Jatka: co smíme vidět?

Na světě existuje jen málo zaměstnání, které by vyvolávaly větší odpor, než práce na jatkách. Porážka zvířat, jejich naporcování a následné odeslání všech biologických materiálů předsdtavuje nechutnou, krvavou a obzvláště násilnou podívanou. Ochránci zvířat často používají citát Adorna: “Osvětim začíná tehdy, když se podíváme na jatka a pomyslíme si, že jsou to jen zvířata.” Jatka jsou tedy symbolickými koncentračními tábory a jejich zaměstnanci jsou v této metafoře bachaři, kteří stojí za každodenní smrtí milionů hospodářských zvířat v průmyslovém prostředí moderních továren na smrt.

Kniha Timothyho Pachirata, o které chci v tomto příspěvku mluvit především, vychází z etnografického výzkumu, který autor provedl v roce 2004 na jedněch z nějvětších jatek v Nebrasce, USA. Její název – Every Twelve Seconds – poukazuje na časový interval, ve kterém je každé jednotlivé zvíře na lince zabito. Jatka v jeho podání nejsou výjimečná, ale naopak přímo souvisí se širšími společenskými strukturami tzv. civilizované společnosti. Ta nadále existuje i díky nehumánním procesům, ale naučila se je skrývat prostřednictvím sofistikované ideologie moci, která jasně omezuje naše vnímání komplexních situací a problémů. Ze živého zvířete se tak stává pouhý produkt, z jeho zabití mechanický proces a z etického hlediska je důležitá pouze jeho nezávadnost pro konzumenty.

Hlavním teoretickým konceptem, se kterým Pachirat pracuje, je “politika toho, co vidíme” (politics of sight). Jsou to právě jatka, která ukrývají před zraky veřejnosti násilné praktiky, které jsou nezbytné pro její přežití (pro její zásobení masem). Pachirat parafrázuje známý výrok, připisovaný Paulu McCartneymu: “kdyby měly jatka skleněné zdi, všichni by přestali jíst maso.”  Skutečně by to ale stačilo? Jak z jeho vyprávění vyplývá, tak nikoliv. Z naší lokální zkušenosti přitom víme, proč je podobné tvzení problematické – vzpomeňme si na nedávné zabíjení kaprů v centrech měst.

V knize doprovázíme Timothy Pachirata na jeho cestě na jatka, sledujeme jeho “kariérní růst” v období přibližně půl roku, po které na jatkách vydržel pracovat. Pachirat začal pracovat jako obyčejný dělník, ale rychle se dostal na pozici kontrolora kvality, který měl za úkol dohlížet na dodržování hygienických standardů.

jatka

V konkrétním kontextu amerických jatek hrají roli následující faktory: a) jedná se o prekarizovanou práci, která je vyhledávána nelegálními imigranty, kteří často neumí anglicky; b) práce je extrémně fyzicky náročná – většina zaměstnanců nemá po celou pracovní dobu přemýšlet o etických problémech spojených se zabíjením zvířat; c) hygienická opatření konstatně upoutávají pozornost všech ke kvalitě výsledného produktu – kusu masa, vnitřností apod., zatímco samotný akt zabíjení, řezání, sekání a stahování se stává pouhým mechanickým pohybem; d) prostorové dělení jatek vede k tomu, že pouhých osm zaměstnanců spatří dobytek jako živé zvíře. Práce je přitom rozdělena mezi 121 různých úkonů, které z celých živých tvorů udělají maso, vnitřnosti, kůže atd. Speciálně přizpůsobené prostorové členění dává každému ze zaměstnanců tzv. prostoru pro zabíjení (killing floor) jen omezenou možnost spatřit další činnosti. Práce tak probíhá buď individuálně či v malém kolektivu a to pod velkým časovým tlakem.

