Al-Qaeda, factory farming and the paradox of (in)visibility

I love this video on factory farming because it starts so innocently – the marketing person is taking full responsibility for the way consumers are tricked into thinking the way we produce food is ok, even quaint. But then trick number three turns the table and places the blame squarely on her audience, the consumer:

The video reminds we of a great article by Schoeneborn and Scherer (2012) about al-Qaeda, exploring invisibility in clandestine organizations. But because the targets in these two situations are very different, we get very different outcomes, using the same insight. With al-Qaeda, we are the target, so the extreme invisibility of its governance structure and operations, and the extreme visibility of its ‘products’ leads to a society of fear and insane military budgets. In factory farming, we are not the target. So the same invisibility of the governance and operations, and visibility of its ‘products’ leads to “willful ignorance” in the face of massive, systematic cruelty.

Why do I want to start a Riot?

The world is going to implode.

Either through climate change brought on by the burning of fossil fuels, or through civil unrest caused by social inequality and injustice. Or though some as yet unknown blunder created by the human race. Whatever the case, I’d say we have 50, maybe 100 years left. So, being a naive, middle class kid from the suburbs who was told she could do anything she wanted, I thought, I want to change the world.

First, I tried conscientious objection. I became a vegetarian and I eschewed the material in favor of the re-purposed and the second hand. I traveled around the world  to learn about other ways to live and made conscious choices in place of my previous blind faith. But, with the other 7 or so billion people in the world, that didn’t really make much of an impact.

So then I tried to change the system from within. I did my MBA and then consulted for non-profits about social entrepreneurship and venture philanthropy and other business ideas I thought might shake up the capitalist hegemony. But even that didn’t really do much. I’m still a vegetarian with a house full of ‘vintage charm’ and I’ve met a huge heapful of insightful and energetic people running really cool organizations (I’ll be blogging about them later) with tons of super-creative plans for how to make the world a better place. If only people would listen.

Which brings me to my next plan. I’m adding my voice to the cacophony of noise on the internet in the hopes of starting a riot. I figure if enough people start talking really loudly about making the world a better place, sharing everything we know and don’t know, that sooner or later people might start listening, and together we could write a new ending. My research is, after all, about the power of stories for social change…