Is probably one of the most asinine set of words ever stringed together. If you're of a certain age you'll likely remember where this line came from, but if not, well, never mind. Suffice it to say that I tend to consider Valentine's Day just as senseless (as I do any holiday that celebrates something that ought to be recognized and validated more than once a year -- think Mother's Day, for example), but what the heck, let's take the kernel of this schmaltzy, sentimental, overly hyped, marketed, and commercialized day and do something useful with it. Let's look at love from a vegan perspective.
So what is love? I'm no expert, but thought I'd start a list. Feel free to add.
True vegan love means:
saying sorry whenever you've goofed up, which means you'll be saying sorry many more times than never (and if you're the exceptional human who rarely slips up, you could always say a general sorry on behalf of the rest of us)
respecting your animal companions (this means not declawing your cat, docking your dog's tail or ears, or any other number of practices that don't benefit other animal household members in the least)
extending your respect and compassion to sentient beings not viewed as companion animals (just because they don't happen to live in someone's home doesn't mean they shouldn't be present in your area of concern)
getting out of your comfort zone to assist other sentient beings in concrete and off-line ways
remembering that "other sentient beings" includes the human kind
not holding yourself or other vegans to impossibly perfect standards
not getting too hung up on what label (or non-label) other vegans use to describe their identity or advocacy if they're actually doing something helpful
being patient and kind with non-vegans even (or especially) in the moments when a part of your brain feels that violence could be a valid and useful tool
recognizing that love, respect and compassion towards all are supposed to be the cornerstones of being vegan
remembering those cornerstones when you're having difficulty feeling love, respect and compassion because someone or some group is pissing you off
seeing that "love" works better as a verb than a noun
preparing food that sustains rather than hurts (whether in sourcing or consuming)
accepting that you can only change yourself, provide information without demanding results, and lead by example
realizing that veganism is a means to an end, not an end in itself (the real end is for the need for veganism to become obsolete*), and ultimately about other animals and not ourselves
disagreeing without hurting and agreeing without competing (this, if I remember correctly, was a line -- I've roughly paraphrased it -- by Lee Hall that I saw referenced in one of veganelder's posts or comments a couple of years ago, and it stayed with me because it struck me as possibly one of the most difficult things for members and factions of the vegan movement to do)
remembering to take the time to take care of yourself
being willing to have an open mind when new information presents itself
being willing to have an open heart when new feelings present themselves
learning from other species who in some ways are much smarter than we are
showing gratitude for what you have and anything that IS going right
knowing that real change will likely take far more time than you'd like
pacing yourself for the long haul, and
did I mention being humble enough to say you're sorry? ;)
* obsolete in the sense that we longer need to convince folk to go vegan as animal use and consumption will be a thing of the past, hurrah!
When I saw the comic below (many moons ago now), I burst out laughing.
Funny thing is, it was posted on a decidedly non-vegan site whose author used this to illustrate the folly and error of vegan ways. Kinda backfired methinks, because when you show the absurdity of one concept (quick rule of thumb for the "but plants have feelings too!" folk -- if a carrot doesn't scream when you lop its top off, it likely can't feel pain), it can actually strengthen the argument for another. In this case, the idea of showing solidarity for farmed animals in the many animal walks now common in numerous cities and countries. Not quite sure if the illustrator was also trying to poke fun at us, but hey, we should all (vegans and non-vegans alike) be able to see the humour in whatever it is that we do. The stereotype though, that vegans are unable to do this, is one that's gotta go. Plus it's one of the cop-out ways to try and discredit a group or movement. Cuz you know, all those feminists don't have a sense of humour either. Or anyone who doesn't laugh at a rape joke. Humour can be a double-edged sword: used wisely it can educate while entertain, cutting through bullshit in mere seconds, but sadly can also be used to keep tired myths and progressive groups in place.
Something else that made me laugh a while back even though it maybe wasn't supposed to, was a comment made by a character on Coronation Street, the world's longest-running TV soap and one of the few shows I won't have interrupted. I can't quite remember the context (although I believe it was Kylie talking about food allergies), and I'm paraphrasing here, but basically the line went something like this: Some people can't eat cows, some can't eat pork, others can't eat shellfish, and don't even get me started on vegans. I'm not sure why this prompted a loud guffaw on my part, but I suspect it was the unexpected -- hearing the word "vegan" on a television show, even in a derogatory way, is still novel enough that it pleases me enormously. Veganism has become mainstream enough to be made fun of (remember that humour can be a defense mechanism and non-vegans have a lot to be defensive about), so like it or not, vegan jokes are here to stay. Until of course the tipping point is reached and what is currently considered a minority stance becomes a majority one. But until then, let 'em laugh, because you know the old saying, she who laughs last... ;)
Take a minute, and without thinking about it too much, quickly list all the different ways in which you're privileged. Better yet, do it out loud.
