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

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

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

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

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

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

Why does Bernie matter to a French Vegan like me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Bernie open to animal rights?

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

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

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

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

 

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

Sources:

 

© 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

The welfarist vs. abolitionist debate is a waste of time

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March Against Speciesism – Geneva 2015

“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.

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March Against Speciesism – Geneva 2015

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

Do we need Klaatu to wake up humans?

Michael Rennie as Klaatu in the classic 1951 Science-fiction movie
Michael Rennie as Klaatu in the classic 1951 « The Day the Earth Stood Still »

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.

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Sources:

– 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.

DaytheEarthStoodStill

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

A Message to my Vegan/Animal Rights Sisters (and brothers)

oppression-458621_1280 I have to ask you: when did we become just pleasure dolls for men and forgot that our history, or should I say our HERstory is rich in great, intelligent and peace loving women who have been put to the side of humanity’s knowledge by the patriarchal rulers?

It first starts in our childhood. We are given Barbie Dolls, we dress them up, they wear makeup, and we make sure they get married to Ken because that is all that a young girl should apparently expect, make sure Barbie gets as much stuff in her home, because we are brainwashed to be consumers of useless crap and if Barbie was « born » today, she would probably get breast implants, facelifts, and surgery to make her buttocks bigger.

As the artist Daena Title said: « In my « DROWN the DOLLS » series, the formal compositions of refraction and reflection mirror the way women see themselves reflected and distorted, for better or worse (I believe for worse) in the image of the Barbie doll. Pervasive societal standard, indoctrinating tool, or « just a doll, » this 51 (and counting) year old icon presents a view of women that is as relentlessly fake as it is unattainable. »

The other way to know why it is so is to look at who controls the medias: 80 to 95% percent of all medias are controlled by mostly white men.  » Our columnists are still overwhelmingly old white men. There are four times as many male columnists as female columnists at the three biggest newspapers and four newspaper syndicates. (The Washington Post has 25 men to 7 women, and The New York Times has 10 men to 2 women.) The median columnist age is 60, while the median age for the American population is only 37. » ~ Time

And it’s not just the media; it’s also the movie industry. Even actress Kristen Stewart recently called Hollywood sexist.

And of course men know women better than women themselves: « In media coverage of women’s issues such as abortion, birth control, and Planned Parenthood, men are doing most of the talking, a new study has found. Men are quoted around five times more than women in these stories, according to the research group The 4th Estate […] Among 35 major national publications, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, men had 81 percent of the quotes in stories about abortion, the research group said Thursday, while women had 12 percent and organizations had 7 percent. «  ~ The Daily Beast

And some people say that « male (mostly white) privilege » doesn’t exist? As Barry Deutsch points out in his Male Privilege checklist « Pointing out that men are privileged in no way denies that bad things happen to men. Being privileged does not mean men are given everything in life for free; being privileged does not mean that men do not work hard, do not suffer. In many cases – from a boy being bullied in school, to soldiers selecting male civilians to be executed, to male workers dying of exposure to unsafe chemicals – the sexist society that maintains male privilege also immeasurably harms boys and men. However, although I don’t deny that men suffer, this post is focused on advantages men experience. »

Do you also remember this great Howard Beal moment from the movie Network in 1976?

“We’re in a lot of trouble! Because you people and 62 million other Americans are listening to me right now. Because less than 3% of you people read books. Because less than 15% of you read newspapers. Because the only truth you know is what you get over this tube. Right now, there is a whole and entire generation that never knew anything that didn’t come out of this tube! This tube is the Gospel. The ultimate revelation. This tube can make or break presidents, popes, prime ministers. This tube is the most awesome goddamn force in the whole godless world and woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people!”

“And when the largest company in the world controls the most awesome, goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network! So you listen to me. Listen to me! Television is not the truth. Television’s a goddamned amusement park! Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers and football players. We’re in the boredom-killing business.”

“But you people sit there, day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds. We’re all you know. You’re beginning to believe the illusions we’re spinning here. You’re beginning to think that the tube is reality and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you! You dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube, you even think like the tube. This is mass madness, you maniacs! In God’s name, you people are the real thing! We are the illusion!”

