debate or argue, offer my insight with wit and intelligence. Then, as night comes, I will go to bed, with thoughts of McCabe and Epicurus, and I will do the same thing all over again. This scenario, repeated over and over again, gives you the routine of my life, as I live it, as it proceeds.

         As a reformer, being the type of reformer I am, I spend most of my time working to change the world around me. Little, if any time, is spent on social life or anything beyond the pen. This cannot be fully said of all reformers. Some of them are very active and have very fulfilling social lives. It seems odd, though, during my darkest hours that there really is no one for a thousand miles. I have talked and written to thousands of people. But in my hour of need, depressions, loneliness, anxiety -- there is no one. It wasn't always like this. I can remember the days when I had a friend who had similar views as myself, or just a friend. But as time passed, so did those friends. It seems like I'm sitting in a desert and the wind's battalion of sand is whipping at my skin and flesh. Despite whatever happens, whatever occurs, I still work, I still reform. It's all for that cause, that one principle of humanity and compassion.

         As reformers, we do not fear rejection of our ideas. The history of civilization has shown almost every populace to be ignoble and credulous. There are few cultures, such as the Ionians, who can be excused as being intelligent and analytical. It is only inevitable, though, that in such cultures where faith and ignorance work together that our ideas are rejected the most, and sometimes even outlawed or threatened with death. The only true reformer is a Rationalist Humanitarian, and I do not make such a statement solely on the grounds of special pleading. Those so-called reformers who base their claims on the foundation of faith or poor reasoning do not reform. They simply reperpetuate the current state of affairs: the population believing foolish and idiotic ideas, remaining ignorant, and not be allowed to rise to a higher level of understanding. One of these reformers may claim that abortion is wrong because human tissue is favored from god while another reformer may claim that abortion is right because women were given the right from god to dispose of human tissue. In both of these cases, the supreme being had made no statements at all, nor did he inform the world of his own message. What had happened was a collective of fools claiming that they had spoken with god and excusing their poor arguments with something so ignorant as religion. (However, I have already written on length on the contumelies and destruction caused from people basing their ethics on god.) Even so, if god did communicate to the world, he would not need to do it through prophets. A prophet claiming to have spoken with god is only hearsay, not revelation, as Thomas Paine has said. Such individuals who make such claims do not reform, they only reperpetuate. Since these are how populations exist, it is no wonder that they reject the reasoning of Rationalist Humanitarian reformers.

         As reformers, we do not fear rejection of our ideas. What we absolutely detest, though, is continuing injustice and brutality, resulting from cultures rejecting our ideas. If we make the claim that animals deserve the right to life and liberty, offering our compassion and logic as our justification, only to be met with crude and heartless comments, what is most atrocious and astounding is that people continue to consume their fellow creatures. Our ideas are often times simply dismissed by these masses as childish or immature. Quickly, they will claim that emotions are all that has caused us to believe what we do. Those who defended Civil Rights of all human beings were called "nigger lovers," -- nobody assaulted their philosophy with reason or logic, and certainly not with humaneness. Similarly, is it at all an obscurity that the Animal Rights movement is referred to as a collective of animal lovers? (Peter Singer made a similar point in his book Animal Liberation.) When I told the masses that I was an Atheist, they asked me if something negative happened to me as a child or how I felt how god had wronged me. When I told the masses that I was a Socialist, they asked me why I didn't like to work and why I thought slavery was a good solution. When I told them that I believed in Free Love, they asked me how powerful my sexual tendencies could be that they would lead me to wanting numerous lovers. It is believed that what I hold as ideology is not based on reason or thought, but simply on aesthetic charges, that I believe what I believe only because in some way, such beliefs benefit me. As a Socialist, I will be called a thief, but what can be said of the Capitalist class, who grows richer and richer off of the labor of others, while the poor grow poorer and poorer? As an Atheist, they will say I am immoral and incapable of emotion, but what can be said of those who excuse immorality with religion, of those who slaughter living human beings and animals because of a non-living, nonexistent god? As a Free Lover, they will make the same claim that I am immoral and perhaps even incapable of love, but what can be said of the Monogamist, who disallows their lover from physical intimacy with others? As a Vegetarian, they will say that I am passive and easily disturbed, but better this, I say, than to remain undisturbed by cruelty and injustice, to sleep easily as the deaths of others carry no weight on your conscious, nor any restriction on appetite. In a journal I keep called "Life," I remember one entry...


    By Punkerslut

         "I am a Vegan; I do not eat meat or dairy products," I said.

         The stranger replied to me, "But God has made it permissible that we eat the flesh of animals, for he has provided them to us."

         "I do not believe in God," I replied.

         The stranger spoke, "God must exist, for without God, how can two people fall in love with each other and get married?"

         "Although I accept the existence of such a contractual agreement as marriage, I do not believe in it," I said.

         The stranger, more confused, asked, "But the Free Will of our choices and actions puts us into situations where we do fall in love."

         "I do not believe in Free Will," I replied.

         The stranger spoke, "If you do not believe in Free Will, then how do spirits and ghosts control our actions?"

         "I am a Materialist - I do not believe in ghosts, spirits, or dogma," I said.

         The stranger continued, "How, though, is it that two people can conceive a child who is a being with rights to life, just as anyone else, and not be in love?"

         "I do not think that a fetus has rights to life - I am Pro-Choice," I said.

         The stranger asked, "Morality is relative and in America and Christianity, killing an infant is wrong!"

         "I do not believe that morality is relative," I said.

         He screamed, "You are backwards!"

         One of the rather interesting things of reformers is that they are often discouraged by the public masses in violent, aggressive ways. Being a Vegetarian reformer, one of the rather heartless ways people express disagreement with me is by making a reference to the taste of meat or the pleasure of it. A simple comment would be something along the lines of, "But meat tastes so gooood!" or "Nothing better than steak." There are those who are not even original enough that they end up stealing a slogan from a company, "Beef -- it's what's for dinner!" I remember once that someone had commented, "You know, yesterday I started becoming a hardcore carnivore." To this, I responded, "Do you ever try to sound intelligent? Because right now you sound like a fucking dumbass." Rarely do I ever try to be profane in any of my arguments or debates, but this incident was not an argument or a debate. It was more like harassment. I have to deal with it everyday, as well. I remember one day, someone had put a piece of meat on my arm. Full of anger and seething with rage, I punched them, to which they hit back. I struck back again and they tried to hit me again, but I blocked. Thus ended the fight, and shortly afterward, the individual left the table. There are other incidents where I had to deal with such a scenario. Other reformers must deal with this sort of harassment, as well. I'm sure that every person who doubted religion has dealt with a priest or preacher condemning them to hell -- although this is not necessarily harassment (it is more like a confirmation about the lack of humanity of the clergy), when hell is vividly described to little children who are too inexperienced to question things, then it is abuse and harassment. Feminists had to deal with angry mobs of Chauvinists. Those who oppose Nike sweatshops have to deal with, "Everyone I own is Nike and it will remain that way." Giordano Bruno opposed religion and they responded by burning him at the stake. One of the ways I get my message across to the public is by arguing in online bulletin board systems (BBS). In a letter to a friend describing my recent return to the BBS, I wrote...

