Archive for November, 2008

consuming nature

after a potluck dinner with friends, jess and i spent the rest of the evening on thanksgiving watching, “behind the mask”, a documentary about the ALF (animal liberation front), and why people risk their lives to save the lives of animals imprisoned in vivisection labs, fur farms, etc.  a fitting time to watch such a film, on a night when turkeys were being carved at tables across the U.S. en masse.  i would recommend the film to everyone.

in my experience as a vegan, the vast majority of animal rights and vegan discussions revolve around food choices. i know there are myriad reasons why people eat animals – it’s a nuanced issue, steeped in cultural traditions, geographical limitations, and plain old habit, to name a few. but to me, the defining characteristic of veganism goes beyond simply not eating animals, or even any animal by-products – to me, veganism is a consciousness that extends compassion to all lifeforms, making choices that minimize suffering and cruelty in all animals and humans, and leaving the least impact on the world around us.

while food is a constant in our everyday lives, so too are millions of other products that we use on a daily basis, which often contain animal-derived ingredients, or were tested on animals in vivisection laboratories.  countless dogs, rabbits, chimpanzees, cats, mice, and so many other animals are tortured – yes, TORTURED – every day in universities and corporate labs – on the false premise that we NEED to sacrifice animals for the sake of ‘scientific progress’.  the truth is that these tests are not only inhumane and cruel; they are also irrelevant and outdated, which makes them all the more horrific.  millions of animals are tortured and killed every year for nothing.

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but, it’s not for nothing, really – it’s for profit.  the truth is that animal experimentation is simply a giant business, complete with the false advertising necessary to keep the public consuming more and more products which they are brain-washed into believing are a) necessary, and b) the results of required animal sacrifice.

as an anti-capitalist, i resent the fact that “organic”, “natural”, “cruelty-free”, “not tested on animals” products are just another (rapidly growing) market.  the point is not to just replace all the bad products with “friendlier” versions – we simply don’t need the vast majority of products that are being manufactured.  it’s all just a capitalist conspiracy – the propaganda of “choice”.  when the truth is that all those choices (i.e. entire store aisles of shampoo, etc.) are the causes of deforestation, oil wars, animal experimentation, child and sweatshop labor, worker exploitation, overflowing landfills, obesity, disease, financial debt, stress, and depression… which in turn lead people to MORE PRODUCTS!

and this is all just talking about things we think we “need” – healthcare products, pharmaceuticals, homecleaning supplies; not to mention all the crap we simply do not need – such as the christmas gifts i can imagine were so important to the hordes of “black friday” shoppers this morning, that they trampled a wal-mart employee to DEATH in order to buy.

it’s all incredibly overwhelming – everywhere we turn there is another reason why the thing we just bought/ate/entertained ourselves with is “wrong”.  there are so many injustices happening in our world, hopelessness is an epidemic in our society.  i’d like to think that the hordes of “apathetic” individuals are really just overwhelmed and think that there’s no way they can do anything “right”, so they gave up trying.  it gives me personally more hope to think that’s the reason our society is letting these atrocities continue – rather than that people just don’t care.

so what can we do?

everyone doesn’t need to immediately become “vegan”, if they’re not prone to sticking with new commitments or changing their habits; it’s more about increasing awareness and reducing consumption, little by little, as fast or as slow as they are willing.  unfortunately in our world today, it’s impossible not to use/consume anything that has an adverse effect on animals, people, and our planet, because everything we manufacture uses resources to acquire, create, package, and/or ship the damn thing to the market.  so it’s first and foremost all about reducing the number of things we use.  rethinking what we really need/want.  is this product i want really worth everything it took to make it possible for me to have it?

and secondly, when we are going to buy things new, it’s about using all those choices wisely.  it’s really not that hard to spend a second to check the label for “cruelty-free”, or “not tested on animals”.  since, alas, we still live under capitalism, boycotting companies who use animal experimentation and other bad manufacturing processes is still one good way to vote against these practices (and simply buying fewer products overall/spending less money in the market is another form of boycott).

and another important way to demand an end to cruel practices, is through nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience – directly confronting the powers that propagate injustice, and/or stopping the injustice whenever and wherever possible.  when it comes to animal rights, this is where the ALF comes in – and “behind the mask” does an excellent job of explaining why direct action is necessary to end cruelty to animals.

changing societal norms is a long process, which we have seen over and over again throughout the centuries:  overturning feudalism, slavery, gaining voting rights, civil rights, etc.  none of these injustices were reversed due to letter-writing campaigns.  it takes people willing to break unjust laws in order to expose how unjust the laws are, in order to change enough people’s minds and change the laws/practices.  the people who are brave enough to take the risks for these causes, are such a threat to the dominant paradigm, that the government labels them terrorists, and vilifies their image in the mainstream’s eyes.  this happens in every movement – in an attempt to prevent the public from actually listening to the truth.

