After finishing four years of doctoral research in Bioethics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Robotics I thought the farming experience would reset all the core philosophies in my head, opening to a totally different perspective. However, farming is a human invention as AI and robotics. As natural sciences are not my expertise, it is easy to get surprised by ethnographic observation. For instance, this sense of hierarchy among cows and the fact that they have a female alpha, as once told me, Meibao, one of the farmers I talked to. They follow the leader (a female alpha), and most of the time, they naturally leave the privilege of eating their food if some other superior in the hierarchy wants the spot.
I am inviting you to read this with a certain suspicion, as Donna Haraway and others point that we carry our visions when observing this kind of environment. Although I am describing facts, the interpretation is optional.
Conclusions also need to be scrutinized. For example, a farmer told me that the chickens eat the worms from the dead body of their partner – the rooster -, and they don’t suffer for it. She said, “you see? we all need proteins”. It is difficult for us to predict if the chickens think, or suffer, or how they would ‘explain’ why they eat worms from that inanimate body. Moreover, we are a species different from chickens, and how they diet should not matter much.
People eat fish and cows and don’t necessarily copy their diet. Actually, if people copy the cow diet – instead of eating cows – it would helps the climate crisis (to mention only one reason to avoid meat). It is quite surprising that cows have a strong visual appeal as humans, but still, I would wait to examine the results with all details before endorsing the conclusions announced on that news.
In this farming experience, I also found out that males are the most likely to be eaten, as they are needed only as breeding males, and for that, one can do the job on a small farm. That made me speculate about the patriarchy raised on agricultural societies and how the males created for themselves relevant roles to survive the strength and laws of nature. It made me think about how they built a brotherhood based on gender empathy and started to create rules and enforce them in systems of authority.
That said, in my studies about “sex robots”, the discussion about gender and power relations its inevitable. In that studies, I also encountered broader questions related to enslavement, race, work relations, and human objectification (and not only the woman objetification).
Nigerian professor at American universities, Louis Chude-Sokei, stressed in his book “The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics” that the comfort of the slave is to have its own slave.
That would include those who feel suppressed by the hierarchical systems when expressing power over others, enhancing the reward sensations, and compensating for the hidden frustrations revolving around the limbic system.
In the academic world, the problem of authority needs to be discussed. Recently I witness a woman in a situation of power (a professor) denying to recognize the merits and qualities of another woman (student), and instead, questioning her capacity to following the methodological procedures when the results of the work were evident. Also, another story I witness, a man in a situation of power, even from ‘target’ groups as ‘black’ and ‘gay’, showed to be seduced by the authority of questioning a woman capacity when that represents conforming with others in a position of authority. I’ve seen a professor committed with inclusion and social justice to say for a woman in a situation of vulnerability “you are full of shit” because he wanted to reinforce the system that was employing him, and excluding her.
Basically, I asked myself, “how can someone claim to be on the social justice side without showing empathy from someone from a target group and in such a vulnerable situation?” That might sound too dramatic for those who never have to face injustice, but those people are like soldiers of authority killing whoever the system does not care about.
Attacking, instead of discussing the contents of critics, is always a desperate way to force a vision of a narrative that wants to prevail over the oppressed. There are too many examples like this that could fill pages and make this text too long.
As an activist since a young age, I’ve been looking for answers to why workers that are engaged in Unions, and all those people who have been clearly left aside from full rights because of race, gender, or sexual orientation, compromise with structures of power, often replicating strong bias as xenophobia also showing implicit bias of conservative visions against hybrid profiles (artists, “rebels,” all those that don’t fit/conform with the major structures).
The fact is that most of the time, people act superficially when they want to be included in the same ‘authority game’ instead of recognizing that they suffer prejudice because the system needs to be questioned and changed from within. It is needed to examine the core and the roots of it.