    ,p>It has been a considerably long time since I debated, on AIM [chat service] or a BB. There were times, when writing "Atheos," "The Peaceful Spiritualist," while sleeping in school, while building the fucking "Legacy" game, where ever the fuck I was... There have been numerous times when there was a pain in my heart, a restlessness, an uneasiness, an apathy, nihilism, carelessness, loneliness -- these among other emotions have inhibited me. And during these times, all I thought about was being back debating. Going back to the place where they treat you like shit and all you can do is respond logically.

    "Now if you will excuse me, for I am now going out to dinner with a few friends. You know, I think I shall have veal tonight. Have you ever had veal, punk? It is marvelous! You really should try it. It is known for being very tender and sweet, and is considered a delicacy in many lands."

    It fills me with anger and fury when people say these things. All I can do is try to respond rationally and compassionately. I can say fully that I did not resort to ad hominem [personal attack] or any other personal attacks in the threads [a place to speak on the BBS] so far. I feel that it has made me stronger. But back to my point... I had always pined to get back to the BBs, and to debating. I felt that something instrumentally large from my life was missing when I wasn't there, when there wasn't a hundred people shouting my name and exclaiming how horrible a human being I was. When I wasn't there, I didn't even feel slightly complete. I always had this pining, this desire, this craving, this absolute necessity to be there, "in the BB trenches." I'm not sure if I know how to explain it, considering that when I first got into it, I was horrendously depressed and full of anxiety. When I left the BB, images blurred and thoughts transcended. When I came to, in realization of my thoughts, when I was here, all I wanted to do was be there. Now that I'm back at the BBs, I don't ever want to leave. I need it almost as much as I need air and I feel that all this article and essay writing has been largely "soft." Plainly put, I feel bad about myself and unfeeling when I'm not back at the place which has caused me the most stress in my life....

         "They may speak for themselves only, not for me. I know what I am. I know what animals are. And I will name what 'animal rights' activists truly are: the Human Defamation League. And making us as oblivious to cruelty as are all other animals, if not the actual agenda of the Human Defamation League, is nonetheless the unintended consequence of their campaign." -- J. Neil Schulman. From only a slight investigation, it would appear that Schulman is rather uneducated with the topic of Animal Rights. His generalization that the purpose of Animal Rights is to lower humans to the level of animals is ridiculous. He obviously did not take into account Thomas Paine, the champion of Human Rights who once wrote, "I believe the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy." [The Age of Reason, by Thomas Paine, chapter 1.] Although Paine has probably done more for humanity and our liberty than any other philosopher in history, Schulman would generalize him as the "Human Defamation League" for claiming that our fellow creatures deserve rights. When I brought this point up to Schulman, his response was rather reflective: he offered to sell me his book. One of my numb-minded acquaintances actually insisted that such an offer was actually generous.

         Fight racism! -- Why? It seems to be the battle call of many modern so-called Civil Rights activists. "No one should be discriminated against because of their skin color, race, creed, ethnicity, culture, or beliefs." Such wordage is only for the benefit of those who speak the words. I do not believe in Racism, but those who oppose it have made themselves appear the most ridiculous and absurd ever. There are those who oppose Racism that actually attend demonstrations. This is tantamount in absurdity to the Prodos Institute's "Walk For Capitalism" Marathon -- why hold a picket line for something that is already commonly accepted? Should we picket schools with signs that read, "Teach Gravity Or Learning Will Fall Off The Face Of Our Schools!" Certainly not. And why not? Because gravity is already taught in our schools. Similarly, why are mass rallies being held over Racism? There still is Racism, yes, I admit that, but certainly not in the amount believed. Those who claim to fight Racism the most, in fact, have done the worst Racist damage. Affirmative Action, for example, is only one of the most brutal forms of Racism. (After all, a man is denied their job because of their skin color under Affirmative Action.) If someone opposes Racism, the Racists will call them a Racist. Even going back to that statement, "No one should be discriminated against because of their skin color, race, creed, ethnicity, culture, or beliefs." -- have these so-called Civil Rights activists done anything for these ends? They may have lied or exaggerated about a Nazi skinhead's actions and have them imprisoned for conspiracy, or they may have lobbied for Hate Crime Legislation, or they may have asked schools to adopt anti-Racist propaganda and distribute. All they have really done is made independent thought a crime. These individuals who oppose Racism, or so they call themselves, and end up adopting Affirmative Action, Hate Crime Legislation, among other things, these individuals simply work to impede the progress of civilization. When I speak of those who oppose Racism here, it is important to understand that I do not speak for all who claim to oppose Racism.

         What else have those who uphold Civil Rights done? Have they lobbied Washington to change the national motto of "In God We Trust"? Not at all. Have they lobbied the parliament to have the Ten Commandments removed from the courts? Have they worked against Bush donating tax money to churches, or have they lobbied against for any other Church and State separation issue? The American Civil Liberties Union has actually done a great deal of good in these fields. Unlike other Civil Rights groups, the ACLU actually has an unbiased opinion of the issues. It was for that reason that I found the ACLU to be an organization that promotes equal right of opportunity for all.

         Every now and then, every reformer is bound to get the reformer chills. It's as though there is a psychological pattern to the seasons of reformers -- just as an economy can go through boom, depression, recession, so does the mind state of the reformer. There is always the chase; that is something that simply does not change when you are a reformer. You are always aiming towards your goal, always trying to inform and educated, make a difference, reform. Then there are the times when you doubt that you've done any good, and you may lie in depression, only doing normal reform work as part of habit rather than willful choice. But then, there is a powerful, extraordinary moment in the times of a reformer when they are reacquainted with their cause. Looking into the dire eyes of a suffering animal, the only shield between seeing their soul, it is a vision that is capable of instilling a sense of meaning back into the reform of Animal Rights. You will cry, you will beg, you will plead... the voice only heard by the desolate winds and carried off into the background of nothingness. Eyes full of tears, heart racing faster than an automobile, fists clenched rebelliously, soul turned and twisted, mind full on the brink of explosion... It may seem like you just died -- but you just woke up. Your passion is fresh again, tear-soaked. You then have enough force to go back to the angry mobs who disagree with you, the intolerant masses, the credulous clergy, the infamous corporations which enslave the Proletariat into work. With this new rebirth of the same purpose, you become a tank. There is no opportunity where you could enlighten another that you will leave as negligence. Only one thing means something again: reform. Revitalized with this, you will remember that as your angry fists hit the ground, only hundreds of miles away there are animals being killed and abused in factory farms. As the earth below is stained with tears, the earth there is stained with blood. As injustice sticks its ugly head out of the cloud of dissension, you remember again the reason why you became a reformer in the first place, you remember again the awful things done for the sake of greed, the awful things done for the sake of pleasure, the awful things done to those who may feel as we do, to those who may sense as we do, to those who may suffer as we do.