Now, did you find this relatively easy, or were you a bit stumped after the first couple of more obvious privileges? If you're like most of us, you were a bit slower in rattling off the last items you came up with, and that's not surprising given the nature of privilege. Privilege tends to be relatively invisible to the privilege-holder, that is, we often don't even see the advantages that come with the particular type of privilege we enjoy. And we all enjoy numerous privileges we take for granted.
If you are currently reading this post, then you enjoy heaps of privilege right off the bat. You have time, and are likely not working in multiple part-time jobs (or sweatshops) in trying to make ends meet. You have some kind of device on which you're reading these very words, and are probably living somewhere without Internet censorship. Almost certainly, you have some level of post-secondary education, or are self-taught. Already, as you can see, you are hugely privileged.
Statistically, many of you are enjoying gender privilege (it's easier, by the way, for vegans to pay lip service to the idea of being nonsexist than it is to recognize how certain approaches that value linear or black and white thinking, or reason over emotion, may actually be rooted in sexism), racial privilege, and heterosexual privilege. What may not be as easy to see is that you likely also enjoy gender identity privilege, Judeo-Christian privilege, and able-bodied privilege. If you fit the norms of whatever is considered attractive and desirable in your culture or society, than that's privilege too.
So right away, we have all sorts of privilege that we may not even be that aware of: gender, gender identity, class, racial, economic, technological, religious, education, orientation, and so forth -- it's a bit staggering, isn't it? Which isn't to say that anyone is completely privileged, as we're all probably marginalized in one area or another, and as with anything, it's a matter of degree.
But the one enormous privilege that the vast majority of us (even those of us who can easily recognize all sorts of other privileges) don't see, is the privilege conferred on human animals. In fact, this privilege is rendered so invisible that those of us who do see the anthropocentrism for what it is are usually accused of anthropomorphism. In other words, our world is so human-centric that many cannot recognize other sentient beings as beings in their own right, and dismiss veganism as an attempt to attribute human emotions and characteristics as if those emotions and traits can only be human. It's as if most humans cannot view members of other species but through a human-specific and human-oriented lens. Quite the disability, if you ask me. ;)
My friend veganelder has also been pondering this most peculiar inability, so I would invite you to read here, here, and here.
Please do think a bit more about the notion of privilege, the extent of your own particular set of privileges, how you can help those with fewer privileges, and how you can help other humans actually see the privilege-tinted lenses they wear. Thanks.
Oh, because privilege can be hard to think about objectively when you're the one enjoying its benefits, here are a few nifty lists of examples to make it a bit clearer:
Eek! Where did 2014 go? And wouldn't you know it, one day into the New Year and I'm already behind, snort. I had such good intentions for this blog over the holidays too. Was going to finally write and publish the Why Aren't More Christians Vegan? post that I've been meaning to do for too many months to mention, but then decided that because the topic makes me cranky and the last post had been grim enough, I'd write about vegan gr-attitude instead. Started the draft, and then poof, life intervened. Also wanted to reply to the comments left on the last post of last year (yikes, saying last year makes it sound even worse), but again, life-interruptus and all that.
If I really thought that setting goals for this blog would work, they'd include:
reply to comments promptly
reply to posts written by other bloggers promptly
publish new blog posts, if not promptly, at least regularly
In other words, keep-up mode rather than catch-up mode. But alas, I know myself too well, and promises I likely won't be able to keep I won't make. Plus, the situation may get worse rather than better, so all I can do is say I'll try. Thankfully though, it's Thursday, which means I can make use of #ThrowbackThursday and link back to a post I quite liked and is just as relevant today as it was when written two years ago. Thus, substitute in your mind the year when reading welcome to 2013, and forgive my tardiness on this and other blogs. And, HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone! :)
For people who are not Christian, this holiday has very little to do with celebrating the birth of Christ, and while Christians may lament this, holidays should be inclusive. Inclusive, of course, having a much more expansive meaning for vegans than non-vegans. And while I've never given the word Xmas all that much thought (or use, except when I didn't have enough space), I've been seeing it a fair bit lately and all of a sudden its appropriateness struck me with full force today.
