Wednesday, March 5, 2014
“...Perfectionism is very dangerous because if your fidelity to perfection is too high, you never do anything.” - David Foster Wallace
I’ll never forget how defeated I felt when I first learned that I could never be truly vegan. All because of a pair of shoes and a Shriner clown. I should probably back up a bit...
When I first went vegan in the mid-1990s, animal-free replacements weren’t as easy to find as they are today. That first year after I stopped purchasing animal-based items, I was in relentless pursuit of a pair of cute, leather-free shoes and, after months of fruitless catalog research and calling companies, I’d finally found the ones. (Imagine me in black-and-white footage if you will; this was how we rolled back in the quaint pre-internet days.) The shoes had a chunky three-inch heel (oh, how I love a good chunky heel), they were black (of course), they buckled (joy!), and, most important for vegan shoes, they weren’t Converse and they didn’t exude a humorless Christian missionary worker vibe (ding-ding-ding!). They were perfect. They even had a name, like the Charlottes, or maybe I named them that myself because I’m weird and they were that significant. I stared far too much at the picture I had cut out of my catalog and I think I raced home every day from work to see if the magical UPS truck had made the delivery until that amazing day when I spotted the box on our front porch. Usually this sort of anticipation leads to disappointment but these shoes did not disappoint. To the contrary, they were even better in person. They easily made the transition from casual to dressy; the first time I wore them, they felt like they were molded my specific feet. Just putting them on made me feel more confident of my core beliefs: every time another seemingly impossible challenge was checked off the list - in this case, stylish shoes made without animal skins - it seemed like a viable vegan future became closer within reach. These shoes symbolized the future of veganism to me, as silly as that sounds. That’s a lot of pressure on a simple pair of cute shoes.
About a week after they arrived, I was at a circus protest, strutting around in my still-dazzling Charlottes. It was a pretty intense day, the last performance of the run there, and clowns from the Shrine Circus - I’m not speaking pejoratively as they were actual clowns - were outside and more aggressive than usual, openly hurling invective at the activists. One particularly hostile clown in a blue wig really had it out for me and trailed me as I leafletted. Being a sucker for the absurd wherever I can find it, I saw the humor in the situation. It’s not every day you have your own personal clown in a blue wig and red nose following you around and yelling, which was actually scaring the parents and their children more than anything in the leaflets I was handing out would do. The calmer I was, the angrier he became. In other words, it was going exceptionally well. Or it was until that awful turning point.
As I went back to get more leaflets, he continued shadowing me, this time loudly engaging another clown so I could hear him. “What a hypocrite,” he spat. “Look at her wearing shoes that come from animal skins.” I turned around and told him that that wasn’t true, these weren’t leather. “Oh, but what about the glue in the shoes,” he sneered, as much as a clown can manage a sneer with a big foam nose getting in the middle of his face. “Glue comes from animals. Don’t you know that? I guess those animals don’t matter.” He had me. That had never occurred to me; I tried to smile and shrug it off but in truth, I was devastated. Even after working as hard to find them as I had, my shoes were still drenched in suffering. The luster was off my Charlottes. I was humiliated but, worse than that, I was demoralized. I went home, put my shoes back in their box like I was placing them in a coffin and cried for a good hour.
That night I questioned if it was possible, this dream, this ideal. I wondered if it was just another one of my utopian dreams. Having been called naïve since my earliest recollections, was my passionate vegan ideology just another display of my gullibility? For a perfectionist like me, I knew that if I couldn’t do this thing all the way, it would nag and tear at me until I just gave up the ghost and admitted the obvious: it was impossible. Veganism was impossible. Before this thought could really take root, though, another followed close behind and this was what both freed my spirit and allowed me to continue on this path as I have for nearly twenty years.
We live in a flawed world and I am doing my best in it.
From the wool sweaters we inherited from our late grandmothers to car tires with stearic acid, there are seemingly endless points of entry through which both blatant and covert products of animal origin can enter our lives, even those who live with borders that are carefully maintained to keep them out. In that moment when my despair turned around, I was no longer feeling defeated but relieved by acknowledging the facts: we live in a world that is profoundly rooted in animal exploitation. As the world has become more ensnared in animal agriculture specifically, more outlets have been found to find a place for every last molecule the industry can extract from an animal’s corpse, which is why the use of animal products is so pervasive to the point of being impossible to completely eradicate from our personal lives. That night, I realized that I didn’t have to choose between the present and possibility. The present could peacefully coexist with possibility as I worked toward my ideals in this imperfect world. Like those who wait and wait (and wait) for the perfect conditions to line up in order to go toward their dreams, it is this notion that things have to be just so in order to move toward our goals that is the fantasy, and it is a destructive fantasy that keeps us leaden, stuck, and hemmed in.
