For Spring 2012, the online magazine V-Stream from the team of Vegan Mainstream published an interview with me along other vegan professionals for their first issue.
For Spring 2012, the online magazine V-Stream from the team of Vegan Mainstream published an interview with me along other vegan professionals for their first issue.
Amazing what you can still find on social medias these days. You can see wonderful things happening in the vegan world with people who start vegan businesses, rescue animals, create sanctuaries, help others change. And then you see all sorts of ugly comments from « vegans » who find nothing better than to bitch about the world and all humans.
So human bashing is the new vegan? apparently. I found comments like these:
« I must have missed the letter informing me that now veganism is about humans. Also the one saying that all your words will automatically count as actions. »
» Veganism isn’t about the humans. You could be the biggest asshole ever, like a full blown right wing, homophobic, sexist, racist POS and still be vegan.
And no, joking about wanting to smack a screaming kid on a plane or whatever, doesn’t make you a psychopath. You’re clearly not a psychologist or you wouldn’t throw that word around.
So in other words… Get over it. »
Ouch, really lots of anger out there in the « peaceful, compassionate » vegan world. Strange though that vegans forget that humans are animals too and that in fact, the human factor is also indicated in the definition of veganism:
Interesting also that these « vegans » don’t get that everything is interconnected on this planet: sexism, racism and speciesism all derive from what Will Tuttle calls our « herding culture » which is about domination and oppression of not just animals but also human beings. Not getting that is seriously missing the big picture. But of course, that implies READING and learning, which more and more vegans don’t seem to do.
In my early days as a vegan (about 10 years ago), I was that angry vegan lashing out at everyone for anything. In other words, I was angry at everyone for not being vegan LIKE ME. Wow, was I ready to punch someone over their stupidity for not understanding the message.
But then several things happened to me:
Finally someone had the courage to tell me: « well what the fuck were you before being vegan anyway? » That one got me thinking that I had blood on my hands just like 99% of all human beings on this planet before I went vegan. In fact, I was attacking the messengers (people) instead of attacking the message (the cultural programming). What made me realize the later was Will Tuttle’s book « The World Peace Diet ».
We all go through stages as vegans. In fact I discuss this various stages in another blog I wrote a few years ago: THE VARIOUS STAGES OF TRUE VEGANISM: From Anger to Making Peace. So I won’t repeat them here. But in essence, whether we are vegans or not, we are all products of our cultural conditioning. Being angry is just a carry over, although a normal one when faced with animal cruelty, of our previous lives as pre-vegans.
Something remarkable happened when I decided to kick my anger out the door. Suddenly people were open to talk to me. I was finally creating change around me. People were expressing interest in my views because I was smiling and doing my best to be kind to them. It was the difference between « hey jerk, stop eating corpses » with responses like: « vegans are all jerks, I’ll just eat my steak » and « I know how you feel, I used to think like you » followed by « Oh, really? what made you change your mind » and opening a real conversation without judgment.
As another example, recently a nice man in a wheel chair approached me while I was participating in an anti hunting/fur/leather demo in Montpellier (southern France). Whatever you think of single issue campaigns is a debate for another day, but I learned to find them useful (I didn’t think so before) for also injecting a vegan message into conversations with people. That man told me he approached me because he had seen me before (doing other demos in the same location) and because I was always smiling and being polite to people (even when I didn’t necessarily felt like it). So he found his courage and decided to talk to me and ask me about my vision of life. We talked about veganism and animal rights for about half an hour. At the end of the conversation, he was left with a very positive vision of activists and vegans in general and a desire to change his lifestyle. What would have happened if I had talked to him circa 2008 when I just wanted to punch people and treat them like crap for not being vegans?
So dear angry vegan, all I want to say is that, yes I hear you, I understand you but frankly, it’s time to grow up and really be what you want to see in the world instead of lowering yourself to the level of those we fight against for the animals’ sake.
Not only will you feel better about yourself and life in general, but you will learn how to better address people by not shooting the messenger but counteract the message. Because, unless you were born and raised as a compassionate vegan, these people are or rather should be the former you. So you can either carry over the ugly message of the dominant culture and act like it, or show a new way of being which is truly compassionate, kind and life changing.
One final note: I really don’t care what other people think of me. I only care about what I can do to help change things for non-humans and humans alike, as well as the planet. But it seems that some are into it first for their egos (me me me me me me) more than helping others. So be it, but this will not help change the world from selfish to compassionate. So feel free to vent your anger on me if you’re one of the people I described above. I couldn’t care less. That will just prove my point.
Photo courtesy of pixabay.com: free photos
© Copyright December 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
When I moved back to France two years ago this month, I did feel depressed for a while. I came from Los Angeles where you can find over 80 vegan/vegetarian restaurants and a vegan store, and moved to Nimes, bullfighting city on top of it with… well… nothing!
But about a year ago, something started happening in France. My first taste of French veganism was going to Paris and see several vegan restaurants as well as a vegan store, « Un Monde Vegan », which then had that one location in Paris. But Veganism has been growing exponentially in France. They have opened a second physical location in the other major city of Lyon in the center of the country and another is planned in the south; they also have had an online store for a long time.
In fact, activism in France is actually old. Americans and others are just not that aware of it. Since the 1990s, an antispiecist group has been publishing the « Cahiers Antispécistes » (Anti speciesist files) which has numerous articles on animal rights, veganism and of course antispeciesim but also translate articles from famed foreign figures. Activist associations like the Fondation Bardot (Brigitte Bardot is of course famous as an actress and for campaigning with Captain Paul Watson), L214, 269Life France, FUDA, and many others have been working on behalf of animals for either a long time or since more recently. One of my best friend is a French vegan of almost 40 years and I actually met her at the 2011 Animal Rights Conference in Los Angeles, of all places.
About a year ago, we all noticed something changing. Television programs started looking into vegetarianism and veganism from a nutritional point of view. These early programs repeated the old myths: veganism good for everyone, but not good for kids, combine foods, and other non-sense. Then it started progressing with more programs addressing vegans directly and their lifestyle, at first as weird. Then, thanks to the French association L214 and their under cover footage of several slaughterhouses (the last one just a few days ago!), newspapers and televisions started talking about it and millions of people were exposed to the cruelty of French slaughterhouses. A lot had thought until then that it was done « humanely » for the animals (of course we know there is no such thing).
The first catalyst was the declaration by the World Health Organization about the link between processed meat and cancers which really got the media going.
I organized a vegan dinner in a French Lebanese restaurant (which had only a few vegetarian options) in Nimes. The owner was very opened to the idea and we had our first all vegan dinner in a restaurant with 22 people (counting the dog). She borrowed my cookbook from French vegan chef Marie Laforet and devoured it. She has since modified her menu to include more vegan, vegetarian and even gluten-free options, clearly marked. L214 and the French Vegetarian Association (I’m a delegate and member of the dietary committee) has been doing it for a long time with the « Vegorestos » and their « Vegan places » notably and delegates of the Association Végétarienne de France organizing things in their area. But the revelations in the slaughterhouses have been a catalyst for change in a major way. Only last Thursday, I joined a national campaign of awareness in front of the notorious Alès slaughterhouse to hold vigil for the animals (who we could hear) and facing angry animal farmers. This was done in front of 33 slaugherhouses accross the country and organized by the abolitionist association 269Life France.
I have in fact never been more busy since I moved back to France with almost an event every week, sometimes several on the same days, from anti bullfighting, anti vivisection, days for the abolition of meat, vegan days, marches to close slaughterhouses, marches against speciesism like the one in Geneva with people from France, Switzerland and Belgium (and beyond), a table at Organic chain « BioCoop » (which unlike Whole Foods is really 100% organic and with tons of vegan products) to Anti Speciesist days (as I did yesterday), there is never any time to be bored.
At the same time, more and more restaurants and places offer vegan options. Just in my little (pro-bullfighting) city of Nimes, besides the restaurant « L’harbousier » where I did the vegan evening, I recently discovered a little restaurant in the heart of the city which has started including a « vegan burger menu with fries and a drink » on their regular menu. I almost fell on my butt! I discussed with the owner who was present when I saw it and expressed how happy I was to see this for all vegans in the city. Her answer was « we have to serve everyone ». And lastly, vegan restaurants are opening all over the country. We have one coming in September here in Nimes!
Big chains are now offering vegan prepared food (vegan nuggets, vegan falafel, etc.), they know where this is evolving and they are usually a good thermometer of changes in people’s purchases. I just learned that another big chain should be offering vegan cheese but haven’t seen it yet. But I’m sure it will be soon. It is to be noted that they often use the term « vegetarian » as it is more understood in France. But it’s technically vegan. The terms vegetarian and vegan tend to be still interchangeable as the word vegan is an Anglo term.
