Why giving up is not an option

Me and Chloe

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.
Sources:

– 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.

– Jo-Anne McArthur’s extraordinary work can be seen in the movie The Ghosts in Our Machine. The movie can be bought in « instant watch » on Amazon.com and her book We Animals is a must read.

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

#JeSuisCharlie: Why it should matter to justice activists

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“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” 

~ Voltaire

“I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: Oh Lord, make my enemies ridiculous. And God granted it. »

~ Voltaire

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.

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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)

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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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INTELLIGENCE OF THE HEART

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It always strikes me as odd that, otherwise educated people, can be so ignorant (or indifferent) about the plight of animals or human beings in misery. It is as if being educated makes you intolerant and ignorant instead of intelligent. But it is also true of non-educated people. It then brings the question of what is real intelligence.

First of all, intelligence has nothing to do with education or lack thereof. That is intellectual baggage. Real intelligence is from the heart, the kind that opens to others without prejudice, hate and bigotry. You can be the most educated person in the world but be the worst bigot, hateful person there is. You can also be a vegan and call other vegans « names » (as it happened to me recently because of one misunderstanding).

Intelligence is not about having an encyclopedic mind full of data (often useless, like what year such and such war started?) but is about opening up to new ideas, theories, and ask questions and more importantly not accepting blindly what is being taught to us.

Non-intelligent people think they know everything and often disguise it behind either diplomas, ego or false humility. The masses, often ignorant and blissfully (or not) manipulated by the media display non-intelligence and ignorance based on cultural dogma for which education, the medias and corporations have a great deal to do with.

As Thomas Jefferson once said: « He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. » And he also said: « Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty. » And he wasn’t referring to education through corporate media obviously. But Jefferson himself, of course, was a product of his time, as would his slaves had testified and he never claimed to be perfect or right in everything.

Life is a constant re-examination of our knowledge. It is not acquired by accumulating information mindlessly (as if watching reality shows and Fox News equaled intelligent information). Our intelligence develops when we open our hearts enough to embrace everyone, even the worst of the worst and do everything we can to help them, not to do evil things of course, but to improve and heal from their sickness.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: « To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment. »

As society is trying to constantly mold us into robotic zombies, it is good to remember a few things:

We are not born with hate, bigotry, the desire for animal flesh or their secretions, sexism, racism and speciesism and even violent tendencies. That is injected into us over and over and over again by the propaganda machines that we and our parents and our grand-parents, and so on, have heard for thousands of years. Therefore we are far from wise, not because we don’t have wisdom in ourselves, but because it is deeply suppressed and repressed by ourselves and others.

The depth of humanity’s non-intelligence as well as intelligence is highly visible nowadays. Just spend a day on Facebook and you will see it all: from loving, caring people rescuing animals and helping the poor to deeply sick people who have secret Facebook groups on bestiality and display it in living colors (I am currently involved in trying to shut down one of these). We see people moving you with words of kindness as well as hateful people (vegans included ironically and sadly) bashing others because they don’t fall into their criteria of what THEY consider acceptable (or vegan enough). Who made them intellectually superior? God? The Blair Witch? Who?

Intelligence of the heart is about questioning not just the world but, most importantly, ourselves…. every single day. If someone has a negative reaction towards you, don’t ask what’s wrong with him/her. Ask what’s wrong with yourself. Because when you really are deeply centered and kind and have a strong message, it is hard to argue against it. Of course, they will try but you already planted seeds in them. And, for the record, I’m not saying here that I am always successful. In other words, I constantly work on myself to be better to the best of my abilities (and I consider myself still highly selfish). There are very few people in the world I truly consider intelligent (in their heart). Intelligent people are not those who put themselves on a pedestal as if they were superior to others, they are the opposite. They are usually the most humble (case in point, the most intelligent man I know in our time: Dr. Will Tuttle).

Juddi Krishnamurti once said: « There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning. »

Intelligence is also not about punishing but helping. The United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world (with only about 5% of the world’s population). Does it help stop violence? Of course not. If it did, America would be the safest country in the world. Opposite to this, there is the example of Norway. Norway’s longest penal sentence is 21 years (even for rapists or murderers). They have one of the highest standard of living in the world. Their prisons look like summer camps (obviously isolated so they don’t escape). What do they do? Instead of treating even violent criminals like dirt and humiliate them, they help them getting safely re-inserted into society as productive contributors. Norway has one of the lowest rate of recidivism in the world. By the way, it also has the lowest crime rate in the world. Coincidence? I think not.

