Better never to have been

“… to yank a soul out of nonexistence into this thresher.”’

-A description of childbirth by True Detective character Rustin Cohle


“I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed– and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors– and they have no comforter. And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. But better than both is the one who has never been born, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.” – Ecclesiastes


“He weaves, and is clothed with derision;
Sows, and shall not reap;
His life is a watch or a vision
Between a sleep and a sleep.”

-Charles Swinburne: A Chorus from Atalanta in Calydon


The optimist’s impatience with or condemnation of pessimism often has a smug macho tone to it (although males have no monopoly of it). There is a scorn for the perceived weakness of the pessimist who should instead ‘grin and bear it’. This view is defective for the same reason that macho views about other kinds of suffering are defective. It is an indifference to or inappropriate denial of suffering, whether one’s own or that of others. The injunction to ‘look on the bright side’ should be greeted with a large dose of both scepticism and cynicism. To insist that the bright side is always the right side is to put ideology before the evidence. Every cloud, to change metaphors, may have a silver lining, but it may very often be the cloud rather than the lining on which one should focus if one is to avoid being drenched by self-deception. Cheery optimists have a much less realistic view of themselves than do those who are depressed.”

– David Benatar, Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence

[Note: I am interested in Benatar’s views on antinatalism and don’t necessarily ascribe to his political, anti- Fallist views]


This post is admittedly a tangle of ideas. And probably pointless:  an attempt to unpick an impossible knot. (Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”). I have also thrown a few different thoughts together – misotheism, dystheism and antinatalism – unsure if they will coalesce – but fairly convinced I will make no friends venturing into such gloomy territory. We’ll see what happens.


Some inchoate thoughts on misotheism, dystheism and antinatalism

“There are millions of wretched lives. Some know that their baby will be among the unfortunate. Nobody knows, however, that their baby will be one of the allegedly lucky few. Great suffering could await any person that is brought into existence. Even the most privileged people could give birth to a child that will suffer unbearably, be raped, assaulted, or be murdered brutally. The optimist surely bears the burden of justifying this procreational Russian roulette. Given that there are no real advantages over never existing for those who are brought into existence, it is hard to see how the significant risk of serious harm could be justified. If we count not only the unusually severe harms that anybody could endure, but also the quite routine ones of ordinary human life, then we find that matters are still worse for cheery procreators. It shows that they play Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun—aimed, of course, not at their own heads, but at those of their future offspring.” – David Benatar, Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence


There’s a useful introduction  to misotheism at Patheos¹:

“misotheists represent a far darker, tormented, and deeply subversive strain of God-thinking. And it is a tradition of religious non-conformism that has remained largely in the shadows—until, that is, I decided to shine the spotlight on it in Bernard Schweizer’s  “Hating God: The Untold Story of Misotheism.” 

The writer looks at different types of misotheists: the agonistic and absolute misotheists. Absolute misotheists are typically ‘the enemies of God’ who “seek to “kill” God, if only through the power of human imagination and with the weapon of the pen.

“Then there is the agonistic misotheist who, “… like a jilted lover… is gravely disappointed by the object of his worship but still hopes that the fault might be on his side and that the relationship could be set on a new footing. The agonistic misotheist is, figuratively speaking, “agonizing” over his hatred of God, trying to invent excuses for God’s bad behavior yet circling back again and again to the frustrating understanding that God just is not what he is cracked up to be. Some great literature has come out of this struggle with the hatred of God: Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Elie Wiesel’s The Trial of God, or Rebecca West’s The Return of the Soldier are overshadowed by this dark, tormenting struggle with the realization that God is (probably) evil.”

(I would add to this list the fictional character Ivan in the Brothers Karamazov.)

But this post is not really about misotheism per se, nor is it particularly about my reflections on antinatalism – although for me both misotheism and antinatalism are related issues, and both have suffering at their centre. This post is more about the intersect and overlap between the two. I will leave more thorough analysis to the experts.

I need to say right up front that for most misotheists and antinatalists, it is not primarily their own suffering which leads to what many consider their extremely dark meditations. rather it is their anger at the suffering of the world and – in the case of the agonistic misotheist – their anger at a god who created such a world which preoccupies their thoughts.


I am just a man, observing the turning blades of the thresher.

Wondering about the indiscriminate destruction.

Like all creatures, I too am at the mercy of it’s blades. All creatures suffer and die: self-evident in the observation, existentially inconscionable.


From what I have read I conclude that the antinatalist isn’t particularly concerned about the existence or role of God in all this  – his position is ethical rather than theological. As one antinatalist at Reddit put it,

The observations that lead to an antinatalist perspective – namely that the world is full of pointless suffering – are the same ones which demonstrate the impossibility of a benevolent, omnipotent, intercessionary deity. I think antinatalism could be compatible with deism and Buddhism (contraceptive use in Thailand was promoted on Buddhist grounds of reducing suffering), but I suspect most of us are atheists.”

