Sunday, March 18, 2012

Values & Morals, Part 1

Unless you make a concerted effort to avoid television, radio and serious discussions you know that the discussion in the U.S. for the past few months has been dominated by the topics of morals, morality and values.  The majority of the talk has involved women’s behavior and the consequences thereof.  Most of this rhetoric has been coming from the Right, primarily due to the Republican presidential primaries and Rush Limbaugh.  These players have dominated the conversation. 

Unlike the political shows that I regularly watch and blogs that I regularly read, I want to talk about the values that I hold dear and my take on morals and morality.  Why?  Well a friend recently directed me to the latest post by George Lakoff, a linguist and professor whose work I greatly admire.  To check out the inspiration for this post, go here:

First a disclaimer:  these are my beliefs and are not a part of a tradition, codified ideology, religious doctrine or political party.  While as a self-described ecofeminist, my point of view is what I arrived at after evaluating my life experiences and the books that I have chosen to read.  I haven’t had any formal training, taken any women’s studies classes in college, nor undergone any sort of indoctrination process.  Feel free to identify with one from Column A, two from Column B or any distribution you want, including rejecting all of the following.  For the time being, at least, this is a relatively free country. 

In my formative years I attended the local Lutheran church.  In preparation for confirmation in the faith, I attended a 2 year long, weekly Bible study program with others my age.  Because of my affinity for animals, most likely from birth, I frequently questioned some of what is in the Bible.  Animal sacrifices bothered me immensely.  Additionally, the absence of women in the many lineages (a man begat this man, who begat that man and so on), I was disturbed by this omission of half of the human race’s participation in populating the world.  Where were the mothers?  Even at a very young age, it seemed to me that the chronicles recorded in the Bible were weighted heavily toward men.  The inequities visited upon women were apparent to me at a very early age, long before the second wave of feminism.  And, incidentally as a Lutheran, I was taught a distrust of and opposition to the Catholic Church, which remains with me to this day. 

Also at an early age I became interested in witches and witchcraft.  Maybe it was because I was an avid fan of the afternoon soap opera, Dark Shadows.  I certainly can attribute my fascination with vampires to that show and Barnabas Collins/Jonathan Frid.  I read whatever I could find on the Inquisition (conducted by the dreaded Catholic Church) and the persecution of so-called witches.  The primary targets of the Church were women, especially women who served as mid-wives and healers in their communities.  Most were widows with valuable property.  And, of course, many of them had cats.  When these women were found guilty of witchcraft, they were either burned alive at the stake or drowned.  Their cats faced the same fates because it was believed that the cats were the Devil who had transformed himself into a cat, which was most often a black cat.  Where do you think all of those myths about black cats actually came from?  Why are black cats singled out as bad luck?  Why do cats, in general, elicit such hatred even today?  The witch burnings also succeeded in destroying Women’s Wisdom, which many of these women possessed.  And, of course, their horrible deaths served as a way to keep women “in their place”, submissive, subjugated and compliant to men.  This is probably the beginning of my foreshadowing of my fate as well – I could envision a burning stake in my future. 

VALUE #1:  A woman is as much of a person as a man.  Women are as smart as men, women are as capable and competent as men. 

For the first 40 years of my life, I loved animals.  It wasn’t until my best friend and very first cat, Casey, died that I came to respect animals and their inherent worth.  My circle of compassion widened to include all living things.  I came across a quote that sums up my feelings better than I ever could.  The following was written by Henry Beston in his book The Outermost House:

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”

VALUE #2:  All living things – be they non-human animals or plants – have as much of a right to live and as much of a value as humans.  We, as humans, have no right to question their purpose for being.  They exist and therefore they have purpose and value.  Their lives, their very survival, are as important to them as ours are to each of us.

I don’t want to be misunderstood here.  I am talking about living things who exist, not fetuses who may or may not have the potential to be born alive.  I personally find it disgusting that there are those people who place a higher value on the potential life of a fetus than they do on living, breathing, already born children and women.  To ignore the health and well-being of a child, a woman or a non-human animal and dedicate one’s time, money and passion on a potential life is beyond cruel, it’s evil. 

VALUE #3:  Humans are part of, not apart from, the animal kingdom and the rest of Nature.

Do you remember the childhood game, animal/vegetable/mineral?  You would be given the name of something and have to determine which category it fell into.  Humans are neither a vegetable nor a mineral therefore, at least, in this scenario they are an animal.  Much of our behavior can be understood by a better understanding of the behavior of those non-human animals to whom we are most closely related – other mammals. 

I plan to make this an ongoing series of posts.  I’m going to sign off for today and try to get some things done around the house.  There are dishes to wash, laundry to do and litter boxes to scoop.  Wish me success in getting my To Do list for today completed.  Hopefully, I’ll also get my potato soup made as well.  I’ll end with the recipe, in the event you’re interested in giving this vegan version a try.