Pachirat na vlastní zkušenosti s prací poukazuje na podmínky, které na jatkách panují. Časová a prostorová deprivace (většina zaměstnanců se nemůže pohnout ze svého pracovního místa) způsobuje to, že samotné zabíjení zvířat je minimalizováno na technický problém. Každý zaměstnanec musí být neustále ve střehu a dbát na plnění svých povinností, přičemž kontroloři kvality, mistři a dále ještě zaměstnanci hygieny se neustále po jatkách pohybují a za každé porušení pravidel napomínají – tento typ hierarchizace dobře známe i z českých montoven. Dělník v nich přestává být individuální jednotkou a stává se pouhou součástí řetězu, ve kterém není možné nejen přemýšlet, ale ani jít na záchod. Jejich práce je také extrémně nebezpečná,  většina dělníků operuje s noži či s dalšími ostrými nástroji. Další díl jejich pozornosti je věnován tomu, aby nikdo nebyl zraněn projíždějícím kusem těla, což je při všudypřítomné vlhosti prostředí obtížné (str. 123). Pokud k tomu připočteme i obrovský zápach a nízké teploty v některých částech jatek, tak podle Pachirata zaměstnanci nemají šanci rozjímat nad tím, . Toho si mimochodem můžete všimnout i v nedávno vysílané reality show Zlatá mládež kde právě silné smyslové vnímání aktérům nedovolovalo, aby se dostatečně soustředili na násilnosti, které se před jejich zrakem odehrávaly. Pachirat svou vlastní zkušenost glosuje následovně: “Na konci dne u jater číslo 2394 nebo u kopyta číslo 9576, už jen těžko záleží na tom, co je krájeno, sekáno, páleno, věšeno nebo stahováno: vše na čem záleží je to, že se den zase jednou chýlí ke konci […].” (str. 138)

 

Můžeme zaměstnance jatek přirovnat k bachařům v koncentračních táborech? Mohu konstatovat, že mne Pachiratova práce přesvědčila spíše o opaku – jejich situace, obzvláště pokud jde o nelegální imigranty, je složitá a práce existenční nutností. Ano, najdou se mezi nimi i tací, kteří zvířata zbytečně týrají, ale často je taková situace důsledkem toho, že časový limit na porážku je příliš krátký a každé zdržení znamená prodloužení pracovní doby pro všechny zaměstnance – dehumanizace výrobního procesu par excellance, tak jak ji známe i z dalších průmyslových odvětví.

Zaměstnanci sice zabíjení vykonávají, ale nejsou to jen oni sami, kdo maso konzumuje. Obrovské utrpení zvířat, které jak sám autor podotýká, nejsou porážena v souladu s hygienickými pravidly (např. podmínka omráčení před samotným usmrcením) je jedním z mnoha faktorů, které moderní jatka ustavují. Jatka jsou tak symbolem naprosté odcizenosti většinové společnosti jak od násilí nad zvířatech, tak i nad osudem méně šťastných jedinců. Jatka jsou často vzdálena prostorově (venkovské oblasti), sociálně (pracují v nich marginalizované vrstvy obyvatel) i ideologicky (předstíraná humánnost v kontrastu s brutalitou). Jejich fungování je interpertováno jako nezbytné, aniž by byla zpochybňována samotná podstata. Z českého prostředí je ideálním příkladem jeden z dílů Pekla na talíři. Timothy Pachirat také rozebírá lingvistickou vzdálenost, ve které se protínají eufemismy se surovou každodenní realitou, ve které se zaměstnanci operují.

Pachirat po vzoru Foucaulta propojuje jatka se schopností moderní společnosti ukrývat to, co je považováno za nepříjemné, rozrušující, nevhodné či násilné – jatka se dostávají na úroveň vězení, mentálních institucí či domovů důchodců. Moderní společnost, namísto aby utrpení a smrt (ale třeba i osamění) zmírňovala, dosahuje mistrovství v jejím ukrývání a bagatelizování prostřednictvím byrokratických mechanismů, jakými jsou například dodržování hygienických nařízení, jejichž dodržování automaticky znamená, že je vše přeci v pořádku.

