Daily Archives: June 8, 2010

Mini-feline-ethics post: the power of life and death

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I haven’t yet got to my third post about feline ethics, which is going to be about power. But I just found out today that an article I thought was only in a print copy of Mouth Magazine is also published online by Disability Studies Quarterly.

I had gotten the article because someone claimed in response to a feline ethics post, that everyone who loved animals would agree that euthanasia is a good thing. And AnneC pointed out that this is not in fact the case, and that she (as I do) has serious problems with the overuse of euthanasia on cats. And I remembered this article. Unique in breaking the massive taboo against questioning pet euthanasia:

Disability Culture Meets Euthanasia Culture: Lessons From My Cat

The biggest power we have over cats is the power of life and death. Whether or not we swear we would never use it we still have it. It is not a crime to take a cat to the vet and have her killed because she was scratching the furniture, or because she is homeless. We have this power and cats know we have this power. Every animal knows that a bigger, stronger animal is a potential threat to their life. And this is just talking about uses of euthanasia that have nothing at all to do with terminal illness. I won’t go into everything I think, but suffice to say that I think in a better world euthanasia would not be used for trivial reasons ever, and would not be considered the first and best option (rather than, say, treatment and palliative care) the moment a cat is diagnosed with something scary. And there would be better pet insurance than currently exists, and there would be more research into feline pain management (very different from humans), assistive technology, and modifications to the home. And only then should euthanasia even be brought up as an option, if it has to be. We have too much power, we are too frequently persuaded to use it wrongly, and that we use it out of love and guilt doesn’t make the cat any more alive in the end. (And I’m as guilty as anyone else.)

Awkward questions about thinking.

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A few years ago, someone asked me what I had been thinking at a certain point in time, and nothing true that I said seemed to satisfy him.

I described what was happening at the time.

“But what were you thinking?”

“That is what I was thinking.”

“Really, what were you thinking?”

“Well I was uncomfortable with being touched…”

“That’s a feeling. What were you thinking?”

“The dark behind my eyelids. The sensation of pressure on my arms. The sound of rustling.”

And eventually I gave up and he was never satisfied.

The thing is, most of the time I’d give similar answers. As far as I’m concerned, processing sensory input, including emotional responses from inside my body, are part of thinking. They are the main part of my thinking, at that. Yes, I do have the kind of thoughts that everyone calls thinking, but not all the time. Not most of the time. Sometimes it pops up automatically and sometimes I push my way into it. That kind of thought takes work and work takes energy. Even locating touch as on my arm takes energy, but it takes less, especially if I’ve had time afterward to work it out.

So that’s yet another common assumption: That everyone uses that standard kind of thinking1. So much so that many people (including many people like me) decide that my predominant way of thinking isn’t thinking.


1 When I say standard thinking I mean a wide variety of kinds of thought. It doesn’t matter if it’s in words, pictures, abstract ideas, or what. And it’s not a matter of being “NT”. What makes it “standard” for these purposes is that it goes beyond taking in your environment in realtime. I’m sorry I couldn’t come up with a better term for it.