Russet potatoes – number depend on how much soup you want to make or the size of your stock pot
16 oz bag of frozen peas & carrots
Unsweetened soy milk
Smart Balance vegan margarine spread (equivalent to half a stick of butter)
Salt & pepper to taste

Peel & slice potatoes.  Put them in a steamer inside a stock pot.  Cook until tender.  Drain the water from the stock pot and transfer the potatoes into the stock pot.  Fill the pot with the unsweetened soy milk until the potatoes are nearly covered.  Add margarine and the frozen peas and carrots.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook on low until the peas and carrots are fully cooked, stirring frequently.  Note:  I have never tried freezing this.  It’s too yummy and gone in no time at all.


  1. Great post. I had read about the long connected history of women and cats, condemned as witches. I believe this has filtered down to modern society, so that it is ok to condemn a cat woman, but not necessarily a cat man. Nor do we condemn car collectors, like my neighbors down the block. This obsessive focus on women and cats as evil or damaged is quite strange and long seated in our society. Who was Bush's first defense secretary? How could I forget? The man who was abhorred by a statute that showed a women's breasts and he threw a coat over it. He too was infested with a belief cats are of the devil. It was said he was especially taken with calico cats, convinced they harbored the devil. My neighbors two houses down, Christians, I was told, hold the same beliefs about cats, that they house the devil. How strange such an illiterate and irrational belief could still have holds today, mainly in religious minds. I hold similar values as you hold. Our belief that we are different than the world around us, chosen (a product of religion) has held us back from enjoying life and solving world problems.

    1. I heard the same story about John Ashcroft. According to Snopes, it isn't true: But I firmly believe that the pure hatred a certain percentage of the population harbors against cats does date back to the days of the Inquisition & their association with so-called witches. People may fear dogs, but how often have you heard of people hating dogs? But, people who hate cats have no qualms about letting anyone know how they feel - especially those of us who love & respect cats. And I personally reject the "craxy cat lady" moniker. I consider myself a very sane, intelligent cat woman, as are you!

    2. Should have proofed that reply. It should read: especially TO those of us who love & respect cats. And it should be crazy not craxy.

  2. If we saw ourselves as a mammalian population, we might then believe the same wildlife management techniques we use (often unsuccessfully) would be beneficial to our own species.

    1. I could give you a list of men to neuter first. I do believe most suffer from testosterone poisoning anyway. Less violence, fewer wars & fewer babies. It would help resolve the "contraception issue" we're fighting over now.

  3. Hi Connie,

    I love this post! Years ago, I read a book by an ethicist, Peter Singer, called Animal Liberation. It made a huge impression on me, although I admit I'm still not a complete vegetarian. I see the book is still in print.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on ethics. I look forward to reading the next installment.

    1. Thanks, bb. Praise from you means a lot. Yes, Animal Liberation is one of the "bibles" of the animal rights movement. I've never gotten all the way through. The one that did it for me was Diet for a New America by John Robbins. He walked away from the Baskin-Robbins fortune. My favorite, however, is Rape of the Wild, It was one of the first ecofeminist books. If you can get your hands on a copy, I think you'll like it.

  4. So glad I clicked on your name over at SkyDancing, Connie, so that I could read this post. I rarely get into Blogger to check the feeds to which I'm subscribed, yours being one of them.

    I've had a deep affinity with animals and plants since I was a child - they made sense to me, humans did not. A dog never tried to be a cat, a rose never tried to be a gardenia, a mushroom was a mushroom was a mushroom. And they all have the right to exist irrespective of what humans might think. Even as a child, I understood this very deeply.

    Humans, disconnected from Nature/Earth, seem to have lost the knowledge of who they are. This separation was and is, in my opinion, the driving force of patriarchy - to keep humans from knowing who they are by severing the ties with Nature/Earth. I think this is especially true with respects to women - the war waged against us, our bodies and our intuitive selves, has been going on for millennia. I believe it because of the deep fear of female power - our creative bodies, our quicker brains, our adaptability to change - and firmly believe that women need to take our power back.

    I like cats, but am very allergic to them - I love their faces (especially their noses!), the way they move, their inquisitive natures. I will never understand the hatred that some people have for cats, but do agree that the belief that cats are the "devil" has a lot to do with it. That kind of ignorance still astonishes me.

    I haven't read Rape of the Wild, but will look for it. Thanks for the suggestion!

    Looking forward to reading more of your posts in this series and also catching up on your past posts. I did notice under "labels" that there are an awful lot of "C" and can't wait to "c" what that's all about!

    1. Delphyne, we're on the same page. In addition to Rape of the Wild, I highly recommend The Serpent & The Goddess. I firmly believe that patriarchy demonized Nature because the original Goddess worship was so closely connected to Nature. In order to demonize women, to exploit, rape & subjugate women, patriarchy had to do the same to Nature.

      Family tradition: everyone - parents, sibling, me & all the animals have names beginning with a C. I'm running out of names to use, so in my elder years I'm deliberately trying to not acquire more critters.

    2. I couldn't find an email link for you (I used Gmail when I blogged on Blogspot), so I'm sending this link to you about the pope and his comment:

    3. It's cagorl at bellsouth dot net. Thanks for the link.