Because that X really does sum up what happens, doesn't it?
Even folk who believe that a birth should be the focus of this event, do so by reveling in the deaths of billions of sentient beings. We literally snuff out the lives of countless others, putting a big ol' X through their existence (see how that word has an x in it too?), and think nothing of it. Most holidays involve the deaths of other beings on a massive scale as well, but I've never seen the hypocrisy of Christmas as a religious holiday quite as clearly until now.
X brings to mind:
a dead cartoon character's eyes when marked with x's
and incorrect when used as the opposite of a check mark
X, one letter with multiple meanings, including a literal death sentence on a day that for many humans is supposed to be about birth. How odd. How sad.
Actually, there are a number of them, but here are four examples.
Why is it assumed that when vegans get sick it's because of what they don't eat, yet when non-vegans get sick it's not assumed to be because of what they DO eat?
Why are vegans often asked if they support abortion, yet pro-life folk are rarely asked if they support ALL life? A surprising number of anti-choice proponents favour capital punishment, for example, yet this isn't often thought to be hypocritical even though the hypocrisy charge is lobbed against pro-choice vegans all the time.
Why are humans murdered while other animals are killed -- it's the same action with the same consequence is it not?
And lastly, why are vegans routinely accused of being judgmental, but non-vegans who judge the lives of other animals as less important every time they stuff them in their mouths are not? Eh, tell me that!
I stole the awesome cartoon above (don't remember from where now), but it's from the talented Vegan Sidekick who also has his own website where you can find images in categories (how cool is that?), and books (which I may just have to buy), so go give him some love! Seriously, right now. No point in waiting. ;)
Canucks celebrated this holiday back in October, but I wanted to post a quick thank-you to all vegans living south of the border. Keep doing what you're doing, keep calm, and vegan on. Oh, and enjoy the tofu. ;)
No no, not mine (at least, not yet, snort) or anyone we know, or even of this blog (although I can't blame you for wondering where I've been -- this post was first drafted nearly a month ago!), so let me explain.
Not to sound morose or anything, but this concept has actually gotten me quite excited. I mentioned obituaries in my last post and how when you reach a certain age you both read and understand their appeal a bit more. I've even had to write one myself a few years ago (for my step-dad), but when I read the one published for my own dad this past summer I was disappointed at how generic and bland it was. This is it?, I wondered. A couple of lines indicating age and relatives left behind are all you get for having lived almost 88 years? It seemed unnecessarily sparse, and gave no indication as to who and what this man was all about.
But it got me thinking as to how I want my own life represented once I leave this earth for good. (And hopefully I will have left Earth a bit better then when I arrived.) I want it to capture not so much what I have done, but an idea of who I was. I would love for it to read something like; our sister/partner/friend (depending on who does the writing) was smart, funny, creative, kind and generous. She was also sassy, strong-willed, opinionated, and could be a real pain in the ass. And she would completely agree with this assessment if she were able to read it! More importantly though, I would want it to mention what I was most passionate about -- veganism.
In fact, I want it to be more than just a mention. What I really envision my eventual obituary being is a public statement and declaration of my vegan beliefs. Wouldn't it be great to have the last written words about you (unless you're famous I would imagine these would be the last) be a testimony about what was most important to you, and an appeal for others to go vegan as well? So, being a bit of a control freak, I intend to draft at least the vegan portion of my obit and indicate in my personal effects containing my will that I want this included. My last wish, if you will.
And why not? In other obituaries you see requests for donations to certain charities (why not request that they go to your favourite vegan/animal rights organization?), Bible quotes (why not an animal rights quote that has great meaning for you?) or work, sports, and other extracurricular activities. So why not a powerful statement about what you stood for, and what you hope future generations may achieve that so far we have not? Yes, make your obit count! Let's start a new trend and let your vegan voice speak from beyond the grave, boo haha.
p.s. I waffle between thinking there may or may not be life after our bodies give up the fight (what happens to that all former energy otherwise?), but IF my dad still exists somehow on some plane or another, I could see him shaking his head and uttering one of his favourite Dutch proverbs Doe maar normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg, which roughly translated means, "Just act normal, that's crazy enough" -- sorry Dad, no can do! ;)
Because I don't have as much time as I'd like these days but still want to keep posting on a somewhat regular basis, I thought I'd jump on the popular #ThrowbackThursday bandwagon and hitch a ride myself, snort. After all, why not recycle and reuse some of the material I've written over the past five years while I work on new stuff? Besides, it might be fun to look back and see what still resonates.
