Energy is intense right now, right?! The whole United States is feeling feelings!
Amidst all the resistance and fear and protest and negativity, I wanted to express/suggest something else:
I am excited. I feel very goddamn strong.
All the ugly has to come out if we're going to annihilate it (that goes for personal and public matters; the micro and the macro) and the progressive population needed to realize that buying a Prius ain't enough.
In my 10+ years of vegan activism, the worst offenders have been progressive people who won't change the personal choices that are destructive to the world; "conscious" people who reform instead of revolutionize their habits; smart, caring people who have the wherewithal to vastly change markets and society with their personal agency, and don't. They are the meditating, electric-car-driving, organic-meat-buying, Greenpeace-donating, outraged-by-police-shooting types who merely voice their concerns or throw money at bandaids versus participating in the most effective solutions. Their concerns about the world do almost nothing to change it.
In light of Trump's election, this demographic wants to make sure that the progressive agenda is not reversed or ignored. This is an opportune time for us to make veganism's power known.
It's time to step up OUR game and promote the political motivations behind veganism—matters of healthcare, energy, environment, labor and workers' rights, feminism, gender, racism, subsidies, pharmaceuticals, water, local and global food distribution—all the dimensions of life which are, in fact, more immediately affected by people's everyday choices than by any legislation these cockamamie politicians will or will not support in the coming years.
The question we need to pose now to the population upset about Trump is, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO? In other words, where are you pushing and pulling your money? What are you going to eat? What do you do for anyone or anything besides yourself? Are your habits revolutionary or just reformist? Comforting or effective?
I'm not afraid of what's coming because I see all sides. I know transformation, I know my power, and I know WHAT TO DO now. Death cycles bring life cycles. A new America is not on Trump, it's on us.
P.S. Sending a little love from a time of deeply spiritual and effective opposition (play this loud!):
I FINALLY just watched the new documentary Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret over the weekend...twice in two days, that's how much I loved it.
I did the artwork for the Cowspiracy T-shirts during the crowd-funding campaign and knew the doc would be a good addition to the vegan genre, but the final cut exceeded my expectations. It's truly a great accomplishment and I want to make sure you see it, even if you're a vegan veteran and not a newbie (I've studied the motives for over a decade and the film still managed to shock me with some numbers, history, and footage I've never seen).
So you know:
• Cowspiracy is NOT a violent film about animal cruelty, per se.
• It IS an exposé on the environmental movement's failure to discuss animal agriculture (FINALLY!!!).
• It's a fantastic film to watch with meat-eating friends because it's not outrightly vegan until you're already hooked by Kip Anderson's journey (he's the filmmaker) and the interviews he conducts.
• You will learn from vegan experts and leaders you should know.
• Once the vegan conclusions is reached, Kip does a great job covering frequently stated excuses.
• AMAZINGLY, the film has been made available on Netflix—SO accessible! Or via DVDs and digital downloads, too, for just a few dollars.
I promote veganism every day, but the film actually reignited me to do more, especially to influence more influencers, so I'm brainstorming ideas there. And it made me extremely proud of vegans, who I strongly feel are the only people doing any effective activism these days. I really mean that. It's not self-righteousness; it's that given such staggering statistics of destruction caused by every kind of animal agriculture, there will be nothing left to fight for if not planetary health first. At this point, our vegan work is a matter of life and death in more ways than one.
Promise me you'll watch it! This weekend!
*Please give the film a 5 star review, too on Netflix. There's been word that Big Agriculture is having people leave poor reviews.
Thank you for the work you do everyday. I see you!
Photo: Makah Indians on the beach after a whale hunt, 1910; Photo by Asahel Curtis/Seattle Public Library
Note: This article has been modified since its original newsletter form to include some clarifications on my opinions about the undercurrent of white supremacy inherent in this issue—thank you, readers!
The Makah Native American tribe, an indigenous people of the Northwest Plateau of Washington, may soon be granted permission to resume their 2,000 year old whaling tradition—a practice that had been halted by court rulings over environmental concerns.
Here's where liberalism comes to a screeching, identity-confusing halt. Oooh, lord! Which side is a good liberal to take in the intersection of animal-protective environmentalism and native peoples' rights, in a conflict where there is an undercurrent of historically racist policies? Which are you—an imperialist or a whale murderer?
When I've talked about veganism with, say, meat-eating Hawaiian, Filipino, Native American, Japanese people (really anyone who identifies with an ethnic/cultural/social/national group—people from the U.S. South, Italians, Latinos, etc.) a common response is, "My ancestors ate [insert animal here]. Our people need that food to be healthy, we can't give it up, it's part of our blood and tradition."
This is exactly what T.J. Greene, chairman of the Makah tribal council, is stating about the potential whaling reinstatment: "The tribe hopes it leads to being able to practice our traditions, our culture...[whaling] is something that is strongly connected to our spiritual existence. We’re not going anywhere, and this is important for us and generations to come."
(No regard for the fact that every whale killed in its tracks was on a trajectory of its own, in a tradition of its own, in a nation of its own.)
As a student of American history and its historically racist and white supremacist policies, and as the relative of Holocaust victims and survivors, I tend to side with minority, oppressed, and colonialized parties in all political matters. Not because of white guilt, as many lazy thinkers would accuse (I'm an equal-opportunity critic), but as a result of historical and contextual examination and because thier side is more often seeking justice, not power and control.
By that same measure, I call bunk on the native peoples' excuse to hunt. The last (illegal) whaling kill the Makah made was carried out using a high-powered rifle (how's that for tradition?). The whale bled out for hours before it died.
No political alliance that I make goes unchecked. Today, hunting whales can not be considered ethical or moral by any measure. Allowing it does not bring justice to any party, does not change the political or economic standing of the tribe. It may signify a right to self-determination, but when that comes at the cost of another species, especially one in peril, it feels like a power play parallel to the status quo models of domination and oppression. I think we can all do better with our politics and with seeking true justice for all.
A ban on traditional whaling is not a zero-sum game, where the environmentalist's win requires the native's loss. This particular conflict affords all parties an opportunity to honor native ancestors by rethinking and re-creating their values in the context of a new world.
Ancient Hawaiians lived and ate by the concept of ahupua'a, a system of land division which ensured sustainability and the efficient use of natural resources. The entire concept was interwoven with their spiritual beliefs about the interconnectedness of nature's elements and living beings, of daily and seasonal life. It is an idea coming back into popularity as organizations look for sustainable solutions on the islands.
Native Americans, in a million ways, self-monitored their use of natural resources in the context of respect for and interconnection with the Earth.
The list goes on with every native culture.
None of our ancestors would sanction a modern practice that destroys our health, or the last remaining animals of a species, the environment, or our connection to the Earth.
The Makah don't have to lose their connection to the whale. If the ban on whaling is upheld, and it should be, I hope the Makah will redefine the ceremonies and practices that involve the whale so important to their culture (if you ask me, I think a ritual blessing ceremony would do beautifully).
But it is up to all of us to protect the wisdom of our ancestors, beyond their ancient practices, and forge new traditions that honor the old world.
Contact the Washington region of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration here to ask them to uphold the Marine Mammal Protection Act (phone number is 206-526-6150). Or leave them a Facebook comment.
Please leave your comments below so everyone can take part in the discussion!