Ever since that day, I have messed up, I have made mistakes, I have realized that animal products have sneaked past my guard but I always try to learn and do better. Each time it happens - infrequent these days - I am reminded that there is a lot of work to do in this flawed world. The disappointment inspires me to push ahead with this very important work. Hanging my head in shame and beating myself up does nothing for the animals or creating a new, bold, integrated way of living. So today when someone tries to imply that because we can’t be perfect, we should just give up trying, this is what I say, “We don’t live in a vegan world yet. I‘m working on that. What are you doing to create a more compassionate life for yourself and others?”
We live in a flawed world with deeply entrenched, often hidden systems of violence woven through it. Vegans didn’t create this but we are actively forging creative solutions to it. I can find peace in this. I hope you can, too. And my Charlottes? I wore them until they fell apart six months later. (Damn those early vegan shoes...)
Posted by Marla at 9:10 AM
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
1. Unlike pigs, this broccoli never had its ears notched, its tail docked, its teeth clipped with pliers or was forced to undergo castration without anesthesia. Broccoli doesn’t have ears, tails, teeth or genitalia and it does not possess sentience as we define it.
2. Unlike pigs, this broccoli never had to endure multiple forced impregnations, babies taken from it shortly after their birth and living in narrow structures that restrict full movement. None of these would be replicable to a broccoli.
3. Unlike pigs, this broccoli is not producing an enormous quantity of fecal waste that is being collected in poorly regulated lagoons that spill over and pollute our groundwater. You can observe a broccoli plant all night and all day and you will not find evidence of it urinating or defecating.
4. Unlike pigs, this broccoli is not fed crops that are sprayed with chemicals, which then leech into and spill over into our waterways, creating dead zones in the world’s oceans. Broccoli does not consume feed.
5. Unlike pigs, this broccoli is not regularly given a cocktail of antibiotics and other drugs to keep it from getting sick in overcrowded, unhygienic surroundings. Broccoli does not get sick.
6. Unlike pigs, this broccoli is not trucked in extreme, crowded conditions that exacerbate suffering to slaughterhouses. Broccoli does not have sentience and thus does not suffer in observable or verifiable ways, and it does not go to the slaughterhouse.
7. Unlike pigs, when this broccoli is picked, it does not cry out, try to escape, bleed or convulse. Skin, hair, organs and viscera do not need to be removed. Broccoli is simply picked.
8. Unlike pig farming, growing broccoli is not an indisputably major factor contributing to climate change, which has a ripple effect on everyone, with negative repercussions felt most harshly in the developing world. Broccoli production does not contribute to climate change.
9. Unlike pig farming, broccoli is not given feed that, in order to be produced, has taken over valuable landmass with the mono-crops required to produce abundant cheap meat. Broccoli is simply grown.
10. Unlike pig’s flesh, broccoli does not contribute to clogged arteries, obesity and other maladies that are linked to suffering, disease and shortened life spans. Broccoli is actually considered a food that contributes to human wellness.
Posted by Marla at 8:44 AM
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Dear angry guy,
I am guessing that it felt gratifying for you to come to our Facebook page and expose vegans as hippie fascists who are trying to ram our extremist, hardline agenda of consideration and compassion down your innocent throat. I am imagining that you sat up a little taller, your chest puffed out a little more proudly, and you maybe even uttered a sassy little riposte like, “Top that, tree-huggers!” as you hit the return key. Oh, burn. You caught us. We’ve pulled off the nearly impossible by managing to be both hippies and fascists simultaneously (“You will buy me a pack of the very best sandalwood incense and you will like it,”) but we weren’t able to sneak past by the likes of you. You’ve exposed our so-secret-we’re-not-even-trying-to-hide-it-that’s-how-sneaky-we-are agenda: We are going to stomp on your rights and oppress the ever-loving daylights out of you. Ooooh, you are going to be so flipping oppressed when we get done with you. But first, we will disband the U.N., NATO and the ACLU, then we’re going to put all your human rights through an enormous paper shredder (and we are going to cackle as we do it) and then we will stomp on your shredded rights. Finally, we will pour stinky, hippie-certified patchouli oil over the shredded mass that was once your personal rights and we will set it all ablaze because that is how hippie fascists roll. (Oh, we should probably have a drum circle, too, since we’ve got a good bonfire going and, as hippies, we cannot resist.)