Finally, on top of all the good things above, a very popular journalist, Aymeric Caron, went from vegetarian to vegan and published a book called « Antispéciste » (antispeciesist) which sold 40,000 copies according to BFM TV which is a news station similar to MSNBC. His book was part of a debate in which he defended his position extremely well in a very watched TV show for over an hour. His book is a serious game changer and gives credibility to veganism and antispecism even more. And L214 keeps on uncovering what’s going in slaughterhouses and finally a vegetarian-vegan/culinary magazine is at last available in all bookstores! it’s called « slowly veggie » and tries to push people towards vegan food in a convivial and delicious way, which is smart as we are a big food nation. The pictures of recipes are absolutely beautiful and mouth-watering and even the few vegetarian recipes are mostly easy to veganize. They clearly try to move people from vegetarian to 100% plant-based and they prove to the general population, which tends to still think « but what do you eat? » that we don’t just eat salads.
I have been roaming bookstores every day in the past few months because I constantly find articles which address either veganism, ethical issues about animals, vegan trends, nutritional aspects of plant-based eating (in a more and more positive and supporting way) and I just found a psychology magazine talking about the work of slaughterhouse workers and how it affects them. The national daily and weekly newspapers and magazines « Libération« , « Marianne » and « Paris Match » as well as « Charlie Hebdo » (which has been doing it forever) have now pro-animals journalists on their staff and write things nearly every week, whether it is about the latest scandals in slaughterhouses or animal agriculture to the benefits of plant based eating. Even the southern newspaper « Midi Libre » which is pro-bullfighting had 2 full pages about the latest slaughterhouse scandal with an interview of the co-founder of L214!!! Once again, this would have been unthinkable only 2 years ago! It is simply astonishing.
I myself have been on radio 3 times to talk about veganism, anti speciesism and the scandals of slaughterhouses notably on France Bleu Gard Lozère and the journalist even called me Thursday night to warn me about the « angry » farmers coming to the Alès slaughterhouse to confront us.
Lastly, the general population’s reaction to just what we do as activists has also evolved. I see more and more people coming to say that they agree more and more with us, have changed their lifestyle, or are transitioning to a more ethical lifestyle. I don’t have yet statistics in the number of vegans and vegetarians in France, but L214 has seen its membership explode in the last few months and they get messages all the time from people who have changed, from former hunters to just non vegans making changes. The successes of the Veggie Pride (which was created in Paris and later picked up by the New Yorkers) and Veggie World this year, with tons of participants and thousands of people are clear signs of the changes happening.
At the French Vegetarian Association (which is in fact vegan), we get asked for help constantly in finding vegan doctors and dietitians for adults and kids alike! The AVF lists vegan and vegetarian as well as veg friendly restaurants all over the country. L214 even has a list of politicians who either support or are against animals so people can vote with their conscience.
I could go on and on but this is truly an exciting time to be in France. And if you want to visit, I think you will find the country a lot more open to veg opinions and offers of plant-based options in restaurants.
© Copyright July 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
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.
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)
© 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
Note: This interview was translated in French and can be found here.
VP: You are very well known internationally in the vegetarian and vegan communities and you received numerous awards. Would you tell us a little bit about yourself as your work is not well known in France yet.
Will: My spouse Madeleine and I have been traveling now for over 20 years, presenting between 100-150 events annually, promoting vegan living throughout North America, as well as in Europe, Asia, and Australia. I’ve been a thriving, joyful vegan for 35 years now, and I’m most well-known for the best-selling book I wrote, The World Peace Diet, which has been published now in 15 languages. Earlier in my life, I was a Zen monk in Korea, and then I was an academic, with a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, focusing on educating intuition (and strongly influenced by Bergson), as well as being a professional pianist and composer.
Many others (like you Veronique!) are also contributing in beautiful ways to the benevolent vegan (r)evolution that is happening. The World Peace Diet is unique in that it gives the truly big picture of the ramifications of our routine mistreatment of animals for food, including the spiritual, emotional, cultural, historical, health, environmental, and other dimensions, so that people can grasp the enormity of both the problem and of the opportunity we have today. As more people go vegan, we will see an absolutely massive positive shift in health, happiness, sustainability, and cultural creativity. There’s nothing more important anyone can do than to make an effort to understand the ramifications of our food choices. That’s why, I believe, sales for The World Peace Diet have been so strong, and why it continues to be published around the world in other languages as well.
VP: Your book “The World Peace Diet” is a major international best-seller and is finally translated in French. What made you want to write it in the first place?
Will: In writing The World Peace Diet, one of my inspirations was to bring our culture’s routine mistreatment of animals for food and other products from the periphery of cultural concerns to the very center—to help people understand that the mentality of violence required by our most basic action—eating—is the spinning fury, hidden at the core of our culture, that generates the crises and problems we face both individually and collectively. Switching to a plant-based diet for ethical reasons is the ultimate spiritual statement in a culture such as ours that routinely and relentlessly kills over hundreds of millions animals daily for food. I feel it’s essential to bring the spiritual dimension to the vegan movement. This is the foundation of ethics, justice, and vegan living—awakening our inherent compassion and wisdom, questioning the indoctrinated disconnectedness that our culturally-imposed meal rituals impose on us, and changing our behavior to reflect our natural, deeply-held human values of respect, cooperation, and caring for others. We all know that we reap what we sow, and we all know that nonhuman animals are capable of suffering.
Going vegan is both a cause of and an effect of spiritual growth. As we nurture our bodies with organic, whole, plant-based foods, we cleanse internally, and our mind and emotions can relax, and we naturally begin to feel and understand directly the interconnectedness of all life. This essential awareness lives in all of us, waiting to be awakened. That is the spiritual journey we are on, whether we know it or not, and it is intimately connected to vegan living. As we travel and talk with folks all over the world, we hear this a lot: many have told us that upon going vegan, unexpected positive internal shifts happened, and they feel more confident, relaxed, at peace, and at the same time, a greater awareness of the underlying violence and deceit in our culture. There is a lot more on this of course in The World Peace Diet.
VP: Being your student, I have read your book several times and the chapter I still prefer is the one on Sophia. Would you explain a little what you’re talking about in this chapter.
Will: Yes, Chapter 7 is entitled “The Domination of the Feminine” and it cites two prime examples: the hen and the cow. “Dominating others requires us to disconnect from them.” Humans dominating animals and also men dominating women: this mentality of domination is probably the biggest mistake we humans make. It plays out in relationships between men and women, and also in many other ways as well. Domination requires disconnection and also reduction. Most women know how it is to be looked at as “meat” and as men, we are taught early on to look at women in that way, as we are taught to look at certain animals as well. I would not say, though, that it is easy for our species to disconnect. We have to be forced into it. I refer to a crucial aspect of our innate wisdom as Sophia, who was the Greek goddess of wisdom. This sacred feminine wisdom is brutally suppressed by forcing us as children to participate in mealtime rituals of eating blood and violence. We’ve got to remember the ferocity of the ritualized programming we have all endured. It’s tremendously powerful. From the time we lose our mother’s breast, we are forced to eat the flesh and secretions of abused animals in the most significant and relentless rituals in our culture: our daily meals. Veganism is essentially the resurrection of the feminine wisdom of Sophia within all of us, the wisdom that protects life and nurtures our children and cares for the health of our communities and our Earth.
VP: Would you tell us about one of the personal stories you mention in your book?
Will: In Chapter 14 of The World Peace Diet I describe how I went fishing, caught a couple of fish, and then had to repeatedly slam them against the floor to kill them. Looking back on it now, 40 years later, I can see that it definitely was a seminal moment in my life. I was quite an avid fisher in my youth, and was always proud when I caught some fish. When I went fishing within the new context of the spiritual pilgrimage that I went on at the age of 22, I suddenly saw fishing in a whole new light, and saw the cold, cruel violence of trickery and deceit as the blinders fell away. I suddenly felt compassion for the fish I was killing! I never fished again and within a couple of months, never ate fish in my life again either.
VP: Do you consider that the foundation for a peaceful world starts with our food?
Will: Our meals of hidden violence are devastating our Earth, torturing millions of beautiful and sensitive animals daily, and laying waste the inner landscape of our thoughts and feelings. The wars, diseases, neuroses, and crimes we see around and within us have their genesis in the wars, diseases, neuroses, and violent crimes we inflict on billions of animals routinely and completely unnecessarily. The basic sense of disempowerment many of us feel to change “the system” derives directly from our daily meals, which are the rituals that keep us as domineering agents of slavery and commodification, enslaved ourselves!
I am seeing increasing numbers of us “get” the message of The World Peace Diet and begin to share it with others, and this is the foundation of the healing of our world and of our culture and ourselves. We will continue to be merely ironic in our quests for peace, justice, and sustainability until we make the connections between animals as beings deserving of respect and these animals as products on our plates. When we authentically come into alignment with our true nature of compassion and wisdom and share this uplifting and liberating understanding with others, we will then be worthy of celebrating our lives on this beautiful and abundant planet. I encourage everyone to make an effort to understand the consequences of our food choices, to teach a community course on The World Peace Diet, and to spread the message of kindness, not just for ourselves, but for all living beings and all future generations. As they say, “We are the ones we are waiting for!”
VP: What is the important core message of your book?