What kind of women and messages are allowed on TV? People like Kim Kardashian, represent the worst of womanhood by using their bodies as a sexual tool and sending the message to other women (of course with the happy assent of men) that it is all that women are worth.

Is this what we have become? Sexualized constantly beyond any sense where we don’t even have any role models anymore for young women to emulate who represent the beauty, intelligence and ideals of most women? Is it any wonder that the rap culture calls women « ho« , « sluts », etc…? while young girls put on tiny skirts and dreams of having big breasts, big behinds and looking like Britney Spears, Kim and others like them?

One of my biggest wake up call, besides the World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle and The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams, on the state of how women are perceived and manipulated in our culture, is the documentary Miss Representation which interviews leading women (of all stripes and political views) about their struggle to be recognized as intelligent leaders and having to work twice as hard as men to achieve it.

During the last election campaign, any time Hillary Clinton (whatever you think of her) was appearing on television, the media was only interested in her looks, the fact that she liked wearing pants and so on. And they did similar non-sense to then Senator Barrack Obama with blunt racist remarks. When does it stop? How many (white) men you see criticized for their clothes or looks on TV? The media is made of ultra-sexists corporate owned old white males. And they hate change in society. So they control what we hear, see and think.

I found a wonderful blog by an unknown woman (she doesn’t identify herself in it) who said: « Although men who commit sexual assault are in the minority, their actions occur within the larger context of a culture that relentlessly commodifies the female body at every possible turn. From bikini contests to strip clubs to the use of supermodels to “sell” consumer goods, the message is clear: the female body exists for the sexual gratification of men. Thinking, breathing, feeling human beings are reduced, in our consumer culture, to a means to someone else’s ends. This hypersexualization of our bodies creates a tremendous amount of pressure on us to look and act sexy all the time, because we are told (implicitly and explicitly) that our primary measure of worth lies in our ability to please men. »

We can’t turn to the media without seeing this hypersexualisation/commodification of women’s bodies. There is nothing about their feelings, their intelligence, their inner beauty, and their aspirations. They are treated no differently than the cows whose bodies get abused and their babies stolen constantly. The fact that we see women getting implants for bigger breasts (because they now value themselves on the size of either their breasts or butt) mirrors what we do to cows. As Will Tuttle always says, « what we do to animals, we end up doing to humans ». But it could be also said that our treatment of animals mirrors how we value ourselves as human beings.

The women who get naked during PETA‘s actions are doing it « willingly » obviously but as the blogger above said, « And that’s exactly why it’s absurd to claim, as some do, that women can empower themselves by participating in their own commodification. Sure, the woman at the strip club ‘chose’ to work there. But that ‘choice’ was made in the context of a culture in which women do not have the economic resources that men have; in which she was taught, from a young age, that it is her job to please men; and in which the men who pay to watch her degrade herself have been taught, from a young age, that they are entitled to sexual privilege over women. Victim-approved exploitation is still exploitation. » It’s no more a freedom than claiming that we « choose » to eat meat, dairy and eggs. It’s exactly the same: a conditioned false « choice ». It’s a choice made before we were born by this male dominated world of might makes right.

Women like Eleanor Roosevelt who oversaw the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have been relegated to the pages of history while the only examples of intelligent women (which we agree with or not) in our time are few and between and get ridiculed by the sexists of the world and constantly told to shut up. One example: Hillary Rodham Clinton took her husband’s last name because of social pressure to conform. As Rudy Moore of the New Yorker explains: « She did not do so much on the campaign trail that year. A woman was expected to smile, and not give speeches. And the name issue was in the forefront. »

Other important women include: Senator Elizabeth Warren, a strong advocate of the poor and working people, former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Vandana Shiva, a champion of seed rights, anti-GMO and women’s rights activist, Gloria Steinem, who always fought for women’s rights and the most recent Nobel Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai, who fought for the right of girls to be educated. But what role models young girls and young women see constantly? None of them. Instead they get the « selfies » of Kim Kardashian, the rap videos of male singers with women drooling over them, the latest sex scandals, and why Oprah is suddently so fat. Yes, that’s what we give as role models to young girls in the male dominated media.