That’s right: We are an army of highly organized, powerful and sadistic bohemians who tyrannize humanity with our bunny hugging and constant chugging of green smoothies.
Given that you clearly have our number, one has to wonder why you walked into our den so ill-prepared. On the one hand, you think that we’re all writing our own terrifyingly menacing manifestos (I call dibs on “Mein Kale”), organizing our troops of joy-crushers, green dry-cleaning our grim uniforms and on the other hand, you characterize us as dreamy idealists. Why do you do this? It seems unwise.
I will concede that some of us are hippies (the hippie population within veganism is holding steady at approximately 19%, give or take five percentage points according to the most recent Gallup national poll) so it makes sense at this point to simply examine and address the vegans’ putative fascist tendencies. According to my Oxford Concise English dictionary, this is the definition of Fascism, n. “1 The totalitarian principles and organization of the extreme right-wing nationalist movement in Italy (1922 - 43). 2 (also fascism) a) any similar nationalist and authoritarian movement. b) (loosely) any system of extreme right-wing or authoritarian views. Fascist, n. & adj. (also fascist). I think we can safely rule out the first definition, though the Italian vegans of 1922 - 1943 will have to speak for themselves. Reading the definition, I am going to venture that it is the aspect of “authoritarianism” connected with fascism that is the specific charge levied against us. So this is the definition of authoritarian: adj. & n. “1 Favoring, encouraging, or enforcing strict obedience to authority, as opposed to individual freedom. 2 Tyrannical or domineering. n. A person favoring absolute obedience to a constituted authority.
Apparently we are authoritarians and we are really, really lousy at it. Pitiful! Maybe it’s our hippie nature winning out, but we are supposed to be cracking our pleather whip at all the omnivores and forcing them to follow a joyless diet of steamed cardboard with tears gravy, yet where are we? Rocking out at a measly two percent of the population, barely able to get our parents to understand that we don’t “eat around” dead bodies in the Thanksgiving stuffing, and being served a boiled broccoli plate at the catered annual office holiday party. How is that for a domineering, tyrannical authority figure?
Clearly, we suck at it.
It would maybe make sense at this juncture for vegans to re-assess if we want get that fascist regime off the ground better by honing our latent autocratic tendencies. I think it’s time to study another group and see if we can get that whole brutal despot thing going a little bit more effectively. I think I have the perfect one.
Let’s see: We could develop entrenched systems that keep billions of sentient beings subjugated in order to serve another population and have that industry be underwritten by the government. We could impose our will on their freedom of movement, their bodies, their reproduction and their capacity to raise their own offspring. We could force them to eat food that is not chosen for their digestive systems but to help them reach market weight the quickest. We could keep them locked in a cycle of reproduction until they are considered worth more dead than alive. We could be in control of the method and timing of their slaughter. We could sell their product or flesh and financially benefit from it. We could create an industry that has a proven detrimental ripple effect on human health, water, air, and climate, for starters. We could do all that.
Are you really sure this is the direction you want to go with your argument? Or should I conclude that you’re just pulling random insults out of your ass and you don’t really know what you’re talking about?
I think I’m going with that.
Your favorite hippie fascist
Posted by Marla at 9:28 AM
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
When I was very young, love meant many things but perhaps this was when I felt it most: whenever my grandparents came to our house. The tightening in my chest, the happy jitters, and, finally, the sheer combustive, ebullient joy when the sea green Chevrolet pulled up and it was finally them, my grandmother carrying her pocketbook, my grandfather with his adorable, flat-footed shuffle. I loved that purse, that shuffle, and I charged out the door like a panting golden retriever whenever their car pulled up: pure bliss.
Love was also felt on the epic firefly chasing expeditions that turned into sleepovers with my best friend; whenever my sketch pad, charcoal pencil, brain and hand transported me somewhere new; running through the field behind our house, which, in retrospect, was a pretty plain place that became transformed by my lens into the lush meadow of poppies from The Wizard of Oz. Love prior to, say, the fourth grade, was experienced as the pure, unfiltered expression of joy running through my little body.