Will: The essential message of The World Peace Diet is that the hidden core of our culture is herding animals for food and other products. This requires that everyone born into our culture be injected with a set of behaviors and attitudes that are not in our best interest, and are devastating to animals and to the ecosystems of our Earth. Some aspects of this set of attitudes are the mentality of disconnectedness that every meal requires, as well as the mentality of domination, elitism, exclusivism, and commodification of other living beings, and of the entire living world. Veganism is the most powerful alternative paradigm to our culture’s internal and external disease, because it’s not just theoretical, it’s solidly practical. It touches every dimension of our life: our meals, our clothing, our entertainment, and ultimately, the way we think about all others in our life. Veganism is the polar and transcending opposite of our Western culture, and it is what will, ultimately, heal that violent, oppressive, and suicidal mentality and its endless woes, and usher in a new world of undreamt possibilities of freedom, equality, and fraternity for all. We don’t have to fight against the old paradigm, though! That gives it more strength! Instead, we are called to focus on the positive changes we yearn to see, and to embody them in our thinking and behavior, and share them creatively with everyone we can.
VP: L’Association Végétarienne de France (note: The French Vegetarian Association in fact promotes veganism) is involved with the Cop 21 climate conference in Paris, what message would you like to give to all the participants of this climate conference.
Will: Victor Hugo is credited with saying that nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come. There is mounting evidence that global climate change may well bring an inconceivable catastrophe to humanity and to the Earth within the next century. It turns out that the main driving force behind global climate change is also behind human disease, environmental pollution, massive animal cruelty, and the whole range of dilemmas we are attempting to solve. The routine confinement and slaughter of millions of animals every day for food is catastrophic and must be explicitly addressed at COP21.
The most forcibly ignored cause of global warming is eating meat and dairy products; it’s the greatest source of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 297 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, as well as methane gas, which is 30 times more powerful. The science on this is unequivocal, and in addition, eating animals requires massive amounts of fossil fuel inputs, directly pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We are transporting over seventy percent of our corn, soybeans, oats, and other grains to animals, pumping water to irrigate these fields, manufacturing millions of pounds of fossil fuel- based fertilizer and pesticides, and housing and slaughtering billions of animals yearly. The end result of all this is that while it takes only two calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie of protein from soybeans, and three calories for wheat and corn, it takes 54 calories of fossil fuel to produce one calorie of protein from beef.
The primary driving force behind deforestation is cattle grazing and clearing land to grow soybeans and other grains to feed factory-farmed chickens, pigs, and fish. This is a further major contributor to global warming. In addition, sixty percent of our fish are now factory-farmed, causing severe water pollution and genetic damage to wild fish populations. Our limitless demand for fish that are used for feeding factory-farmed fish, birds, and mammals has brought our oceans to the brink of collapse. As the threat of global climate destabilization grows, we will hopefully begin to realize that the most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (and environmental pollution) is to reduce meat and dairy consumption.
Research has also revealed that buying locally grown meat, eggs, and dairy is not significant in its impact on our carbon footprint. Additionally, as the recent documentary Cowspiracy demonstrates, eating “free-range” and “organic” meat, dairy, and eggs does not substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because free- range cattle, for example, are not fattened as quickly as feedlot cattle, so they cause a greater greenhouse gas footprint in many cases.
To their credit, more journalists are coming forth, encouraging people to reduce meat and dairy consumption to save the Earth from climate break- down. Let’s amplify their call! The situation is critical. As the Worldwatch Institute has bluntly concluded, “It has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future.”
VP: I know you travel a lot around the world giving lectures to packed rooms. What would be a message you would give to a French audience?
Will: The main message of The World Peace Diet is to make essential connections that haven’t been made before. We have all been taught to disconnect and to practice disconnecting by our culturally mandated food practices. My work is to address this nearly invisible mentality of exclusion and its effects from many perspectives—the historic, psychological, sociological, spiritual, and ecological. What I say is not new. Pythagoras, Buddha, Da Vinci, Tolstoy, Einstein, Schweitzer, Gandhi, and many others have all said the same things, but more as aphorisms. The World Peace Diet is the first book to go into the connections in depth and show the big picture of our culture.
I feel that French people have, in many ways, a natural affinity to the vegan message. The French people are known for their sense of respect for nature and for their love of fine cuisine and their sensitivity to the romantic and loving aspects of life. Vegan living embraces and nurtures all these dimensions of our life, and also contributes to more healthy familial and social relationships. The French Revolution exemplified the idealism that the French people are capable of, and again, veganism is a deep and heartfelt dedication to the ideals of liberty, equality, solidarity, and caring, all of which are dear to the hearts, historically, of the French people. There is also the spiritual yearning that has characterized many aspects of French culture. To grow spiritually, we are called to question the official narratives of violence, and understand our cultural programming. This has been taught by Voltaire, Rousseau, Pascal, Camus, Sartre, Hugo, de Beauvoir, Bergson, Comte, Teillhard de Chardin, Durkheim, Weil, and many other remarkable French philosophers and writers.
VP: Thank you Will for all your inspiring comments. Is there anything you would like to add?
Will: Until we become aware, it’s difficult to change, but with awareness, we can grow in wisdom and contribute to a healthier and more harmonious world. The World Peace Diet points out the roots of our dilemmas and suffering, hidden in plain sight. Its main message is that we have been deceived by our cultural conditioning into seeing ourselves as essentially predatory, and by relentlessly eating like predators, we have created predatory economic and social institutions that create enormous suffering. When we awaken to our true nature, we see clearly that our greatest joy and satisfaction come in blessing, cooperating, creating, giving, encouraging, loving, protecting, and caring. We see the interconnectedness of all living beings, and can awaken to the deep spiritual truths that bring authentic freedom.
© Copyright January 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
So, once again, I am writing about a new traumatic event. I once before talked about the events with Charlie Hebdo from January 7 in a previous blog and that was tough enough. First I must say that I was very moved by all the friends from abroad who reached out to me privately to make sure I was ok. And I was very touched by comments worlwide. Even Stephen Colbert stopped being funny and showed clear emotions of shock.
In my previous blog about Charlie, I quoted Joe Randazzo of the Onion:
“This will be framed by many as the latest salvo in an ongoing war between the West and Islam, when what this really amounts to is the slaughter of innocent people. These murderers don’t represent anyone but themselves, their own twisted view of reality. They don’t stand for an entire religion anymore than the Westboro Baptist Church stands for an entire religion or the Ku Klux Klan stands for an entire race.”
On Friday November 13 (and they say Friday the 13th is bad luck – sic), the whole world was mourning the attacks in Paris (but also in Turkey and Beirut just the day before!). I saw things happening live on my television set, watching people trying to escape from the Bataclan hostage massacre and imagining the same with animals in slaughterhouses. And just like with Charlie Hebdo, not just humans died, a dog also lost her life.
The irony of it was that the day the attacks happened, part 1 of my interview with Vegan Nation was broadcasted and I was talking about our speciesist society and the importance of the vegan revolution. I had done the interview for both parts of the interview (Nov 13 and Nov 20) on the same day.
On November 15, I wrote this Facebook status: « Is it any wonder that, in a patriarchal world where men only believe in the might makes right mentality and deny Sophia (to use the term from Will Tuttle), that wars and terrorism happen? As long as Sophia is repressed, this will continue… »
A few days after the attack, I received a phone call from Marlene at Vegan Nation asking me to redo some of part II of the interview in the context of the Paris attacks and linking it to the cause of turkeys on Thanksgiving. I was caught by surprise, still in shock and my emotions clearly were transparent in the interview. But my mind was also clear about the meaning of this all.
There is a disease in our imperialist cultures whose name is capitalism (from the latin Capita for « head » of animals), a patriarchal mindset which seeks to impose our views by bombing and invading other countries. This alone radicalizes people (mostly men again who themselves oppress women in their countries) and makes them hate us. Is this surprising? Unlike the animals we slaughter or just exploit, they do retaliate and learn to hate. Animals generally don’t. (If you know of a cow coming at you with a Kalachnikov, please let me know).
I think Thom Hartmann (who is now vegan apparently and one of my all time favorite journalist) said it best on his show: « Western Militarists are Doing Exactly what ISIS Wants » and he continues with « France is Giving the Terrorists Exactly what they Want! » comparing it to W’s response after 9/11.
The award winning independent journalist (and also a vegan favorite of mine) Chris Hedges talks about what would happen of the United States if this was to occur:
« Another jihadi terrorist attack in the United States will extinguish what remains of our anemic and largely dysfunctional democracy. Fear will be even more fervently stoked and manipulated by the state. The remnants of our civil liberties will be abolished. Groups that defy the corporate state—Black Lives Matter, climate change activists and anti-capitalists—will be ruthlessly targeted for elimination as the nation is swept into the Manichean world of us-and-them, traitors versus patriots. Culture will be reduced to sentimental doggerel and patriotic kitsch. Violence will be sanctified, in Hollywood and the media, as a purifying agent. Any criticism of the crusade or those leading it will be heresy. The police and the military will be deified. Nationalism, which at its core is about self-exaltation and racism, will distort our perception of reality. We will gather like frightened children around the flag. We will sing the national anthem in unison. We will kneel before the state and the organs of internal security. We will beg our masters to save us. We will be paralyzed by the psychosis of permanent war. »
And what he says is exactly true about France as well as I have already seen and predicted. Teachers are being silenced, environmental and animal rights activists can’t be on the streets to defend their causes. But strangely enough, hunters and animal exploiters, as well as music venues etc… are allowed to continue business as usual. Coincidence? I think not. A state of emergency gives the government what it wants and more…
A journalist from Charlie Hebdo also said: « Radical imams should be kicked off from France, it’s the least we can do. They have nothing to do in France. They treat France as they treat women. »
Although it’s a statement I can agree with, it doesn’t solve the problem of a society that is inherently speciesist and sexist. The root of the problem, our exploitation of (mostly) female animals, which leads to the exploitation of women and this growing monster that is Daesh (or ISIS), with their institutionalized rape of women (they are sex slaves in their views) and our ever increasing military complex is never addressed. They enslave women as we all enslave female animals and rape them. How can we expect to have peace on Earth when billions of sentient beings are raped, tortured, mutilated and slaughtered EVERY SECOND!