If you think these views obscure or aberrant, you might be surprised to find that this strand of thought can be found in literature, philosophy and religious thinking throughout the millennia and in many different cultures – but usually as a kind of shadowy undercurrent.

It is important to stress too that while most people consider misotheism and antinatalism pessimistic, they are both, in their way, deeply compassionate world views. You could argue that they have an excess of empathy as they wrestle with the theme of suffering. The antinatalist values life so deeply he cannot accept the suffering which living creatures must endure. He does not seek to end existent life (although euthanasia, suicide and assisted suicide in situations of extreme suffering would undoubtedly be condoned as acts of mercy) –  only to avoid the evil infinity of procreation and birth which perpetuate suffering. (A psychologist on the radio the other day made the point that having children reflects our desire for immortality: we perish, but our genetic material continues into an indefinite future. There may be something of us hundreds of thousands of years from now – if we do not destroy all life on our planet before hand).


The misotheist is outraged by the state of affairs, so much so that he will not settle for a smug, self-contented atheism but rather wrestle with a God he judges to be at very least incompetent, and probably unfathomably cruel.

The 4th chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes

“So I congratulated the dead who are already dead
more than the living who are still living.
But better off than both of them is the one who has never existed,
who has never seen the evil activity that is done under the sun.
I have seen that every labor and every skill
which is done is the result of rivalry between a man and his neighbor.
This too is vanity and striving after wind.…

“… better off than both of them is the one who has never existed, who has never seen the evil activity that is done under the sun.” is pretty much the position that the antinatalist uses as a point of departure, and it is on this point – “the evil … that is done under the sun” – where the agonistic misotheist contends with God. Wikipedia puts it thus:

“Not to exist”, Mὴ φῦναι, is the best that can meet a man. This conviction was given expression by Sophocles in his great lamentation about life, in the… chorus of Oedipus at Colonus: “Not to be born, O man, is the highest, the greatest word. But if you have seen the light of day, then consider it best to depart as quickly as possible to whence you came. It was not Sophocles, however, who invented the idea, “not to exist”, and he was not the only one to voice it; the elegiac poets—such as Theognis—expatiated on it no less than the tragedians. Tradition placed the thought already in the mouth of Homer; in response to the question, What is best for man?, he is reputed to have said: “It is best not to be born or, failing that, it is best to pass as soon as possible through the gates of Hades.”

A sick dog

As I write, I have a sick wirehair fox-terrier beside me. Inevitably I think about suffering: why he is suffering, his experience of this moment of pain. And it’s a quick leap from this meditation to contemplating broader issues of suffering in the world.

A melodramatic leap perhaps.

Or empathy?”

Another thought on cruelty: Nietzsche and the horse

“But then on January 3, 1889, everything unraveled. While in an open air market in Turin, Nietzsche witnessed a merchant flogging a horse. He ran to the animal and yelled for the beating to stop. He threw himself between beast and whip, and hugged the equine’s thick neck. This frail and sickly philosopher who gave us the Übermensch and slave morality, then collapsed, weeping.

I understand why Nietzsche hugged the horse’s head.  Life is hard. It is not fair. It is filled with rapturous beautiful moments and it all ends much, much too quickly. When we look around and see so many people who are unnecessarily cruel, or mindless, or oblivious to inequities; when see our brothers and neighbors exhaling their numbered breaths in ways that add to the pain or take from the sympathy, we see a world that is, in fact, more absurd and nihilistic than anything the philosopher wrote or said or thought.  To see these mindless cruelties playout before him was simply too much for the philosopher to bear; especially when the remedy, the antidote – even our purpose for being here – is so very clear.–“Hugging the Horse’s Head: the persistence of kindness” by John Sean Doyle.|

Better never to have been

The little bird thrown from it’s nest in a storm.

Or one of those strangely cold statistics one stumbles upon in cyberspace:

“Within the first two to four months of the bombings, the acute effects of the atomic bombings killed 90,000–146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,00080,000 in Nagasaki; roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day.”

A cold fact written in the absence of God, about souls thrown into the blades of the thresher.

Victims of poverty, war and disease, of cruelty.

I remember as a boy watching schoolmates roasting live earthworms above a fire just to delight in the creatures’ agony on hot spades. And other boys cutting termites in two to see how long they took to die, laughing at this exquisite little torture session.

Early on, I came to a certain wariness of people, though wished them no harm.

The distress of a cow witnessing her calf slaughtered for some indifferent human’s evening meal.

Animals moaning as their fellow creatures are bludgeoned to death beside them in a makeshift slaughterhouse south of the city.

Seals clubbed to death in their thousands, simply because they represent a certain inconvenience.

As a teenager growing up in Apartheid South Africa, even in my sheltered suburban world, witnessing petty cruelties towards black people. The enthusiasm of white people for hurting black people in word, deed, thought.

Words, of course, were particularly useful in this regard.

