February 1, 2012
5 Ways to Address the Controversial Subject of Non-Violence
without Focusing on the Controversy
When asked what the theme of this blog is I often tell people: nonviolence. In dawnofanewera, I aspire to deconstruct modern myths in place of a sustainable and dynamic nonviolent existence or, the end of all oppressive systems.
But often, when an individual is unwilling to compromise on something (even non-violence) they are labeled extremists. Sometimes, in the unrelenting path of my own mental expansion, I look behind myself to see an uproar in the wake of my words. And actually, my intention is not to cause controversy, but to inspire others to come together to create a more free-spirited world.
So, here’s what I’ve been thinking:
1) Communication is the Response that You Get
Christian Carter, dating guru and the boyfriend I never had, may not have come up with this one, but he did coin it (I believe it was one of his female friends). Basically this statement means that if you’re not getting the response you wanted, then you didn’t make the statement or pose the question effectively.
I have experienced several examples of this recently. A certain unnamed person, we’ll call him, John Lennon, was recently feeling as though I wasn’t respecting his needs. But unfortunately he chose to tell me this at an extremely sensitive time in an extremely blaming way, and therefore I didn’t even want to engage with him. I thought about it and realized that if he had asked me to support him in a gentle way with a specific solution in mind, I wouldn’t have even questioned offering the support he was requesting.
So how can we learn from this when discussing non-violent topics such as veganism or a RBE (Resource Based Economy)?
- Choose the right moment
- Remove the blame
- Offer specific solutions
- Ask for what you want, don’t demand
Essentially, knowing that communication is the response that you get puts the responsibility perpetually back in your hands.
2) Give Up Attack Thoughts
In Marianne Williamson’s book A Return to Love, she discusses how in a dream one night a dream figure told her that she could never establish peace while hating politicians so much, because she was a ‘hawk’. Or in other words, she was on the attack and as such could not spread peace.
Marianne Williamson talks a lot about ‘attack thoughts’ and I really like this term because it refers to not only our attacks on others, but attacks of others on us. This means that if we’re contemplating an unfair remark made towards us, we are still focusing on the attack rather than the non-violent solution. (Serious LOA going on here.)
Being defensive is just as bad as being offensive because we are still creating a scenario of attack in our minds. Which brings me to my next point.
3) Choose your ‘Battles’
Those who advocate for non-violence are not likely to see their tactics as being violent. I have a few friends whose vegan views feel slightly fundamentalist to me and who often use the cause as an excuse to behave threateningly. It can be difficult at demos to not get carried away at times, as there is so much adrenaline in the air, but it is entirely possible to use rage at demos in a non-violent way. Non violence is not about not having feelings. The key is to do it in a respectful, controlled way.
In order to see opportunities to create non-violence in place of battles, you have to first be clear about your intention. I’ve discussed the concept of ‘choosing connection’ before. Instead of judging a (totally adorable and amazing) friend, we’ll call her Nelly Furtado, for wearing bunny moccasins recently, I explained a similar situation where I’d unknowingly purchased a fur hair accessory once. My intention is to connect with her, not to villainize her.
Engaging with teeny bopper girls who pretend not to know English on the street, or a certain millionaire booty queen who swears she’s a good person (and skins hundreds of animals alive a year) – it’s not so easy. You want to slap stickers their furry backs and kick them in the face. *Face kicking is violent, for those who were wondering. Solution? Keep it light and then move on. I chased the Harajuku girls for a block and they took a pamphlet, and I came up with some zingers for the poor Kardashiass, eg. “junk in the trunk, nothing in the heart #furkills”, which were retweeted.
I have a friend, we’ll call him David Blaine, an advocate for non-violent principles, who saves up his rhetoric for people of more influence, such as journalists who he feels could actually help him reach his activist goals. It can be fun to completely annihilate people intellectually, and I love a good debate, but sometimes our time can be better spent when working at larger goals. However, I’m in no way encouraging passivity. Passiveness is not pacifism.
4) The Rogerian Approach
We’ll call this the ego-sensitive approach, but it can be fun because it requires an element of stealth. Technically, a Rogerian argument is a long slow finessing of the other side, completed by a gentle suggestion of your true stance. Think of Robin Hood the fox sucking the rings off the cowardly lion’s fingers after buttering up his ego with praise.