         Schools have rarely been anything that have fostered a single sentiment of intellectual freedom or independence. Rather, they simply lock the shackles already attached to the minds that drudge through anything thoughtful. I can cite possibly a thousand examples of this. In third grade, for example, the teacher gave tickets for good behavior to her students. When I received two tickets from the teacher, another student claimed that I stole them from her, and the teacher scolded me. Or, when I played kickball and I fought over a ball with someone, they claimed that I stole their bracelet, only so that the teachers would scold me again. One modern Brutalitarian principal of my elementary school enjoyed making up erroneous rules. I suspect rather that he enjoyed seeing children quiver at his scolding. When I engaged in playing tag during recess, for example, I was scolded. In first grade, the teacher tipped the desk I was sitting in over on top of me. Even now I can see that the business of education has attracted people who enjoy the company of children for particular reasons. I myself have seen teachers make up egregious stories and outright lies of history which are unbelievably absurd. Sometimes they may even claim that Marx's Communism was based on the Bible. But there is a certain naive quality of children, either their innocence or gullibility, that has attracted some educators who I can rightly refer to as the bottom of the barrel when concerning humanity. I have seen these so-called educators spell drawer as "draw," car as "kar," and lose as "loose." However, I am not advocating this principle of poor teaching universally. I have seen some admirable teachers, as well.

         Yet, in this school system, I was not given the opportunity of education. Rather, I was droned on with the useless continuum of facts and data, mixed with lies and deceit, which has allowed me to detest it as much as I do. Even though I have been avidly writing short stories and essays since I was nine or ten years old, I have failed English class almost every year of my life (save for the occasional D or C) until I reached high school. Even in high school, though, I find an unbelievable amount of waste, as well as counter-productive principles which erode any sort of education that children may receive. In sophomore year, a teacher asked me to stand for the pledge of allegiance, and I denied his request asserting that I had rights. His response was rather reflective of what education our children really learn, "I don't care about your rights. Try putting on a gun on your shoulder and fight for your country, and then see how you feel about that flag." But even this so-called history teacher fails to understand how the American government has used war as the most prominent excuse for an assault on Civil Liberties. Eugene Victor Debbs was imprisoned for giving a speech during WWI opposing the war. So, it can be clearly seen, that as soldiers of one nation die for their land, their leaders only tighten the noose around the neck of liberty. Such utter hypocrisy. It is almost as if the war is not to protect our liberties but that it is an excuse to deny us them. And to whom do the spoils of war belong? No other than the petty Capitalist class whom bribe our government officials.

         The situation of a teacher trying to force me to stand for the pledge would recreate itself in my junior year, with the coming of the events of September 11th. Patriotism and piety -- the two things which Charles Babbage claimed to have been the targets of his animosity -- these two emotions have been the roots that grew into the tree of tyranny and brutality. This is a hardly denied fact, but highly ignored. Why there is a need to oppress can be found in these underlying sentiments of nationalism and piety. They are passionate, yes, and thoughtless, which makes them dangerous to a people's freedom. In another incident in my junior year, the computer technicians disallowed me from using the school computers because they found my writings to be offensive (even though I had written nothing on the school computers for the entire year). In fact, they labored so much as to try to deny me my credits for those computer classes which I had already done most of the work in for most of the year. The bigotry of modern schools is wonderfully astounding. And yet we as children are expected to be rendered with an unshakable affection for liberty when we are denied our own.

         What I found so appalling about the situation was the utter hypocrisy of the parties I dealt with. Upon first inquiry of my so-called "violation," I was told that I had downloaded an executable file -- an offense which was actually a violation. Only a week later, when my punishment had been fully served, was I informed that it was actually because they found my writings displeasing. When I informed the principal that I had been disallowed from using the computers and that it was for no reason, he nodded. But then when I told him that my grade in my computer classes have dropped to below a 65, he said, "But you were kicked off the computers for working on your website." Yet, it is only that hypocrisy and tyranny can go hand in hand for so long, as one excuses the other and the other works for the other. They are the genes of cancer. From observing their blatant hypocrisy, what can I learn from these so-called teachers, these so-called educators? I can learn to avoid becoming the ills of civilization. Even beyond that, though, I may learn to observe hypocrisy and cruelty with a keener eye. It is true that the whole ordeal has sickened me, both the bigotry of those involved and the inadequate system which allowed it to happened. "The accused have the right to face their accusers," this is a democratic principle formed by the Greeks over 2,000 years ago, and it is quite convenient that our legislators would remove everything that was democratic from our learning institutions. It is under this, the iron fist, that we are reared and educated. Of course, of the inquiring philosopher, he may ask, "Why is that the ideas which have kept dictatorships and tyrants in power are the same ideas applied to the schools which we wish to teach our children?" There were those who stood beside me in the ordeal. The school disciplinary seems like the kind of person uninterested in lies or vagueness or anything misleading in the manner. Delivered my sentence from the uneducated servants of iniquity, I felt like Reynolds as he received a fine for the crime of "blasphemy" in the 1800's by an illiterate judge.

         When I was younger, I had more of a zest to socialize. This was not driven from any custom of our time, but rather from a desire to be with good company. One of the places I enjoyed was the mall, where I would go with a friend or two to simply walk around and talk. Slowly, though, as I walked around the mall and looked around, seeing that many of the people walking were without mind, I realized that my so-called friends were not exempt from that bumbling, idiotic majority. It may be true that Bertrand Russell said that a philosopher who mocks the majority is a fool. "Carlyle remarked: 'The population of England is twenty millions, mostly fools.' Everybody who read this considered himself one of the exceptions, and therefore enjoyed the remark." ["How to Become a Man of Genius," from the Hearst newspapers, 28 December 1932, Russell.] When I refer to masses of unintelligent people, my simple remark is not made on the premise for the sake of earning the affections of readers. (Nay, little of what I say is ever without meaning, purpose, or truth.) I only make this statement of the ignorant population because this is what I see before me. A brief read of The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan would confirm this quite clearly, as he states, "How much science is there on the radio or television talk shows, or on those dreary Sunday morning programs in which middle-aged white people sit around agreeing with each other? When is the last time you heard an intelligent comment on science by a President of the United States?" [The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan, page 376.] It is quite clear from observing our environment that it was not meant to foster intelligence or critical thinking, nor do those in this environment ever strive for such ideals. There is always the great chase for sex, as is with inherent with the fact that we are a biological species. Millions of years ago, humans played games and fought each other over this natural action. Again, from a quick observation of our environment, it can quite clearly be seen that we have not advanced much further in this area, either.

