an ideal place to kill

Four days before the shooting, Patrick Purdy invited his half-brother Albert Gulart to his motel room, where they spent much of the evening drinking and cleaning and loading Purdy’s collection of guns. Conversation soon deviated to the familiar topic of killing people. In the past, the two of them had shared a desire to shoot policemen, even deciding on a bridge near Modesto as the ideal place to kill officers. That night, Purdy reportedly said, “Let’s do it,” to which Gulart replied, “You’re not ready.” They continued drinking, and awhile later, Purdy finally gave up on the idea, admitting, “Fuck it, they’re not worth it.” Investigators concluded that it was “probable” Gulart knew about his general plan and Purdy intended him to be his partner, due to his “guarded” account of that January 13th conversation, among other things, and he even admitted, “It’s kind of hard to talk about because somewhere in the future I would have went with him.”

When asked about Purdy’s suicide, Gulart claimed he killed himself “to get even with police, so they wouldn’t be able to punish him.” He also said suicide “takes all the guesswork out of it” because one doesn’t need to worry about when or whether to leave, the arrival of the police, or how many people were killed, then added: “You can concentrate more on doing it. You just fire away, and you hear it and that’s what happened. Basically, he knew what he was going to do.”

Denial and meat-eating

All of the following is from The Face On Your Plate by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson.  It’s a little long but interesting.

“Denial…is simply a specific psychic defense against an overwhelming reality. … Those who eat meat are in massive denial. … We deny an idea and then repress the feelings that accompany that idea. … The feelings that accompany eating another being are stronger – much stronger – than the accompanying thoughts. … If the idea of eating a sentient being is conscious, the feelings of disgust, of horror, of guilt, may lie beneath our consciousness; in other words, we may well remain unaware that we have such feelings. … We train children from a young age by providing them with picture books about idyllic farms where the humans live in harmony with the animals and where we do not even obliquely refer to eating them. … The children are trained to disassociate. They eat in a kind of trance of denial. …

“What should we call something we deliberately choose not to know about? And what do we call it when an entire society takes this path? Consider slaughterhouses. They are remote from our homes and remote from our awareness. The ‘family farm’ conveys an image of a good life for humans and other animals alike. I doubt such a place ever existed anywhere except the human imagination. After all, how ideal could a place be when its raison d'etre is to kill the occupants? And these occupants, the animals on the farm, did not choose to be there. …

“As long ago as 1906, Upton Sinclair in his novel The Jungle wrote this searing passage: 'The shriek was followed by another, louder and yet more agonizing, for once started upon that journey, the hog never came back. One by one the men hooked up the hogs and slit their throats. There was a line of hogs with squeals and lifebood ebbing away. Until at last each vanished into a huge vat of boiling water (some still alive). The hogs were so innocent. They came so very trustingly. They were so very human in their protests. They had done nothing to deserve it.’ …

“The kind of denial referred to above is the one we employ when it is in our interest, that is, when it leads to less guilt, less cognitive dissonance for us. We are concerned with our own suffering, not the animals’ suffering. Denial is a convenient overarching mechanism. But we employ other defenses as well: most simply, we just avoid thinking about something. This surely explains some of the unpopularity of the person who insists we pay attention. …

“When we see animals suffering, some people simply walk away. For others, the distancing mechanism is more psychological: they never connect the face on their plate with a single animal’s death. Food comes so disguised it often requires a conscious effort of the imagination to put the face back onto the meat. … When the underlying reality is particularly unpleasant, we minimize – numbing ourselves to the actual extent of the real story. We say, 'Things can’t possibly be as bad as people tell us,’ because we don’t want them to be that bad. This is a form of magical thinking, a way of shutting our eyes. …

“The classic psychological defense of 'splitting’ is another form of minimization. We can say that there are good farms and bad farms, and refuse to have anything to do with the latter. But it is still a defense mechanism, because we have split something in two that belongs as one: the animal who provides the food. Whether she comes from a good farm or a bad farm, her life is still taken from her long before she is ready. …

“Other times we use the awkward defense of 'reversal.’ Instead of concerning ourselves with the suffering of the animals, we claim that it is we who are the ones who suffer by having to keep these animals fed and safe. We act put upon. We become testy. We make fun of animal rights activists. Sometimes we even make fun of the animals themselves. Notoriously in the footage taken by the Humane Society of cruelty in slaughterhouses, we saw men mocking the animals they were torturing. … The psychology of such behavior is worth an entire book. It is odd, when you think about it, that some people may hurt animals or other people as a way of dealing with their own terror of being hurt, or as a means of running away from the feelings of responsibility and guilt.

“In severe cases we can even dissociate. I think of children who understandably do not want to recognize the animal on their plate as the animal they were playing with earlier in the day. … The psychologically healthy reaction of mourning the animal who was their friend is not encouraged by adults, primarily, I think, because it raises uncomfortable questions that are difficult for any adult to answer honestly. 'Dad, I thought you raised me to show compassion to those less unfortunate than we are, or for those who suffer?’ There is no good answer to this good-faith question. …

“You could argue over whether the denial is conscious, pre-conscious, or unconscious, or when it begins to shade into 'disguisal’ (a parallel to denial), as when we disguise what we eat either literally (in packaging) or with euphemisms – pork, bacon, or sausage, not pig; beef, steak or hamburger, not cow; mutton, not sheep; venison, not deer; veal, not calf; and perhaps most notoriously, pate de foie gras, not diseased goose liver. … Not only does industry profit [from denial], so do all the consumers who eat meat. It is in nobody’s interest to acknowledge the reality, the suffering, the horrible lives, and the savage deaths of the animals, except for the animals themselves and their few, but growing, number of advocates.

“In the past, some animal scientists have engaged in a kind of willed ignorance, falsely claiming that animals feel nothing. This position became increasingly less tenable as more research became available, but there were still the objections that what animals feel may well be beyond our understanding, and hence outside the realm of our possible empathy. Yet one need not know all the details of what another person suffers to know that they do suffer. More and more, people are giving animals the benefit of the doubt.  Could we not at least maintain that while they feel pain (perhaps even more keenly than we do), they do not reflect about the pain, and hence avoid the kind of suffering that comes from contemplation, self-awareness. or memory?  This is an unlikely source of comfort:  we need only observe how dogs avoid a person who has been unkind to them to recognize that the memory of pain is critical to their very survival. …

“It is only when the curtain of denial has been torn aside that we are free to make the choices each of us must make for ourselves. We must remove ourselves from whatever blind hides our vision, and look out at the horizon to face what we see there. We owe animals no less. We also owe ourselves no less, it turns out.”