But this is not a new idea. Native American nations like the Iroquois Confederacy understood that. In fact, the US Constitution was greatly inspired by the Iroquois Confederacy (little conveniently ignored fact not taught in US schools). Women, in fact, made the most important decisions. In the meantime, white Europeans (while thinking the Iroquois had good ideas) denied white women, African Americans and other people of non-white descent and white men who didn’t own property the right to vote.

Iroquois had their murderers too. How did they deal with them? Did they lock them up? No. They considered someone who committed a crime to be sick and they helped him/her accordingly. If the person could not be healed/cured, that person would be banished from the tribe. In the 21st century, we still lock people up in solitary confinement and we wonder why they commit crimes again? We lock up mentally disabled people, teenagers, non-violent offenders, a majority of them African Americans. And then, when they get out, we tell them, sorry, you’re not a citizen anymore (even though you spent 40 years in prison and paid your sentence) therefore you can’t vote and participate in society anymore (let alone find a job). And then there is capital punishment (banished in France since the 1970’s but still considered « useful » in some parts of the US). That is not intelligence, that is a mentality which has its base in the dark ages.

It is also interesting and not surprising to note that, contrary to common white myth, most native tribes of North America (with a couple of exceptions like the Inuits and the Apaches) were eating a mostly plant-based diet before the Europeans showed up on their shores. In order to demonize others and take what they have, you have to depict them as blood thirsty monsters. In fact, as documented by Choctaw Native American author Rita Law, the bulk of the diet of most Indians were plants. Dr. Law talks about her own native culture in this way:

« More than one tribe has creation legends which describe people as vegetarian, living in a kind of Garden of Eden. A Cherokee legend describes humans, plants, and animals as having lived in the beginning in « equality and mutual helpfulness ». The needs of all were met without killing one another. When man became aggressive and ate some of the animals, the animals invented diseases to keep human population in check. The plants remained friendly, however, and offered themselves not only as food to man, but also as medicine, to combat the new diseases. « 

Ironically, that is exactly what is happening in our time. We fulfilled the creation myth of the Cherokee people (and of course we can find a similar creation myth in all religious and spiritual societies of the world, the Bible most notably).

This is also well documented by Dr. Will Tuttle in his article What Did American Indians Eat, Actually? As Will explains beautifully:

« What I continue to discover is how far from reality are many of the “official stories” that we tell ourselves and teach our children. They are stories that serve a specific purpose, which is to justify the existing order, and they are passed on effortlessly and subconsciously, because they make us all comfortable in believing, in this case, that our current practice of enslaving and slaughtering huge numbers of animals for food (75 million daily in the U.S. alone) is somehow a normal and natural expression of who we are as human beings. It is no accident that we term native cultures “hunter-gatherers.”

But intelligence, in the case of animal abusers, is also understanding why they have become that way. I researched and wrote extensively about this in my article Link Between Violence to Animals and Humans: A Deeper Look. But to summarize what I say in that article for the purpose of this one, we live in a society that teaches us to disconnect from our inner compassion from birth. It starts by convincing us to eat animal foods and their secretions while we « pet » cats and dogs. So we create this schizophrenic mentality of loving some species of animals on one side and hate others at the same time by consuming their bodies. We then start this cycle of mental instability that follows us into adulthood. In other words, we live in a sick society and none of us are immune, whether you call yourself vegan or not. As Khrisnamurti once said: « It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. »

People who abuse children have often been abused themselves as children. People who abuse other animals often have also been abused as children and dealt with their sense of powerlessness by abusing someone even more defenseless than themselves: other animals. If this is not taken at the root, this is carried into adulthood.

So let’s learn to really listen intelligently to others. « So when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it. » ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

As Vegans we carry huge burdens: we know what is being done to other animals, the environment and the health of human beings. But what we generally ignore is what has been done to ourselves. Until we remove these roots (of intolerance, bigotry, sexism, hate, ego and so on) from our own sub-conscious, it will be very hard to really move the world in the right direction. We have an extraordinary opportunity to save all beings and the eco-system on this planet. So I am asking you? What do you do about saving yourselves from your own shortcomings and become the example you want others to follow?

Photo courtesy of http://www.pixabay.com (Free stock pictures)

Sources:

Thom Hartmann on the Iroquois: « The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child » (extract from his book)

See also this video of Thom Hartmann on the Iroquois: Iroquois Confederacy

Will Tuttle: What did American Indians Really Eat?

Rita Law, Ph.D. : Native Americans and Vegetarianism

Michael Moore’s documentary Sicko (about the Health Care system) is online. Unfortunately, the segment about Norway was deemed too « radical » for American audiences compared even to the segment about France and therefore does not appear in the theatrical release but is included on the DVD of the movie in the special features. The version linked here is subtitled in Spanish.