I couldn’t help seeing the cruel irony of the situation in Paris. One minute, people were just drinking, eating animal corpses (I doubt many were vegetarian, let alone vegans), having fun with their lives, the next they were slaughtered by insane people.
But we created all this. We always reap what we sow. When you have disenfranchised communities (economically) and countries invaded with displaces millions of people as we see in the migrant crisis in Europe, is it any wonder that we sooner or later, violence to them brings us violence at home?
« We have to ask ourselves questions about the model of integration and education. It would be simpler to accept if the attacks were coming from people outside of the country. Before they were jihadists, they were French kids. The response has to be from the educational and social perspective. And that’s a lot more difficult than security. » ~ Louis Bernard
« Today, many Muslims still live in shoddy public housing on fringe areas of cities and feel disenfranchised. They face higher unemployment rates and uncertainty about their futures. About 19% of immigrants in France, all nationalities included, were unemployed in 2014 compared with 9% of French citizens, according to statistics agency INSEE. » Qz.com
In the same manner, we kill billions of sentient beings just for food alone each year and, as Will Tuttle would say, it retaliates against us with increased social violence, social problems like depression, mental diseases, health issues, etc…
The attacks in Paris, Turkey and Beirut are no different from the violence we commit towards other animals and other humans every second of the day. When you open your television set and see only speciesist commercials, movies and « infotainment », you can’t expect to have a just society in which people are caring, socially responsible and humane. We are taught the exact opposite from the day we are born.
War is not the answer. It never was. But it’s an excuse for the « disaster capitalism » Naomi Klein often talks about in her book The Shock Doctrine. It allows the powers that be to create chaos (or profit from chaos) to impose an agenda. President Hollande’s speech after the attacks reminded me shockingly of President Bush’s speech before the invasion of Iraq. The similitude was scary. And the propaganda machine is en route, the repression of peaceful social activism is also underway. Many cities have banned gatherings whether for peaceful protests or otherwise. And now, our president even wants to violate human rights. Having lived through 9/11 and after while in the United States and the consequences on civil liberties, I have enough objectivity (unlike most French and Americans then) to see what is happening under our noses.
« An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind. » right?
We need more than ever to have vegan communities which truly value compassion, kindness, sharing, helping others, and of course respecting other animals in order to counter the violence that is created in the world. Without this benevolent vegan revolution, the world of humans will self-destruct. I don’t think this would be a bad thing for the Earth and the other sentient beings.
As Captain Paul Watson once said to a journalist on Fox News (or as I call it « Fix News » to quote Thom Hartmann): « Worms are more important than human beings. They don’t need us, we need them; bees don’t need us, we need them. » Humans are not essential to the planet at all. They behave like viruses. And viruses have to be eventually destroyed.
If we want to survive as a species (do we actually want it?), vegan education is the key to our survival and the survival of all that lives. We can only fight hate with love, not with more hate that fuels insanity. We can only fight poverty, hunger, climate change, animal exploitation with a benevolent, kind vegan revolution in which all of us are united and kick our damn egos to the side.
As the excellent blog ActiveVeganDotorg rightly pointed out recently, we are all « Jehadi Johns » unless we truly act on the real meaning of veganism and spread non-violent education.
« When we start to consider terrorism from a species equality level and point of view, there really is no difference when butchering a human as there is to butchering a nonhuman – apart from law. The unethical act of it is just the same. It is only that the law supports human lives as by far more relevance to nonhuman lives and effectively of higher value in terms of life. Nonhumans are viewed as mere things, chatel property. objects, that influences the shock factor in terms of terrorism. […] All of these people, these so called ‘terrorists’ who take lives for their own apparent reason, simply have no moral concern for life. They do not believe that what they are doing is morally wrong – they simply see things differently to the average person who believes in nonviolence. They justify their violent action in the name of what they believe to be right. They lack nonviolent education, respect for life, for those who matter, for those who want to live. »~ Activevegandotorg
We need to, as Will Tuttle pointed out, to truly embrace « Deep Veganism » and stop fighting among each other for shallow reasons. As long as we continue to fight among activists over silly things even though we agree on the essential, violence wins, non-human and human animals as well as the Earth lose.
As Will beautifully said: « Deep veganism arises in us as a heart-felt aspiration to embody loving kindness in all of our relations with others, both human and nonhuman. It emerges as a sense of vast inclusivity. We realize that people who are not yet vegan have been wounded by pervasive cultural programming that has in many ways shut down their natural wisdom and compassion from birth. We see that we have all be wounded by the meat rituals and our culture’s food program that desensitizes us and breeds exclusivism, elitism, disconnectedness, commodification, competition, and self-centeredness. Deep compassion begins to grow in our hearts for all living beings and our interconnected suffering. We begin to yearn more than anything to embody the liberating truth-essence of veganism in every thought, word, and action. »
If Vegans don’t learn to get passed their imperfect egos and anger and educate others about a non-violent society FOR ALL (including among themselves), no one else ever will.
I will end on this beautiful quote from Chris Hedges’ article on TruthDig:
« Violence generates counterviolence. The cycle does not stop until the killing stops. All that makes us human—love, empathy, tenderness and kindness—is dismissed in wartime as useless and weak. We revel in a demented hypermasculinity. We lose the capacity to feel and understand. We pity only our own. We too celebrate our glorified martyrs. We endow our sanctified dead with the lofty virtues and goodness that define our national myth, ignoring our complicity in perpetuating the ceaseless cycle of death. »
© Copyright November 2015 – 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
“One of the statements that depresses me most is when vegans who were long-time vegetarians say, “I just didn’t know.” As animal liberationists, it is our duty to make sure people know. It is our duty to speak the truth, confront injustice, [and] creatively work together to end the animal holocaust. Let’s bring the focus back to where it needs to be, on the animals.”
~ Gary Smith (June 23, 2012)
I am an abolitionist and yet I do what some would call “welfarist” campaigns or single issue campaigns like the anti-fur, anti-foie gras, anti-hunting, anti-bullfighting demos, etc. and of course vegan education. When I was living in the USA, talking pure Veganism was not that easy but at least people knew what the word “vegan” meant there. It’s not the same in France. We have “vegetarian”, « végétalien » (plant-based) and vegan(e) but the latter is still a word which brings wide clueless eyes from most people.
I started as welfarist many years ago, not knowing anything else, then discovered certain authors and became this absolutist who believed that only talking about veganism would create change and that everything else was useless. I still believe it is true with a few people on the street. But the big majority, even with the best arguments, don’t want to hear about pure veganism in the first place.
Coming back to France, I had to come to the realization that vegan education only wasn’t yet possible but that taking any opportunity to bring it into the conversation within the context of a seemingly “welfarist” campaign worked better. In fact, our campaigns are indeed single-issue but you won’t find an activist here who wants bigger cages, or less fur or just no meat. You will find activists who want a total abolition of any animal exploitation. We just try to tap into people’s psyches any way we can to bring them to at least be open to discuss more and go further.
And it works. The association I volunteer for (among others), l’Association Végétarienne de France (The French Vegetarian Association – I hate the name obviously) doesn’t have any vegetarian recipes on its website. It does promote a 100 % plant based diet from a nutritional perspective. This is not an animal rights association in the usual sense (even though it also addresses ethics and the environment and everyone in it is mostly there for ethical reasons), it is more about nutritional educati
on. As a holistic vegan health coach, I found a way to use my learning in order to also bring ethics and environmental issues into the discussion.
The absolutist approach is something I am tired off. It can work on a few people but to say that some single issue campaigns are a waste of time is denying their usefulness when they are done right. From my experience doing many single issue campaigns in France now (and in the US), I found out that it is easier to approach people with one single issue and then engage an intelligent dialogue which brings to the vegan dialogue because I noticed that they can get overwhelmed rapidly and turn away even faster.
As any vegan activist who’s been “on the field” knows, I have found those who don’t want to hear anything and just mock the very idea of being vegan or just anti-speciesist. We’ve all been there. But I found more people being in fact open to discuss veganism, through way of a seemingly single issue campaign, than when I did pure vegan education on the streets.
And believe me, I never thought I would reach this point of view after many years of being convinced by the absolutist argument. The fact is that now, more and more news programs on television discuss the meat issue or even Veganism and vegetarianism in France. The growing vegan movement in France is palpable and we’re riding on a new wave.