The Rogerian approach doesn’t need to be manipulative – you could call it Canadian if you prefer. It begins with a great amount of listening and summarizing the other person’s view, and your best impersonation of sympathy. *This is not a feely feely communication guide.
When you’ve found a way to agree with every single point the other side has brought up eg. you know what climate change could be natural, and the government does do a lot right that we don’t give them credit for, and a transition of economic models could be messy (hint: do it in a way that doesn’t hurt too much), then suggest one small, unobtrusive point at the very end of the conversation, eg. hey, I heard your aunt was suffering from cancer, have you ever heard of the China Study?
The theory is that the other side will be so sure that you’re agreeing with them that they won’t notice that you’ve implanted a logic bomb inside their minds. A bomb like a bath bomb, not nuclear.
5) Use your Anger
Often when discussing non-violence with people who think it’s far-fetched or ‘utopian’, rage follows on the part of the pacifist. The other party transforms into this barbaric monster with antiquated views and entitled values and this is exactly what enrages those who rally for a non-violent world (even though it would make more sense for those who advocate violence to go to anger). The anger stems from the obviousness that arises from seeing better solutions that others do not see.
If you see the possibilities of a non-violent world, you are part of a minority. (In case you haven’t noticed, we’re still living in the dark ages where war and slaughter are daily occurrences). This learned vision is a gift, but it comes with anger – which is what will drive us to create change. It is our responsibility to diffuse the anger as we move forward. To exchange the anger for results.
In Marshall Rosenberg’s The Surprising Purpose of Anger, he advises not to see anger as something bad, and not to oppress it but to see it as like a warning light on your car – informing you that you need something. He says not to confuse the trigger for your anger with the actual cause of it, which is always your own thinking. So once we identify the trigger and cause, we can move onto the unmet need behind the anger. Just as we would die of starvation if we were never hungry, we become angry to satiate our emotional needs.
I think often times we feel like victims to our anger. We don’t want to engage with it because we feel it is overpowering us – bossing us around. One alternative to diffusing anger is ignorance, making a quick escape from the anger to something else. But activists for non-violence usually choose to go deeper. We are not afraid to get angry, even though we’re not experts at understanding our anger yet. As my friend, well call him Marcus Aurelius, just summed up well on Facebook: the more you oppose an idea, the more you give it strength.
When we entertain blaming thoughts, we are rejecting our personal power. It takes humility to recognize the scope of changes you can realistically make (those directly through yourself), but this seemingly small scope can lead to huge effects. It is all we can handle, and all we need.
Remember: just because we are honing our debate skills and activist methods, non-violence should NEVER be compromised to reach any type of temporary peace. Gentle interactions can exist without meeting people who support war or killing halfway. Stick to your… carrot sticks.
November 28, 2011
How Does Our Mental Health Affect our Attitudes Towards Veganism?
I’ve already touched on the subject of whether veganism promotes mental health. I think it does. But I wanted to examine the topic from the other angle: how does mental health relate to BECOMING vegan?
I would define good mental health as stability – one neither falls into depressions, or loses one’s temper, but also has the ability to feel their feelings to the extent they want to. Mental health is resilience – an ability to look at situations straight on, bounce back from failures, and learn how to achieve emotional balance. But mental health goes beyond emotional health, to intellectual health – the ability to allow new ideas to enter the mind and jostle our pre-conceived notions as we strive to be completely honest with ourselves.
I would argue that poor mental health makes it much more difficult for people to become vegan. Follow this train of thought:
My life sucks.
I am not connected to people.
My relationships can’t fulfill me.
All I have are my creature comforts.
My creature comforts are what I know.
I know what I like.
I don’t want to not like these things anymore or I would have nothing.
Please stop trying to take away these creature comforts – they are all I have.
Life is good.
My life is continually expanding and progressing.
I have dynamic connections with people.
I’m learning and growing with others in my life.
I have so much abundance and so many thing I love to do.
My creature comforts are just bonuses.
I know what I like so far, but since I’m learning and growing these things may develop over time, too.
I have so much to give. I want to share myself in the most positive ways possible.
I want everyone to experience the joy I feel.
Please show me how I can live to my maximum ability. I am open to change.