Later I came to understand the depth of the cruelty of Apartheid, and wonder how my people could be comfortably, indifferently complicit in such evil. How my silence was complicity: my liberal opinions remained just that, an expression of anger at wrong, with little to show for it. An occasional, ineffectual, blundering ‘good samaritan’, of an interloper race.

Post ’94 South Africa, as the pigs metamorphise into farmers so to speak, the cycle of evil repeats itself. George Orwell understood the human condition rather well.

I wonder how the world over, for this cause or that reason, how people can be complicit in evil; and then again, it appears almost inevitable: how easily victims become perpetrators.

I have suffered; now it is your turn.”

The hidden horror of factory farms and animal experimentation “labs”.

“My pain counts, and yours doesn’t. I will disavow yours. Disavow you.”

The untold number of torture centres around the world, throughout history.



The demonization of people for this or that reason (and there’s always a reason).

The sound of a tree felled in a forest.

An old man struggling up a hill with a heavy load, and no-one helps.

A child who lives on a rubbish dump pulls a broken toy from the refuse.

The calf of a rhino watches it’s parents butchered by poachers.

A butterfly crushed under foot.

Small acts of cruelty, and acts as big as the horrors of war.

This is the world we are thrown into.

This is the world God allowed to happen, the world God foresaw.

The soul is yanked out of non-existence into the thresher.


In Buddhism, Samsara is at the centre of the Buddha’s teaching. In Christianity – no matter what the dominionist, heretical health and wealth Faith teachers will have us believe – one of the defining motifs of Christianity is the Cross (the other of course is the empty tomb) – the first a device of excruciating torture. The Faith teachers with their tawdry eisogesis will strain scripture to (mis)inform you that Christ’s propitionary sacrifice means he suffered so we can live as “Kings kids”- in effect to live as the most self-serving and narcissistic capitalists in the midst of a suffering world. Not quite what Jesus had in mind for his church methinks.

Suffering is central to the world’s religions and certainly to any philosophy which claims to be more than superficial motivational claptrap.

The dog is clearly in pain: he trembles in my arms.

In my mind are endless connections to stories of pain, images – of vivisection, of Pinochet’s torture chambers, the concentration camps and Nazi medical experiments. The devastation of war and disaster. Images – and endless statistics of suffering amongst men and beasts.

To live is to suffer.

M dog beside me: on the radio reports of a chemical attack on civilians in Syria which killed scores of women and children. A report of a pregnant woman gang-raped somewhere near Johannesburg. Pregnant 11 and twelve year olds.


A digression

Susan Sontag in Regarding the pain of others (which should be read in full) writes,

“Being a spectator of calamities taking place in an–L/ other country is a quintessential modern experience, the cumulative offering by more than a century and a half’s worth of those professional, specialized tourists known as journalists. Wars are now also living room sights and sounds. Information about what is happening elsewhere, called “news,” features conflict and violence— “If it bleeds, it leads” runs the venerable guideline of tabloids and twentyfour-hour headline news shows—to which the response is compassion, or indignation, or titil-lation, or approval, as each misery heaves into view. How to respond to the steadily increasing flow of information about the agonies of war was already an issue in the late nineteenth century.”


“PARKED IN FRONT of the little screens—television, computer, palmtop—we can surf to images and brief reports of disasters throughout the world. It seems as if there is a greater quantity of such news than before. This is probably an illusion. It’s just that the spread of news is “everywhere.” And some people’s sufferings have a lot more intrinsic interest to an audience (given that suffering must be acknowledged as having an audience) than the sufferings of others. That news about war is now disseminated worldwide does not mean mat the capacity to mink about the suffering of people far away is significantly larger. In a modern life – a life in which there is superfluity of things to which we are invited to pay attention—it seems normal to turn away from images that simply make us feel bad.”


To shudder at Goltzius’s rendering, in his etching The Dragon Devouring the Companions of Cadmus (1588), of a man’s face being chewed off his head is very different from shuddering at a photograph of a First World War veteran whose face has been shot away. One horror has its place in a complex subject—figures in a landscape – that displays the artist’s skill of eye and hand. The other is a camera’s record, from very near, of a real person’s unspeakably awful mutilation; that and nothing else. An invented horror can be quite overwhelming. (I, for one, find it difficult to look at Titian’s great painting of the flaying of Marsyas, or indeed at any picture of this subject.) But there is shame as well as shock in looking at the close-up of a real horror. Perhaps the only people with the right to look at images of suffering of this extreme order are those who could do something to alleviate it—say, the surgeons at the military hospital where the photograph was taken—or those who could learn from it. The rest of us are voyeurs, whether or not we mean to be. In each instance, the gruesome invites us to be either spectators or cowards, unable to look. Those with the stomach to look are playing a role authorized by many glorious depictions of suffering.”


For the Jews, procreation was a Divine command to be obeyed.

Saint Paul – the heretical Jew – taught that celibacy was a better way.

C.S. Lewis in ‘Surprised by Joy’ (or was it ‘A Grief Observed?’) said of his love for his wife, Joy, that in spite of the painful cancer from which she died, it was worth it to have shared their love: a contradiction of antinatalism?