Obligatory reading: The World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle, which beautifully and clearly explains the roots of our culture.

© Vegan Empowerment/Véronique Perrot – December 2014 – All Rights Reserved – No printing without permission but sharing is encouraged.

A View from Utopia

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Please check out my new essay published on The Flaming Vegan website.

….I look back in time and see a world I seldom imagine. I was raised to believe in goodness and kindness but what my history teacher taught me really distraught me. I opened my electronic history book and contemplated how lucky I was to be born now and not a hundred years ago. I look at how the Earth is now thriving again with awe and love and try to remember that it wasn’t always so….

http://www.theflamingvegan.com/view-post/THE-VIEW-FROM-UTOPIA

Photo courtesy of http://www.Pixabay.com

© The Flaming Vegan and VeganEmpowerment.com – March 2014 – All Rights Reserved. Printing by permission only.

CONDITIONING, HISTORY & SCIENCE: Breaking Free to better Advocate for Non-Humans and Humans

March 2nd, 2014

The Animal Advocacy Museum presents a talk by Veronique N. Perrot, World Peace Diet Facilitator, Holistic Vegan Coach and Certified in Plant-Based Nutrition, on the power of our society to condition us and how we can break free and help others get free by recognizing the signs of our own conditioning.

Part 1 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ij0IRH0molw

Part 2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TM7pB9M6980

Part 3 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgOGeyn-3bE

LINK BETWEEN VIOLENCE TO ANIMALS AND HUMANS: A Deeper Look

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« One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it. » Anthropologist Margaret Mead

One of the most often ignored links in our society is between the violence to animals and the violence to humans. The general tendency is to ignore the violence to animals committed by serial killers and other criminals which is really an important failure, yet not a surprising one, on the part of the shallow mainstream media. However, law enforcement agencies like the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations) have learned to profile possible serial killers based on their past abuses of other animals. More and more coordinating is being done between animal protection agencies and law enforcement to recognize the signs of potential abuse to animals and humans.

As the New York Times reported in 2010: « …Many U.S. communities now cross-train social-service and animal-control agencies in how to recognize signs of animal abuse as possible indicators of other abusive behaviors. In Illinois and several other states, new laws mandate that veterinarians notify the police if their suspicions are aroused by the condition of the animals they treat. The state of California recently added Humane Society and animal-control officers to the list of professionals bound by law to report suspected child abuse and is now considering a bill in the State Legislature that would list animal abusers on the same type of online registry as sex offenders and arsonists. »

It is obviously progress. However, the abuse of the family « pet » is in itself a symptom of a greater issue, that is, it doesn’t address the real underlying problem of our violent society.

To understand the reasons behind the violence to animals and then humans, one has to look at the way our society raises children, particularly boys, to become competitive, aggressive, « strong ». They are taught to repress their natural compassion and instead cultivate domination habits. From childhood, they are fed foods of violence like animal flesh and animal secretions. In order to become men, they can’t show emotions, they can’t care for animals, they have to dominate women, etc… Is it any wonder then that the majority of the violence in the world is committed by men and boys? Will Tuttle analyzed this very well in The World Peace Diet. We are de-facto raising potential psychopaths.

Preventing kids from torturing animals is not just about telling them that it is wrong. It starts with completely changing the lifestyle they are accustomed to. If a child hurts another animal, you can almost be certain that he may have a very bad family environment (violent parents for instance) and of course lots of animal « foods » in his diet. Animal flesh is linked to masculine aggression and domination. Because these children feel a sense of oppression, they vent their frustration and their anger on those who are more vulnerable than they are: the family dog. It is recognized that they become violent themselves to the family pets in order to have some control over their own powerlessness in seeing the animal being abused, going as far as sometimes killing the animal themselves.

And as an article from the American Anti-Vivisection Society concludes: « Those caught in such a vicious abuse-reactive cycle will not only continue to expose the animals they love to suffering merely to prove that they themselves can no longer be hurt, but they are also given to testing the boundaries of their own desensitization through various acts of self-mutilation. In short, such children can only achieve a sense of safety and empowerment by inflicting pain and suffering on themselves and others. » A vicious circle is therefore established and even harder to change.

There are even kids who torture animals out of boredom. But is it any surprising when they eat the dismembered body parts of violently slaughtered animals since almost the time they were born? If they think nothing of eating slaughtered animals (as we taught them), why are we acting surprised as a society if they don’t care about dogs and cats?