My current favorite peace activist woman at the moment is Leymah Gbowee (Nobel Peace Prize Winner) who started a sex strike to force men to act on the violence in her country of Liberia and managed to avoid a war. Nothing works better than threatening men with the one thing most of them care about: their sexual male privilege, or genitals’ use over women (hence the rates of rapes and subjugation against women in the world which are at an all time high).

In the vegan/animal rights movement, vegans are not immune to this male privilege and I found it to be pervasive in our movement. Yet the majority of these men (and women) don’t even see it. Our movement is 80% female. Yet the majority of animal protection organizations are controlled by men. PETA’s Ingrid Newkirk is one of the rare females who leads one but she buys into what I described above. I might as well ignore her on this.

Yet, in the history of the movement, it’s mostly women who have started the fight for other animals and that is conveniently forgotten for the most part. If it were not for my friend Carolyn Mullin’s National Museum of Animals and Society in Los Angeles, I would never have known about these pioneering women: Margaret Cavendish (Writer, anti-vivisectionist -1623–1673), Jean Clemens (Daughter of Mark Twain – she was the founder of several animal protection societies – although I coudn’t find a reference to which ones – 1880–1909), Frances Power Cobbe (Founder of the National Anti-Vivisection Society and the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection – 1822–1904), Rukmini Devi (Dancer, founder of the Animal Welfare Board of India – 1904–1986), Nina Douglas-Hamilton (Co-founder of the Animal Defence and Anti-Vivisection Society – 1878–1951), Lizzy Lind af Hageby (Founder of the Animal Defence and Anti-Vivisection Society, known for the Brown Dog affair – 1878–1963). Who even knows these pioneers? And there are many others. And some of them were also abolitionists who fought against African-American slavery.

The philosophers of the animal rights movement are plenty. But the ones always in the limelight (although justly) are mostly men: Gary Francione, Peter Singer, Will Tuttle, Tom Regan and a few others. Most of us have read any of their books, maybe all of them and they have accordingly influenced our thinking. Gary Francione and particularly Will Tuttle, talk about sexism or as Will refers to it « the suppression of Sophia » and recognize our feminine values of caring, compassion and inclusion should be at the forefront of this movement. Yet, despite all this, there are a number of men in this movement who still don’t see or recognize their male privilege in this society. That is the taboo they refuse to talk about.

And what about our women philosophers? Most of them are cast aside, or simply ignored. I bet there are some of them whose work you don’t even know. I’ll throw some names here: Carol J. Adams (Eco-feminist writer, author of The Sexual Politics of Meat (1990)), Brigitte Bardot (Former model, animal rights activist, founder of the Brigitte Bardot Foundation), Sue Coe (Artist, illustrator, author of « Cruel: Bearing Witness to Animal Exploitation » (2012)), Karen Davis (President of United Poultry Concerns, author of The Holocaust and the Henmaid’s Tale (2005)), Joan Dunayer (Author of Animal Equality (2001) and Speciesism (2004)), Maneka Gandhi (Politician, founder of People for Animals), Lee Hall (Lawyer, legal director of Friends of Animals), Marti Kheel (Ecofeminist writer, founder of Feminists for Animal Rights – 1948–2011), Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, Hope Bohanec, Judy Carman, Emily Gaarder (who wrote the book Women and the Animal Rights Movement), Corey Lee Wren (and her website the academic abolitionist vegan) and so many others.

As women (and men), we have to stop always accepting that only men can write about animal rights or vegan philosophy. And as much as I respect their work, some women deserve to be at the forefront as well. Shouldn’t we be represented by women as well since our movement is mostly female? I embrace the works of the men above but I wish more space was given to the recognition of all the women pioneers and those who fight in their corner of the world but get no credit. Men get the credit for the most part.

The vegan/animal rights movement is still based on the inequality of the current world where men still have all the privileges and power while women are relegated to just followers or even told to shut up. I had recent experiences with vegan men who basically told me that they knew better than me on certain issues. The message was clear: you’re a woman, so shut up. Well, no, that’s just it. I WON’T.

