Open questions for Layla AbdelRahim

Ria’s questions for Layla AbdelRahim, Which Side Podcast

As one of the rare species Homo vegan anarchist primitivist, I want to state upfront that I have so much affinity with your perspective. The questions I pose here are to offer an opportunity for clarification and further discussion.

You say: “… what frustrates me in North America is the anthropocentricism. And the anthropocentricism spawns even, I would say even sometime animal rights and animal liberation circles, but not as much because these people are more sensitive towards the animals, but they’re kind of very binary and still a lot of the claims or the arguments made still have this anthropocentricism at its basis in the premises.” But then you also say, “… I crave for a more livable and compassionate wilderness…violence against animals…. how peaceful and wise and just and moral the wilderness is.” How are these descriptors not anthropocentric?

You say, “… actually at the root of it is a predatory system. And this predation is a choice that was maybe at a certain point in an ecological crisis, scavenging for dead cadavers was a necessity and was the right choice at that time for whatever group of people that suffered and took up that strategy, but usually you see that most animals who have been frugivores, gathering fruits, choosing the role as disseminators of seeds, like primates and birds and small mammals, most of them, when out of necessity they would take this choice of carnivory or scavenging, they would revert… and go back when the system becomes ecologically viable again, they revert back to that original choice they made. And so at a certain point when a group of humans decided not to revert and took it a step further, that’s when hunting began, and with hunting, in order to institutionalize it as a cultural choice, as a strategy, alienation became necessary, and then technologies of this alienation and murder became necessary, and the choice demanded that these technologies be developed. And the development of the technologies ensured that this choice then remains.” Could you say something similar of controlled fire?

“…unconscious decisions to participate in order not to perish, so we need to undo this whole anthropology of the human as a predator, and rewild both our knowledge and our relationships within our spaces…humans when they come into the forest they bring death and destruction.” What is human place in wilderness, and how much and where is human’s viable population?

“…before I could speak I already knew that it was wrong, like I could not hurt them, I should not eat them, my place is not to say I love you and then destroy you. I didn’t want it for myself and so I knew they did not want that for them.” I and others report similar early innate understandings. How does this individual, internal, intuition hold merit?

“I knew there was a big difference between the wolf hunting and the humans hunting.” If humans are omnivores, then what is this difference that makes hunting wrong for humans?

“ Humans could live in any climate, Are you saying that there is something special about humans that gives us the freedom to not be restricted by natural habitat limits that all other life have, that gives us the right to take the entire earth as our habitat? that’s why our physiology is considered to be omnivorous, it’s not because we’re supposed to be predators. But it’s that it gives us the possibility to adapt to scavenging when it is needed, and to still retain that cultural choice, that social contract that we have with the plants, to help disseminate the seeds and propagate life. So I don’t think it’s an issue of where humans have chosen to move. Movement is a principle of life. But its movement through chaos which means you adapt to other particles of life around you in a viable manner, you make your strategies according to the strategies devised by that system. If you see any one, and all the other organisms in the wilderness, when they see any one group overtaking others, they curb it, they curb that group because they need to keep that balance. And humans are now the epidemic that has not been curbed on time, and now threatens the viability of the planet.” Could it be that humans have become the epidemic because we have ‘overadapted’, we have developed a predatory nature that defeats nature’s attempts to curb us, we have developed technologies such as controlled fire, that have permitted us to overextend our habitat and overpopulate our species?

“So what does that mean? That doesn’t mean we need to annihilate humans. That doesn’t mean we need to ship them off to whatever things we think according to whatever narrative we heard that they should reside in. If humans make the decision to revert back, could we freely move back into relationship with our viable habitat? We should find a healthy way to rewild ourselves within the places in which we find ourselves now, which means that we start giving back spaces to the diversity of life. And seeding the place we have kind of conquered for ourselves as the crown of evolution…” Could this be a beginning to our reverting, with the end goal to be humans living as all animals in balance with earth’s ecosystems?

“Taking care of the forest concept doesn’t work. We really need to rewild those spaces and letting the animals take over, and us listening through empathy, adapting, learning how to give back to the spaces we have colonized and we have been only been extracting from It’s all about giving back. Mutualism.” What is the difference between taking care of the forest and rewilding those spaces?

“One of the evolutionary arguments that we cannot revert to say frugivory and gathering is that we’ve evolved to become this, and of course it doesn’t hold because evolution entails change, so there’s no reason for you not to change.” Why revert back to the original choice if evolution entails change?

“Yes, when you look at pre-industrial human societies that hunted, and again, not all of those societies hunted…” Where do you find evidence of pre-industrial humans who didn’t hunt, or who were frugivores?

“…but those that hunted, yes the effect was not visible right there, however it was that decision to hunt and kill that required the development of the technologies of murder, and of predation, and of alienation. And so if it required those technologies, the technologies then ensured that that choice becomes permanent, and because it’s not sustainable you always have to kill more.” So the seeds of humans living unsustainably were sewn with the advent of hunting? Could hunting have been one early human catalyst among many?

“And yes, I know there is a lot of debate, people say Well indigenous people have hunted, and so when you critique hunting it’s basically like an attack on indigenous people. Today, it’s not the indigenous people who are hunting, or when they hunt, they are still within the hierarchy of predation; they are still the prey, with very few outlets for participating in that predatory narrative and structure. So if we’re going to talk about the right to hunt because that was the evolutionary choice to which we have adapted and that’s it, like we can’t going anywhere else, we’re talking about mostly white people…” So do you believe that hunting is right as long as humans are also prey? What if our being prey is the act of our species being curbed as a natural way of keeping us living sustainably?

“So it’s not an attack on the victims in this narrative but it is a necessary understanding if we want to get out of this mess we need to understand what precipitated the situation to what we have today. and that decision to kill, and to normalize killing, and to alienate ourselves from the screams and the desire to live of those whom we kill, that precipitates this whole predatory situation with its hierarchy with everyone feeling that because I am being predated on then I have no other choice, or this is the normal way and I shall also predate on someone who’s weaker than me. And it’s both socially, but also in terms of what we eat.” How do you respond to the increasingly honed arguments that folks like Derrick Jensen and many anarcho-primitivists make that plants too have intelligence, suffer, feel pain, etc.? Is this why you define yourself as frugivore and not vegan?

 Thanks, and stay strong!


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