Friday, January 2, 2009

Until there are no beings whom we still define as “other”

Thomas Paine's Corner - January 2nd, 2009

Norm Phelps and Steve Best exchange thoughts on their differences concerning direct action and alliance politics in the animal liberation movement


Editors’ Note:

We include the following email and thoughtful exchanges between noted authors Norm Phelps and Steven Best in the hope that the yin-yang flow and point-counterpoint arguments might interest our readers and stimulate wider debate on these issues. Rather than pretend that controversial differences – such as over direct action and alliance politics – do not divide this broad “animal advocacy movement” into separate and conflicted zones, or, worse, suppress any mention of controversial debates in a way that brings the menacing chill of the Green Scare into our conference rooms, meeting halls, and mailing lists, as if differences had to be steamrolled by dogma, conformity, and bureaucracy. This dialogue shows how topics such as direct action, violence, and social revolution can be openly and intelligently broached without acrimony and recrimination, without defaming or fear of being demonized; in the spirit of friendship rather than under a cloud of fear, stereotyping, and objectifying judgment. The exchange began in late January, when Phelps sent an appreciative but critical response to Best’s tough but nonetheless positive review of Phelps’s recent book, The Longest Struggle: Animal Advocacy from Pythagoras to PETA in the last issue of The Journal for Critical Animal Studies. Despite Phelps’ intent that his missive be for private rather than public reading, Best was sufficiently impressed by the warmth, humanity, and intelligence of his new interlocutor to want to respond, engage in a lengthy dialogue and debate, and ultimately to publish the exchanges, and Phelps graciously agreed. Despite a mutual recognition that some of their core beliefs were incommensurable, clearly their similarities outweigh their differences, such as bond them in their unwavering commitment to animal liberation. But whether in agreement or disagreement, their dialogue unfolded in a context of mutual support, respect, and stimulation. With the exception of Phelps’ initial letter, these exchanges were edited (at the expense of existential flattening) to maintain focus on philosophical, political, and tactical issues, rather than on personal matters such as health, travel, and cats (as interesting as the cat conversations were!).

The entire article is here:

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