What made this change possible? I believe that it is the number of events organized not only around veganism (as L214 or the Association Végétarienne de France and FUDA do) but also all the other campaigns showing the reality of animal agriculture and the (sadly) growing fast food industry (thanks McDonald, KFC and others!). When we show footage of the cruelty of foie gras to some people, I often hear from them that they are going vegetarian or even vegan already. People get it. And it’s not being absolutist which brought them here; it is one thing after another.
Some are touched by the cruelty of foie gras, others by the cruelty of the fur industry. Others are worried about their health or the environment. Whatever made them “tick” and triggered their empathy in the first place and reach new conclusions is something which matters. I don’t know many vegans who went vegan immediately. Most (including myself) did it gradually as they learned more and felt less and less the challenge of changing difficult (and it’s not the easiest thing still in France or even some parts of the USA – not everyone lives in L.A. or New York).
So I am basically tired of the so-called welfarist versus abolitionist arguments. The only welfarists I can’t approve off are those who want to regulate slavery, care only about dogs and cats, not those who use single issue campaigns with an abolitionist goal.
I showed a French news report on the growing vegan trend in France and the fact that L214 is doing “vegan places” all over the country. One person’s response (in a US group) was “pfff L214, they’re just welfarists”. I was thinking: « Can’t you just be glad that veganism is on NATIONAL news and in PRIME TIME and that it is growing? You have to complain about an organization because it doesn’t meet your perfect criteria? » Yes, it’s true that they are partly welfarists in the sense that they want better regulations on certain issues but no other organization here does more to promote Veganism everywhere yet. I don’t and will never agree with the welfarist part but it has the advantage of showing the reality to a blind population. They also do an enormous amount of undercover investigations which just got a slaughterhouse in the south closed down just recently and was seen as a scandal all over French newspapers and Television. Should I therefore push L214 under the bus because they’re not perfect? I might as well push all the sincere activists under the bus because none of us is the “perfect abolitionist” according to some people’s books, which is probably 99% of us.
Don’t get me wrong, I agree with the abolitionist theory of anti-speciesism and I agree with most of what abolitionists write. But besides criticizing and trashing others (as some of them who I won’t name do but that all activists I’m sure can name on Facebook), I don’t see much action done based on their approach. However, I see a lot of people who don’t waste their time trashing others and do some great work at educating people any way they are able to because they don’t waste their time arguing with others and actually do something! Usually, they don’t spend much time on Facebook. That is not a coincidence. The loudest critics are the ones doing the least.
None of us are perfect. And frankly, instead of throwing stones at each others, we should start having a good look at ourselves as humans and do some inner work. We are all different; we all came to Veganism in various ways (as I noticed by listening to various interviews on AR Zone over the years as an example). So how can we pretend that one way is better than another? I got people to go vegan by first approaching them about their health, others it was the environment, others yet, it was just an issue like the violence of the fur industry. We don’t know what may make people suddenly re-discover their empathy! All we know is that we want them to get to Veganism and therefore anti-speciesism. And it’s possible any of these factors can do it. I met enough people who proved this rule to me.
However, staying vegan is NOT about diet, is NOT about the environment, it is FIRST about the animals and then everything else.
When we fail is when we don’t teach them the main reason to do it in the end. But let’s open all the doors which can bring them to the vegan conclusion.
As a famous expression says: all paths lead to Rome. So it can be true that all paths can lead to Veganism as well.
Photos: March Against Speciesism – August 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland
© Copyright October 2015 – 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
Dialog from the movie « The Day the Earth Stood Still » (the original):
Secretary Haley: « Now that you understand the situation more clearly, perhaps you’d like to discuss it with the President. »
Klaatu: « I will not speak with any one nation or group of nations. I don’t intend to add my contribution to your childish jealousies and suspicions. »
Secretary Haley: « Our problems are very complex Klaatu. You mustn’t judge us too harshly. »
Klaatu: « I can judge only by what I see. »
Secretary Haley: « Your impatience is quite understandable. »
Klaatu: « I’m impatient with stupidity. My people have learned to live without it. »
Secretary Haley: « I’m afraid my people haven’t. »
This 1951 classic directed by the legendary director Robert Wise is one of my favorite movies of all times (forget the more recent version with Keanu Reeves which was horrible). This movie is not great because of its old special effects or just the wonderful actors, it’s because of its message: Evolve or die! and the numerous sub-messages in the movie which set it largely apart from others of its time.
Why this movie’s message matters to me.
In our world today, we are dominated by forces who dictate to us who we need to be without regards for any consideration of our true natures. These forces are hell bent on expanding their psychotic moral schizophrenia to as many of us as they can by keeping us docile with toxic and dead foods, drugs, brainwashing entertainment which serve to keep us numbed (and dumbed) down and with the help of puppet politicians who are really serving a hidden elite of wealthy individuals who are addicted to power and greed.
We are dominated by a tiny percentage of oligarchs all over the world who pass whatever laws they want about our food, our production systems, GMOs, repressive police, their war addictions, etc.
Each day, we wake up to information overload. We are monitored from the moment we are awake through our televisions, smart phones and now we might even have to worry about Amazon using drones to ship our book purchases (which would destroy competition for even more small businesses – are there any left?).
So what’s next? Pills to make us like whatever corporations want us to buy? They already own us as consumers just through advertising alone (turn off the damn TV!). They also are in fact trying to patent our DNA which I guess would give them total control over our bodies even though some people try to oppose it. They force our kids to get vaccinated and they brainwash them into getting addicted to animal flesh and secretions.
As the website Energy Grid said very well on their home page:
« Despite living in « the free world », there are very few free men and women walking around in our democracies. Very few indeed. This is because some men and women have a human failing that drives them to want to manipulate others for the sake of power. That manipulation has enslaved humanity throughout most of its history, and still presents the most ominous threat to democracy. »
So, what are we left with?
Here comes the Vegan revolution (which I could rename the Klaatu revolution just for the purpose of this article). This is the only revolution which can potentially free us. Do we need some external extra-terrestrial force to make humans evolve to avoid obliteration, as the movie clearly demonstrates? Or can, you ask, Veganism be a solution to all this maze of control over our freedom to think?
Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is – whether its victim is human or animal – we cannot expect things to be much better in this world… We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in killing any living creatures.
~ Rachel Carson (1907-1964)
As Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! once said: « We need a media that covers grassroots movements, that seeks to understand and explain the complex forces that shape our society, a media that empowers people with information to make sound decisions on the most vital issues of the day: war and peace, life and death. Instead, the media system in the United States, increasingly concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer multinational corporations, spews a relentless stream of base « reality » shows (which depict anything but reality), hollow excuses for local news that highlight car accidents and convenience store robberies larded with ads, and the obsessive coverage of traffic, sports, and extreme weather (never linked to another two words: climate change). Perhaps most harmful of all, we get the same small circle of pundits who know so little about so much, explaining the world to us and getting it so wrong. »
Amy is right (too bad she doesn’t cover Vegans however) and indeed Veganism, as well as other social movements, has grown because of people-powered media who have been able to get around the mainstream corporate propaganda and its destructive agenda. That growing awareness is fueling a growing activism around food justice, animal rights, environmental issues and other social issues. Let’s not forget that, despite being crushed, the Occupy Movement was able to survive several months through independent grassroots activism and public powered media. Others, like the Black Lives Matter movement, are creating change. And the LGBT movement just won the right to marriage equality. These movements are all fueled by people armed with only cell phones, social media and determination. The vegan/animal rights movement has proven that it can do the same but not until we stop fighting with each other over ridiculous things. Our biggest enemies are not the animal abusers, it is us when we are divided.
Issues around food are being discussed all over the world by more and more people and choosing a plant-based diet or go full-fledged vegan is the biggest tool of power we have against those who seek to control us. And the reason is that we become AWARE and INFORMED about, not just animal rights, but every other social issues and stop relying on what is being taught or told to us. We connect all the dots and get out of the imposed veil of ignorance on our minds, or as Will Tuttle calls it, the « herding mentality ».
We will never have real democracies through just the tool of voting at the booth (and I’m not saying we shouldn’t vote, I’m not Russell Brand! and I love Bernie Sanders for many reasons, most notably his record of integrity, oh well I had to say it!) but voting for someone, even an honest man or woman, is just the tip of the iceberg and doesn’t create any real change unless people keep being active after the votes and push for change as a mass movement. It is too easy to think that « well, we voted, that’s all I need to do. » We saw the result of that thinking last time. The roots of change come from people changing themselves, not trying to change a failing system which is self-destructive anyway. The powers that be will then be forced to follow after they try to repress us to stay in power. They won’t let go easily (and without causing pain) unless we are a massive force for peace and real change. It starts with, as always, ourselves. The fact that people seem to be turning to Bernie is a symptom of a real possible inner change for the end of inequalities and new values (at least I hope so). And even if Bernie doesn’t get elected, the desire for social change might be under way with or without him. He is just a symbol of it.