When I was depressed, I had given up on people. No one could understand my pain and so I couldn’t be myself around anyone. All I had were the small things. Milk chocolate, ice cream, etc. If I had been able to maintain a healthy connection to others and to my creativity, those things would have stayed small things and not taken on more weight to relieve me of my sadness. When you truly have a life, your habits fade away as details that can be changed.
When you don’t know your inner power, you don’t know the extent to which you can exert it. You believe that people and objects have power over you. You might go back to a dysfunctional ex over and over again. You might refer to meat as ‘my meat’, indicating an inseparable intimate relationship with the meat you’ve been eating – it’s yours, but it also ‘has you’.
Cravings are what your mind thinks of to soothe it based on neural pathways that you have created. If you think over and over again: sad>milk chocolate, then your brain will reach for the milk chocolate unless you reset the habit. As for chocolate itself, we’re SOL, it’s imprinted in our brain coding.
But just as people in Japan eat things that North Americans may find disgusting (eg. soft boiled fetal duck), we often love what we know and when we understand that we have the power to transcend tastes we were trained to have, then we are free to make ethical choices.
The BodyMind Connection
When our minds are sound, we want the best for our bodies because we see them as one. When in our minds we want to cause no harm, our bodies will carry out this desire and will refuse to be nourished by violence. Clarity of mind leaves no room for inaccuracies in our ethical choices.
I know many spiritual people who radiate positive energy and who devote themselves to living purely, but when it comes to their diets they throw up their hands as victims of a system where everything is made by slaves anyway.
We can’t always control who is indirectly harmed by our purchases, but we can control purchases in which people and animals are directly harmed.
Animal Products as an Addiction
Most of my formerly craved animal products are now pretty gross to me: red meat – haven’t touched it since I was a teenager and I imagine it would be hard to chew and hard to digest. Chicken? All I think of is biting down on a vein in a McNugget, which happened to me several times during my McCruel youth. Milk – sexist animal secretions, eggs – don’t necessarily have to be ‘cruel’ (say for instance if you rescued a chicken from a hatchery) but they can be pretty gross in a multitude of ways.
However some products in which milk is only an ingredient can be hard to forget about. There’s something about a Snickers bar that gives me a brain rush. This could be so easily solved in vegan chocoate bars were easier to get our hands on, like at Nice Shoes.
An addiction is a perceived dependence of something outside our ourselves to achieve a positive inner state. Once we realize how to get the same effect from within, the pattern usually ceases. I used to do ecstasy, acid, coke, smoke weed, drink, etc. but I feel so good on a day to day basis now that I don’t have the need to. I’m not judging drugs at all as they can be useful tools, but for me, I have outgrown them.
It is not the animal products in themselves that give us the feelings of pleasure or satisfaction, it is ourselves. So as we gain self-awareness, and open our minds to revising all that we’ve been told about food pyramids and food chains, our mental and physical health inevitably become stronger.
Whether you choose to go vegan to get happy, or get happy to help yourself go vegan doesn’t really matter.
Many people will argue that they have wonderful lives and consider themselves happy carnivores. I know many smiley, happy, rather amazing people who aren’t bothered about their animal-based diets. But, when you reveal to them the behind-the-scenes of their diets they are not so happy to hear it. They become excusatarians – defensive and unwilling to learn more. The information you’re sharing doesn’t fit with their happy lives, so they reject it.
True happiness can’ t be tipped so easily. I think someone strong and confident would be concerned that their happiness was coming at the expense of others. And they would want to iron out this area of friction so they could get back to enjoying whatever happiness they could.
When it comes to those who support animal agriculture – ignorance is bliss, but true bliss – bliss that can not be exposed as causing suffering – comes only from learning of the damage being done and then choosing otherwise.
November 6, 2011
Are Vegans the Human 2.0?
There is much ado about vegans thinking they’re better than everyone else due to the astute attention they pay to food systems and the environment. But are vegans really ‘better’ than everyone else? (As in the ‘other’ 99%— not the hardworking, low-balled taxpayers, but the 99% of the population who eats animals?)
Let’s take a look at evolution. Evolution is the concept of more desirable traits gradually being carried on as useless traits are left to disappear. Its essence lies in change. Vegans change themselves by exchanging dominant animal-based dietary patterns for new plant-based ones. But is this a more desirable trait in terms of survival? Will vegans eventually replace meateaters?