The antinatalist goes where most fear to tread with his awkward and difficult questions.

The misotheist bangs at God’s door long after believers have turned in for the night and long after God had thought man would give up demanding answers.

This is the reality the misotheist insists upon.

Misotheism is exhausting. I confess that I am tired of questions. Tired of badgering God about suffering in the world, tired of Christianity’s inadequate answers. Tired of asking why He permits it.

Theologians assure us it’s all about freedom. But what freedom was there for the children of the chemical attack?

An old conundrum

“The existence of evil and suffering in our world seems to pose a serious challenge to belief in the existence of a perfect God. If God were all-knowing, it seems that God would know about all of the horrible things that happen in our world. If God were all-powerful, God would be able to do something about all of the evil and suffering. Furthermore, if God were morally perfect, then surely God would want to do something about it. And yet we find that our world is filled with countless instances of evil and suffering.  These facts about evil and suffering seem to conflict with the orthodox theist claim that there exists a perfectly good God. The challenged posed by this apparent conflict has come to be known as the problem of evil.”²

There are no answers to be found beyond the facile defenses believers make for their God’s ineffable silence. I am tired of well-rehearsed and bankrupt theodicies.

In light of the big issues of the world and world history – the genocides, pogroms, famines, plagues, floods, tsunamis, wars and natural disasters, is it ridiculous to be concerned about my dog’s illness?

Nikolai Berdyaev, described the cry of his dying cat as somehow containing the pain of the whole world. An existential intuition.

(A vivisectionist would no doubt disagree with the Russian philosopher’s empathy  – until he himself was exposed to the same torture as his animal victim.

Tolstoy observed that the russian peasants, familiar with hardship, were more resilient, loved life more than he who, a wealthy aristocrat, was melacholy and angst-ridden. Of course this may be seen in terms of a fin de siècle, Rousseauesque romanticization of the peasant, a sort of ‘rural naturalism’. (Indeed Tolstoy was influenced by Rousseau).


A related concept to misotheism is

dystheism (from the Ancient Greek: δύσ θεος “bad god”), the belief that a god is not wholly good, and is possibly evil.³

Our plumber recently returned from Mozambique. Planting maize he was bitten on the hand by a puff adder. His hand shows extensive ulceration from the snake venom.

Why did God create a world with poisonous snakes and spiders? Tsunamis and volcanoes? Deadly jellyfish? Plague and disease? Deformities of the kind that afflicted The Elephant Man? A world in which rape and child abuse are ubiquitous? In which death is the one certainty for all living creatures? God in his omniscience foresaw all this? And in his omnipotence allows it to continue unabated through the millennia?

Are we back to God working in mysterious ways?



References and notes




This view of God is also one in which we can experience the divine directly as the center of our very selves. We can take comfort in that when we do suffer, God is present with us.

Our plumber is from Mozambique. In his recent trip home he was bitten by a puff adder, his hand shows extensive damage from the snake bite.

And its really of little value to dwell too long on the abject, like those photojournalists who have covered genocides and famines Nd wars and Tsunamis.

But frankly, theodocies collapse about me like so many futile smokescreen s to defend the indefensible.

After years of going to God, to be met only with the same closed door, theodicy becomes something on the other side of disillusionment. What lies in the barren landscape beyond? Misotheism itself is an expression of pathological existential collapse.

Richard Lowell Rubenstein’s After Auschwitz takes this subject far beyond the platitudes sloshed about in Christian circles. Pushing through the sterile quagmire of conventional religious thought to “radical theological frontiers in Jewish thought:

Briefly, Wikipedia explains that, “In After Auschwitz, Rubenstein argued that the covenant had died. He did not mean he was now an atheist, nor that religion had to be discarded as irrelevant. However, he believed not in a transcendent God, but in God as the ground of being:

Terms like “ground” and “source” stand in contrast to the terms used for the transcendent biblical God of history who is known as a supreme king, a father, a creator, a judge, a maker. When he creates the world, he does so as do males, producing something external to himself. He remains essentially outside of and judges the creative processes he has initiated. As ground and source, God creates as does a mother, in and through her own very substance. As ground of being, God participates in all the joys and sorrows of the drama of creation which is, at the same time, the deepest expression of the divine life. God’s unchanging unitary life and that of the cosmos’ ever-changing, dynamic multiplicity ultimately reflect a single unitary reality.

But what does this even mean?

Rubenstein’s Death of God had profound implications for Christianity.

My post theology nach Auschwitz looks at some of the issue jewish thinkers grapple with, but in truth they are issues for us all.

Im not convinced that being alive is a better option than not being alive, but as the master of nihilism Cioran says suicide always comes too late.and anyway, he lived to a ripe old age, every year passed a millstone to his lack of conviction, a failure of will. Those who truly see the futility of it all don’t mess about pontificating and theorizing about death. They simply make their exit. They are the brave, called cowards by the rest of us who haven’t an ounce of their courage in facing the abyss. We choose rather our futility, our maya, sham, pretence and escapism, vacuous talk. Materialistic ambitions, vanity of vanities.

