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THE SUPREMACIST SYNDROME

HOW DOMINATION UNDERPINS SLAVERY, GENOCIDE, THE EXPLOITATION OF WOMEN, AND THE MALTREATMENT OF ANIMALS

A convincing case against supremacism in all of its cruel manifestations.

An animal rights advocate explores the connections between supremacist ideas and the mistreatment of animals.

With a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a long history of animal rights advocacy that includes previous writing that challenges the use of population-control killings in animal shelters, Marsh is well aware of humans’ violent tendencies. Here, he writes, “human history has been a continual story of supremacists slaughtering and enslaving people,” from Alexander the Great to the Rwandan genocide. These supremacist attitudes have laid the foundation for a “type of supremacism that encompasses all others” across cultural divides, which is the notion that humans are “superior to other animals and are entitled to take whatever we need or want from them.” In a novel, convincing argument, Marsh claims that the process of “moral disengagement” employed to justify the harsh treatment of animals is similar to reasoning used by supremacists throughout history to justify genocide and oppression. Examining three case studies of historical supremacists, the first half of the book outlines the moral rationalizations used by the Nazis to murder Jews in Hungary, by King Leopold II and Belgian forces who essentially enslaved millions of Congolese under a system of mandatory labor, and by 19th-century British misogynists who opposed women’s fight for equality. Marsh analyzes the excuses used by these historic supremacists as well as the history of resistance. For example, in Nazi-controlled Europe, Raoul Wallenberg, Maximilian Kolbe, and others sacrificed their own lives to save Jews. In Britain, journalist E.D. Morel led a crusade that successfully pressured Leopold into giving up his personal claim to the Congo, and John Stuart Mill stood up to his colleagues in the British House of Commons when advocating on behalf of women’s rights.

Though this narrative leans heavily on White-male–savior tropes and doesn’t offer new insights into these well-traversed historical terrains, it provides an effective context for the book’s second, more intriguing, half, which connects supremacist attitudes to the maltreatment of animals. These chapters blend the research of social scientists—who, for instance, have found that individuals with racial or sexist prejudices are more likely to “condone the exploitation of animals”—with a philosophical and ethical case against the slaughter of animals. Particular attention is given to the brutality of factory farms and the intelligence and sensitivity of the animals bred and killed by people as products. The book’s climactic final chapter, “Overcoming Supremacism,” focuses on practical ways that readers can oppose all forms of supremacism that exist in the 21st century, from helping organizations that serve refugees to working with children’s educational programs that teach environmental and humane values. Backed by solid research and impressive endnotes, this is an erudite, well-written book bogged down only by its unnecessarily lengthy historical chapters whose deluge of pages distract from, rather than complement, the case for animal rights. However, accompanied by an ample assortment of photographs, maps, charts, and visual aids, the book is written in an engaging, accessible prose that makes an effective case against the “supremacist syndrome” that continues to distort human moral reasoning.

A convincing case against supremacism in all of its cruel manifestations.

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1590566251

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Lantern Publishing & Media

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2021

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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POVERTY, BY AMERICA

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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