How to End Injustice Everywhere – Melanie Joy – Sentientism Ep:179

Find our Sentientist Conversation on the Sentientism YouTube here and on the Sentientism Podcast here.

Melanie Joy, PhD, is a Harvard-educated psychologist specializing in relationships, communication, and social transformation. She is the award-winning author of six books, including the new How to End Injustice Everywhere and the bestselling Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows and Getting Relationships Right: How to Build Resilience and Thrive in Life, Love, and Work. Melanie is also an internationally recognized speaker and trainer who’s presented her work in fifty countries across six continents.

Melanie is best known for her groundbreaking theories on the psychology of violence and nonviolence and building healthy relationships. Her analyses have helped explain why people engage in “nonrelational” behaviors—behaviors that harm other people, animals, the planet, and themselves—as well as how to change this pattern. Her work has been featured by media outlets around the world, including the New York Times, BBC, NPR, and ABC Australia. She is the eighth recipient of the Ahimsa Award—previously given to the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela—for her work on global nonviolence; and she also received both the Peter Singer Prize and the Empty Cages Prize for her work developing strategies to reduce the suffering of non-human animals. Melanie is the founding president of the international organization, Beyond Carnism.

In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”

Sentientism is “evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” In addition to the YouTube video above the audio is on our Podcast here on Apple & here on all the other platforms.

We discuss:

00:00 Clips!

01:04 Welcome

02:51 Melanie’s Intro

– The psychology of violence and #nonviolence , oppression and social transformation

– The psychology of eating animals and the work of  @BeyondCarnism 

04:05 What’s Real?

– #catholic father, #protestant mother, neither particularly religious

– Attending #presbyterian #Christian church (occasionally) and nursery school

– Later, father re-discovered Catholic roots and became very religious. Jewish step-mother converted to Catholicism

– Mother joined #unitarianuniversalism church

– “I was never religious myself but I was very interested in religion… my first major was comparative religious ethics… fascinated by all things spiritual… the occult…”

– Very interested in #Judaism for a while

– “Always asking about meaning and what’s true and what’s real… sort of the way my brain was wired”

– Partially raised by #Quaker uncle and aunt “very progressive and socially engaged… very strong #socialjustice orientation” while father and step-mother were increasingly conservative

– “Everybody else in my family… is very progressive… my grandfather was even a #communist or at very least a #socialist “

– Quakerism and UU: “Integrating this sort of spiritual orientation which wasn’t believing in a god, but believing in something more… that has to be very socially engaged… that was very attractive to me.”

– “I’m not a Buddhist… but I have been guided by the principles of #buddhism “

– “My understanding of the world has been very much informed by witnessing and observing my family and the way they understood their own traditions and practices”

– “Liking to be in churches and liking to be in synagogues and wanting to be in temples… I felt very drawn”

– “I’ve been deeply influenced by  @samharrisorg  … ‘the only thing that we can know for sure is consciousness'” and his book #wakingup

– “I have a fairly robust #meditation practice”

– #Nondual awareness teaching:  @stephanbodian9913  ,  @LochKelly  ,  @Adyashanti 

– “#descartes I don’t think was expressing consciousness he was expressing thinking”

– “Consciousness… it’s the experience of being aware but it’s not the experience of thinking”

– “I don’t know what’s true supernaturally – I don’t follow supernatural phenomena”

– “Buddhism… not religious Buddhism but pure Buddhism… without the religious bells and whistles and rituals and supernatural beliefs… it is very rational… it’s probably the most rational practice I’ve ever experienced”

– “My own practice is not one that’s engaged with supernatural phenomena. My practice is one that’s engaged with deepening my experience of consciousness… and working to support the end of suffering for all conscious beings and sentient beings”

– Rejecting #solipsism

– “The more you practice… the more you connect with your own experience… the more you recognise, just intuitively and automatically, the consciousness of other beings… and the more likely you are to be connected with your compassion for them… you experience this inter-connection”

– “One of the key aims of justice movements is to de-bunk myths”

– JW: The harms caused by poor epistemology re: “humane” farming, #QAnon , #Antivaxx

– Facts and evidence “they’re important – there’s no question… more often than not the facts don’t sell the ideology… this is where a relational approach is really important”