Women and girls also inject the food of the cultural programming of death but they are taught to be more passive and subservient. We live in a patriarchal world which, as Carol Adams documented so well in The Sexual Politics of Meat, teaches women that they are still here to pleasure men and do what men want. The tendency of women is in fact to protect companion animals in the home and to suffer at the hands of men in order for the animal not to get hurt. A lot of them are afraid to leave an abusive husband because of the risk of retaliation to their companion animal and, by extension, their children.

As Carol Adams notes in The Sexual Politics of Meat: « Batterers, rapists, serial killers, and child sexual abusers have victimized animals. They do so for a variety of reasons: marital rapists may use a companion animal to intimidate, coerce, control, or violate a woman. Serial killers often initiate violence first against animals. The male students who killed their classmates in various communities in the 1990s often were hunters or known to have killed animals. Child sexual abusers often use threats and/or violence against companion animals to achieve compliance from their victims. Batterers harm or kill a companion animal as a warning to their partners that she could be next; as a way of further separating her from meaningful relationships; to demonstrates his power and her powerlessness. »

That is a of course a result of the patriarchal mindset which seeks to repress inner compassion and hides the link between our culture of oppression of other animals and oppression of women.

What are the solutions? This is not a easy answer as this mindset is so pervasive in our society. We must educate people to recognize the links between the violence of our food system, the psychological and spiritual injuries we create in our children and how serial killers and other criminals emerge in our society. For most people, the idea of torturing a dog is abhorrent, and rightly so. But no one really calls into question the idea that we torture billions of cows, chickens, pigs, ducks, goats, etc… every year, in the United States alone. No one seems to connect the dots of the violence in our lifestyles.

The law is starting to seriously address the links between the violence to other animals and the violence to humans and early intervention may prevent more brutality. Arresting people who commit horrible crimes on other animals and humans serves the only purpose of preventing them from doing it again. All of this is progress but it does not provide healing or may always prevent the next serial killer from appearing and make national news. By participating in what Dr. Will Tuttle calls « the daily rituals of violence », we are all in fact serial killers. Anyone of us could suddenly snap and end up on a killing rampage. Most serial killers are also using legal anti-depressants and therefore snap more easily. These legal drugs make it easier for their buried tendencies created since birth by society to just emerge and take them over.

Hitlers are not born, they are made. Violence is not our real nature, it is taught. We are not born with killer instincts, society molds us. The patriarchal mindset teaches violence and competition and therefore creates violent men (and women). Science in fact is starting to agree with this and even now shows the neurological damage in violent children. But science also shows that being compassionate to them increases their empathy. So there is essentially one tool which can restore the damage our society has done to children and that is to treat them with love. It is possible to repair the neurological damage inflicted on them instead of just punishing them or doing old fashioned psychological counseling. The power of meditation is also a tool of transformation which can help adults in rehabilitation as showed in the excellent documentary The Dhamma Brothers which followed a group of prisoners in a high security prison. We also have the example of the hunter who nurses a calf back to health in an episode of « 30 days ». It is not merely « light and love fluff » anymore as some people sometimes believe. The brain is in fact malleable and can be re-taught empathy. Science has caught up with spirituality.

Veganism is obviously the most important aspect of repairing psychological damage and prevent further violence. It allows us to bring back the qualities we were born with. They are not gone, they are just buried deep inside us. Obviously, for the Hitlers of the world, we can’t expect much changes. Some may be too far removed from their true selves that I don’t hold much hope for them. If more and more of us build a strong force for positive change, this, however, may help reduce the general violence we see currently but we need to seriously understand that showing anger and lack of empathy to others reduces the chances of them ever changing. Science now proves that.

By teaching our children (and adults) to be compassionate Vegans and in touch with their true natures, we can then prevent the next serial killers. We may not change people who are too far gone down the road of self-destruction, but we can bring about a new generation of visionaries who can help heal the world. Only then will we see a break in the link between violence to other animals and humans.

Sources:

– The Animal-Cruelty Syndrome – New York Times online http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/13/magazine/13dogfighting-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

– Carol J. Adams « The Sexual Politics of Meat ».

– The Animal Abuse-Human Violence Connection – PAWS People Helping Animals http://www.paws.org/human-violence-connection.html

– The World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle has an extensive chapter on how children, particularly boys are raised in our society.

– The Dhamma Brothers is a wonderful documentary on High Security prisoners trying meditation for a months and talking about their own inner transformation. Highly recommended and watchable on Netflix.

© Copyright February 2014 – All Rights Reserved. Printing only by permission.

Photo courtesy http://www.Pixabay.com