Posts tagged politics

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  the truth is that these tests are not only inhumane and cruel; they are also irrelevant and outdated, which makes them all the more horrific.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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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″.

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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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my thoughts on the whole gay marriage issue

ok. since i essentially get my only advertising from friends’ posts on facebook, i’m a little out of touch with election-mania.  but i’m finally starting to get a taste of just some of the insane prop 8 propaganda that’s out there.

this morning i received an email asking to donate to the no on 8 campaign because the yes on 8 campaign is trying to raise $2 million to pass the proposition because they think that armageddon will actually arrive if 8 gets defeated and gays are [still] allowed to marry (in CA). apparently some people on the right are actually calling the prop 8 campaign more important than the presidential election.  i might be inclined to agree with them, but only because i don’t think the presidential election is all that important.

at any rate, hearing such things (“armageddon”, etc.) inspired me to actually poke around a bit and check out some of the propaganda on both sides of this proposition.  ok i didn’t go too far – mostly just to facebook posts;)  there were plenty there already.

one of the crazy things that caught my eye was this scary yes on prop 8 video using kids to sing about how confused they would become if prop 8 passes:

how does allowing queers to marry suddenly turn these kids’ dad into a woman, and their mom into a man?!

so my opinion on the gay marriage issue has evolved a bit over time.  on marriage in general, i was always opposed from a pretty young age – always saying i would never get married (making my parents think that i would become a nun at one point), that i didn’t need a piece of paper from the state to sanctify any of my relationships.

then in college in oregon, when portland passed what became only a temporary right for gay marriage, i as the leader of the gay-straight alliance at a pretty conservative small-town private liberal arts college, suddenly felt compelled to advocate for marriage rights as a way to promote gay rights and call out homophobia on campus.  i was even a bride in a mock wedding we produced in a fraternity basement, marrying my [straight] best friend.

i admit my politics on marriage issues got thrown for a loop when the whole gay marriage issue hit the front page.

but then moving to the bay area in 2004, within my first two weeks here, i was introduced to gay shame’s end marriage campaign which was probably the most radical thing i had ever seen in my life, and made me quit advocating for gay marriage in any small way (it’s not like i was lobbying or anything).

for awhile i was adamantly opposed to gay marriage (and all marriage).  and it’s another one of those debates i’ve been in with progressives where they tend to find me totally callous and think i’m preventing “progress”.

since then i feel like my thoughts have become a little more flexible on the issue.  unlike some of the radical arguments against gay marriage, i don’t fully buy into the assimilationist argument – ie all queers should fundamentally be non-conformist and stand against all that heterosexual monogamy stands for.

i do absolutely oppose the origins of property co-optation that marriage is founded on, and believe that marriage is inherently discriminatory – why should only monogamous “couples” have the kind of legal rights that marriage allows?  what about non-monagamous relationships and people who choose to remain single?

i believe that legal rights like tax breaks and property rights for married couples are essentially capitalist financial incentives made to encourage individuals to couple, marry, and produce children – more workers to exploit.

and it’s this issue of money around the marriage issue – both the discriminatory financial incentives, and the gross consumerism of the wedding industry – that makes me remain opposed to all marriage.  lisa jervis captured some of my thoughts on the sickening consumer market for gay weddings in her “assorted thoughts on pride weddings and capitalism” article.  it’s been ridiculous to see just how much money there is in the wedding industry, and now that the market for wedding clientele is growing to include gay and lesbian couples, it’s raking in even more profit.

in spite of all this, i do acknowledge the private/public ritual aspect of commitment that some people choose to make through marriage.  i don’t deny non-monogamous relationship’s validity, but i do recognize that for many people, some form of a formal commitment can be a very beautiful step in their relationship and in their lives as an individual.  i have absolutely nothing against this.  and i admittedly tend to enjoy weddings.

so let me make myself clear:  even though i’ve been using the word “oppose” throughout this post, i do NOT wish to deny anyone the right to marry if they so choose.  i will vote NO ON PROP 8, to be sure.  but i do think that the issue of fighting for gay marriage has taken up tremendous amounts of resources in our political climate, when there are so many other injustices with much more dire consequences (war, environmental racism, economic exploitation, to name a few) that should be getting much more attention.

so, i’m not going to spend my money or time on fighting for gay marriage, but i will certainly do nothing to deny anyone equal rights under the law.  and i will happily continue to attend friends’ and family’s weddings when given the opportunity, and support the people in my life to live happy and healthy relationships, no matter what state of “commitment” or state-recognition.  but ultimately, i will continue to work towards a just and sustainable community where state-sanctioned marriage is irrelevant.