Women make the majority of people on this planet and we also live longer. Maybe it’s because we’ve had the endurance to bare all the bulk of violence from the wars and abuses of men over the centuries while they congratulate themselves on their achievements. The Nobel Peace Prize has only 47 women winners in its over a 100 year history. They give peace prizes to men who are war lovers: We know about President Obama but did you know that Hitler and Mussolini, themselves, almost got one? At the same time, women peace activists have been denied that honor for the most part.

In most war torn countries, the tactics of raping women (and children) are used to silence them. Even in the western world, most countries, even when they have equal pay for equal work laws for women, don’t enforce these laws. Yet, despite these statistics, there are still men in the animal rights/vegan movement who still deny that women have it bad in the world, believe there is no problem and turn the other way on the issue, the same way we currently don’t want to reconcile with the predominant racism as we’ve seen in the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Let’s not forget again that everything is connected. When you have millions of cows, hens and other female animals whose reproductive systems are being used and exploited forcefully, is it any wonder that we see it done to women too? It is not. Because we are not separate beings, we are all part of the same whole.

As long as some refuse to acknowledge that sexism (and even racism) exists in our movement and are unwilling to be part of a real, practical and just consciousness shift, nothing will ever really change. Animals will continue to be abused, women, men and children killed. Removing the blinders about the reality of the objectification of women and female animals is the next step to real justice in the world.

Personally, instead of women falling into the trap of being sexualized and used, I would love to see all of them start a sex strike around the world to force men to stop with their insanity. After all, we have control over that.

Sources: – Talk by the Nobel Peace Prize: Leymah Gbowee: Unlock the intelligence, passion, greatness of girls

– How Liberian Women Organized a Sex Strike and Helped End a War (with video of the Colbert Report) – The Institute for Inclusive Security

– The documentary Pray The Devil Back to Hell recounts the struggle of the women of Liberia and how they succeeded.

– The news program Democracy Now! from April 27, 2015 highlights the work of three Women Nobel Loreate.

– Actress Kristen Stewart on Hollywood’s sexism.

– 9 Depressing Facts From the Latest Women in Media Report – Time – Even more depressing, Men Rule Media Coverage of Women’s News – The Daily Beast

– Nobel Peace Prizes awarded to women – Nobelprize.org

– Amazing Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech: Malala Yousafzai

Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: Feminist Art Base: Daena Title – Brooklyn Museum

– Interesting article on Male Privilege: The Male Privilege Checklist by (yes a man!) Barry Deutsch – Alas a Blog

– Also see the report The Status of Women in the US Media 2014 and a report from The Global Movement: Who Controls the Media?

– Who are The top 25 influencial women in the world today? – the blog An Armenian Journalist’s Notes

– Dr. Vandana Shiva talks about how women do most of the farming in the world and Ecofeminism

– My article about PETA: Deconstructing PETA’s thinking.

– From Free from Harm, this excellent essay by Lee Hall: Why I care about Animals Rights.

– Great speech from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau: From Excuse-itarian to Vegan

– Article on Care2: 5 Reasons Why Women Make Great Leaders for the Animal Rights Movement

– From the Vegan Pensive blog: Striking at the Roots of Patriarchy.

– The must see documentary Miss Representation: An overlook at the Hegemonic society that utilizes the media as a tool to dictate gender expression. This sets into motion the subordination of women in our society and the value that they hold as individuals politically and socially.

Photo: Barbie crushed – Courtesy of Pixabay.com (Royalty free picture website)

© Copyright May 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

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

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.

Farewell To Steak: Film Review

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The fascinating 2013 documentary called « L’adieu à la viande » (Farewell to Meat) about the consumption of meat in Europe (from Franco/German channel Arte) not only approaches the issue of eating flesh from an environmental aspect but also from the idea of the masculine psychology behind it. Just like American men, European men are conditioned to think that meat makes them strong and more masculine. It is the same old patriarchal thinking that is behind capitalism (from the Latin capita = head) and animal agriculture as well documented by Dr. Will Tuttle in The World Peace Diet.

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