– “There are many people for whom rationality is probably a value – but not that high up… and there are many people who… are so deeply entrenched in their own attachment to certain beliefs and behaviours that no matter how rational they are… you may never reach them”

– “Look at how many brilliant rationalists… who are also #humanists continue to eat animals in face of overwhelming evidence” (JW “Sam Harris being one frustrating example”)

– “We all have our blind spots… even the most rational of us is not necessarily going to be swayed by facts”

– “We’re psychological beings, not just rational beings… this is why it’s so important to understand how to relate to other people…”

– JW: RFKJr and Marianne Williamson “The surface message they’re sharing… sounds very relational… sounds like love and care for each other… but when you scratch under the surface there are some very broken and harmful epistemologies which are ultimately leading people back to an almost solipsistic selfishness that’s very focused on the individual”

– “It’s a false dichotomy… relational by definition is not individual”

– “The process might be relational but the content is not”

– “The more relational one is the more likely they are to be making decisions that are in the interests of the greater good… the relationship… the community… the world… the collective, whatever the collective might be”

– Melanie’s book “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows”

– “If we look at the most pressing problems in the world and also in our individual lives… unjust wars, poverty, animal exploitation, climate change, racism, patriarchy, toxic workplaces… they all share a common denominator… relational disfunction… between social groups, between individuals… between humans and non-human animals, between humans and the environment… between us and ourselves”

– “Communication is the primary way we relate”

– “Our primary relationship is with ourselves”

– “A common denominator in resolving these problems… is building relational literacy… healthy ways of relating… principles and tools… but it’s not rocket science”

– The core formula for healthy relating: “Practice integrity and honour dignity… leads to a sense of greater connection and security

26:43 What Matters?

– “Integrity is the integration of our core values and practices… compassion and justice… kindness and fairness… respect… treating someone the way you would want to be treated if you were in their position”

– “Dignity is one’s sense of inherent worth… you perceive of this other individual as having fundamental worth”

– “The opposite is also true – when you violate integrity and harm dignity this leads to insecurity and disconnection”

– “Can being relational make you too individualistic? Well no… it can’t because the whole point is practicing the formula”

– “People can believe in myths… have misunderstandings and still practice the formula… the formula is a process”

– “When we look at justice through the lens of relationality it takes away a lot of unnecessary complexity in conversations that makes it impossible for us to really understand each other”

– “Am I honouring their dignity… if you answer yes to that you’re probably following a path that will lead you towards justice”

– “Unjust systems… patriarchy, speciesism, racism, carnism… we can call them non-relational systems… the antithesis of the formula… we are socialised within these systems to violate our integrity, when we are power-holders, and harm the dignity of others and we create insecurity and disconnection… and unjust power imbalances”

– “This does imply that you’re being honest… honest with others and honest with yourself… you cannot practice integrity towards somebody if you’re being dishonest. Lying to them is not the practice of integrity”

– “relationality and the formula… gives us the opportunity to working towards a more just world and a more compassionate world in our minute to minute lives”

– “The more I practice healthy relationality towards others… honest and objective and rational… [being aware of your own agenda… when not listening]… the better able we are to engage with ourselves… to build self awareness.”

– Melanie’s book “Getting Relationships Right”… ‘You can’t love others until you love yourself’… “It probably sounded really good… but it’s not necessarily true”

– “Many people learn to love themselves through loving others”

– “The practice of the [relational literacy] formula is the practice of love”

– “Acting in the best interests of the integrity of the other person”

– “This is a behaviour. The more you do it the better you get at it and the more normalised it becomes to you. When you do it in one area of your life it starts to grow out into other areas of your life”

– “There’s a lot of pain and suffering in this world among people in relationships because it’s really hard to have healthy relationships”

– “Most of us have had to learn complicated geometry that we’ll probably never need to use and yet we don’t get a single formal lesson about how to be healthy relational beings”

– “We’re born into a relationally dysfunctional mess of a world… we’re hurting people all the time and hurting ourselves”

– Justice movements “as we’re working to end non-relational behaviours in the world… maybe we’re vegans… animal justice advocates… trying to get people to change the way they relate to animals… nevertheless… we might be relating to other animal justice advocates in exactly the way that we’re trying to stop people from engaging in in the world… our movements are kind of imploding in different ways”

38:46 Who Matters?