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no, i’m not voting for obama

ok, i said it. i have to admit it’s taken me much longer to come out and say it this time around than in past elections. it’s not that i’ve lied, i just simply haven’t been nearly as outspoken about my refusal to vote democrat this election season as i was in 2000 or 2004. but it’s time. i mean, i have a freakin’ blog now, so i’ve got to come out with it: no, i am not voting for obama!

i’ve been wondering why i’ve felt so hesitant to speak up about it this time. i suppose because basically the entire left has obama fever. i have seen next to NOTHING critiquing obama from the left. this great article by joshua frank is one of the only things i’ve read on the topic of NOT supporting obama. admittedly, i’ve kind of had my head a bit in the sand for awhile now, and even (*sheepish*) escaping into tv land a bit watching back-to-back episodes of “lost” online until 3am some nights. so i’m sure it’s out there. i hope it is. (please share with me, if you find some!) but at any rate, i don’t think anyone will disagree that the “hope” in obama by far outshadows any dissidence.

in the 2004 election i definitely felt the wrath of kerry-supporters when i advocated for nader. some of my relationships even suffered because of our disagreements on the subject. some people i love invested a lot (time, faith, money) in trying to elect kerry, and were definitely disappointed even to the point of depression when he lost. and my outspoken analysis that “it didn’t matter” didn’t really make any of the kerry-supporters in my life feel so hot, i’m sure. this election feels even more closed off to any challenge to the democrats. i suppose the longer the white house is occupied by the republicans pulling their nasty stunts, the more antsy the left gets, and the deeper they fall down the “anybody but bush” hole. the problem is that the “anybody but a republican” argument really boils down to “nobody but a democrat”. they’re not willing to vote for a third party candidate – they don’t want “anybody but a republican”, they want ONLY a democrat.

and of course this election is “historic”: with hillary’s race to be the first woman to be a major presidential candidate, obama as the first person of color, and now mccain’s oh-so-transparent VP pick of sarah palin – it’s like i’m extra nasty for not voting for the first man of color to win the white house! but no matter who the democratic candidate is – even if they’re the first black lesbian immigrant – i will not vote for him/her!

so let’s get down to it: why won’t i vote for obama or any democrat?
i’m not exactly a revolution-or-nothing person: i do believe in some reforms, incremental changes that can help people survive along the way. but i believe that real change comes from the ground up, by the masses taking power into their own hands. i believe in people creating their own solutions and living out their expectations while at the same time
demanding change from the oppressors.  i believe that capitalism and white supremacy and patriarchy and the domination of the earth and all its inhabitants (animals, plants, and humans) are the root problems in our society, and no democrat in the oval office is going to make a change the size of my pinky nail in terms of reversing any of those problems.

and it’s precisely the epic-ness of obama’s candidacy – being the first man of color, and coming from a supposedly “progressive” platform – that makes me worry even more than the kerry campaign. there are people out there who will insist that electing the first black president is the sure sign that racism is dead in this country. imagine that! poof! racism gone after all these centuries, just because a man of color got hold of the white house. the level of faith people put in democratic candidates astonishes me. no one is demanding anything from obama. the only thing voters on the left are requiring of him is to simply not be bush or mccain. well, he’s already accomplished that: there, he has satisfied all his obligations to the voters, even before day one! he will not have a mandate to do anything we want him to do if he gets into office. and the influence voters’ hard-earned campaign contributions will have on his decisionmaking pales in comparison to the stranglehold that the corporations’ money has him in. who is he going to listen to? who do they ALWAYS listen to?

the complacency that results from people’s investment in democratic candidates makes me worry for our ability to ever create changes for ourselves. why, as a movement, do we spend so much time and resources on trying to elect democrats who don’t do a damn thing for us? i am simply exhausted from wondering why so many “otherwise-enlightened” activists doing great work abandon everything and waste all their resources on elections. part of it is because the money many of us depend on to do our work, in large majority, comes from foundations and major donors – and in election season, they only fund electoral work! everywhere you turn people are spending their time and money on a system we know will fail us.

one of my old coworkers used to always remind us every time we hit our heads on the same wall, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. has the left gone insane?

if you haven’t seen it, you should watch “an unreasonable man” about ralph nader.

also, this animated short about obama being the “democratic messiah” is pretty damn funny.

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