Zatím nejvíce efektivním způsobem boje se ukazuje být neustálé odhalování toho, co se mimo pomyslný zrak společnosti děje. To ale samo o sobě nestačí, protože bez širší společenské transformace bude takové snažení sloužit k pouhým změnám byrokratických pravidel, aniž bychom byli skutečně schopní přehodnotit naše vlastní postoje k tomu, co je humánní. Můžeme sice zlepšit situaci některého zvířete v určitých podmínkách, ale ve finále nepřispějeme k zastavení krutých praktik, které přispívají k jeho vykořisťování. Často propíchaná a potetovaná těla aktivistů 269, kteří se na veřejnosti nechávají cejchovat, mohou pouze přispívat k další marginalizaci. Profesionální kampaně dalších organizací za práva zvířat zase mohou přispívat k vytvoření sofistikovaného marketingu, který se zaměřuje více na prodej veganských produktů, spíše než na řešení problému konzumace masa. Výkřikem “jsem vegan” nebo “veganství je sexy” na tričku sice budujeme naší individualitu, ale masožroutský zeitgeist je před námi v bezpečí! A nezapomínejme na samotný průmysl, který na produktech ze zvířat stojí – jejich prostředky jsou neomezené, mají většinovou podporu ve společnosti a za sebou velká marketingová oddělení, která rychle mění pravidla hry – umí využít etický apel, poukázat na kvalitu či na dobrý život svých zvířat.

Bez širší sociální teorie bude obtížné situaci na kterýchkoliv jatkách změnit. Společenské struktury a prostředí průmyslových velkochovů a smrti, jak ukazuje Timothy Pachirat, jsou propojené s dalšími problémy spojenými s modernitou. Zabíjení zvířat po milionech je možné stejně jako mučení vězňů na Guantánamo, stejně jako prekarizace dělníků v továrnách či jako odsouvání Romů z měst na vesnice. Princip je stejný – mocenské struktury odsouvají nepohodlné fenomény na okraj zájmu, zabývají se jejich technickými detaily v provedení a ignorují širší kontext svých rozhodnutí. Nutno konstatovat, že jim to zatím prochází.

Většinu informací z knihy Timothy Pachirat zmiňuje i v tomto videu.

Literatura

Pachirat, T. (2011). Every Twelve Seconds. New Haven, London: Yale University Press.

 

Advertisements

Public Space, Buildings, Ideologies, and Politics

 204187_big Si el pueblo no hace política, los políticos mandan

Portavoz

Link

I have just finished reading an interesting book, which is called Political Poloverejnosti [translates as Semi-public Politics]. It is, in its core, a case-study done by an anthropologist, which talks about the destruction of one old cultural center in Pilsen. Its main theme, however, is the clash between narratives and ideological perceptions of reality – old Bolshevik, new neoliberal, progressive and regressive, active and passive and many more. The book’s author, Petra Burzova, tries to uncover, how different groups of people perceive public space differently, and how they express their position by constructing their own personal narrative. I cannot go into the detail here, because author works with different theories and uses methods that are not familiar to me, so let me just point out a few points that struck me as a reader.

What came as the most surprising thing to me, is the author’s ability to connect seemingly unrelated things – political ideologies, narratives, buildings, public space, life experiences and so on. Questions that arose were, for example: What happens when we destroy a building which constitutes the public space? How its absence talks to us? Or, why do we connect revitalization of certain public space with its commercialization?

In the book, we learn about the motives of each one of the actors (politicians, architects, bureaucrats, activists). I liked the fact that the author does not exclude ordinary people. On the contrary, author’s notes on the reactions and emotions observed around the destroyed building open even more questions.