The first ‘device’ that reinforces power structures is patriarchy as a concept. The old ‘media’ strategies that spread the patriarchy concept I see on monotheist religions. Often their ‘sacred’ books don’t picture women as independent agents of their own life. Women must have a label attached to a function, or if not ‘useful’ to some purpose, they are candidates to eternal disgrace. The archetype of the ‘wild woman’ is dead with ‘pagan’ beliefs.
Back to Sokei, the machine comforts the slave, and we can make an analogy, as the worker (almost) enslaved have a machine to control. Would that control works as a ‘cognitive capitalism’ that makes everyone want to control others?
Fact is, everyone, poor or rich, black, yellow, red, brown or white, male, female, transgender, is suppressed by the system because the machine is everywhere. But it is understandable why people that is born under certain privileges are in defense of authorities, even if sometimes they are not in the best position in the ‘game of power.’ Internally or unconsciously, they believe that the game is led by their ‘own kind’ and should serve them somehow. That is, it potentially can give them the same privileges as others (“the winners”), somewhere in the future.
But what about ‘the others’? Considered the “loosers”, the ones who lost their territories (indigenous populations), the agency of their own lives (all enslaved bodies target by the color of the skin and their gender), why do they conform to this power, why do they play the authority on others that suffer similar discomfort with prejudice, why do they doubt other merits, why they don’t care about being a part of injustice, why the ones committed to inclusion don’t care enough about the ‘bare life?’
I guess it is partly ignorance (and the benefits of ignorance), partly the benefits of ‘not care,’ that is, the benefits of blocking empathy. They partly don’t question authority because it is more comfortable to conform with the ‘status quo’ than questioning it.
Criticizing racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, and so on, it is easy. It is also easy to make it a battlefield where groups claim the authority to themselves, instead of question authority itself, by understanding its roots and recognizing its impacts and consequences. They remain in the surface of the ‘comfort zone’, ignoring that ‘authority’ does not go along with social justice, equality and equity.
That results in some people questioning authority being aggressively authoritarian (I will not point examples this time as they must be carefully explained).
Finally, the authority of knowledge which is a reflex of structures and relations of power, perpetuates in education when standards are used to exclude/overwhelm people when it is convenient. When in specific occasions, those structures might be questioned most of the time as they often represent particular views of what should be the standard. And the standards often represent the ideology of the majority group holding the power (the white males ideology of the Enlightenment). When someone comes with the invitation to discuss the ‘whys’ of those standards and why they can’t be fair as some people will never fit and still we need that diversity, then it hurts authority and causes discomforts on the system. And I realize that most of the scholars are not really prepared to understand the need of dissonance and to advocate in favor of diversity of views in knowledge.
Systems of authority, as on an education based on behaviorism, feel uncomfortable with everything out of the ‘standards as it is out of the range of control. Although many scholars knew those problems, they still play the authority when choosing who to protect and who they don’t care about leaving behind, and/or letting them suffer from prejudice/injustice. They might even think, for a moment, with the same head of their oppressor. In most cases, it is nothing about merits but filling the standards or being recognized on some labels, some ‘positive,’ some ‘negative’. All labels could be summarized as “potentiality to success” or a “no future” (looser).
When all this subjectivity of intentions, desires, judgments transformed into the authority that some people hold in academia, what else would reinforce injustice? Computational systems, for sure. For difficult decisions, metrics and statistics can calculate who is worth investing, who is not. Who will cost more to the system, and who will cost less.
Again, education is not giving the example of what it means to have an ethical responsibility in society. Still, it is replicating the policy of all institutions guided by financial matters as big corporations that only care about profits and not about the people. If society is what gives sense of all this, people and everyone well being should matters first. Society is made of individuals, therefore the well being of each individual, also matters. When a representative in a situation of power of a big educational institution declares that the university does not work according the needs of individuals this person is putting the structure above lives. That is, the authority above what really matters.
Pingback: Bare Life – Sereia Lab Sereianestesia Sereia Psinoe Seiren