As I got older, life and love got more complicated, as it does. Love wasn’t what I thought it was, apparently: love was what I read about with disbelieving eyes in Cosmopolitan magazine, it was found in the convoluted, tangled plot twists on All My Children. Love was what I overheard the older girls whispering about in the high school bathroom when I was supposed to be in World History: it was wild, a little scary, and being in it was your ticket out of the tacky juvenile jungle.
The first time I free-fell smack-dab into the sticky spider’s web of love-love, I was 19. In hindsight, I’m certain that I was ridiculous but that’s part of love -- we become ridiculous. I‘m pretty sure that that spring, I skipped down every sidewalk and, in my imagination at least, butterflies seemed to always be flitting around me, songbirds serenading me personally wherever I went. Whenever the phone rang, my heart almost pounded out of my chest. I imagined the first time he would meet my parents, what our apartment would look like (a beautiful vintage building with a courtyard and wood floors and potted herbs growing on our windowsill), our wedding. Our wedding band. My dress. Our song. The honeymoon. And...we broke up after two months.
But love was also the sweet guy with the big smile, the one who couldn’t play mind games if he tried, the one who I didn’t need to tiptoe around. We have this cultural trope of love as a big, nauseating roller-coaster of ecstasy-and-despair (thank you, Emily Brontë) and sometimes it is but sometimes, blessedly, it’s not. Sometimes love is someone who adores you just as you are. Sometimes love doesn’t inspire you to write bad poetry or sit outside an apartment building just to watch the lights go on and off. Because it’s soon to be Valentine’s Day, I am thinking about love in all of its permutations and expressions, which includes the inter-species kind, a variety I’ve found to be no less emotionally gratifying than romantic love. Especially as I’ve gotten older, love has become more and more uncomplicated, back to that simple, pure experience of blissed-out joy I felt as a child. Sometimes animals help me to connect with that most.
This was Lenny. He will have been gone twelve years this March and I still think of him pretty much every day. It took me years to not expect to see him when I got home, even after we moved to a new one. Meeting Lenny was like meeting someone I immediately recognized as being from my own tribe and that is a true rarity. When I got off the train after work, I would rush down the streets, so excited to return to his side, see those enormous café au lait eyes, that whole body wag, that deliciously soft muzzle I couldn’t resist. With my husband, we were a family. The three of us meandered down Route 66 one dusty September, we slept on the balcony together whenever it was too hot inside and he was also at my side when I had a miscarriage before my son was born. Lenny used to lie with his paws on my chest, staring into my eyes and licking my face with an intensity that made me a little woozy. The day he died, Lenny looked at me with cloudy, old man eyes full of love and devotion and I was struck by his expression because it was exactly how my grandfather used to look at me, an unguarded look that said so much. It was a pure love we felt for each other and remains why I cannot accept the notion that we only feel that way for other people. Part of what made our relationship so rewarding is the same thing people express about their beloved companion animals all around the world: it is not complicated by human emotions and psychological games, it’s pure, simple, not messy. Is it any wonder that as our lives become more complicated with social media, more isolated with technology and more preoccupied with responsibilities, we would seek these sustaining, enriching but undemanding relationships that give so much in return?
I grew up in the Chicago suburbs and rarely saw animals other than dogs, cats, birds, squirrels and the occasional chipmunk so the first time I went to an animal sanctuary in the mid-1990s, it was a revelation. I was already vegan but being in the company of these animals - sheep, cows, roosters luxuriating in their freedom on those rolling California hills - confirmed for me that what I felt for them wasn’t just theoretical. I genuinely loved these animals and not just the idea of them; my heart swelled in their company. These animals were different from Lenny in that they were not a part of my life: how could I love those beings I hadn’t met before and would probably not meet again? Doesn’t using the word “love” to apply to strangers cheapen the meaning of the word?
I don’t think so.
When we are vegans, we have unlocked that part of our hearts that is normally closed off. It would serve to reason that when we open up the parameters of whom we love, we also have a more expansive understanding of why and how we love. Why are we speaking out against cruelty? Why are we revoking our own privileges? Why do we risk outing ourselves as unstable, bunny-hugging, dirt worshipers? Because we love. It doesn’t have a to a gushy I-want-to-rub-my-face-in-your-muzzle love; it’s love on its own terms. It’s as simple and straightforward as than that and, as we know, a prevailing characteristic of love is that it operates by its own wisdom. Whether we are talking about the one we plan our futures with, the dog we greet when we come home at the end of the day, the babies we nurture, or the first turkey we sit together at the sanctuary with, love is love is love. I think that part of why people have a hard time fathoming us as vegans is because they cannot fathom loving in this expansive way.