_mg_4145-kulturak2

One important thing I have learned is that city inhabitants care more about public space than about the city budget. This fact can be easily exploited by active groups that try to convince people to give them trust in reconstruction of certain public areas. It often leads to further commercialization of public space. Neoliberal discourse, as it seems, is the strongest one to be heard, and cities tend to listen to rich interest groups which promote investment. New shopping malls, supermarkets, and other commercial buildings appear everywhere. In many cases, people accept their passive role, and don’t intervene with interests. What happened in Pilsen was thus unprecedented. Activists were able to mobilize enough people to call for referendum, in which activists defeated developers. As a consequence, public debate remains open, while old ruins of the previously demolished cultural center haunt passers by.

In Olomouc, we used to have an old passenger airplane (!!!) parked near the city center. When it was sold to a private collector, it was an event for the whole city, people went to the streets and took photos, I witnessed that they talked about their memories connected to its location. The whole story was covered in-depth by the local media, including interviews with city representatives and new owner.

letadlo

 

What really scares me is that it is a common practice to exclude or ridicule narratives constructed by those people. Their own perceptions and histories are homogenized (often expressed as their abstract desires: They do/don’t want…) and expressed by active groups in order to support their claims. In the end, public debate is no longer public, because it does not take place in public or deals with public opinion. Read the last sentence one more. Citizens turn into a yes/no voters, without having a voice in the debate about the options. And that is an underlying problem in many other areas as well (I wrote about it before).

The Ultimate Stage of Empty Philosophy

download

Sometimes I’m surprised by the people around me. I attended Plzensky Barcamp last week, and it was amazing. People were showing their skills, talking about a bunch of stuff that interested them, and were really amazing in many other ways. Yet I felt the presence of despair.  The reason was that I could not reach out to them – their worlds were as separated as possible from mine. When thinking about it, I realized that it is the outcome of the never-ending process of specialization. We are driven by our careers so much we don’t even have time to build a common ground in our society. In this sense, it is difficult to believe that some kind of understanding is possible on a broader level. I attended a workshop where programmers were talking about building an application to create laws. They were convinced that it would work perfectly, without any mistakes or emotions. Yeah, let’s do it, I thought. What else can we replace? What will remain?

My friend told me that he bought a new camera for his wife. He was a little bit upset about it. Now, he said, we travel to take photos, not to enjoy our day. I totally know what he means. When something is not posted on the Internet, it practically does not exist. Our lives revolve around it. We are unprepared for a real social interaction without any technological involvement. I can see it myself. This is why I established a strategy for my own photo-video documentation. I delete everything every now and then. I don’t hesitate. The best moments will always be remembered, and fuck the rest.  Why shall I care?

Living should be effortless, unfocused, independent. I don’t get why someone believes that happiness is what is needed in our lives. I do not advocate disasters, deaths of family members or anything like that. But why the hell should I be happy? Happiness is like the ultimate weapon of discontent. You can still reach for more, still focus on a new goal. But why? I’m at home right now, I do not have an ordinary work, or purpose. And sometimes it makes me happy and sometimes unhappy. We are trapped here, our bodies are our prisons, we cannot escape. So why pretend that life is something more than this?


People, beautiful people,

Stop being assholes,

That’s the only thing that I know is right.

On the Paris Attack

As a dedicated observer of world events, I could not miss the opportunity to read, watch, and experience the recent massacre in Paris. But what should I make out of it? Should I feel hate or compassion? There are many questions that arise and for all those who engage in critical thinking, it is difficult to decide on their position with ease.

Once more, we have to think about who can gain and who is going to lose. But to be able to do this, we also have to understand the situation in a broader sense, not just as a separate event with no connection to current social problems.

Muslims in Europe are far from being a threat in terms of demographic. Economist brought us a chart representing the current percentage of Muslims in each one of the European countries. So there is no need for us to bother with the current immigration or populations, the problem is apparently somewhere else.