The twist? Well, not really a twist, but instead of republishing the entire post, I'll likely just link back to it and perhaps provide some additional commentary. This post, for example, will deal with the advantages of being an older vegan. Okay, maybe some of the disadvantages as well. Like this:
But before you read the holy-crap-that-was-written-back-in-2011? post (and yes, it IS true that when you get older time flies by even faster), I want to add a couple of things. First, while I still agree that reaching out to younger people makes sense and is a good idea, I believe even more strongly that discounting the power and influence of the boomer generation is a bad mistake. For better AND worse, this population demographic still has a big say in how our society operates (for example, they're not willing to think of themselves as old the way previous generations may have, and quite a few of them don't even want to retire), so if we can get this group to say no to animal use and abuse while they still have the political and economic power to make a difference, then we should encourage that as much as possible.
Second, when you get to a certain age, obituaries start to become more interesting and you finally begin to understand why older folk find them so fascinating. You also start to think more in terms of what you've done with your life so far, and what is important for you to accomplish still before kicking that proverbial bucket. And if you're lucky, and finances permit, you may even start planning what vegan and animal rights organizations will inherit whatever you have left. Another reason, I would think, for agencies not to discount the older vegan.
Thirdly, whatever happened with CarpeVegan? They're linked in the original post, but it felt to me that while they started out with a bang, they more or less sputtered out. They still publish occasionally, but the site really didn't take off as I thought it would. Pity.
Finally, I want to take the opportunity here to introduce you to another delightful older vegan (yep, we're everywhere) who is proof that blinders can be removed at any age, and that much good can come of older-generation-vegans spreading the word. So, please say hello to my friend Vegan Grammie Annie!
And, finally finally, it occurred to me during the prepping of this throwback post that revamping old posts can be just as much work and just as time-consuming as composing new material, but hey, anything to get me writing, right? ;)
As y'all know, I love Esther, and her two dads, and the fine job the three of them are doing in raising awareness. "The Esther effect" has proven to be strong and far-reaching, and what I particularly like is the positive and joyful approach this trio embodies. One heart at a time is their strategy, and I think it's a smart one. With all the misery that animals face and activists are witness to, it's easy to forget that being vegan should also be fun and life affirming, so it's nice to have Esther and her dads remind us of that. Plus, saying Yes (to life, compassion, love) is, in my opinion, a stronger way to get folk to stay vegan rather than just focusing on the No (to cruelty, suffering, death) in getting them to go vegan.
But what some of you may not know, is that I also like making up words -- as the animal industrial complex shows, language can be manipulated to hide all sorts of evil, and one of our tasks as vegans is to strip away the veil (notice how evil and veil are almost identical) of words that make cruelty invisible -- and Esther has been a rich source of inspiration. Thus, here (in no particular order) are my top favourite five new Esther-inspired words and definitions:
Estheresque: similar to statuesque (as in being striking, majestic, magnificent) Estheresque takes it one step further to include any quality that matches her impact on human consciousness
Estherapy: better than booze, massage, and perhaps even chocolate, a visit to Esther's Facebook page is bound to lift your spirits and make you smile
Esthercise: okay, this one I didn't make up myself (saw it in a FB comment), but the word brought to mind images of brief spurts of running at top speed, sandwiched in between bouts of napping and eating, and somehow, this exercise regime seems appealing even to me
Estherache: pain brought on by not having at least a daily dose of Estherapy
Estherology: future scholarly study of Esther and "The Esther effect" leading to countless Sociology, Psychology, and Anthropology courses featuring this life-changing porcine loveliness
One of my all-time favourite adjectives though is one coined by Esther's dads themselves: Esther-approved (what a creative and gentle way to describe a better way of eating and living!) and confirms for me that these two men deserve all the respect, admiration and attention that they're receiving. May these sweet Canucks stay humble and gracious, and continue to inspire and effect change. Campbellville, here I come! :)