Dr. Vandana Shiva would say that saving seeds insures freedom for small farmers from the monsters of Monsanto and she is right. Since we have no control over the powers who control our food systems and try to control our lives (with mass surveillance, now also passed in France after the drama of Charlie Hebdo, the NSA and so on), we need to connect with each other even more than before and build our own communities, our own food gardens, our own sustainable lives and educate others to do the same by teaching them the WHYs of Veganism in a holistic way. Even in France, we talk a lot about veganic agriculture as the solution and we have regular environmental weeks which include a large emphasis on Veganism.
Until most people learn why Veganism is such a powerful tool of inner and outer change, nothing will really change. They can’t win against the police state with weapons. As many before them demonstrated (King, Gandhi, Chavez and many others), violence has never been the answer. But we can be non-violent and still resist while promoting change and give tools to others to become more independent themselves. Imagine what is possible.
As my friend Butterflies Katz once said about the Gentle World community: « Since then, the experience of living with Gentle World has transformed me into someone who is much different from the person I would have been had we not joined paths. My personal transformation has taken me from being a suburban, consumerist, superficial person – to a country girl, a naturalist who tries to live at one with her environment, and a non-consumer, a recycler and conservationist. »
In today’s economy, this is nothing short than a huge challenge (and dream) for a lot of us. I know that I depend on my own government financially at the moment. I am awfully aware of it. But I’m also aware that I need to seek solutions to this corporate/government slavery which, on the one hand allows me not to be on the street but on the other hand gives me very few ways for being independent.
I had friends recently who suggested that we take over some old abandoned villages in France. I thought this was a brilliant idea. Let’s create vegan communities in these beautiful locations, left behind by people who needed work and abandoned them. I bet there are a lot of such small towns in the USA and other countries too which could serve to create vegan communities, independent (at least for the most part) of corporate control and relying on each other for services by using the creativity and the know-how of each of us. Is this an utopist idea? Maybe it seems like it now. But I do believe this is what we will have to do in order to survive the disastrous policies of our corporate owned governments (in wherever country you are).
It has never been more important than NOW for vegans to educate non-vegans, social activists and anyone not yet part of our movement to all the issues of respect for life, environmental, animal ethics, sustainability and how we can achieve it with communities.
We truly need to be the change we want to see in the world. Because no-one is going to do it for us. We are the Klaatus that we’ve been waiting for; the ones who will make the change inevitable.
– Trailer of the classic (must see) movie « The Day the Earth Stood Still »
– Robert Wise about the movie on the AFI website
– Manipulation of the People — The Rudiments of Propaganda
John Smith—09/2003 (updated 09/05)
– 1,000,000 people against forced vaccination – Page on Facebook
– Mandatory vaccination bill for public schools passes California legislature – The Guardian
– The European Union forces GMOs on France – L’Europe autorise les OGM : la France n’a pas la possibilité de s’y opposer
– Interesting book to check out: Trade Is War – The west’s war against the world
– Amazon ships books with drones – Money magazine
– Law on mass surveillance in France: Mediapart.fr
– The 10 Biggest Revelations from Edward Snowden’s Leaks – Mashable.com
– Our DNA being patented – The Guardian
– Finding Community as a New Vegan – One Green Planet
– Vegan and vegan-friendly communities: Libaware
– Life in a Vegan Community by Butterflies Katz – Gentle World
– Black Lives Matter movement’s website.
– Village des Possibles (or literally village of what is possible) in Montpellier (France). This video is subtitled in English. The village reunited various associations for the environment, economic justice, « Do it Yourself » workshops and vegan food!
– Will Tuttle’s article « Beyond Herderism » on the IDA website.
Photos and poster of the movie found on Photobucket.com
© Copyright July 2015 – 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
I received a post from a fellow activist recently that this was going to be her last action with us and this really bothered me in the sense that she obviously expressed burn out but also despair in her comments.
In essence, she was saying that this was her last action because « I am tired of people who don’t care and don’t listen to us ». We’ve all been through that. And it’s important to recognize how this burn out affects all of us.
We are surrounded by a lot of dark forces in the world right now. Whether we talk about « religious » extremism, state sponsored terror, corporatism, government spying, social inequalities and of course the plight and horror of what our animal friends go through, there is a lot to despair about. Is it any wonder that so many justice activists (in any social movements) just drop out? As vegans, we also face ridicule, incomprehension, social pressure and so on. There is nothing easy about fighting for any just causes and pushing social progress in the mentality of the masses.
In fact, the pressure is even getting worse as we see a rise in extremist terror, corporate and government overreach and manipulation. For instance, we saw the terror attacks in Paris and Boko Haram which were both horrific and linked to fanaticism. We see the spying of our governments on our privacy and their use of police brutality (whether we talk about innocent African Americans in the US, Environmental activists being killed in France or in South America or whether I get tear gassed by the police for standing up against bullfighters). We see also a war on women with damning statistics showing that « globally 35% of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence » (UN Statistics), forced into marriage as children or go through sexual mutilations.
All of this, as Dr. Will Tuttle would say, has its roots in our routine violence towards other animals and the constant suppression of feminine values of caring, compassion, nurturing of the Earth, the animals and each other. Extremism stems from a challenge to patriarchal rules wrapped in « religious » bigotry. Government spying results from a challenge from justice activists of all sides to question the status quo. And corporate domination result from people wanting governments actually representing them, paying them decent wages and corporations being greedy, pillaging entities who only care about the bottom line and the hell with our future on this planet.
The fact that it is getting worse is to me a good sign that big changes are under way in the background. This may sound like crazy thinking but read on.
Let’s get back to social justice for animals. Why are corporations so determined on buying up politicians to enact laws to prevent filming in factory farms? Because we are a threat to their bottom line. I don’t believe laws can be changed unless they come from grassroots efforts to put pressure on the puppets who want to control us. But when powerful elites feel threatened, just like kings, they will try to turn us more and more into serfs until, like in the French or American Revolution, we have finally enough and more and more of us rise up against them.
For the past few months, I have been doing Vegan education on the streets of Montpellier (France) and before that in Los Angeles, California. What I find fascinating in France is this thirst to learn more and this bigger openness to animal rights and veganism which is completely contrary to what I had expected since I considered Los Angeles as a « headquarter » of Veganism and Animal Rights thanks to the large number of activists and Vegan restaurants (compared to here). But the truth is that French people are generally less brainwashed and better educated (sorry Americans, it’s not to put you down as the good people that you are) and therefore more critical of their government and what they are told in general. The difference is really striking. The reason we have so little Vegan education in France is that Vegans and Vegetarians are extremely marginalized and that no government agencies recognizes plant-based eating as a healthy diet (America has the American Dietetic Association’s position on plant-based diets). And we also have (sic) our sacro-saint French cuisine recognized as « world heritage » which re-affirms the beliefs of people that a plant-based diet is not healthy.
Just this Saturday (Jan 31st), I held my first AVF (French Vegetarian Association) stand, which despite its name, strongly promotes Veganism and Veganic agriculture. I became a delegate for my region a few months ago because it is one of the few non-profits who directly promotes Vegan nutritional information to the public. I met so many people who thanked me for doing this, telling me that they were either vegetarian, already vegan, or trying to get there but didn’t know how (as there is not much education done in this country, except through the AVF and a few debates on TV) that I gave more business cards in one day than in months in the US. Of course, I also met the usual deniers but at least most of them took the time to try to understand and see our side of the story.
Now, let’s come back to the issue of women. Is it any surprising that there is an all time high of violence against women and suppression of their freedom around the world? No, it’s not. And it’s obviously because women are starting to come into their own power. We just have to look at the incredible example set by the most recent Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai who, even though she was almost silenced by patriarchal religious extremists, never gave up and keeps fighting for the right of girls to have education. What a powerful example! The violence against women and also the rise against their reproductive rights is similar to the way females are being exploited in animal husbandry. We are dealing with a 10,000 year old patriarchal mindset, also set in the religious institutions (if you really look at them, they are patriarchal) in which women, like other animals, are still seen as inferior by a lot of the world’s society.
The same way Vegan/Animal Rights activists are being repressed, women in general still can’t in many way achieve gender equality because of the rampant sexism, violence against them, work inequalities, religious bigotry, and so on… But the fact that both social justice movements scare the hell out of the ones who seek to control us, this violence on both sides is increasing.
I am reminded of these words from Ghandi: « When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always. »
Because we are getting stronger and there are more of us each day, these evil forces who seek to silence us and oppress us and other animals will eventually collapse like the castle of cards that they are. They are not build out of bricks, just out of sand because they don’t stem from truth and that is not sustainable. I believe more and more people are becoming aware of the inner truth of our world and are rejecting the status quo. The reaction to the attack on cartoonists in Paris and seeing an historical 4 million people on the streets (including myself) was a powerful statement that you can’t silence an idea when its time has come (whether you agree with Charlie’s work or not).
Let’s not forget what history teaches us. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was declared enemy #1 and called the « most dangerous negro in the US » by the FBI. Cesar Chavez (himself a vegan) connected the dots between oppression of humans and other animals and was also threatened multiple times. Environmental activists, like our Rémi Fraisse here in France, are murdered by the police for defending the land and biodiversity while Peruvian environmentalists are being murdered for defending their ancestral lands. Vegans are put in jail as well as other animal liberators and human rights activists. Yes, it is a tough world when you are on the side of justice.