– JW: The risk that a relational approach might narrow our moral scope to those we’re in close relationships with, ignoring other sentient beings that are more distant or different?

– “The more relational you are the broader your scope actually is”

– “Being relational means that you’re empathic… even if you don’t have emotional empathy… you’re thinking beyond the self… beyond identity”

– “Your identity can be limited to yourself… your in-group… family… nation – but that’s not relational. Relational is not thinking in terms of us vs. them”

– “Relational is thinking ‘whoever may be impacted by the choices I’m making at this given moment… how am I impacting others…’”

– “It’s not other-centred… it’s relationship centred…”

– “We’re in relationship with more than our immediate family… our romantic partner… our companion animals… we’re in relationship with the world!… all the time… with systems that we’re part of”

– JW: “A recognition that wherever we have an impact in the world… we are in relation with those beings… however different or distant”

– JW: Relations with non-sentient entities?

– “In 200 years we might find out that cups are sentient but I doubt it…”

– “Most people would use sentience… as the defining factor”

44:34 A Better World?

– “So many different avenues… different types of change”

– “Helping people build relational awareness and relational skills”

– “When we think about policies… legislation… big decisions that affect nations and the world… these are created by people – and if people are not thinking relationally we’re probably not going to have relational policies and practices and institutions”

– “If we weren’t still living in the relational dark ages we wouldn’t vote for relationally dysfunctional leaders or relationally toxic policies… it just wouldn’t happen”

– “Building relational skills is fundamental… it’s not the solution to all the world’s problems but it’s got to be a critical part of any solutions”

– “We don’t need everyone to become highly relational… we just need enough people to be relational enough to shift the system… people in positions of influence… people who already have an analysis around justice… people who already want to create a more relational approach… non-human animals, the environment, humans…”

– “If enough people who are advocates build their relational skills enough…”

–  “A movement that’s more relational… an organisation that’s more relational is more resilient… robust… strategic… it’s more likely to be successful”

– “The animal justice movement… I see the animal rights movement and the vegan movement and animal liberation as sub-movements…”

– “the structure of justice and unjust systems – they’re identical when it comes to animals experiencing justice and injustice and humans…”

– “I’m not comparing the experience of victims of injustice… I’m saying that the mentality that drives the injustice is the same… the psychological and sociological underpinnings”

– “We all share a meta-mission… anybody who is working to create a more just world has the mission of creating a more relational world”

– “If we don’t understand that… we’re going continue to trade one form of injustice for another as we work to create a more just world”

– “If we don’t… target injustice at the roots… we’re going to keep growing injustice even as we work to end injustice”

– JW: The risks of “We don’t need to solve the world’s problems – just teach everyone to meditate and they’ll be happy” or the conspirituality version “manifest yourself a better reality… the real problem is in your own mind”

– “[Sam Harris] The most important thing we can do is take care of our own psyches… the healthier you get… the more engaged you will probably automatically become in helping solve some of the world’s problems”

– “Practicing healthy relationality is a piece of a broader whole. Practicing meditation and consciousness work is also a piece of that whole”

– “The more conscious you are the easier it is for you to practice healthy relationality”

– JW: Our chances of shifting wholesale to a more relational approach across all sentientity?

– “I don’t know… most people want to stop suffering and most people are suffering. Relational tools provide people with a straightforward way to vastly reduce the suffering that they’re experiencing and increase their ability to reduce the suffering of others… that happens quite quickly”

– “The capacity is there… it’s just a matter of learning and practicing the tools… it’s not a big ask”

– “We’re running out of time. Every day we’re closer to ecocide. I don’t know if we’re going to get there quickly enough.”

55:45 Follow Melanie

How to End Injustice Everywhere

Beyond Carnism

Melanie on Insta
Melanie on FaceBook

Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at

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Thanks to Graham for the post-production and to Tarabella and Denise for helping to fund this episode via our Sentientism Patreon.

How to End Injustice Everywhere – Melanie Joy – Sentientism Ep:179

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