         However, back to my point of discussion. I've always struggled to form a collective of individuals who were analytical, Freethinking, and intelligent. The reaction I received can perfectly be described as thus: non-responsive. Only a month or two of going to the mall did I stop this, the greatest I ever struggled for socializing, and yet a small amount as well. I began to look at the mall as a cesspool where ignorance may breed and spread. It was that type of society that I began to hate: the people ridden with ignorance and heartlessness.

         Some time ago, I had a conversation with my friend Liz. It was, in fact, what had inspired me to write this article. She said to me, "I want you to tell me about how horrible I am in certain aspects. As in, I do stuff you don't agree with. So, attack me." I responded, "I think it's wrong to eat meat. You eat meat. Therefore, it is a heartless common bigoted prejudice that you exhibit, just another sheep in the herd. Okay?" The debate went on (05m/05d/02y)....

    Liz: Exactly.
    Liz: Continue.
    Punkerslut: Why?
    Liz: Because it's the only way I'll see it.
    Punkerslut: Fine....
    Liz: Well you don't have to.
    Punkerslut: Nah, I will....
    Punkerslut: I see that you are a human being, born into what form of "civilization" that we currently have today. Just like the others, you endeavor in the same actions that were the mechanics in the thoughts of our ancestors: cruelty and ignorance. Thousands of men have said, "That creature may feel, but I will not consider its feelings," and tens of thousands more have said, "That creature may feel, but I could not care," but millions have said, "That creature right there -- he may not feel." The same creed of heartless has been in the mind of every ignoramus, in the heart of every Brutalitarian. It has been a staple in the ethic of brutality. They may claim that they are but following what their fathers did, but in doing so, they are simply following the belief that animals deserve no affection, deserve no compassion -- they affirm that viciousness is to be admired, that terror is essential, that life should be ours and not another's. It has been this principle of our tradition to deny rights to any minority. And so it goes, that the masses believe the bigotry that our fathers have. They are the wood on the fire of malice that their fathers were kindling to. Their fathers hypothesized that animals were nothing but automata. Here we are today, hunting, killing, consuming, beating, vivisecting -- on their orders. Billions of creatures. Estimated to be 10 billion every year. More than 1 and a half of the entire human population! Hatred embraced and love defeated!! This is the current situation in our so-called civilization, that we shall hold that animals have no rights, that they deserve no compassion, that they exist simply to further our own means! There has yet to be such a treachery in the Creed of Kinship as this, as to kill and eat those who can feel and suffer, just as we may!
    Liz: Holy shit.
    Punkerslut: I'm done.
    Punkerslut: Any comments?
    Liz: That was unbelievable.
    Liz: You just wrote that off the top of your head?
    Punkerslut: Yeah.
    Punkerslut: The way most of my writing is.
    Liz: This
    Liz: is your biggest interest?
    Punkerslut: Writing and reforming, aye. You know clearly how I feel about the rights of animals, hence why I may be a bit... reclusive to engage in a relationship with those who do not respect those rights.

         Later, she asked me, "Are you always this honest?" I responded, "Mostly." "When are you not?" she asked. To this, I responded...

    I figure that the man who cannot be honest with himself and those close to him is likely to be a man who is insecure and his happiness is frail and chipped -- perhaps a personality trait which has led me to a wide variety of my beliefs: Atheism, Vegetarianism, Socialism, etc., etc.. It's that I detest lies because believing a lie knowingly, just to cheer you up or to suffice some cruelty, is to live a fake life, but what does that mean? It means not living happily, truthfully, or, simply put, not living.

         "Hearing that is so amazing," was her reply. I asked her if she would like to know of reform further and she nodded. So, I gave her a small excerpt that included in my website news...

    Many reformers and social critics come to their reform-issue from personal experiences. The founder of MADD - Mothers Against Drunk Driving - lost her son to a drunk driver. Many gun control advocates can justly claim that one of their loved ones was lost to a gun. There are numerous examples of these, I am sure. In my opinion, I think it is a sort of inobjectivity among people - a cultural nihilism, if you will - that blurs reason and decapitates logic. It is good and well that these reformers approach their reform-issues in democratic ways (and some not in all that democratic ways). However, there is a problem that lies beneath this: people are so seemingly ignorant of problems that they need to be stuck hard with them before they realize how horrible these problems are. I'm not siding with MADD or gun control advocates. I am simply saying, they fail to use reason, observation, and logic prior to the experiences. They also take on a stance of "Us Versus Them." I've seen some of them lecture and speak. They will do whatever is necessary to further their position: lying, exaggerating, slander, sympathetic stories, side with causes that at heart they disagree with but only to get attention or aid, etc., etc., etc.. Dr. Laura was a Homophobic radio show host for years. She apologizes for her remarks, but then the Human Rights Organization responds by saying that it is not enough. I've seen groups use false statistics or misleading statistics. If a prominent Atheist made the declaration that Hitler was Christian, and therefore Christians tend to be bad people, I would absolutely disagree with this statement -- even if it whipped crowds of Atheists into frenzies or deconverted Christians. My goal is not Atheism or Vegetarianism. I have said before that my goal was Rationalism and Humanitarianism, two concepts that embrace Atheism and Vegetarianism. But I think I may have been in err when I said that. Honestly, I think my one goal is truth.

         "And once the pain's gone, that's when the real battle starts. Depression, boredom.... you'll feel so fucking low you'll want to fucking top yourself." The character Renton from the movie Trainspotting speaks words of wisdom. What is rarely concerned with when concerning reform is the emotions that go along with it. But, just as those who are not reformers suffer from depression from events that happen to them in their life, reformers also suffer from depression from events that happen during their reforming. A reformer quickly becomes thick-skinned. They learn to deal with people, even if a deep hatred is held for society. You may find eventually that you are incredibly difficult to anger. Soon, a hatred of conflict develops. It seems as though you may be at a war with every person on this planet -- or ever unreformed person. And the days of happiness you picture ahead are not days full of conflict and "battle" -- but rather, the days of happiness you imagine are full of little communication, hours of doing nothing, hours of appreciating nature, hours of reading nothing, maybe even an admiration or envy of those who are already dead.