those who can’t/or are not willing to take action themselves, have a responsibility to at least support those that can/do take action, and actively resist the “terrorist” propaganda campaigns that the corporations and government tout against activists.  as the film quoted JFK, “those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

whatisterrorism

a few books and resources:

animal liberation by peter singer

eternal treblinka by charles patterson

making a killing by bob torres

the sexual politics of meat by carol adams

fast food nation by eric schlosser

ALF – animal liberation front website

green is the new red



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vacation day 1: neighborhood foraging

i am on day one of a week-long vacation from work.  or rather, a stay-cation, as i like to call it.  we’ve had some recent changes at work (the ruckus society), and when i go back to the office december 1st, i will officially be the new “managing director”.  so i’m taking this week off not only for the rest (yay), but also to intentionally transition out of my old role and into the new role.  i’m planning a cleanse for mon-fri just to bring that transition concept home for me, in mind and body.

so today was day one of vacation (but not starting cleanse until monday).  i started by making waffles, one of my favorite breakfast meals (and i’m definitely one of those breakfast-anytime types).  jess came home from her overnight shift with a bag full of plant cuttings she liberated from sidewalks and yards on her bike ride home from work, and that kind of gave us our direction for the day.  after she gave the cuttings some new homes, we decided to go for a walk and check out what our own neighborhood had to offer.

i used to love going for walks, and realized i haven’t really done that in years now, so it was nice to get out, especially since we haven’t done much exploring of our neighborhood since we moved in in october.  based on the results of a heated discussion at a neighborhood potluck we went to that some friends hosted awhile ago, we thought our neighborhood was clinton park (oakland), but upon closer examination of this map i guess we’re technically “ivy hill”, part of the “san antonio district”. it’s also now known as “eastlake”, but we’re told that’s the developers’/gentrified name (i’ll save the topic of gentrification for some later post…).

map of ivy hill

map of ivy hill

so anyway, we walked around the neighborhood, jess foraging for plants and herbs, while i carried the growing bag of plant cuttings, and took some photos.

we found a bunch of houses that were using their small city plots to grow food in their front yards, which was exciting – it’s definitely on our list of things to plan out for our sad little dirt-packed back “yard” at our apartment.  and it sounds like we may be part of starting a community garden in our friends’ backyard just 2 blocks away.  hooray!

front yard edible garden

front yard edible garden

we also passed by an awesome weeping willow (at least i think so??) which reminded me of a tree from my minnesota neighborhood when i was little.  i used to ride my bike around our big block to visit that huge tree.  i just love the dangling branches and leaves like a canopy, and always wished we had one in our yard.

weeping willow

weeping willow

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all in all, we ended up with rosemary, fennel, mint, nosturtiums, succulents, sweet grass, a few ferns, some plants whose names we’ll have to look up, AND a few free books and a bunch of silverware which we found sitting out on the sidewalk, which just added to the scavenger hunt feel of the whole thing.  we’re suckers for free books.

we then spent the rest of the afternoon burying their little roots in new soil, and re-potting all of our old plants which were all in a pretty sad state for having neglected them in awhile, distracted by our move and whatever else.  at the end of the day we had a house full of happy plants and herbs, old and new alike.

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(yes, we paid for these)

(yes, we paid for these)

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repeal prop 8 action

in an ironic twist of fate after my last post, i ended up on an action team to protest the passage of prop 8 last night in san francisco.  there was a mass march planned from civic center to dolores park starting at 5:30pm, and after the march stepped off at 7th and market, 10 of us (after quickly forming an affinity group in 24 hrs), followed the march to 9th and market where we then stopped, linked hands, and formed a human chain across market street, displaying a banner that said, “We Will Not Be Silent: REPEAL PROP 8″.

cd-line

our street blockade effectively stopped traffic for several hours, and the energy of the group and the crowd that surrounded us was amazing.  there weren’t more than 30 seconds pause between the endless chants, some tried and true, and some innovated on the spot.  then, just when we were considering an escalation of tactics, the main march came back to join us, and our group led the crowd past the cops, throughout the city, taking over the streets and ending with an occupation of the castro well into the night.  you can read my report of the night’s events on the ruckus society website.

although there were no arrests (the cops behaved in typical SFPD “another day, another protest” fashion, making no arrests as long as things remained nonviolent, which they did), the spirit of the night was empowering for all who participated, and perhaps introduced many to the world beyond permitted marches and rallies, even if just slightly.

below is a really grainy video from my phone during the castro occupation of one of the individuals from our group, yelling “how many people held 9th and market?!” and the group standing up to cheers from the crowd:

when i was asked to support the action and participate in the blockade, i didn’t hesitate.  and while some may find that ironic or confusing, given my stance on marriage, to me this was a grassroots endeavor worth participating in:  an entire section of society (which includes myself) just had some of their rights stripped from them on tuesday, when prop 8 eeked past 50% support in the state-wide election.  although the state (and federal) constitutions may not have ever originally intended to permit marriage rights to same-sex couples, the constitution also never meant to include blacks and women, when it said “all men are created equal”.  they meant white men who owned property.  don’t tell me the word “men” is a shorthand, inclusive term!

so despite the fact that i hope one day state-sanctioned marriage becomes irrelevant, prop 8 has stripped people of their rights through pure discrimination and blatant bigotry, which to me is more important to fight than marriage itself.  our rights are being eroded regularly, and we can’t let one slide, lest we find ourselves under martial law (oh wait…).

adrienne maree brown wrote a heartfelt piece about the hate experienced through the prop 8 campaign.

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