If you research the environmental impact of a vegan diet versus an animal-based diet – veganism makes environmental sense. If the world made a collective change to a vegan diet, humans would have less environmental impact and be able to feed more of ourselves (not even touching on the subject of how animals are treated). But until society collectively sees the effects of the environmental impact of animal industries, those who are short-sighted may not choose to change.
Health-wise, Forks Over Knives effectively shows how most diseases can be linked to an animal-based diet. So you could envision animal consumers dying out as their vegan counterpart thrive, but as long as animal-based consumers live long enough to procreate, this in no way dictates that vegans will evolve past those who choose to eat animals and their secretions.
Will the human race naturally evolve into a plant-based diet when resources start running out, land is scarce, and we are collectively suffering from diseases of over-consumption? Sure, it’s possible. May take a while, though. The current economic system is designed to perpetuate itself, not to constantly update to seek new, more desirable ways to implicate human participation and lessen environmental waste. In other words: the system exists to sustain your suffering – it does not update itself unless it is forced to.
Now, let’s take a look at technology. Technology exists to make things easier. To automate systems to free up time so that we are able to spend it doing things we actually want to do. Although sometimes, it works backwards, making us a slave to it.
Good technology simplifies. If you have a MacBook Pro or similar, you may like it because its battery lasts longer and it’s generally more efficient than the sloppy, choppy PC.
So… so far we’ve figured out that:
- Vegan require less resources to live. (*see above)
- Vegans require (collectively) less health care as they avoid diseases linked to cholesterol and excess animal proteins.
So therefore vegans function on less and need less maintenance, but do they also function better? What is better anyway?
Let’s recklessly define BETTER as:
- More productive
- More conscious (of ourselves, the human race, and the planet)
Well, I can tell you from personal experience that adjusting my diet to not including suffering animals feels amazing. It keeps me pretty karmically clear. Sure, I have small obstalces here and there to face, but in the big picture, I’m not the one requesting these huge sick systems of human and animal exploitation into existence and that feels GOOD. This clears up room for me to apply that positive self-esteem to daily challenges. What guilt are animal consumers stifling and projecting onto others?
What about other vegan people I know? Honestly, opening your eyes to the bright truth can sting, so a lot of vegan people I know have challenging lives that involve a lot of direct action and therefore conflict, but I can also tell you that ignoring these oppressive sick systems would be a lot more difficult than speaking out and fighting back.
Are vegans more productive? Everyone defines productivity differently. At times I think vegan people get caught up in defining themselves by their diets or their causes and forget that they have other flavors of creativity – that they are more than just their ethics, but generally, vegan people are active. They don’t lie at home and hide (well, sometimes we all do), they don’t bite their tongues much, and while they may be carefully productive (trying not to cause harm in the process) they are certainly as productive as ‘normal’ people, if not more.
More conscious… ? Well this one’s simple. One diet reflects a desire to live as non-violently as possible, the other diet reflects violence (that strives to dissociate itself from its violent nature). I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but I think we can all agree that if those with animal product based diets could continue to eat how they’re eating and not harm any animals in the process – they would.
Ideally none of us really want to cause pain, suffering, mutilation, isolation, confinement, rape, bloodshed, and death. One diet allows us to live in line with these values, the other doesn’t.
So in conclusion, are the 1% of the population that consists of vegans ‘better’ that their animal product consuming counterparts?
But vegans don’t want to be the 1%. They want to be the 100%!
Great, I’ll see you in the comments section.
April 15, 2011
Jenna Marbles is Vegan… 6 Days a Week
Who can make a complete ass of themselves and still have a pretty exquisite ass? Why Jenna Marbles of course. And how does she keep her bod in shape?
She’s mainly vegan!
Clearly Jenna Marbles loves animals, since her dogs are her best friends, but she also describes herself as “not some animal freak”, which is okay with me.
People sometimes say to me: “wow, you must LOVE animals”. And I’m all: “I just believe in treating sentient beings with respect”. I don’t have any pets at the moment and I don’t primarily identify with being an “animal lover”, though I guess I am. I see myself as someone who believes that evolution includes respecting the sentient experience across species. But there are other reasons to go vegan besides compassion for animals. Having a hot bod and not destroying the environment, for example.