One of the common interpretation of Islam in the current culture says that it is not compatible with “our” values and culture. Critics usually claim that it is the Christian values we stand for here in Europe.  But this is extremely problematic, especially when lacking any particular definition of what they mean by these values. If we look at some of the typical manifestations of them, then the whole Europe should be anti-abortion, anti-homosexual, and highly conservative in terms of family, education, among others. But once more, when we actually look at the current value system, we can see that many of these values are long gone. What is the evidence that Muslims would not undergo the same liberal revolution after spending more time in Western Europe? And isn’t it already happening?

When we look at the extremely heterogeneous group of Muslims living in Europe, what do we see? I believe that many of them are cultural Muslims.  People, who are forced or decide to abandon their country, tend to idealize it, and feel even more connected to it than when they lived there. It would be relevant to actually get a real number of church attendees among the Muslims, to be really able to map their activity throughout Europe.

Unlike many self-proclaimed democrats, I believe that people are not illegal in principle, and all boundaries are principally artificial. This means we should work on destroying them by engaging in close dialogue between the cultures, without feeling superior to anyone. After all, we were just lucky to be born exactly where we are. Into a racist and capitalist world, in which we were taught that the white race is the best. Adding another label to immigrant – Muslim or terrorist – will not improve their image, and they are going to lose because of the attack.

But back to my initial question; who will gain? The answer is clear and I would like to invoke the so called P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act, which was approved by a US Congress and signed by George W. Bush on 26th of October 2001. Secret agencies, anti-terrorist programs, more police controls and routine checks. Both police and army are going to have its heyday. As well as doom prophets from the extreme right politics, especially Marine Le Pen. And once more, the irrationality of the system will manifest itself by answering murders by even more murders, teaching us to take vengeance instead of trying to understand the core of the problem – our illusion of European supremacy, which we see in our ability to buy and enslave people around the world with our capital.

On Moral Arguments and Why They (Almost) Never Work

I try to be active in public debate and openly question any given social assumptions, be it in front of my friends, family or students.

But almost every time I try to reason with someone, I fail to convince that person, even if I have won the argument (and I do, believe me!). One of the latest examples would be my exchange of emails with my friend, who claims to be a feminist. It went as follows. As a convinced vegan, I challenged her in her meat and milk consumption, which I ultimately claimed as the same form of oppression of the society, as was before applied to women. I also claimed that my understanding of Veganism is that it continues the struggle, which was started by feminism and other progressive liberal ideologies before. For that reason, I wrote to her, I could not accept that a true feminist would consume meat and dairy products. In her answer, she told me that I was wrong in the assumption that feminism and veganism are the same manifestations of a continuous social struggle. She refused to continue the debate with me, and was apparently offended by my suggestions.

But why did it happen? Did I commit an error in my chain of arguments? Or was it her inability to understand them? The answer to this rather difficult question was already provided by the field of moral psychology. The main problem was that I was not aware of how the moral judgment process is created.

Untitled

As you can see on the picture, we tend to first judge and only after they start ad hoc reasoning. This is also displayed in the following scheme which shows the discussion between person A and B. Person A deliberately uses his intuition, and then states his judgement about certain events. Only after, person A tries to reason and explain his previous judgments. Person B listens to the reasoning of person A, but uses the same chain – intuition, judgment and reasoning – to answer to the judgments person A had made. Where is the problem? Basically, it is in the fact that by reasoning, we never really appeal to another person’s rational thinking, but rather to his instincts. And this is why no logical argument can be used to effectively convince those, who do not share the same intuitive (or instinctive) judgments.

I suggest everyone who is more interested in the topic to read a book written by a psychologist David Haidt called The Righteous Mind – Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.