Margaret Atwood was right; there ought to be more words for describing the kinds of love we feel. As vegans, we are expanding the parameters of whom and how we get to love. Love can be messy and complicated but it can also be simple and just as heartfelt. We are vegans because we love, whether they have two legs or four, arms or wings, skin or fur. We are vegans because we love.
Posted by Marla at 9:18 AM
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Your tale, sir, would cure deafness.” - William Shakespeare, The Tempest
I can’t remember most facts to save my life. This is a shortcoming of mine and it certainly showed itself up on my report cards growing up. A compelling story, however, will bore itself into me like the best sort of tick. Once it’s the story is attached to me, it’s impossible to remove; it’s become absorbed. We can cite all the data we want but at the end of the day, I believe that the stories we tell - richly woven, personal, evocative, transcendent, empathetic - are what influence the people around us the most, becoming part of us.
With our vegan advocacy, we own the vast majority of the significant arguments in favor of moving away from eating animals. We own the ethical debate, we own some very powerful environmental statistics, we own a good deal of the persuasive health arguments. Why then do so many of our attempts to successfully communicate our message misfire? There are myriad simple and complex reasons why people might ignore or push back against our attempts to advocate, ranging from anxiety about change, defensiveness that is outside of our control, or poor communication skills on our part, but I believe that we can overcome obstacles when we learn to meet people where they are at and tell the stories that they find compelling. We actually own the arguments. Now let’s tell the stories better.
We are a species with multiple tools at our disposal for communication - from spoken word to the visual arts to dance to music - for a reason; essentially, our forms of communication have a common root of sharing a story in direct and abstract ways. Stories penetrate us. The best stories can create a shared, universal experience out of a personal, unique one and the reverse is also true. Stories help us to transcend our own skin and see things, including our own lives, through a fresh lens. Along the way, they move us, influence us, make us double over in laughter or collapse into tears. We return to the most compelling stories again and again, in our thoughts and in our words, and as we do, we are changed and we change the world around us. I believe that the stories we tell are our richest resource and currency as communicators of the vegan message and that we are barely scratching the surface of our potential.
When we move others through our stories, we have unlocked part of someone’s heart.
Our goal is a lofty and deeply challenging one: to encourage people to reconsider how they conceive of other animals, and, in this reconsideration, determine that other animals are as deserving of respect and protection as humans. It isn’t enough to change one’s behavior, though: through this radical revaluation of our place in the world, the goal is that people will decide to change their mindset to embrace the principles and practice of compassionate living. We are asking people to willingly give up their privileges, their family customs and their comfortable habits for the sake of others. There is no enforcement here. No one is doing anything illegal. This is grounded in good faith, altruism and kindness for the sake of itself.
I think we can agree that this is a hard sell. Given that, let’s compare two approaches and see what is more moving, relatable and empowering.
“Sixty billion land animals are killed worldwide for food. In the U.S. alone, it’s 10 billion. (This does not include aquatic animals, which are killed in even higher numbers.) Of the 10 billion killed in the U.S., well more than 99% of the animals are raised in an industrial setting. The 10 billion land animals consume two-thirds of the nation’s grain, one half of the nation’s water, one-third of the nation’s landmass and one-third of the nation’s fossil fuel. Animal agriculture is considered a leading cause of climate change. This is why you should go vegan.”
“It all started when I saw a truck transporting pigs to slaughter on the highway. I’d never given what I ate much thought except on that one day, my dog Sally happened to be sitting in the passenger’s seat. On the other side of her, I could see the the pigs looking out through the tiny little slats in the metal as the truck drove past. I could see snouts and shapes but what really struck me was a pair of eyes I could see through the slats. I looked at the dog I loved so much, and back to the eyes when something struck me: Sally’s eyes looked just the same as that pig’s. They were so expressive. I couldn’t shake having seen those pigs for the rest of the day - they looked scared, confused, but maybe even a little hopeful for breathing the fresh air, seeing the sky. They looked just like my dog would have under the same circumstances. From there, the more I learned about what we do to animals, the less I could contribute to their suffering, and the more I learned, the less I was able to deceive myself. This was why I went vegan.”