         What develops this are those individuals who make brash, heartless comments. I do not mean to point to those who say, "If you don't like America, then leave," -- those individuals appear rather humorous than offensive, as do almost all religionists who proselytize their religion. I am referring to the giants of brutality whose conscience rests on principles of ignorance. One person's remarks: "I can tell you this: this world would be a lot more peaceful without hate-filled sentiments like yours." -- "You say that you joy in the thought of killing Christians. That is cultural genocide. Very Hitler-like. Second, you ACT exactly like the Columbine kids did before their day of infamy. Forget stigma, boy. Think: reality." -- "Punker wishes to kill." -- "You deserve no love, when you wish to hate those without agreeing points of view." -- "You deserve no freedom, when you wish to take the freedom of others away." -- "On here, I've met both those who agree with my beliefs and disagree. But everyone seems to be in agreement about respect for your fellow human being. Except one. There is on here who only wishes to hate those who don't believe, one who will tell brazen lies to be heard and to attempt to get a point across." When I made a thread (or a place for debate) on the NewsMax BBS, the thread entitled "A Plea For Vegetarianism," the first response was this: "When your militant fruties in your number stop their hypocritical terrorism towards human beings, only then will I give you any light of day. I'm having pork for lunch. " Another said, "Comparing animals to humans is irrelevant. When a species other than human drums up a social contract get back to me." And then they posted a picture of a steak. Another: "Your posts are a compilation of a most egregious garbage." In fact, even the BBS moderator, who is supposed to be a "middle-man," stated, "PETA: People for the Eating of Tasty Animals." I only know that I loathe authority when it abuses its powers, so I responded aptly, "Your ignorance is only exceeded by your charm." Another said, "I guess your plea didn't go over very well. Mostly because your arguments are ultimately silly. Cows may have a consciousness, chickens may feel love and hate. No one cares, you fail to grasp that. NO ONE CARES, when it comes to food, NO ONE IS GOING TO GIVE YOUR ASININE ARGUMENTS ANY CREDENCE. I guess your plea didn't go over very well."

         Of course, by the time I heard these things, I had already become thick-skinned. Their remarks only made me more difficult to anger. I find that, since I have done debating, I rarely have any arguments with any of my friends. In fact, the last time I had a fight with a friend was a month ago with one friend -- a brutal man whose mouth confirmed the principles of Humanitarianism and whose heart relegated them to second, third... fourth or fifth importance. I tried to have a logical debate with him, but he was only twice as brutal as those on BBS boards. To my arguments, he only resorted by laughing or mockery. But that should be no surprise -- a failure to understand reason often accompanies inhumaneness. My article, "Examining An Argument I" explained the situation.

         The first time I was heavily depressed from BBS debating was from the ARS Technica BB war. In fact, it had a sort of popularity that grazed across the internet. I have even talked to old friends who said that they heard of what happened. As usual, I went there and made a thread on Vegetarianism. What followed, nothing would prepare me for it. I was, in essence, surrounded by more ignorant, violent opponents then than I have ever been in my entire life. In less than 48 hours, over 400 posts had been made on the thread -- responses, criticisms, and rebuttals. I may have repeated myself a thousand times when people continued to bring up the same and the same arguments repeatedly. And they would accompany these arguments with the most obnoxious of compliments, "If you were capable of seeing this, then I might call you half logical." There were over 5,000 views of the thread. In less than 48 hours, the moderators had shut down the thread, claiming that it was unruly. And this was true. The thread had delved from actual, philosophical arguments to petty squabbling. The generally unintelligent remarks, "I like pork!" among other things. From this BBS debating I became somewhat greatly depressed. When I rebutted one argument, there would be three or four fresh new posts criticizing me, with flagrant insults and a complete disregard even for the rights of humans. I remember feeling useless, feeling negative, but all the while knowing my cause was true and that I felt bad as though I didn't do enough or did it wrong. But what I did at the ARS Technica BB made history, and I plan to do it again, when I have the mental resources to cope with it... which would mean no school.

         "You're only a Vegetarian because you love animals," or "You only are an Atheist because you hate god and are afraid of his rule," or "You only are a Free Lover because your lust cannot be vanquished with one lover," among other contradictions. There will be those who make the claim that I only believe what I believe for premeditated reasons. I regard such individuals as fools and little more. However, nonetheless, with every new idea, they will stipulate that I believe it for some self-benefiting factor. And if not, they may even assert that I believe radical theories and ideas, solely for the sake of being different. I have made my claim numerous times again and again, that I am only drawn towards humaneness and rationalism because of its uninterrupted adherence to truth. But when preaching to fools, who see nothing but self interest and corruption, they will question motives or even bestow a false sense of sympathy with you. "Did something happen to you as a child to make you hate god?" asked one Christian. I would have responded rationally, had I not been laughing quite so hard. I hardly find such sympathy to be genuine. And, it is so, that religion and its followers will embrace whatever manners or methods are necessary in advancing itself. It should be so, though, as being the revolting institution it always has been, religion will need as much as it can to sustain itself. If this means wearing the vague mask of affection and agreeing to one or another scientific theory, just to gain converts, then that is what religion will do. Hypocrisy in one hand and oppression in other -- the church is no friend of liberty or humanity.

    Four more years of War is Peace, Ignorance is Strength and Slavery is Freedom.
    Four more. May all your interventions be "Humanitarian".
    Four more years of pay-to-play politics, power and influence.
    Four more years of legalized bribery and served corporate interests.

    Vote for Tweedle-dum or tweedle-dee
    And a framework of debate narrowed for you courtesy
    Of the ultra-rich and a media that filters
    But any voice that challenges their power
    Like Nader bounced in Boston by state-troopers
    Cause he don't speak for oil-tycoons and bankers, oh yeah
    Whose pursuit of happiness and liberty
    Demands a rhetoric of fear to be
    The litmus test for viable heirs to
    The phony drug-wars, the trumped-up rogue-states, the
    permanence of a war-economy.

    - Propagandhi, "War Is Peace," reproduced in Summer of 2000 as George W. Bush become president.

         "You want to convert the world!" she said to me. This was over a year ago. However, as there are those who think I believe what I believe for shock value, there are those who find me to be an overzealous fanatic. However, as some investigation has revealed to some individuals, they think that my philosophy is rather humane and rational, as I have purported it to be. It is important to understand, though, that Atheism is not equivalent to rationalism. There are Atheists who are certainly irrational, but the most rational of philosophies tends to be the most liberal as far as religion is concerned. As I wrote in the original Freethought Manifesto, it appeared that there was a "higher plane" of knowledge. And as I discovered new theories which were confirmed again and again by evidence -- Objective Morality, Vegetarianism, Atheism, Free Love, etc., etc. -- so I find that Humanitarian reformers have confirmed these philosophies as well. Henry Stephens Salt, as well as Percival Bysshe Shelley, were Atheists and Vegetarians who believed in Free Love. Upon reading this, I was not entirely shocked. For it seems that the bodies of Rationalism and Humanitarianism have walked hand in hand, embracing the same doctrines and philosophies no matter what time period they appear in. It has been a 100 years since Salt and a little less than 200 years since Shelley's, but even today, rational and humane thought comes to precisely the same conclusions about philosophy and ethics. To quote Shelley...