On the Irrational Rationality

In today’s discussion on Facebook, I realized what is the problem that has been puzzling me for a long time. It was the ability of people to analyze content in its full range, and not just take separated events to form one’s opinion. It was in the discussion about “Islamic culture” and its possible impact on the so called “European culture“. Once more the commenters engaged in the discussion about the dangers of the former, and its possible negative impact on the latter, despite the fact that both of them are highly abstract and metaphorical constructs. I felt unsettled once more, and thought hard how to convince them there is no such thing as an imminent threat of Islam in Czech republic or even Europe. But I was wrong to persuade them into a discussion that was based on a wide range of empirical evidence and historical and social facts. No, they would not listen. Instead, they posted links to a CNN video about the Sharia Law patrols in East London or started posting photos of armed children from Arab countries. These educated individuals were using a very limited information to support their claim that Europe should deny to provide immigrants from Islamic countries right to settle in.

Girls With Skateboards, Afghanistan

If I omit the fact that it is common to base an opinion on a social media hearsay, there is one big problem that can be potentially more dangerous. While every hoax, propaganda or just unreliable information can be finally reversed, it is the way of thinking that ultimately remains the same. The problem is that there is a strong tendency for our social values to be drawn from singular events. Instead of thinking about the events as a whole, it is easier to decide whether to support or not certain thing based on one piece of information. In our example with Islam, this means to take 9/11, Taliban, or attacks with acid, or Sharia Law, and extrapolate the evidence against all Muslims. Somehow we know that it would not apply to all one billion persons, but who cares?

Nazi Demonstration, Location Unknown

This ignorance-based reduction is now in its heyday, and media are serving it well by bringing as much separated events as possible without providing background information about the context in which they are happening. This means that we are constantly forced to take stances just by following the media, and in a seemingly random pattern. One day, viral video about China appears and everyone seems terrified that they will take us over. Then the cameras turn to Palestine. Then to North Africa, and so on ad infinitum. We are forced to make our opinion in the yes/no fashion about events we don’t understand so that it feels almost as a reality show. With the difference that this reality is real, and can have a very real consequences for someone, who happens to be on the losing side.

Society of Conflict?

We have passed the limit of nuclear weapons that can completely wipe us from the planet, yet we are still driven by the conflict paradigm with its only possible outcome being our utter destruction.

In my previous post, I wrote about the deep rooted conflict that is present in our society.  I have received some interesting comments and I would like to address this topic more seriously in my today’s post.

I stated that we are currently living in the era of deep conflict. One of the arguments against my perception of the current state of things was that every generation of thinkers probably thought the very same about their time. But what did I really mean by the conflict itself.

I assume that conflict is an ontological concept that projects itself differently and thus cannot be captured by mere observation of our reality. Conflict happens when we feel that our interests are being threatened or intervened by someone/something else. It can arise in the individual as well as the societal level, and they are inseparable one from another.

Conflicts are deeply rooted in our society, which leads me to think that our society could be denominated as conflicting in a matter that is unprecedented in the history. I list just a few manifestations of conflict that have direct impact on our everyday life.

1. Our political systems are designed to resolve social conflicts, but instead perpetuate it by calling for elections.
2. Economies compete (which is just another expression of conflict) with other economies, whose interests are often in direct juxtaposition to them.
3. And we all compete individually with others to get a better job, nicer hotel room, or whatever is believed necessary.

Conflict is inherent in our world view so much, we cannot even imagine living without it. Instead, we are still trapped in our perception of conflict as natural and inseparable from our nature. We reinterpret and reinvent categories of it, but do not think about the solutions. But what is the purpose of the science, if it does not have an ultimate aim in the resolution of the conflict itself or directly thinks that conflict can be even useful? This can be often read on many blogs or news articles, where a variety of “experts” claim that conflicts would benefit this or that side, while completely ignoring the destruction, unfairness, injustice, or other outcomes that are often considered rather as necessary collateral damage. This type of thinking is dangerous.

So let me state this; conflict is not natural and we should not think about it in this way. On the contrary, it is the cooperation we should take into account. It is important to stop thinking about conflict as if it was beneficial to someone, especially if it means destruction, exploitation or other type of harm on other animals.