In one example, we are barraged with facts and statistics that are so depressing, they can easily make us feel overloaded and disempowered. A common response to feeling overloaded and disempowered is hopelessness and giving up. This is a massive industry, reinforced by history and industry, governments and our own attachments, and it is all we’ve known. Given this, it’s easy to feel bombarded by depressing fact over devastating statistic and, as vegans, we often feel if we just keep shelling out as many truth-bombs as possible, something has to eventually hit our target. At what cost, though?
In the second example, we are told a story. It is humble, honest and unguarded. It is relatable, it has something the listener can grab on to and filter through their own experience. It’s not lecturing; it’s not hectoring. It’s honest and simple but not boring: it’s told in a personal, vivid way that people can imagine in their own mind’s eye. The story didn’t tell someone how to think: it left that up to the listener, and simply illustrated how the storyteller thought.
The stories that touch us resonate. We return to them again and again. We think about them when we’re walking to school, when we’re in the bathtub, when we’re grocery shopping. The stories pull us to them because we are a communicative species and we make sense of the world around us and our place in it through stories: this is part and parcel of being human. We need to learn how to tell our stories better because, as we know, the facts are out there and they are compelling. What we need to do is get people to feel and disempowerment is the wrong route to go if we want them to not to turn off the capacity to feel.
Facts, data, and statistics are essential to the big picture of influencing people. Essential. They ground our stories in reality, in something of substance, in the non-subjective. Our stories, ideally buttressed with select facts, will build the perfect structure, filled with the unique details that make it memorable but also the support beams that are so necessary for it to remain standing. How do we do this, though? How do we construct the stories we have in ourselves to make them move and inspire? That’s a big question. I have some thoughts and I will be sharing them in the coming weeks. In the meantime, have you ever been told a story that has changed your life? Have you ever told a story that changed someone else’s life? Please share in the comments.
Posted by Marla at 8:15 AM
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
I just turned 23 (what?) and so, on the occasion of my 23rd birthday (be quiet, I’m warning you), I’ve compiled a list of some of the things I wish I’d learned while growing up. If not in childhood, then at least by the age of 16. Or 31. (Oops, well, you caught me.) Some maxims I have fully embraced and others I am still trying to internalize. Some might take a lifetime. If my adult self could intervene and give advice to my developing self, this is what I would like to have said.
* Avoid people who fake apologize. You know how there are certain people who, when they apologize for something thoughtless they said or did, actually make you feel worse? The ones who usually say something along the lines of, “I’m sorry you were offended” or “I’m sorry you took that the wrong way.” You know how it feels kind of insulting? That’s because it is -- they want the credit for apologizing while actually shifting the blame onto you. What they’re doing, indirectly, is a form of pseudo-apologizing, an “apology” with an underpinning of blame. People who fake apologize are some of the worst kind of friends and you should excise them from your life, the sooner, the better.
* Don’t be pressured into apologizing either. With that in mind, never, ever apologize if you haven’t done something wrong and don’t expect anyone else to, either.
* Partners-in-crime are the best friends on earth. The best kind of friend is as game for checking out the tacky haunted mini-golf course as she is crashing the Ann Coulter book signing or just hanging out over tea. She can laugh with you, cry with you, stop whatever she’s doing to check out the sale at LUSH, totally get your sense of humor and know when something’s wrong even if you won’t admit it to yourself. Keep these friends. Fight for them. Treasure them. They are more rare and valuable than you could ever imagine.
* Are you getting how important friends are? I wish you would have learned when you were ten or so that the pursuit of popularity is a never-ending, exhausting and empty treadmill. Go for quality over quantity every time and you will be so much happier.
* Drink more. (Water. Why, what did you think I meant?)
* People will try like mad to find your hypocrisies if they think you are “too perfect” and if they can’t find any hypocrisies, they will resent you. Either way, it is all arranged so you lose. Opt out by just concentrating on your inner-compass no matter what the people around you do.
* Maintain some harmless vices. The daily chocolate square or three (as long as its dairy-free, organic and Fair Trade -- do you see how pushy I’ve become?) is a good one to keep.
* Don’t say, “It’s okay,” if it’s not. Start practicing this immediately because, boy, is it ever a hard one.
* Heartbreak makes can either make you more hardened or more empathetic. Choose empathy.