    I never was attached to that great sect
    Whose doctrine is that each one should select
    Out of the crowd a mistress or a friend
    And all the rest, though fair and wise, commend
    To cold oblivion--though 'tis in the code
    Of modern morals, and the beaten road
    Which those poor slaves with weary footsteps tread
    Who travel to their home among the dead
    By the broad highway of the world--and so
    With one chained friend, perhaps a jealous foe,
    The dreariest and the longest journey go. [Epipsychidion.]

         It is important to know the truth about Salt and Shelley's opinion on sex and Free Love. It is quite clear that both of them simply did not stumble upon one truth randomly or another, but rather, they discovered the philosophical and ethical principles that govern our Universe. It was not some random curiosity that they found, but rather they discovered the method for attaining truth and voraciously applied this method to every area of life. To quote Salt concerning Shelley...

    As it is, the Shelleyan advocacy of free love has been much misrepresented, being often absurdly identified, whether through ignorance or prejudice, with heartless brutalism to which it is utterly alien. The essence of Shelley's belief was that, unless human passion is to be brutalised and debased, the spiritual and higher elements of love must always be present; for this reason he condemned the stereotyped and loveless formula of marriage, but he did not stultify his own contention by sanctioning an equally dull and loveless sensuality.... [The Savour of Salt: A Henry Salt Anthology, edited by George Hendrick and Willene Hendrick, page 139.]

         Henry Salt was a wildflower enthusiast who fought for conservation of the natural environment. He describes how he likes his parties when going searching for wildflowers...

    In a company, I always pray that their number may be uneven, and that it may not be necessary to march stolidly in pairs, where "one to one is cursedly confined," as Dryden said of matrimony; or worst of all, where one's yoke-fellow may insist, as sometimes happens, on walking "in step," and be forever shuffling his feet as if obeying the commands of some invisible drill-sergeant. It is not with the feet that we should seek harmony, but with the heart.... [The Call of the Wildflower, by Henry Stephens Salt. Quoted in, The Savour of Salt: A Henry Salt Anthology, edited by George Hendrick and Willene Hendrick, pages 111-112.]

         But, as can quite clearly be seen, those who break traditional barriers of thought are likely to break other barriers of orthodoxy. It is so that Atheists may not be content with Monogamy, and Vegetarians will not be content with Capitalism. Such it goes that those who oppose tyranny and oppression in walks of life, they will become Freethinkers and lovers of compassion.

         I keep journal that I occasionally write in. Rarely are any of the sentiments made public. However, when a friend of mine was given to read through some of it, she was taken aback and claimed that the pure emotion of them made them invaluable as literature.

    A Conversation With A Friend

    By Punkerslut

         "But if you have the list of Atheist articles at the top, it may displease some of our visitors," he said to me looking up from his earth-seat.

         I sat at the top of the mountain, staring at the sunset. I looked down, seeing him sitting on a rock a few feet below me and to my right. "Yeah, I want to have the Atheism section of articles at the top," I said, "To have it big and ugly."

         "Haha," he said, as we both laughed, "I suppose it's true. We should not forget one cause for the sake of another, otherwise we may be stripped of everything except the pleas for Vegetarianism."

         I folded up my legs and wrapped my arms around them, the wind making its wisping noises and blowing my hair back. In the fetal position, I lifted my head up. "I would hate it if some New Age religion or some New Ethical philosophy quoted me to prove their point."

         "Why's that?" my friend asked.

         "Well, think about it," I said turning to him and smiling a bit, and then back to my gaze on the sunset, "If I thoroughly write essays against the cruelty of Christianity, as well as its certain unreasonableness, and then a group comes and asserts that Christianity is wrong and their group is right, quoting me would be an insult. I have always fostered Materialism and Atheism in countless essays and with an insurmountable effort. If they take a quote from me where I mock Christianity, and they use it to move their own religion up, I would be highly offended."

         "You got a point there," my friend said, with a wide smile, myself returning it.

         My chin was partly buried in my knees. I lifted it up for a second to speak, "Aye."


    Listening to Aphex Twin

    By Punkerslut

         When I hear this song, it brings me back to my old room. The days of hope and tears, and I hear my conscience speaking to me, as it does today. Of the times of anguish and pain, amidst the broadened desire for something else, I was a person of affection and duty. Lying on my bed, partly covered by a sleeping bag, tear-ridden face, this song playing, there was nothing more that I wanted to do than to fall asleep listening. The sounds, strumming the strings of my heart as much as they were pleasing to the ear, brought something new in the day. Conflict arose. Battles waged. There I was, years ago in a drought of humanity. Here I am today, nothing more than the same man disenchanted, longing for my old self.

    Looking Back Now

    By Punkerslut

         Looking back now, I feel that I have accomplished more than the average man. I did not suffer from an identity crisis. I knew who I was. I was, and am, a fighter, a warrior for Freethought and Humanitarianism. My battles were sometimes difficult, sometimes easy, but nonetheless, they were battles fought for by my ambitious side. I fought in the spirit of Rationalism and compassion. It was for these virtues that I fought. From battle to battle, person to person, I tried to convince everyone that the consumption of meat was unethical and that the gods were undeserving of belief. There have been hundreds that I talked to. But now, I feel like nobody. I feel empty, worthless, hollow. I know who I am; I am a fighter for Freethought. I put my time, effort, tears, blood, and sweat right on the line for the sake of what I believed to be right. That was, to me, the field. It was a place of debate and argument. I desire with my heart to go back to the field and take up arms of wits once again. I wish to convince my fellow men that they should love each other and not an unknown god, and that their net of compassion should extend to all animalia. These are the creeds that I hold sacred, bounded by the reverence for the value of a conscious being.

         Looking back now, I still see the same people and other people eating meat and worshiping idols. They are fools and hypocrites. Oh, but if I could fight once again and take the battle to the enemy! If only I could do this. I wish for nothing more than to sacrifice my life for the sake of Humanitarian and ethical reform. It is the Creed of Kinship, the belief that we are all bound unlimitedly by consideration for each other. My fellow creatures, dying in kennels. My fellow humans, rotting in churches. What a cruel fate Christianity has decided for us. I cannot go back to the field, though. I cannot go back right now. Personal problems have arose that have made living difficult. I find it almost impossible to write or debate. My mind is so preoccupied with the hardships forced onto me from parents. But for the sake of my fellow brethren, I shall continue and I shall persevere. For the liberation of animalia must be coming soon, and if I can make it any sooner, I shall with all my strength do so. Until then, I love my fellow creatures, and I am coming.


