A Vegan for Bernie: Reflections from a decade-long supporter

2016 is the year when either big change can happen or a huge opportunity will pass again. For the past few months, people have been discovering who Bernie Sanders is and he has generated a huge movement for change which is frightening the establishment candidates, the corporate media and their lackeys.

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Bernie’s ethics and integrity are nothing new to me. I first discovered him when he was a guest each Friday morning on the now defunct Air America radio station on the Thom Hartmann program. Thom had a special segment called « Brunch with Bernie » which I never missed. That was my radio program to listen to during work (back in my corporate days in Los Angeles). Listening to Bernie each Friday was like having fresh clean air blowing in my face from listening to someone with sane politics and a strong integrity of heart.

After all these years, I am still astounded at the degree of political ignorance in the general American public and what is being done in their names. Americans are champions at voting against their best interests. When Americans still believe that Democratic Socialism is similar to the Soviet Union, I am in disbelief. I didn’t realize that all Social Democracies (like France, Germany, Sweden and others) were like the Soviet Union or that our own Communist party had so much power. In the early part of the 20th century, Socialism was not seen as bad thing however; Upton Sinclair, the author of the Jungle, was himself a socialist.

Bernie has not suddenly just dropped from a tree, he has been around and fighting for us for a long time. One of Bernie’s first job in his life was registering people for food stamps. Before he was a politician, he was first a social justice activist. In 1963, as a Chicago University activist, he was arrested for protesting segregated schools. He traveled to Washington for the famous Martin Luther King Jr « March on Washington ».  In 1972, he was editing the Liberty Union Party newsletter « Movement » in which he was already talking about economic inequalities. In 1981, he was elected as Mayor of Burlington not long after Reagan became President and he kept getting reelected, proof that his brand of socialism obviously pleased people. In 1987, he was named one of the best mayors in the United States by U.S. News & World Report. Then he went on the become the only independent in the Senate. And the rest, we mostly know. I just barely scratched the surface of Bernie’s bio.

Bernie is the one and only American politician who has never wavered from his beliefs in the little man, social equality and justice and his rejection of the greedy system. That is something he has done constantly during his 50 years of career. His current opponents have tried to grill him on issues like healthcare but they have failed because Bernie doesn’t flip flop on issues, he is constant.

Why does Bernie matter to a French Vegan like me?

In the past 30 years I have started noticing a slow but gradual degradation of the French social safety net. Unfortunately, in Europe, we have this tendency to always look towards the United States and import its worse aspects. We went from small farmers to American style industrial farming, from small traditional restaurants to McDonald’s, from mom and pop stores to large retail chains (we have the largest number of big malls in Europe) and our politicians have become corrupt neo-cons imitating their American counterparts (they all have money in Panama, right?).

Bernie reminds me of the old school politicians we used to have. They were strong social democrats, meaning they always stood up for the working class, the poor and against the greedy rich. A president Bernie would send a clear message not just to America but also to the rest of the world that good values are not hypothetical or utopic but should be the norm. A politician who is not corrupt and sold out to corporations, what a novel idea! And because we, in Europe, often look up to the United States (for better or worse, usually for worse), Bernie’s influence on the rest of the world would help remind not just Americans but Europeans too of what is at stake.

The French healthcare system is currently the best in the world (according to the World Health Organization) but it’s starting to be undermined from within by our neo-liberal politicians. The British National Health System is facing similar problems. This is all a result of neoliberalism. I want my healthcare system to not change, particularly after having tasted the American one for 18 years. Americans should revisit Michael Moore’s movie « Sicko » for a taste of European healthcare and they will realize that even Obamacare is terrible. This is a good movie to also revisit to see how Hillary went from supporting Universal Healthcare (like Bernie) to selling out to Big Pharma. Well, Bernie never stopped supporting healthcare for ALL. Of course, as Vegans, we are less likely to see doctors and end up in hospitals, but we are not immune to accidents and I would rather set foot in a hospital at low cost than with a huge bill.

Have you ever seen the classic Frank Capra movie gem « Mr. Smith Goes to Washington »? It’s one of those movies you want to be real. James Stewart is a young politician who is confronted to the corruption of Washington in the 1940’s (the movie is from 1939). If Frank Capra thought it was that bad then, I wonder what he would think now. Bernie Sanders is Mr. Smith, except older. But he shares with the Jimmy Stewart character the same characteristics of integrity and willingness to fight for the common man/woman. Bernie, just like Mr. Smith, also conducted a historic filibuster when he became Senator which lasted over 8 hours. Bernie’s historic speech is reprinted completely in the book « The Speech: on Corporate Greed and the Decline of our Middle Class ». When Bernie did his 2010 filibuster, it was followed by so many that it crashed the Senate server! What was Bernie filibustering about? The deal between President Obama and the Republicans which would give more tax breaks to the rich. I rest my case.