* This may not seem so, but there is a world of difference between being nice and being kind. Learn it. Being nice means that you are concerned more with what others think of you and being kind is a much more engaged, challenging and fulfilling practice.
* Nobody is as hung up about you and your perceived flaws and shortcomings as you are. Everyone has his or her own struggles and you probably barely register into their awareness. This should be reassuring, not disappointing. Think about the people in your life: are you obsessing over their imperfections? No, and no one is doing it to you, either. Self-absorption is the worst kind of suffering. Try to give it up.
* Don’t be pressured into doing or saying anything that goes against your gut. Ever.
* It’s a cliché but it’s true: when people show or tell you who they are, always believe them. You will only be disappointed if you have expectations.
* Eat as much ripe, cold, perfect watermelon in the summer as you possibly can. The same applies to peaches, mangoes, blackberries, cherries and everything else that is heavenly and ephemeral.
* You may think you don’t like Brussels sprouts now but, seriously, roast them. They become savory candy. Life is too short for boiled Brussels sprouts.
* Want instant liberation? Let everyone off the hook for being responsible for your happiness. Your happiness begins and ends with you. Start this practice immediately.
* Smile as soon as you wake up, before you get out of bed. Make this a practice and it will change your whole day and all those days eventually add up into a life. I’m just saying...
* Strategies for when you’re feeling stuck: Skip. Go for a bike ride. Take a walk in the woods. Listen to your favorite music. Work somewhere else if you can. Meet a friend who inspires you. Exercise. Garden. Look through photos. Go to the library. Go to an art museum. Do some jumping jacks.
* A single golden strategy for when you’re feeling miserly and ungrateful: Make a list of three positive things that you made happen at the end of each day as well as three reasons you made these things happen. (For example: “I cleaned my office. 1. I value my space. 2. I understand that being orderly helps me be productive and reach my goals. 3. I am committed to making positive changes in my life.”) It’s harder than it seems but it is so worthwhile. I learned this a few years ago and this practice will get you to a place of abundance and gratitude.
* Please, please, please, wear sunblock. And a wide-brimmed hat. And sunglasses.
* Being a family member does not give anyone license to mistreat you. Ever.
* If there is an empty swing at the playground, take it.
* Skip when you can instead of walking. It’s faster, more fun and it’s an instant happy pill.
* You’re about to spend a lot of money on gin and tonics and cover charges from ages 19 to 26 or so. Seriously, please consider saving it and traveling instead. Oh, you won’t listen to me.
* Although you will meet your husband at a bar in so at least go to the Green Mill on May 2, 1993. (In other words, never say never.)
* You know how you think being flaky, disorganized and unpredictable is cute? It’s mostly just annoying.
* I bet you think I’m going to tell you not to major in fine arts. But I won’t. Major in fine arts just don’t expect to do anything with it.
* Your son or dog will eventually grow too old to want to play with you and then you will miss those days. Play with your babies whenever possible.
How about you? What would you tell your younger self? What do you wish someone had told you?
Posted by Marla at 8:05 AM
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” ~ George Orwell, 1984
Last week, there was a bit of a local news story turned national hug fest for heritage carcass carvers everywhere when an esteemed Chicago meatery called Publican Quality Meats responded to a billboard that PETA had rented near their shop, which happens to be in the old meat-packing district and is a hub for trendy, upscale restaurants today. PETA’s billboard simply read, “You can live without those ribs. I can’t. Try vegan,” with the image of a piglet. (No Lettuce Ladies? No puerile sexual double-entendres? Oh, PETA, you always keep me guessing.) PQM responded to the billboard with the kind of chillingly convoluted doublethink that never fails to turn me into a human version of these pugs but still, it’s what I have come to expect from those who claim that we can simultaneously “love” and “honor” animals while killing, dismembering and profiting from them. In other words, there’s nothing new here. [Breathing, breathing, breathing...] It’s the sort of obvious contradiction that I have come to learn is very hard to notice if one is still participating in consuming animals.