         One of my friends, Beast of Atheism, inquired of Henry Stephens Salt, asking how many books he had written. I replied telling him that Salt had written over 40 books and, in further explaining some of his reform areas, I said...

    He called for prison reform and an end to using torturing devices. At least that dream has partially come true. The tales of thumb screws and the rack are indeed restricted to books that deal with ancient custom -- but the sentiment of brutality is still an inherent part of our judicial system. Of vengeance, not justice. Of cruelty, not fairness. [Tuesday, May 28, 2002.]

         Henry Salt is truly a reformer. If one were to read his works, they would quickly discover that he fought for humane and rational principles, that his mind broke free of the common superstition that blanketed the nations at his time. His Autobiography was appropriately entitled Seventy Years Among Savages. His case is, in many ways, analogous to my own. An excerpt from his autobiography....


    A strange lot this, to be dropped down in a world of barbarians--Men who see clearly enough the barbarity of all ages except their own!--Ernest Crosby

         The tales of travelers, from Herodotus to Marco Polo, and from Marco Polo to the modern "globe-trotter," have in all ages been subject, justly or unjustly, to a good deal of suspicion, on the ground that those who go in quest of curious information among outlandish tribes are likely in the first instance to be imposed on themselves, and in sequel to impose on their readers. No such doubt, however, can attach to the following record, for I am myself a native of the land whose customs are described by me. I cannot think that my story, true as it is, and admitting of corroboration by the similar witness of others, is any the less adventurous on that account; for, like previous writers who have recorded certain startling discoveries, I, too, have to speak of solitudes and remotenesses, vast deserts and rare oases, inextricable forests and dividing gulfs; and such experiences are none the less noteworthy because they are not of the body but of the mind. At any rate, the tale which I have to tell deals with incidents which have had a very real significance for myself -- quite as real as any of those related by the most venturesome of voyagers.

         The seventy years spent by me among savages form the subject of this story, but not, be it noted, seventy years of consciousness that my life was so cast, for during the first part of my residence in the strange land where I was bred, the dreadful reality of my surroundings was hardly suspected by me, except now and then, perhaps, in a passing glimmer of apprehension. Then, by slow degrees, incident after incident brought a gradual awakening, until at least there dawned on my mind the conviction which alone could explain and reconcile for me the many contradictions of our society -- that we were not "civilized" but "savages" -- that the "dark ages," far from being part of a remote past, were very literally present.

         And here, in explanation of my long blindness to an unwelcome truth, it must be remarked that there is a fixed and almost insuperable superstition among my savage fellow-islanders -- and, indeed, among all the surrounding nations -- that they are a cultured and highly civilized race, living in an age which has wholly emerged from the barbarisms of their forefathers, the "good old times" to which some of them even affect to look back with feelings of pious regretfulness. It was this delusion to which I was at first fully subject, that made it so difficult for me to see things in their true light, and still makes it In reality, it will be seen, the difference between the earlier "barbarism" and the absence or presence of certain intellectual refinements and mechanical sciences, which, while largely altering and complicating the outward conditions of life, leave its essentially savage spirit almost entirely untouched.

         It was not till I was over thirty years of age that I felt any serious concern as to the manners and customs with which I was familiar, and which I had unquestioningly accepted from childhood as part of the natural order. I head heard and read of "savages," but felt the more satisfaction to know that I was a native of a land which had for centuries enjoyed the blessings of civilization and of religion, which it was anxious to disseminate as widely as possible throughout the earth. Why the diet of my countrymen should have been the first thing to set me pondering, I am unable to say, for as my later discoveries convinced me, the dietetic habits of these people are not more astonishing than many kindred practices which I still regarded without mistrust. But it was so; and I then found myself realizing, with an amazement which time has not diminished, that the "meat" which formed the staple of our diet, and which I was accustomed to regard -- like bread, or fruit, or vegetables -- as a mere commodity of the table, was in truth dead flesh -- the actual flesh and blood -- of oxen, sheep, swine, and other animals that were slaughtered in vast numbers under conditions so horrible that even to mention the subject at our dinner-tables would have been an unpardonable offense.

         Now, when I began to put questions to my friends and acquaintances about this apparently glaring inconsistency in our "civilization," I could not help observing, novice though I was in such discussion, that the answers by which they sought to parry my awkward importunities were extremely evasive and sophistical -- remanding me of the quibbling explanations which travelers have received from cannibals when they inquired too closely into certain dietetic observances; and from this I could not but suspect that, as far as diet was concerned, we differed in degree only from the savages whom we deemed so debased.

         It must be understood, however, that here, and in other references to "savages," I use that term in its natural and inoffensive meaning, as implying simply a lack of the higher civilization and not any personal cruelty or bloodthirstiness. What I write is just a friendly account of friendly savages (by one of them); and I would emphasize the fact that the kindliness and good nature of my fellow-countrymen are in one direction quite as marked features of their character as their savagery is in another. In their own families, to their own kith and kin, to their personal friends -- to all those whom fortune has placed within, instead of without the charmed circle of relationship -- their conduct, in the great majority of cases, is exemplary; it is only where custom or prejudice has dug a gulf of division between their fellow-creatures and themselves that they indulge in the barbarous practices to which I refer.

         It may be convenient if I here speak briefly of their other customs under two heads: first, those that relate to human beings; and, secondly, those that relate to the so-called lower animals. In few ways, perhaps, is the barbarism of these islanders more apparent than in their wars and in their preparation for wars. For what they call "peace" is, in fact, only an armed truce -- an interval between two outbreaks of hostility -- during which, so far from being at genuine peace with their neighbors, they are occupied in speculating where the next attack shall be delivered, or, rather (for they love to depict themselves as always standing on pious self-defense against the wanton aggressiveness of others), how they shall repel the next attack from abroad. It is their custom always to have, for the time being, some bugbear among neighboring tribes, whose supposed machinations against the richer portions of their empire give them constant cause for unrest, and prompt them to cement undying, but equally transitory, alliances with other nations, so that their very friendships are based less on the spirit of amity than on that of distrust. Under pretense of believing in an unbelievable and, indeed, wholly ridiculous maxim -- Si vis pacem, para bellum ("If you wish for peace, prepare for war") -- they keep their minds for ever set on wars and rumors of wars, with the result that, in spite of all their profession of benevolence and brotherhood, the trade of killing is that which is above all others respected by them. Is money required for purpose of national welfare, such as education or the relief of the poor? Every difficulty is at once put in the way of such expenditure for such ends. But let there be the least suspicion, however irrational, of some foreign slight to "the flag," and there is scarce a savage in the land who is not willing that the public treasury should be depleted in pursuance of a childish revenge. To remonstrate against such folly is to incur the charge of being "unpatriotic."