A rejection of antinatalism

“Note: If you flatly reject the concept of hypothetical consent, you have to condemn Good Samaritans for saving the lives of unconscious strangers.

I expect that anti-natalists will feel unfairly dismissed by my not-so-subtle arguments.  But I insist that my arguments are more than satisfactory.  Anti-natalism is so absurd that any valid argument in its favor is merely an indictment of one or more of its premises.

Mike Rulle writes: at

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s character, Ivan Karamazov, was of the belief that if no God exists, all is permitted. Dostoyevsky, in my opinion, believed this as well. I kind of believe it too—when I think really hard about it; it can bring fear. Although that is not my main point here.

Benatar is a Dostoyevskian style comedic clown. FD loved to create parodic characters who would spout the latest jargon but who were mere fools or poseurs. But even he did not have the imagination to create such a fool as Benatar (who would have provided great comic relief in “The Possessed”, for example).

It is also amusing that his field has a name, “Natalism”. Guys like Benatar are “anti-geniuses”—always breaking new ground.

At least Pol Pot had a cut off at age of 30.

Moore comments

Caplan starts from a fundamental misunderstanding of what antinatalism stands for. It is NOT about ending PRESENTLY EXISTING life, it’s about PREVENTING new life from being brought forth . Also, he vastly overstates how easy it is to commit suicide. In 2001, there were 400,000 emergency room visits for self-inflicted injury in the US. That same year, there were only 30,622 suicides (1 of 77 of all deaths). (Source: That should tell you how difficult it is to properly execute a suicide to its full intended extent, even if we go by the other stat that says there were 6 attempts for ever one success. Also, 1 in 77 deaths may make suicide uncommon, but hardly “incredibly rare”.

Also, suggestions of suicide contradict the commonly held assumption that suicide is selfish. I agree it is, given the anguish and resentment it causes family and friends; lasting for years if not the rest of their lives. If suffering prevention is the reason for antinatalism, then this is asking the antinatalist to be a hypocrite. It also suggests people should not give a damn about how their own desires affect others – especially the said family and friends. I doubt many of us in real life would try to stop an antinatalist from committing suicide, so I think this pseudo-advice is more sour grapes and petty personal distaste than anything else.

3) No, because that’s gambling with the well-being of other people (1 in 77 chance of hating life – the MINIMUM figure, of course the stats show I could give MUCH higher odds of such). We don’t accept a 1 in 77 chance of a common OTC drug causing adverse side effects. Ditto for those odds concerning a tire blowout on a vehicle. Yeah, it’s a small risk they’ll either have a bad life or otherwise profoundly disagree with either “the rules of the ‘game of life’” or human nature itself to the point they wish they were never born, but the 1 in 77 IS a significant one, given the gravity of the situation.\Regarding the last sentence I wrote above, that’s also akin having someone sign under duress a business contract (i.e. “to live”) whose terms (the rules of the game of life, if nothing else) they profoundly disagree with. The only way to get out of this contract early is through suicide, with all the difficulties mentioned above.

Re: Good Samaritans and unconscious strangers.
Irrelevant parallel. Unconscious strangers already exist. Therefore, they’ll experience further without aid. In fact, they want their suffering to stop. Also others (their fam. & friends) will suffer too. The potential existent cannot suffer if we don’t conceive them. Again, antinatalism is not about actively snuffing out presently existing life, it’s about preventing new life. Failure to grasp this is a failure to understand the basic of the antinatalist argument.

Antinatalism is not a matter of economics, it’s about ethics – totally independent of what benefit we ourselves get from having children.

Further remarks:

People in favor of antinatalism are usually in some way disappointed with life, especially their own life; for example, they had high ideals and find them to be incompatible with reality. Their own life experience therefore provides them with the prototype example of something they would never want to happen to someone else.

Conversely, we can say that the people who enjoy life, and look at antinatalism with incomprehension, evidently aren’t suffering severely, or else they would have more sympathy for it. They can claim to be a majority, and so therefore argue with the antinatalist that the risks involved in creating a life can’t be that bad, because most people put up with the results.

Here, the antinatalist may respond by drawing upon the absolute worst that existence has to offer a conscious being. Think of all the most horrible events that you personally know to have actually happened. In every case, if it really was real, there was a thinking feeling brain on the receiving end of that fiery inferno, or endless torture session, or whatever your examples of “the worst” encompass.

The antinatalist says: To justify life, to say that life is good, is to affirm these events. If you don’t create life, they can’t happen – at least, they can’t happen to new people, people that don’t already exist. If you allow the creation of life, then you are “part of the problem”, part of the reason why the worst that can happen, sometimes does happen.

Schopenhauer had a rebuttal ready, for people who think that pleasure and pain balance out. Consider, he said, the situation of two animals, one of which is eating the other. Does the satisfaction of the eater balance out the agony of the one being eaten?