But in the end, justice always prevail. The civil rights act was passed, women got the right to vote (at least in western countries), young women and other women are starting to rise up in Arabic countries where they are horribly oppressed, men are getting more and more in touch with their inner sensibility, and let’s not forget: more and more people are connecting the dots and going vegan.
So this is what I responded to my friend quoted above:
« I understand where you’re coming from. But we can never be sure of the impact we can have on other people. I have been an activist for almost 10 years (in the USA and now in France) and there is progress. The problem is that it is difficult to quantify our impact on others statistically but we do have one! I give you several examples:
– In the USA, almost all the non-vegans who came to me directly (and not solely through the internet) have become vegans and are now activists for other animals themselves.
– In France, recently, at an anti foix-gras event, a young woman came to me to ask help for going vegan because she wasn’t sure how to go about it and was disgusted by the violence towards animals.
The problem is not that we don’t make any difference, we do! It is that we are still a minority. If we persevere (and I saw big changes in the USA in only a few years), we bring over more and more people to our cause who themselves influence others around them. It’s that simple.
If the suffragettes had given up because they were being ridiculed and were a minority, women would probably not have had the right to vote until much later. If blacks in the US had not persevered, racism would still be a legal institution. It doesn’t mean obviously that there is no longer any racism or sexism but that there are laws against some forms of discrimination.
The animal struggle (even though Greek philosophers already had positions in favor of animals and vegetarianism) is still in its infancy. The end of racial segregation in the USA took over 200 years (although there is now economic segregation, if not legal). We are not the ones who will see the changes, we are the pioneers. Our job is to plant the seeds which will grow principally in the future. »
The way to combat burn out is simple: stop for a while. It doesn’t mean giving up completely. But we are not machines, we have responsibilities, pressure, we feel down whenever we see cruelty and as vegans, we are especially sensitive to the pain of others. That’s what sets us apart from the blinded masses. We also face family pressure, social pressure. There is a time when it’s best to take a break and renew ourselves. What good is a burn out activist when it comes to educating people? It’s a waste of time. I would rather have people with me who are energized, passionate (passion mellowed with a little bit of wisdom) and committed to the goal of animal liberation than people who are too down and incapable of talking to people. We are still sensitive beings too.
It’s important to balance all the cruelty we see by seeing the other side. Animal photographer Jo-Anne McArthur is an example of someone who constantly takes horrific pictures of animal cruelty (and suffers from PTSD because of it) but renews herself by going to Farm Sanctuary on a regular basis to take pictures of happy animals, free of exploitation. We have to strike a balance in order to have the strength to keep going. Animal sanctuaries are a fantastic way of reminding ourselves why we do what we do and seeing happy animals is totally uplifting. But not everyone has a sanctuary close by to go to. I like watching uplifting videos also reminding me why I am into this, like this one from FUDA (A French Animal Rights group – United Forces for Animal Rights) called FUDA Together (subtitled in English) or this wonderful one from Evolve! Campaigns called Why Vegan? Go back in nature for a while, do a retreat. The important thing is to come back stronger than ever, and a better advocate than ever.
But giving up completely is not an option because I know that we are slowly winning. And by the way, my friend is back in action.
– The World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle
– The story of Malala Yousafzai
– UN Report on Violence against Women
– Article about 7 ridiculous restrictions against women around the world.
– Article from Arab News about the e-book Arab Women Rising.
– Facts and Figures from the UN about violence against women.
– Martin Luther King Jr.’s inspiring forgotten speech « Beyond Vietnam » on the military industrial complex, corporate and government power, war and why we need to keep on struggling for justice in a non-violent way on Breaking The Set.
Photo: I am holding Chloe the Hen at the Gentle Barn Sanctuary in California (2013).
© Copyright February 2015 – 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
“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
“I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: Oh Lord, make my enemies ridiculous. And God granted it. »
For the last few days and I believe for the next few weeks also, I am and will continue to grieve the events of Paris and the slaughtered people of Charlie Hebdo as well as the police officers, hostages, and the death of a poor dog caught in all this insanity. This is therefore a very difficult blog for me to write but one that I find necessary to explain certain things to the rest of the world.
Charlie has been a pillar of free speech for years before it was even called Charlie Hebdo (the name derives from the character Charlie Brown in Peanuts and is an inside joke about President Charles De Gaulle; Hebdo means weekly). Most people in France (who are old enough) remember its earlier version called Hara-Kiri. I read many people’s comments on Facebook, Twitter and the numerous articles in the world’s press. For days during the unfolding between the slaughter, the hostage situations and the manhunts, I was glued to my computer screen (and TV set) and witnessed the world’s reaction to all of this (and mourned/cried a lot). It mostly felt like a horror movie in which the ending is really bad for the heroes. I still carry a deep pain in my heart as of this writing. I particularly can’t look at pictures of Cabu without having tears.
Some said that Charlie « had gone too far ». What I find fascinating is that these comments mostly come from people outside the country who don’t understand something: French satire. So let me give you some historical context for this.
French satire is a tool to express anger, rage, revolt, humor and rejection of the status quo which has been around since the days of Queen Marie Antoinette and to ridicule and fight the then Royalist Feudal system which kept millions of French in dire poverty while a tiny elite of aristocrats were living in Versailles and other castles. They were the 1% of their time, while the rest of the country was its 99% (sounds familiar?). Satire is even older than that as you can find it in the most oppressive kingdoms in history where the only people who could ridicule their rulers were the « bouffons » or court jesters. They could be funny and obscene but they were allowed, weirdly enough, to have their say. No one else could.
Satire (particularly French satire) is based on a total rejection of any « ism », whether it is the then « Royalisme » (from royalists) of the kings and queens, or the « ism » of religion, the « ism » of capitalism, the « ism » of all racism, but also ridiculing the ridicule. It can explain also why Charlie Hebdo is also the only newspaper in France (satirical or not) which takes strong positions on animal rights (as the cartoon in this blog shows). Yes they can be vulgar, obscene, provocative, even downright unpalatable at times. But they say their truths with their best weapons: their pencils and words. That is the essence of a free society (at least ours) that what you say can’t and should never be policed by violence, whether it’s the state, corporate manipulation or in this case, fanatics.
They were not the only ones. Before he died (or was murdered, depending on who you believe), the comedian Coluche (a legend here) was also very much like Charlie Hebdo: vulgar, outrageous, provocative. He even did a mock « gay wedding » with a fellow (gay) comedian at a time when you couldn’t even talk about gay rights, let alone gay weddings. He never said he was gay (he was married) but bluntly said on television 30 years ago that « he had tried it but in the end, that didn’t work out » (and got a big laugh). This shocked a lot of people 30 years ago but now he is a reference impossible to ignore in France’s political and social discourse. Coluche’s outrageous exterior was hiding a heart of gold and he founded « Les Restaurants du Coeur » (Restaurants of the Heart), which 30 years after his death, still feed poor people (of all races and creeds), help them with legal issues, provide services to re-insert them into society, etc… The best satirists and sometimes the most outrageous and provocative people (at least in France) have proven to be also the most generous to others. Cabu was vegetarian and was seen many times protesting animal cruelty. Charb, Wolinsky, Cabu, and Tignous and the other victims present at the newspaper meeting (ironically about racism) that day, as well as Luce Lapin (who was wounded but fortunately is alive) have always took positions for denouncing absurdity while making people laugh at it. But their position on animal rights is not even the point here.
France is a secular country. As such, we don’t follow anything but secular laws, not religious laws. In fact, you’re not supposed to even show your religious affiliations in Federal systems like Public Schools (Private & Religious schools are a different matter). Racism is an offense in our laws, mocking religion is not. Charlie is anti-racist and never mocked people based on their race. But they have the right to mock religion. So whether one religious community feels insulted or not, our right to free speech is protected by law. And for the record, nowhere in the Koran does it say that you can’t do a drawing or any representation of the Prophet. This is an idea that has been around since the 15th century only and has become culturally accepted by some Muslims but not all. Religions tend to change in time. There were a time when women had no soul for the Catholic Church. Animals still don’t according to them. I was raised Catholic but would never have criticized the right of Charlie to mock the Catholic religion (and they did).
When I moved to the United States, I was ready to follow its laws. There is a reason I never moved to various countries in the world, it’s because I didn’t agree with their laws because they had religion as their state laws. Separation of « Church and State » is a sacred right we won with the French Revolution. It is not debatable even if it may insult various groups.
A society where anyone can say anything is what allows vegans, environmental and human rights activists in general to be bold and daring at exposing uncomfortable truths to society.
When I was at the Montpellier Republican March (not to confuse the word « republican » as a party as a lot of Americans did, it means March for the Republique), I felt compelled to document visually this day by not just filming the other 100,000 plus people who were there with me but to hear their voices, their feelings. Muslims talked to me. Children talked to me. Even a French-Mexican woman talked to me (I had never met a Mexican living in France, only in Los Angeles). There were people who said that Charlie Hebdo went « too far ». But all of them, Muslims included, said that what these fanatics did had nothing to do with Islam and that, even though they disapproved of caricatures of the Prophet, they also approved of the right of others, in a free society, to ridicule him. It is interesting to know that, besides the threats that fanatics (using religion as an excuse) had made to Charlie, it’s mostly the Catholic Church who sued them most over the years. But that is meaningless, Catholics burned down theaters in France when the movie « The Temptation of Christ » was released. So fanatics can use any religion as an excuse and atheists (like the former Soviet Union’s stalinists, the Nazis, and so on) can use non-religious ideologies with the same zeal to kill as well (and they killed millions of people). And as all the Muslims I met told me, the Prophet would never had agreed with this, no matter how offended he would have been.