         But comical as their foreign policy is, their social system is still more so, for under the guise of "charity" and "philanthropy" of individuals, plays a remorseless game of "Beggar my neighbor" and "Devil take the hindmost" in mad scramble for wealth; whence results, of course, a state of gross and glaring inequality, under which certain favored persons wallow in the good things of life, while others pass their years in the pinch of extremest poverty. Thus, in due course, and by an unerring process, is manufactured what they call "the criminal class" -- that is, the host of those who are driven by social injustice to outlawry and violence. And herein, perhaps, more than in any other of their customs is shown the inherent savagery of their natures, for, instead of attempting to eradicate the cause of these evils by the institution of fairer and juster modes of living, my fellow-islanders are almost to a man in a favor of "punishing" (that is the expression) these victims of their own foolish laws by the infliction of barbarous sentences of imprisonment, or the lash, or, in extreme cases, the gallows. To inculcate habits of honesty they shut a man in prison, and render him more than ever incapable of earning an honest livelihood. As a warning against robbery with violence, they give a lesson in official violence by flogging the criminal; and, by way of teaching the sanctity of human life, they judicially murder the murderer. Many a grotesque absurdity is solemnly and deliberately enacted in their so-called "courts of law"; and any one who ventures to suggest that this is the case is regarded as a fool and reprobate for his pains.

         But it is when we turn to their treatment of the non-human races that we find the surest evidences of barbarism; yet their savagery, even here, is not wholly "naked and unashamed," for, strange to say, these curious people delight to mask their rudeness in a cloak of fallacies and sophisms, and to represent themselves as "lovers" of those very creatures whom they habitually torture for "sport," "science," and the "table." They actually have a law for the prevention of cruelty to animals, under which certain privileged species, classed as "domestic," are protected from some specified wrongs, though all the time they may, under some specified wrongs, be subjected with impunity to other and worse injuries at the hands of the slaughterman or the vivisector; while the wild species, though presumably not less sensitive to pain, are regarded as almost entirely outside the pale of protection, and as legitimate subjects for those brutalities of "fashion" and "sport which are characteristic of the savage mind. Their women go furred and feathered with the skins of beasts and birds; and so murderous is their millinery that whole species are sacrificed to this reckless habit. Nothing can exceed the ferocity of the national pastimes, in which, under the plea of affording healthful exercise to their tormentors, park-bred deer, that have been kept in paddocks for the purpose, are turned out before a mob of men an dogs to be baited and worried; foxes, otters, and hares are hunted and "broken up"; bagged rabbits are "coursed" in small enclosures by yelling savages on the eve of the weekly religious festival; pheasants and other "preserved" birds are mowed down in thousands in an organized butchery euphemistically known as the battue; pigeons are released from traps in order to be shot by gangs of ruffians who gamble over the result of their skill; and almost every conceivable form of cowardly slaughter is practised as "sportsmanlike" and commended as "manly." All this, moreover, is done before the eyes and for the example of mere youths and children, who are thus from their tenderest years instructed in the habit of being pitiless and cruel. Nay, in some cases they are even encouraged to take part in such doings, and on the first occasion when they are "in at the death" are initiated by being "blooded" -- that is, baptized with the blood of the slaughtered victim of their sport.

         Nor are these things perhaps so strange as they might at first appear, for, in spite of their boasted progress in science and arts, my countrymen are still practically ignorant of the real kinship which exists between mankind and the other races, and of the duties which this kinship implies. They are still the victims of that old anthropocentric superstition which pictures Man as the center of the universe, and separated from the inferior animals -- mere playthings made for his august pleasure and amusement -- by a deep intervening gulf; and it is probable enough that if any one of these unthinking savages who "break up" a hare, or baptize their children in the blood of a butchered fox, were reminded that he himself is in very truth an "animal," he would resent such a statement of an established fact as a slight on his religious convictions and on his personal self-respect. For, as the author of Hudibras discovered:

    There's nothing so absurd, or vain,
    Or barbarous, or inhumane,
    But if it lay the least pretence
    To piety and godliness,
    And zeal for gospel truths profess,
    Does sacred instantly commence.

         The very scientists themselves, who have in theory renounced the old-fashioned idea of a universe created for mankind, are inclined in practice to belie their own biological faith, for they claim the moral right to devote large numbers of the lower animals, without scruple or remorse, to the tortures of "research," just as if the fact of a close kinship between the vivisector who wields the scalpel and the dog who lies in the trough were a notion of which Science is unaware!

         Is it surprising that, to those of us who have gradually realized that we are dwelling in a wild land among savages such as these, the consciousness of the discovery should at times bring with it a sense of unutterable loneliness and desolation -- that we should feel cut off, as it were, by interminable leagues of misunderstanding from all human intercourse, and from all possibility of expressing ourselves? What appeal can be made to people whose first instinct, on seeing a beautiful animal, full of joyousness and vitality, is to hunt or eat it? One can only marvel how such sheer, untempered barbarism has come down to us from the past.

         But the facts, though so terrible in their first impression, are capable of being more hopefully regarded; there is a consolatory, as well as a discomforting, way of interpreting them. For if these countrymen of ours are indeed savages (as who can doubt?), have we not at least reason to rejoice that, being savages, they in many ways conduct themselves so discreetly, and that, as far as their sense of relationship extends, they are so civil, so kindly, so law-abiding? Instead, therefore, of too loudly upbraiding them for hunting or eating their little brethren, the animals, ought we not, perhaps, to feel and express some gratitude to them that they do not hunt each other -- that they have not eaten us? Their self-restraint in many directions is, perhaps, quite as remarkable as their self-abandonment in others; and the mere fact of one's having lived for many years among savages is in itself a testimony to their good nature. looked at in this light, the trouble is not so much that they are in reality savage, as that they suppose themselves to be civilized; for it is from the false garb of civilization that the misapprehension has sprung.

         But, however that may be, they are, when the worst is said of them, a quaint and interesting people, and it is my earnest wish that, by the publication of this story, I may be the means of drawing to the habits of my fellow-islanders the closer attention of anthropologists. Surely, in an age when many wild tribes have been the subject of learned discourse and missionary enterprise, it is desirable that a race which has carried into the twentieth century the primitive customs which I have described should be critically and exhaustively studied. If such should indeed be the result of this book, I shall be more than compensated for whatever pain I may have felt in the writing of these strange but faithfully recorded experiences.

    Seventy Years Among Savages

    [Quoted from The Savour of Salt, a Henry Salt Anthology, edited by George Hendrick and Willene Hendrick, pages 18-24.]

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