Bernie is popular with young and old alike because he stands up for us all, not for the 1% as he has consistently done so for 50 years. He never changed his opinions to fit any party lines and that is why he has remained independent and, like a modern Elliott Ness, incorruptible.

Bernie Sanders is also not a war monger (which is not something I can say about Hillary or the Republicans) and has always believed that war should be a last resort. He has voted against the Gulf War war and the war in Iraq and history has shown that he was right. I don’t know about you, but I want a President who is not trying to make the Military Industrial Complex even richer while chasing oil in foreign countries. His Foreign Policy is based on diplomatic solutions, and not war as a first resort.

Is Bernie open to animal rights?

Yes, he is already opposed to factory farming. My friends at Direct Action Everywhere have already understood this by confronting him at one of his rallies just like the #BlackLivesMatter movement did (and to which he responded).  I doubt Bernie would ever support ag gag bills and other anti-activist bills. On the contrary, he has always stood against big money which is what this bills defend. Bernie is already pro women, anti racist, pro-gay and pro-environment. He has voted against the Keystone XL-pipeline and fracking while Hillary was supporting both. He has voted against NAFTA and the TPP, and pretty much all the so-called free trade deals which are destroying jobs for the middle class in either the United States or Europe as well as hurting the planet and all life. Hillary, once again, was for them until she changed her mind because it was politically convenient for her to do so.

Bernie may not be Vegan, but he is the best candidate we have in terms of animal welfare. As much as I would like to see a Vegan in the White House (we had our chance with Kucinich in 2008 but people chose Obama), our humane candidates will never get as close to the White House as Bernie is doing right now. Therefore, we have to keep pushing him in the right direction. Bernie has consistently voted in favor of animal welfare: He is against commercial breeding, for applying some humane care to farmed animals (ok not perfect obviously but the others don’t even give a damn at all). He is opposed to cruelty towards animals in captivity or in the wild. He is also a strong defender of wildlife including the Endangered Species Act. And let’s not forget his strong environmental record.

As Bernie Sanders said, this is a revolution he can’t create alone. If he gets elected, we need to keep him accountable and keep pushing him to meet even greater expectations. He has showed that he could not be corrupted (50 years of proof!) and that he was willing to learn (as seen with the #BlackLivesMatter movement) but one thing is clear, he will always fight for the poor and the middle class, never for the rich and powerful. That is a constant record we need to keep in mind if we want to create a society of justice.

As Cesar Chavez connected the dots between social human justice and justice for non-humans, I believe Bernie could also eventually make the same connections but we have to have his back first! When people keep voting for the lesser of two evils, nothing ever changes. As Vegans, if we didn’t believe we could create a Vegan society, we would have given up a long time ago. So let’s not give up on this either.

 

Photo: Bernie Sanders – Courtesy Pixabay.com (Free photos)

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© Copyright April 2016 – Vegan Empowerment/Veronique Perrot – All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or publication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

WHY PROTESTS ARE FOR THE MOST PART USELESS

Protests have been part of our history and all cultures of the world for the longest. People have protested all sorts of things, from war to poverty to women’s rights and animal rights. But how useful is it to even protest? With this article, I am possibly bringing a controversial take on the effectiveness of protests but I need to make a point here.

The need to protest is something I completely understand. I did protest in the past, against wars, for immigrant rights, against fur and animal cruelty. Then I came to realize that it was a waste of my time. The reason for this is that it has little educational value.

During the Vietnam War, thousands of people were drafted against their will and even though there were a lot of protests, the war was ended because a strong minority of people were against the draft and refused to go to war.

When Bush decided on the war in Iraq, there was no draft forcing some of us to go to war. War is now a voluntary venture. If you decide to put a uniform on, you are for war, whether you think you have a valid reason or not. The decision to start the Iraq war prompted the largest peaceful protest in human history, with millions of people all over the world peacefully protesting against it. Did it stop the war? Well we know the answer to that one. But why not?

Let’s look at how society functions and for that matter it applies to animal rights as well. Most people are cogs in a machine. They don’t function consciously. There is so much going on in their daily routine that they can’t see beyond what’s going on in their lives. No one is making a case to them that there is value in changing a few things in their lives and opening their minds to a different way of thinking. There are however a lot of groups out there to tell them to change their light bulbs, change their cars and buy so-called “free range” eggs, that’s about it. Where is the profound shift? Telling someone to change light bulbs or buying “free range” doesn’t create a meaningful or profound shift in the person’s belief system; it keeps the status quo in place. However, challenging peoples’ deepest held beliefs in a peaceful and non-preaching way forces them to think (maybe for the first time in their lives).  People are made to believe in myths, whether these myths are about what’s good for their country or what’s important in their daily lives. Societies are built on conditioning and false beliefs to which people are held hostage to. All of this is controlled by a tiny elite who has all the financial power to keep the status quo going and no incentive to change in order to keep said power in place. The Iraq war happened because some of us put on a uniform and were ok going to war, therefore feeding our masters. Most people are not even aware that they are being controlled and manipulated against their own interests. Can talking to people possibly change them? Yes. Will it change a lot of people? That will depend on our effectiveness as speakers and how we make our case. But if we are ourselves still part of the general conditioning, we need to change first so we don’t become the blind leading the blind.