I’ve read a clutch of thinkers in this vain: Schopenhauer, Cioran,

See also

“Some anti-natalist positions are founded on either a dislike of children or on the interests of adults who have greater freedom and resources if they do not have and rear children. My anti-natalist view is different. It arises, not from a dislike of children, but instead from a concern to avoid the suffering of potential children and the adults they would become, even if not having those children runs counter to the interests of those who would have them.”

no kindness, no mercy comes


“Why are you a vegetarian?”

Perhaps the question that should be asked is, “why do you eat animals?”

“In the U.S. alone, we kill more than 9 billion land animals every year for flesh and secretions we have no need to consume. Globally, nearly 60 billion animals are slaughtered every year. It is impossible to fathom such numbers. But one by one by one by one, in a never-ending, brutal stream, every second of every day animals are peering through the slats of transport trucks, feeling the last sunlight of their lives (which is very possibly also the first); one by one, every second of every day, entering the kill chute of the slaughterhouse and walking those final steps, defenseless and innocent; one by one looking up at the last human face they will ever see— and no kindness, no mercy comes.” – PETA

PETA is a good starting point for looking at the “animal industrial complex”¹ – the use of animals for food, fashion, medical experiments. It is of course a complex and often emotional topic, but certainly one which at very least demands more than indifference.

References and further reading:


The footage below is not graphic:
Saddest Slaughterhouse Footage Ever Shows No Blood Or Slaughter

PETA go undercover to provide inside view of ostrich abattoir

Horrific Slaughterhouse Footage: Cattle’s Heads Smashed In With Sledgehammers

PETA Reveals Extreme Cruelty at Kosher Slaughterhouses:

Ducks Kicked, Slammed Against Walls for Meat and Down

PETA is just the beginning; if you are interested in a more detailed analysis of ‘the problem with meat’, there is an excellent book by David A Nibert: Animal oppression and human violence: Domesecration(1), capitalism and Global conflict.

(David A. Nibert. New York: Columbia University Press, 2013. 352 pp., notes, index. $29.50 paper (ISBN 9780231151894); $89.50 cloth (ISBN 9780231151887).

A review by Taylor & Francis Online:

(1) “Animal Oppression & Human Violence, by David A. Nibert, is a provocative counterhistory of the domestication of nonhuman animals, the rise of capitalism, and the violent oppression of humans and other animals. The work challenges dominant narratives that characterize domestication as a feature of historical and contemporary human–animal relations celebrated for its role in the presumed success of human evolution and technological innovation. Nibert offers a different reading of this process, renaming it “domesecration” to highlight the violent role of domestication in colonizing not only the bodies and lives of other animals, but also indigenous peoples around the globe. Contemporary global injustice and inequality, he says, stem from this history of domesecration.

Animal Oppression & Human Violence is a profoundly important book and should be widely read and discussed. It is a book that easily transcends disciplinary boundaries and international borders and has relevance for a diverse set of scholars of social justice and inequality. Nibert urges us to confront the way oppression of, and violence against, humans and other species are intertwined as a critical step in working toward a more just and peaceful world. Thus, understanding and taking seriously multispecies violence should inform not only our intellectual projects of knowledge making, but also our political and ethical commitments in how we ought to live our lives in a multispecies world.

Half-tones of the soul’s consciousness

The feelings that hurt most, the emotions that sting most, are those that are absurd – The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.

Fernando Pessoa

War talk

Warspeak: Linguistic Collateral Damage

How does War Affect the Way we Speak?

By Dr. Robert Beard, PhD, Linguistics

“Any war is a war on words as well as on people. No one is proud of the effects of war however proud we might be of the intentions of our fighting forces. Whenever war breaks out, we begin to hear the words “newspeak,” “doublespeak,” “doublethink.”

In George Orwell’s 1984, newspeak is a political language designed to narrow the range of thinking among the citizenry to the point that they lack the terms to think for themselves. “Freedom” is defined as slavery and “slavery” as freedom. That should convince everyone to be happy slaves. It is not surprising that those who direct wars would want to narrow the thought of the nation behind them to thoughts of acceptance and support.

We might specify the newspeak of war, in the Orwellian tradition, as “warspeak.” Every war has its own vocabulary and not all of it is nefarious. The extensions of hair on the side of the face were named during the Civil War after General Ambrose Burnside, whose were particularly bushy. Later on, the order of the words was reversed to “sideburns.”

Until the Civil War, a bushwhacker was simply a backwoodsman but after that war, the word referred to ambushers. In a bit of delayed action, the nickname of Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson took on ominous implications during the Watergate Scandal, when it became the verb stonewall “to remain absolutely silent to all questions.”

World War II introduced a plethora of new words and phrases to our vocabulary. “Snafu,” “nose dive,” “blitz(krieg),” “storm troopers,” “Nazi,” are all words currently in common usage with meanings moving ever farther from the original (for instance, the “news blitz” or the “Soup Nazi” of TV’s Seinfeld show).