And as for Jenna Marbles being vegan only 6 days a week because she feels a need to cheat, I say go for it. (She does say she wants to go vegan full force). For me, I don’t crave meat anymore because it’s not food to me, but I understand how people have cravings for foods they used to eat. There are substitutions for just about every animal product based comfort food in existence, but if all that’s stopping you from going vegan is the thought that you can’t do it a full seven days a week, you are still making leaps and bounds of change by going 6 sevenths of the way.
*It should be noted that Jenna recently went on a fatgirl meateating binge (March 2013), which she bragged about for 10 minutes while cradling her dog in her arms. I like the vegan 6 days a week Jenna better. Snap out of it, girl.
February 14, 2011
What does it mean to be a “good” vegan?
My friend and I had an interesting conversation today as we were fighting the battle against fur together on the street. This friend is an extremely innovative and courageous activist and this is why I enjoyed our debate.
The convo began with whether vegans should wear faux fur, but it branched off into what makes a “good” vegan.
What is a “good vegan”?
- Someone who doesn’t eat anything from animals OR insects (honey)?
- Someone who is not only vegan, but an animal rights activist?
- Someone who won’t eat a veggie burger off a barbecue where meat has been cooked?
- Someone who doesn’t have pets? (Some believe animals aren’t meant to be domesticated)
- Someone who adopts as many pets as possible?
- Someone who abstains from faux fur?
- Someone who abstains from faux fur and faux leather/pleather?
- Someone who refuses to work with any animal products? (Service industry, etc.)
- Someone who doesn’t wear any of the old leather or wool items they purchased before becoming vegan?
- Someone who doesn’t fly or drive on top of being vegan, out of respect for the entire natural world?
- Someone who chooses to feed their pets a vegan diet despite the sometimes difficult experimentation process in establishing their dietary balance?
- Someone who feeds their pets some animal products, some vegan products?
- Someone who ensures that all the meat they buy for their pets is wild and not factory farmed?
- Someone who buys only personal care products that aren’t tested on animals?
- Someone who boycotts all mainstream medicine because it’s tested on animals? Including birth control pills? And/or antibiotics?
- Someone who eats vegan but won’t cook meat for their partner or family?
- Someone who doesn’t smack mosquitoes on their arm? Or kill spiders?
- Someone who lets their home be infested by bugs or mice because they don’t want to hurt anything?
- Someone who shuns not only animal products, but the system that treats the animals as products? (ie captitalism) Engaging in other activist strategies to change the bigger picture as well?
Vegan Grey Zones
Many of these questions are GREY ZONES. Questions that many vegans feel strongly about in one way or another. Being vegan is actually quite relative, and personal.
I’m not vegan as a role model for others. I’m vegan because it feels good to me. And if others observe this, then great if they choose to investigate this lifestyle for themselves.
BUT, if I try to be vegan according to another’s definition of what a vegan should be, then I feel obligation and I’m not a conformist. If I conform to the majority of a vegan group I socialize with and work with, this is not acting independently.
Vegans don’t conform to the mainstream diet, but we also shouldn’t feel obliged to conform to each other. All vegan choices should come from within.
Also, I’m not vegan in an attempt to be ascetic or pure. In my mind, a vegan should have just as many options as a consumer of animal products.
We can imitate whatever products we miss with creative solutions: including veggie burgers, faux fur, pleather, soy milkshakes, etc.
All ideas are born in the natural world (eg. umbrellas = tree tops), so I feel that the idea of the texture of fur will never go away as long as we admire the coats our animal friends and observe this soft layer of warmth. (Faux fur can be warm, to vegans who feel it’s simply aesthetic.)
*Disclaimer: Test faux fur before you buy. Take a lighter into the dressing room and burn a strand or two. Faux will melt and smell plastic – real fur will smell like human hair caught in the blowdryer.
I aim to be a vegan hedonist. I don’t give things up, I simply get creative in finding a way to live the life I want to live in a way that’s not violent or entitled.
We live in an animal product consuming world and we can bend our ideals to make the journey sustainable, but only if we pay attention to our internal compasses and not those of our neighbors.
February 9, 2010
He Wouldn’t Have Made Them Out of Meat
What vegetarian/vegan hasn’t heart this lame-ass retort?