Joe Randazzo of the Onion said it well:
« This will be framed by many as the latest salvo in an ongoing war between the West and Islam, when what this really amounts to is the slaughter of innocent people. These murderers don’t represent anyone but themselves, their own twisted view of reality. They don’t stand for an entire religion anymore than the Westboro Baptist Church stands for an entire religion or the Ku Klux Klan stands for an entire race. »
As activists, we are in a unique time. We live in an extremely bipolar society. It does a 180 in just a matter of hours on every issues. One day, Foix Gras is banned in California, the next a judge changes it back. One day, some guys write a silly cartoon, the next 12 people die for holding pencils from guys who want to police free speech and freedom of expression with violence. This has never been seen before in the West but is common place in repressive regimes in other countries where journalists and human rights activists are commonly put in jail, even killed, for far less than what Charlie did. Let’s never forget that.
I defend the rights of Charlie to continue to be funny, obscene (at times) as much as I defend the rights of people like Bill Maher to trash Rush Limbaugh (and vice-versa), or the rights of someone to trash Michael Moore. As Moore explained in his movie « Sicko », he helped a guy maintaining his website, the biggest anti Michael Moore website on the web, with a check so that the guy could pursue his constitutional right « to trash him into the ground » so he could pay the medical bills for his sick wife. I also defend South Park to also be obscene, funny and gross. I can’t always stomach South Park, but I do stomach Maher and like him (even when he trashes religion, which is not something I always find smart or agree with). No one, I hope, will walk into his show with guns to silence him. Bill Maher has a very good response, for instance, for those who hate Rush Limbaugh: « Don’t listen to him ». That’s the point. I personally can’t stomach Rush Limbaugh, therefore I don’t listen to him. But I would never tell him he doesn’t have the right to his opinions, however distasteful, racists, sexists, I find them.
I gave my business card to the mother of a child I filmed at the march and she saw on the card that I was a vegan. Her reaction was: « This is not about that right? », she said, offended. I was dealing with lots of emotions and just said « no, it’s not. » She went as far as asking me if I would spread the mini-documentary on « these kinds of Facebook platforms ». So much for free speech and freedom of being a vegan. I wanted to say « well it’s MY freedom of expression and the freedom of animals » but was too emotionally distraught and didn’t want to antagonize on that particular day. Now I regret it.
After a few days, It has never been more important to me to defend free speech because when that right is repressed for anyone in society, it is repressed for all. As activists, we already have a hard time spreading our message but if it weren’t for that free speech we cherish and the chance we have to (so far) live in societies which allow that, how far our message would go?
Joe Randazzo in the Onion, once again, formulated it well:
« Satire must always accompany any free society. It is an absolute necessity. Even in the most repressive medieval kingdoms, they understood the need for the court jester, the one soul allowed to tell the truth through laughter. It is, in many ways, the most powerful form of free speech because it is aimed at those in power, or those whose ideas would spread hate. It is the canary in the coalmine, a cultural thermometer, and it always has to push, push, push the boundaries of society to see how much it’s grown. »
Activists should applaud the ideas of free speech, even the offensive ones because without them, there is no freedom at all. Politically correct thinking is often used by politicians and corporations to repress our rights and manipulate us. Satire (even the less palatable to some), has in the past and will continue to point out the truths that others choose to ignore.
Ross Douthat, of the New York Times (not exactly a satirical newspaper) probably had the best point:
« But we are not in a vacuum. […] because the kind of blasphemy that Charlie Hebdo engaged in had deadly consequences, as everyone knew it could … and that kind of blasphemy is precisely the kind that needs to be defended, because it’s the kind that clearly serves a free society’s greater good. If a large enough group of someones is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said, because otherwise the violent have veto power over liberal civilization, and when that scenario obtains it isn’t really a liberal civilization any more. Again, liberalism doesn’t depend on everyone offending everyone else all the time, and it’s okay to prefer a society where offense for its own sake is limited rather than pervasive. But when offenses are policed by murder, that’s when we need more of them, not less, because the murderers cannot be allowed for a single moment to think that their strategy can succeed. »
If we’re to succeed as activists of all kinds, we need to keep our society as free speech zones for all (even the ones we disagree with). Because when this freedom disappears, it disappears for all, including and particularly us. When I saw the outpouring of worldwide support, it didn’t remove the pain but it cushioned it. After all, Cabu’s cartoons were around when I was a kid. He used to draw cartoons on a children show I watched as a kid (proving that he was not just outrageous). The others were French institutions in their own rights. We lost very important people because these people were some of the few who dared resists the status quo, the ridiculous (by being more ridiculous than the ridiculous, if you know what I mean), questioning everything, mocking everyone, regardless of political, religious inclinations and, like all good satirists in history, pointed out truth where others didn’t dare go because of their bias for being politically correct, stay in power and maintain conformity.
What this teaches us all is that we have to fight for all to express themselves or none is free to speak.
And let’s not forget the others who died or helped in this tragedy. Several policemen/women died in this tragedy, among them a Muslim and a black. Others saved hostages, like a Muslim man working at the kosher grocery store. At the march, I saw Jews and Muslims holding hands in solidarity because they recognized that these killers in no way represented ANY religious beliefs. But they also recognized that this freedom of speech and expression is what gave them their right to practice their faith. It’s what gives us OUR right to be the voice of the voiceless, to be vegans, to be animal, human and environmental rights activists.
This is a wakeup call to the world and the world responded by saying #IAmCharlie. But certain forces (you saw them heading the Paris march) will make sure that we try to forget this moment of truth by pushing us back into the darkness of ignorance and conformity. In fact, I know for sure that, if Cabu had been watching the march, he would have drawn a cartoon to mock these political opportunists the following day. They are already taking advantage just like they took advantage of 9/11. Some people here are even starting to talk about « False Flag » attacks. Look up the term.
It is up to us all whether this tragedy taught the world a real lesson and to see how far we have grown and how far they will keep us ignorant.
Below various links and cartoons as well as two videos: mine from the march in Montpellier (subtitled in English) in which I interviewed as many people as I could to hear the voice of citizens (not the official media) and one on the New York Times website about the Charlie staff in 2006.
Cartoon from Bidu: What are cartoonists still able to laugh at?
« I drew a tomato… » « It’s pretty, it’s cool, no risk with a tomato! »
« Mmm I don’t know… Have you thought about the fundamentalist vegetarians? »
My video (subtitled in English) of the Montpellier (Hérault region of France) march with over 100,000 people and various interviews.
Charlie Hebdo is not dead. Guns can’t kill free speech. 3 million copies (compared to the usual 60,000) out because the world demanded it. Article from The Independent.
As of Jan 14, 2015: 5 million copies out in various languages, including Arabic (online only).
More on what is Charlie Hebdo about and its history on Wikipedia
Interesting article of Islam’s hijacking by extremists.
Video on the New York Times website (subtitled in English) of the Charlie Hebdo staff in 2006.
Excellent article from the New York Times: Islam’s Problem With Blasphemy
Update January 16, 2015: Finally someone said the truth on TV. Chris Hedges about Charlie on Breaking the Set
Update Jan 16, 2015: Great article from Chris Hedges about the real problem with North Africans in France, Message from the dispossessed.
Update Jan 16, 2015: Also great interview on Democracy Now! of Tariq Ramadan and Rick McArthur about the bigger picture.
Jeremy Scahill on the Hypocrisy of World Leaders at the Paris march.
I agree with Bill Maher on this: Real Time with Bill Maher: Self Censorship vs. Free Speech (HBO)
Below: I can’t be manipulated. I support the families of Charlie Hebdo but, however, the emotion doesn’t affect my capacity to think.
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n.m., de l'italien a parte (à part), apparu en 1640. A. THÉÂTRE. Convention théâtrale par laquelle un acteur qui feint de se parler à soi-même, éclaire le public sur ses réactions, ses intentions ou ses sentiments, les autres acteurs présents sur scène étant censés ne pas l'entendre. B.− P. ext. Conversation particulière entre quelques personnes, à l'écart des autres, et qui ne doit pas être entendue.
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Thoughts about veganism. Promoting an end to the use and the property status of members of nonhuman species.
L'Anthropocène sans la migraine
« Je ne plierai pas, je ne m’en irai pas en silence. Je ne me soumettrai pas. Je ne me retournerai pas. Je ne me conformerai pas. Je ne me coucherai pas. Je ne me tairai pas. Le courage, c’est de chercher la vérité et de la dire ; ce n’est pas subir la loi du mensonge triomphant » (Jean Jaurès).
lazy librarian against captivity
Le refus de l'exploitation animale comme philosophie du devenir humain
A Life-Changing Camp for World-Changing Teens
Your Body, Energy and Mind Blog