It is the same in the animal rights movement. We protest but we keep buying from corporations, McDonald or Wal-Mart types corporations as well as animal type corporations (read the large animal “rights” organization). The latter are telling us that protesting is good and that giving them money is good because it will make a difference to the animals just like we believe that shopping at Wal-Mart is good for us or that sending our sons and daughters to war is good for our country.

In all cases, this is delusional. We are still manipulated and brainwashed. If protests worked, they would have stopped most wars and killed the animal industries a long time ago. But they simply don’t because they do not change people from the inside and deprogram or change their habits. Protests may get others to think but there is usually little education done. Protests usually attack the institutions but they do not change the ones who feed these institutions. As long as you have soldiers, you will have wars. As long as you have people who believe that a piece of land is more important than your neighbor’s well being, you have wars. As long as you believe that your religious beliefs matter, you have wars. As long as people eat animals, you will have starvation and therefore wars. Violence feeds violence and ignorance keeps people enslaved and pawns to the elites who are the ones who keep profiting. If you believe all the above doesn’t apply to you, you are even more brainwashed than you think. As long as you have people spending money at McDonald’s or Wal-Mart you have corporate masters who buy governments. As long as you don’t create peaceful community education, you won’t change how people think and show them how to stop feeding the system which enslaves them and other beings. The only changes possible are those which address the roots of our problems and not its symptoms.

What can be done? So far the Peace Movement has not made the connection with the Vegan Movement and recognized that they are part of the same fight. The first step is for the peace movement to connect ALL the dots. You can’t have peace in the world if you have violence on your plate three times a day. How do you expect to feed the starving when you munch on a cow’s corpse for lunch and dinner? Your meat is directly linked to starvation in the world as most of the grain (which could feed people) is fed to cattles (up to 80% of the US grain currently). Your meat is also directly linked to environmental devastation as the Rainforest is currently torn down for cattle grazing and feed for bovine slaves. Animal “foods” are behind most of the soil erosion and water and air pollution of the word. Don’t believe me; check what the United Nations’ report “Livestock Long Shadow” and the WorldWatch Institute say about this. If you care about the environment and desire peace, you have to change your lifestyle completely. Your health is directly linked to what you eat. When you eat that steak today, think about what it does to your body and how this benefits big pharma and their drug industry. You directly contribute to a disease care system which keeps you drugged and docile.

Second, people who want peace (and are vegan) need to truly educate others as to the reasons why they should do everything in their power to starve the system. Once again it is a matter of individual choices. If you pretend to be for peace but you are ok with your son taking on the uniform to become cannon fodder for the rich, you are living a dream. If you are ok with feeding the system by shopping at Wal-Mart, you are feeding those who profit from it, the ones at the very top or the 1% as we call them. You are not a human being anymore, you are just a consumer. Why do you think Bush said to people to go shop after 9/11? Because he knew that people’s habit of consuming would dumb them down and the power elites could do whatever they want. If you have a dumbed down and ignorant citizenry, it is easy to dupe them and do whatever you want for profit.

The Peace movement just like the Animal Rights movement is somehow cowardly when it comes to truly educating people. The large animal “rights” organizations waste millions of dollars on managing exploitation. In the 19th century, if abolitionists had wasted their time on regulating exploitation of slaves, we would still have institutionalized slavery. Slavery, in itself, is unfortunately not gone, but no one (except maybe a few staunch racists out there and giant corporations who profit from slave labor) would agree that it is ok to enslave other humans. If instead of protesting, we had tables everywhere in the country (and possibly the world) on peaceful vegan education and how to be true citizens (as opposed to consumers), we could educate thousands of people. And better yet, educating people on how to be true earthlings would be even more empowering than the idea of nationalist citizenry which just continues to reinforce separatism among people and other beings of this planet.  