And it’s not an argument, it’s a dig. Yet somehow, it can drive even the most pacifist vegan to want to grab the nearest blunt object. Non-veg people must understand that these type of comments are received like joking about murdering a particular race because they deserve it – it turns the stomach. But to all the veg people out there, you can help understand people who make comments like this by knowing that they are repressed vegetarians to whom you represent guilt – you see death in their diet, they see it in yours (a death of the things they are used to). These ideas are from Living Among Meateaters by Carol J. Adams, which I will reference in more detail in a future post.
Here are 2 possible comebacks for this oft repeated un-pc line:
(for work or scholastic settings, in situations with relatives, people you need money from, or sensitive people)
…what are humans made of?
Ask the question genuinely, as though you’ve never thought of it before. The comeback allows time for a laugh, and then hopefully later some further ponderance – hmm… humans are made of meat, too… but we’re not made to be eaten, so…. And then they can silently mind-wrestle themselves about being at the top of the food chain and all that shiz.
(for work situations with someone who you know can’t fire you or verbally abusive pedestrians who have just Supersoaked you with milkshake…)
…just like God invented killing because violence is an essential component of human nature.
Deadpan is essential for this one. The person doesn’t want a reply from you, this is their big guns – their last line. Keeping composure is important so it doesn’t sound like you’re delivering a death threat. You’re attempting to remind said human that in order to obtain this meat – a gory, bloody process is necessary. Is said smug metrosexual willing to roll up his pink sleeves and get up to the elbow in cow guts to get his Friday lunchtime steak? This comeback may lead to some further retorts like: “whatever, I like my meat”, or “well, what do you eat?” (you find yourself racking your brain to come up with the day’s menu – don’t bother, just answer: everything except animal products, or some similar simple statement). The comeback reaches maximum potential in slow-release form, philosophic annoyances rearing up during crucial meat lovin’ moments. Another spin on the argument could be how God gave animals feelings because he wanted them to suffer…
Cherry on the cake, my friend, Rebecca Dawn, just sent me this:
“The #1 drug on the street”
January 2, 2010
The Controversial Twilight Quote
In the 1st Twilight movie, hunkofburninglove & vampire, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattison), attempts to redefine the term “vegetarian” to his mortal love interest, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart):
“We call ourselves vegetarians because we don’t drink human blood. But it’s kind of like a person surviving only on tofu: you’re never really satisfied.”
Well I object.
1) How would Edward Cullen know what it’s like to be an actual vegetarian when he’s been a rabid bloodsucker his entire life?
2) As a person who does not eat meat, I can honestly say that eating a plant-based diet is not only satisfying, but feels ethically good. When your heart hurts because you are indirectly ordering a schlew of animals to die for you, things don’t taste as good. Vegetarianism, and espcially veganism, is a lighter form of living. You still experience the same tastes as meateaters (who probably wouldn’t love “their” meat so much if it wasn’t seasoned with herbs and spices – plants, I might point out), AND culinary advancement in the vegan realm has made it now possible to enjoy even the textures of meat products in vegan substitutes. When you stop eating meat for long enough, you cease to consider it as food. It instead becomes the flesh of a confined, sloppily slaughtered sentient beings. Yumck and : ( : ( : (
Further Insight: Vegetarians don’t secretly crave meat all the time (maybe ocassionally in the beginning, out of habit). But being vegetarian is about having the cajones to decide for yourself what is healthy and changing unconscious patterns. Having control over what you put into your body. Questioning the foods you were rasied on: What tastes good to you? Why? Would it still taste good if you knew where it came from? WHO it came from?
3) It needs to be said, the term vegetarianism relates to vegetation. This doesn’t include animals, babe.
4) In the name of tofu, when people say they don’t like tofu, I usually reply that they don’t know tofu. Tofu is the liquid metal of all foods – it can shape shift into just about any meal, as soy can take on many forms, tastes, and textures. So if you’ve had a bad experience, try something new. Tofu is great in desserts (mousse?), smoothies, stir fry, skewers, salads, omelettes… need I go on?
5) The comparison of vampires being naturally inclined to suck human blood to humans being naturally inclined to eat animals does not draw a parallel for me. Most people in modern day society could not take down a cow.
- we don’t have claws
- or fangs
- we don’t have short intestinal tracts to quickly pass meat
- we don’t have the stomach acid to quickly digest meat
- and lastly, look around – we do not live in the wild anymore