In their message to the public, PQM pulled a card that surprised and delighted their fan base of affluent meat-eaters: they characterized themselves as advocates for animals. In asserting that their beliefs about the ethical treatment of farmed animals were similar to that of PETA with the exception of that niggling difference of, you know, eating (oh, and profiting from) their segmented parts, PQM tried to neatly sidestep the issue as if it were a mere difference in personal taste. “Hey bro, it’s like you like Coke and I like 7-Up. One is a cola, one is the un-cola, but we’ve got more in common than we don’t. We both love carbonated beverages. World peace! Now let’s go Instagram some charcuterie...” [Seriously, entering deep breathing time: in with peace - one, two, three - out with anger - four, five, six....] With evidence that they cooly presented as proof positive of their honoring of animals but is, in fact, actually deeply fetishistic (“This is why we do not waste a molecule of these beautiful animals. We process them into headcheese, marrow bones, cured meats, cooked meats, ham hocks, regular cuts, blood sausage. We feel this honors the life of the animal and is the right way to do this kind of work”), it is important to note that industrial agriculture is as, if not more, resourceful at extracting every last, um, molecule of a beautiful animal’s corpse than a trendy butcher shop could ever be. This is what industrial agriculture does best, just without all the chest-thumping and backslaps to themselves and, implicitly, their customers. In this fusing of their economical use of another’s various body parts with the higher ideals of honoring them, a disturbing inability or unwillingness to parse fairly essential differences is revealed.
Reading the articles and comments on the various news sources [still breathing here], I saw this same phenomenon again and again - the inability or unwillingness to parse essential differences as PETA and their billboard were repeatedly referred to as “bullying” the sweet little exclusive butcher shop. Really? Never mind the fact that the placement of the billboard far more likely has to do with its close proximity to Chicago’s restaurant row and the significance of it being in the meat-packing district rather than near one specific butcher shop, there is a bigger problem here. Specifically, let’s look at the word bully and the charge of bullying. Bully, used as a verb: (To) use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically force him or her to do what one wants.
What is true bullying? To erase the sovereignty of one’s own selfhood, of one’s own body, and force another’s desires upon that being. To impose the will of those in power over the fundamental rights of those who are not in power. Vegans represent between two-to-three percent of the population at most; this is incredibly light resistance against the ingrained, entrenched institutions and customs that buttress the habits people enjoy. Are we really supposed to believe that a billboard that merely asks for consumers to consider what they are eating to be bullying? What’s more, those who speak up for those who are truly oppressed are now the bullies? And those who are complicit in the exploitation of others (intentionally or unintentionally) have become the bullied? If we were talking about the government pushing this notion of bullies and the bullied, we could easily call that mentality Orwellian. Because our societal use of animals is deeply-rooted and systemic, omnivores refer to what they do as within their rights and when their “personal choices” [breathing...] are criticized by killjoys, their feelings are hurt. They feel constrained. Hence, the meat-eating public has effectively felt bullied by a pretty tame billboard.
Holy moly, what a strange place this is sometimes.
What kind of irrational, tangled world do we live in where the very small minority of people who speak out against the atrocities inflicted upon billions of innocent beings, something that 98% of the population aids and abets through their habits, are suddenly bullies for pointing out the simple fact these habits cause suffering and death? Stating a fact - in this case, that a pig cannot live without his or her ribcage - is suddenly a bullying action. If you are a meat-eater and you feel bullied by those who speak up for animals, I have some questions. When people speak up for animals:
* Are you fearful for your well-being?
* Are you exploited?
* Are you oppressed?
* Are you harmed?
* Were your rights denied?
* Is there a power imbalance that is unfairly inflicted upon you?
My guess is that if we replace the word “bullied” with “feeling guilty and upset about it,” or “feeling defensive about one’s privileges,” we may have a more accurate understanding of the dynamic at play. Because, let’s face it, who is really bullied in this equation? Quite obviously, the billions of animals, born into servitude and captivity through no fault of their own. They are forcibly impregnated (raped in human terms), castrated, docked and clipped without anesthesia, forced to entertain us, be experimented upon, live in filth, be slaughtered. Who are the bullied? Whether they are “heritage” animals or “lowly” chickens, graceful dolphins or silver fish in a river, when we impose our will upon the animals, they are the bullied. If we are willing to take off our blinders, it’s abundantly clear who the bullies and the bullied are here.
I am not saying that omnivores are all bullies. I don’t believe that at all. I just think that most people are not awake to the horrors inflicted upon the animals and their role in it. Before I stopped eating animals, I wasn’t able to face this either. It’s understandable. What is abhorrent to me, though, is this charge of bullying when the curtains that obscure cruelty to animals have simply been gently pulled back. That is not bullying. That is called honesty.
Posted by Marla at 8:45 AM