Maybe you will perceive me as fantasist and unrealistic. Possibly. However, I have never seen any real effectiveness in protests, except as a good way to vent our frustrations. Tomorrow, we can all have a town hall and decide to band together to provide solar panels to our communities to reduce the demand for fossil fuels. Tomorrow we can have a town hall and explain to people why their demand for flesh is starving others and destroying the environment, their health and the lives of non-human victims uselessly. Instead of blindly following the so-called non-profits, we can have groups of people setting up educational workshops. Why don’t we do this? Because of the constant brainwashing that our institutions and the so-called peace and animal rights organizations impose upon us because we let them. There is no profit in Vegan/Peace education. But there is a lot of money to be made in single campaign issues for either humans or non-humans.

We will never change the system by protesting the institutional abusers (of humans and non-human animals) if we don’t eliminate demand for everything which oppresses us. But we have to become conscious of our own oppression and conditioning. We will however make changes when all of us finally decide to work together and peacefully educate others on how to de-condition and deprogram each others. Then and only then can we hope for a better world. Peaceful Vegan education is the key, so go out there and talk to people.

© copyright May 2013. All rights reserved. No printing without authorization.

Wages

wearethe99percent:

I am a 29 year old male who is raising my one year old daughter by myself. I do not have my other children. I had to give up rights to my son, who is now 4 and I have never met, because I could not afford to pay the child support. I have tried to reach out to get the help I need from every angle possible and to every agency I know of that could help. I have not been helped by any of them. The below is what I have even sent to online help sites to obtain help. I still have not found any help from any of them.

“I really need help. I am a single father with full custody of my nine month old baby girl. I am struggling right now, financially; among other things. I will tell you about what is going on. 

I am fighting for disability due to physical and mental problems. I do receive food stamps of $367 per month, cash assistance of $316 (which will be going to $100 within the next six months) and WIC checks for Savannah. This isn’t enough to obtain housing. I cannot find any housing with the county (Lackawanna County; Scranton, Pennsylvania) or within surrounding counties. I have tried all the agencies that help with such matters. Child Support does not come from the mother as she is on SSI, according to domestics. I have no other income.

I have lived at three addresses since Savannah was born. All three have bedbugs and fleas. I am tired of it. If something happens here, I have no where else to go. I have been forced to lie and say that I am residing somewhere else just to keep my welfare benefits because the other people I lived with and live with now have a high income and it would be counted.

I don’t know what to do. (Barred from jobs due to criminal record, lack of transportation, fainting risks, lack of experience, lack of education; and no other way to pay for our needs. I get so depressed because I am failing as a father. It is my duty to provide for her and yet I can’t. I have gotten so bad that I actually want to die, 90% of the time.

I don’t know what kind of help you can provide, but any help is appreciated.”

Some things have changed since those emails. I now reside in my fourth residence since my daughter was born. I am soon to be going through court again for my 7 year old daughter who I have not had any rights to see this far. I have been denied again for disability and now have given up. I have no education, no way to obtain education, no car, no way to get one, can’t drive anyway, no skills for labor, limitations on my labor abilities, no bank accounts, no inheritances, no trust funds, nothing to speak of except that I am on welfare. I am tired of getting screwed by the government. I am the 99% and I do OCCUPY!

GIVING – How Each of Us Can Change The World – By BILL CLINTON

Former President Bill Clinton has certainly been in the news lately thanks to the presidential campaign of his wife Hillary. However, he has been very busy himself as this book denotes. I picked it up out of curiosity and with some excitement at what the man could say about making a difference.

I was a little disappointed. Granted, he gives a LOT of examples on how we can make a difference in this world but it did feel like a shopping list of charities. On the other hand, I did find a few organizations I didn’t know existed (like Kiva.org which I highly recommend as well). So it seems that Mr. Clinton is going crazy with generous work.
Now, one wonders why this recent need to help the world through his Foundation. I read the book with interest for the work being done. He talks about big givers like Bill & Melinda Gates but also much more modest individuals (on a smaller scale). This book seems more like a sponsorship for Mr. Clinton’s corporate buddies.

Are these corporate people all feeling guilty for impoverishing the world in the first place? And this is where I have a PROBLEM with this book. Nowhere does it talk about the effects of NAFTA, CAFTA, etc… and how these « generous » rich people and Mr. Clinton (WHO SIGNED NAFTA!) helped making the world a worse place before deciding to « redeem » themselves. This book bothered me in the sense that it felt somehow hypocrite. On the one hand, it talks about people who may  have exploited workers all over the world (sweatshops, prison workers), and on the other hand it wants to make the case for corporate generosity. Why not doing the opposite? Start by being a CORPORATELY RESPONSIBLE BUSINESS in the first place, for the environment and your employees!

This book is interesting but, because of all the above, it really bothered me and somehow angered me also! I wish Mr. Clinton (like his wife with the Iraq war) would recognize his mistakes (about Nafta) and admit them. Until then, I am not buying it!

 

© Copyright Jan 2008 – All Rights Reserved.