Because we were the “Allied” Powers and the enemy the “Axis” Powers, even today the connotations of the word “axis” are impossible to resist. President Bush’s “Axis of Evil” could never be replaced by “Evil Alliance,” even though it means pretty much the same thing. Of course, the biggest name change came in 1947 when the Department of War changed its name to the Department of Defense.

Perhaps the temperature of the Cold War is responsible for its vocabulary having little impact on contemporary speech. The words “red” and “pink” may never be the same and “pinko” can still raise the occasional eye-brow. But we don’t know what to do with left-overs that have nothing more to refer to, such as “Iron Curtain,” “subversives,” “Checkpoint Charlie,” the “Berlin Wall,” the “Red Menace,” and “commie rat fink.”

The Korean War brought us the “Dear John” letter and the notion of “brainwashing.” Our only explanation for the breakdowns of soldiers in that conflict was that the Koreans had a secret psychological weapon that ‘washed’ our soldiers’ brains of all their training. That allowed us to accept them back into our midst despite behavior that could have cost them dearly in previous wars. That war was also the origin of the MASH unit, the basis of the popular TV show of the same name.

No war has ever torn the US apart like the Vietnam War. This war gave us “grunt,” “body bag,” “friendly fire,” “frag” (killing of an officer by his own men), the “Domino Theory,” “body count,” “carpet bombing” (sounds a bit like something you might do in the living room, doesn’t it), and many others. Most of the Vietnamese era words are euphemisms, more drastically needed because of the unusually personal and vicious nature of that war.

The invasion of Cambodia was referred to as an “incursion” and the war itself was officially a “police action,” not actually a war, even though 2 million people died in it. (The president could declare a police action without congressional approval.) According to William Lutz, author of The New Doublespeak, the first Doublespeak Award went, in 1974, to a US Air Force colonel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for saying to American reporters, “You always write it’s bombing, bombing, bombing. It’s not bombing, it’s air support.” We never retreated in Vietnam but staged a “phased departure.”

New words for “kill” were especially prolific: “waste,” “blow away,” “smoke,” “eliminate assets” were all attempts to think of battlefields as less disturbing than they really are…

Words like “chick” and “doll” for women, maybe even “kid” for children, often originate in military jargon before being adopted by the general population. Terms like “assets” and “collateral damage” are simply extensions of this kind of slang. Notice these terms always point to something inanimate or otherwise less than human. No one wants to think about killing other human beings, even when it is ostensibly necessary.

We have particular difficulty with words for irregulars, people who fight without wearing uniforms that clearly identify them as the enemy. They were “guerrillas” or “terrorists” when they took control of the Nicaraguan government but the US-backed rebels who later attempted to overthrow the government in the same country were “contras” in the US press. The US commander in Iraq referred to them as “gangs of thugs” even though the US press uses the more neutral term “irregulars.” One country’s terrorists are another country’s freedom fighters.

Up until the Vietnamese war, the names of operations were secret until completed, as with “Operation Overlord,” the military name of the Normandy landing. Beginning with the first Gulf War (“Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm”), they are not only public but are created with marketing in mind. Doesn’t “Operation Enduring Freedom” have more appeal than “Operation Kill the Terrorists?” And calling the Iraqi war “Operation Iraqi Freedom” draws much more support than “Operation Dump the Iraqi Government” would ever have.

The Gulf War gave us “smart bombs,” “surgical strike” (sounds like a doctor healing the target rather than destroying it), “precision bombing” and “collateral damage.” (The question these terms raise is, if the bombing is so precise and surgical, how come there is collateral damage?)

Chemical and biological weapons have become “weapons of mass destruction” in the current war. That term focuses more on the terrifying results of those weapons than their contents. War correspondents are “embedded” in military units that assure them protection and provide an easy means of oversight. Reporters expect to get the “tick-tock” from the US military: a minute-by-minute schedule of what is happening and what is going to happen.

Of course, newspeak and double-think are not limited to times of war. Those who oppose abortion choose to call their political movement the “Right to Life” while the abortionists call theirs the “Right to Choose” movement, suggesting that both sides are “right,” right? When Republicans wanted to abolish the tax on inheritance, it suddenly became the “death tax.” And don’t forget all the corporate buzzwords such as “right-sizing,” “relayering,” “reengineering,”-all of which refer to firing people in a way that hides the weakness implied by the firings themselves. Peaceful everyday struggles also bring out newspeak; war only intensifies a normal proclivity, perhaps because the stakes are higher.

“Demonizing” the enemy is an important part of any struggle that seeks a willing coalition to back it. Referring to the enemy as “a regime,” part of an “axis,” or even “big-spending liberals” or “fat cats” is just lexical wordfire in some struggle between members of the species that possesses language. Just keep your head down and well-informed and warspeak will bounce off you like bullets off Superman.”


Merriam-Webster definition

Not reconciled to political, economic, or social change; also : holding stubbornly to a particular belief, view, place, or style.

“The reorganization and reestablishment of the seceded states in the Union after the American Civil War is referred to as the Reconstruction. The earliest known use of unreconstructed is by a writer for the Boston, Massachusetts, publication The Liberator, who in 1865 used it to describe Southerners who were not reconciled to the outcome of the War and the changes enacted during the Reconstruction. The word immediately caught on and has been used to refer to intransigent or dyed-in-the-wool partisans ever since. The word is also used outside of political and social contexts, as when a person is described as “an unreconstructed rocker” or “an unreconstructed romantic.”

The road towards a certain kind of madness

“The concept of ‘truth’ as something dependent upon facts largely outside human control has been one of the ways in which philosophy hitherto has inculcated the necessary element of humility. When this check upon pride is removed, a further step is taken along the road towards a certain kind of madness – the intoxication with power which invaded philosophy with Fichte, and to which modern men,  whether philosophers or not, are prone. I am persuaded that this intoxication is the greatest danger of out time, and that any philosophy which, however unintentionally, contributes to it is increasing the danger of vast social disaster.”

– Bertrand Russell

Why Believe the President?

Article by the editors of Commonweal: March 7, 2017

“Of all Donald Trump’s signature verbal tics—from “bigly” and “tremendous” to “sad!”—perhaps the most telling and ominous is the phrase “believe me,” which he uses as a kind of exclamation point. He likes it so much he often says it twice, as though he were afraid his audience might have missed it the first time.

Careful speakers are as sparing with the words “believe me” as careful writers are with exclamation points, and for the same reason: both are subject to the law of diminishing returns. People who say “believe me” a lot can’t help suggesting one of two things—that they have reason to worry we won’t believe them, or that we should just take their word for it and not ask too many questions. In the mouth of a politician, “believe me” always sounds either fishy or authoritarian.

In Trump’s mouth, it now sounds both. His growing reputation for mendacity has tainted his pet phrase with unintentional irony. Believe him? Why should we? Lies and half-truths were the fuel of Trump’s presidential campaign; shameless whoppers that would have destroyed a more conventional candidate ended up carrying him to the White House. Since taking the oath of office (with his hand on two Bibles—believe him!), Trump has kept up the torrent of untruthfulness.

His falsehoods are often pointless or trivial. They wouldn’t help him much even if most people believed him—and most people don’t. He has lied about the scale of his electoral victory, about the size of the crowd at his inauguration, about the murder rate, the unemployment rate, and other empirical facts available to anyone with access to Google. He has also made up, or passed along, nontrivial falsehoods, such as the claim that his phones were illegally wiretapped by President Obama.

This background of casual dishonesty is what makes the stories about Trump’s possible collusion with the Russian government so troubling. Trump insists there’s nothing to them, and for all we know, he’s right. It’s possible that the ongoing communication between Russian intelligence officials and members of Trump’s campaign, first reported in February by the New York Times, was all routine and above board. It’s possible it had nothing to do with Russian efforts to help Trump’s campaign by hurting Hillary Clinton’s. It’s also possible that if anything was not above board, Trump himself was not involved. But we can no longer take his word for it, and he should not ask us to.

This would be true even if Trump had a sterling reputation for truthfulness; it is especially true because he does not. Nor, for that matter, do the people with whom he has surrounded himself. His first national security advisor, Michael Flynn, had to resign after it was revealed that he had lied to the vice president and the FBI about the subject of his post-election conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States. A few weeks later the Washington Post reported that Jeff Sessions, the new attorney general and one of Trump’s earliest supporters, had misled Congress under oath when he insisted during his confirmation hearing that he “didn’t have communications with the Russians” before the election. It turned out that he, too, had spoken with the Russian ambassador—twice.

The day after that was revealed, Sessions announced he would recuse himself from any involvement with the FBI’s ongoing investigation into “matters that deal with the Trump campaign.” That was the very least he could do, but for Trump even that was too much. The president complained bitterly to his closest advisors about Sessions’s decision to step aside. And one can well understand his point of view: What was one more little fib when there had already been so many?

A man who routinelylies when nothingis at stake can be counted on to lie when everything is. If Trump’s campaign did collaborate with Russia’s interference in the presidential election, that would be an impeachable offense, as well as a criminal one. In that case, Trump would be in no hurry to come clean. The only way to find out what really happened is to let our intelligence agencies continue their investigations without interference from the White House. Once they’ve finished their work, they should report their findings not only to the House and Senate intelligence committees—whose Republican chairmen have already been enlisted by the Trump administration to do damage control—but also to an independent commission made up of nonpartisan experts rather than elected officials.

Such a commission might well end up exonerating the president and his campaign team. We should all hope so. But if it’s discovered that Trump’s people were in on the Russian attempt to compromise the election, congressional Republicans must treat Trump the same way they would treat a Democratic president in such a case. One thing is certain: if any Trump operatives were up to no good, we will never hear about it from our president. Believe us, that’s not his style.”



Read: The Liar’s Tale – a History of Falsehood by Jeremy Campbell