A friend of mine once asked a question I’ll never forget.
It was in high school, on the first day of a small sophomore think-tank-like seminar, where we, the students, would be setting the curriculum for the semester (my high school was way better than college).
Suggesting a topic for class exploration, my friend posed a question he said he’d been wondering about: “Does every relationship—whether between two people or two countries—end up with one side being dominant over the other?”
It was the smartest question I’d ever heard. With my neck stuck out, jaw a-slackin', I a little bit fell in love with nerd dude. Even the teacher’s eyes glazed over, I thought she might cry.
The question has stuck with me for 16 years. It never grows old, it has never become irrelevant.
Nerd boy’s question occurred to me again recently, when I spotted a 50¢
gumball machine selling miniature plastic “Guns 'N Grenades” on the street (my first thought, of course, was, ...but my children’s books about veganism are “disturbing”?).
While I stood staring at the gumball machine in world-weary disgust, I filtered through my reaction...welcome to my brain:
Step 1: detect feeling.
Step 2: name feeling.
Step 3: analyze feeling.
Step 4: name correct feeling.
Step 5: repeat Step 3.
It’s not even that I’m necessarily anti-gun. I have family members who would have been murdered if not for guns in the hands of protectors.
Really, what I felt was abandon; the abandon with which we allow kids to develop a taste for utter entitlement.
What truly disturbs me about “Guns 'N Grenades” is the distorted prerogative that playing with them instills in children. When little kids play “guns,” they’re not usually playing Rescue the Victim. They’re playing domination.
Maybe that raw tendency is human nature, maybe not…but now we have giant, “evolved” brains to deal with that, don’t we?
We have to teach kids about being powerful without domination.
Left unchecked, I do believe that the dynamic between any two given entities is liable to slip toward imbalance. The economic, environmental, and ecological crises we find ourselves in today are obvious consequences of unbridled, unrefined power.
Historically, learning to wield power effectively, honorably, and justly is warrior work. It is never achieved alone, but in a setting of checks and balances, where one has to practice deference, examination, restraint, and self-control; where one has to answer to an otherand be accountable for his or her actions.
This kind of training is a subtle but very real benefit of ethical veganism. We learn to go through the steps of examined accountability—answering to our better judgement, to the environment, to animals, to the earth. It is inherently a restraint against tendencies toward reckless and unjust domination.
Kindly take the following request as it comes from the bottom of my heart: please consider gifting my books to a child in your life or to your local library. They are about more than veganism—they are about the kind of questions that last a lifetime.
As a fellow tree-hugging, animal-loving, system-bucking rebel, I'm sure, like me at this time of year, that you get a little 'toxicated on the fumes of mass consumerism.
It's total madness and repulsive, but you know you're going to shop a little, too. So if you're buying in, just do some good at the same time.
Here's a list of gift ideas full of things I've enjoyed this year, people whose products I love, people I love, and companies who make cool stuff and leave animals out of it.
Cheers to them!
THE HOT MAMAS
For fashion-inclined girls with a heart.
• Bruceheart apparel by vegan hotties Rylee and Elle (per their usual animal
support, 5% of sales go to Little Love animal rescue this month).
• Jessica the Tree Kisser takes "tree-hugging" to the next level
with her T-shirt line.
GoJane is one of my favorite stops for vegan shoes you can afford.
Use the code FREESHIP60 to get free shipping on orders over $60.
They have gift cards, too (scroll to the very bottom of their site).
THE MANLY GENTLEMAN
• The Way of the Superior Man (ladies and gentlemen, I love this book...every
man needs a copy and every woman seeking a manly man needs it for her
own clarity, too).
• All-vegan, cruelty-free luxury colognes and suits for the Brave Gentleman.
• Love these reusable drink-container-slash-beer-mugs.
• Kick and stomp with these serious vegan boots (unisex, actually!).
THE HEDONIST / ASCETIC:
Whether this person lives for life's pleasures or usually denies
themselves all things enjoyable, the list is the same...
• The best organic Rose Water Hydrosol in the world, from a wonderful farm
owned by a veteran crusader of the California organic farming
movement, Janet Brown.
• I learned this year that great socks are a life changer in terms of daily
happiness. These are fair-trade, non-toxic organic cotton and use wind
power—do consumer products get any better?! And these ones are just
super warm—an alternative for friends and fam in cold ares who need a
push to give up wool.
• Detox Market has a great selection of vegan/cruelty-free beauty products,
nail polishes, and makeup brushes (check individual items, though—not
everything is vegan).
This person seriously needs to calm down. These things will help.
• The loveliest essential oils (and wrinkle creams, ha!) for calming one's
• Stress/anxiety/tummyache-reducing toothpicks (I turn the car around if I
leave the house without them). Or your local health food store should have
them...leave some for me, though.
• Force laughter. On paper, she really works for me (I was never a fan
until there were books).
THE BLEEDING HEART:
Aren't we all, though?
• Adopt an elephant from Lek Chailert's reputable sanctuaries (she's the
incredible activist in the film "How I Became and Elephant").
• These faces! Support a senior dog rescue.
• Nature is all-powerful! This non-fiction book about how the world might
recover without us here is a mind-boggler.
• With your purchases, support Farm Sanctuary with their very own credit card!
• Moral Minority has great message T-shirts and hoodies that support all kinds
of activism: animal rights, women's rights, LGBT, ocean conservation, education,
and more...and 20% of each purchase supports the specific cause.
For the friends who "don't have time or money" to be healthier. Help them
get their priorities straight.
• The prettiest salad spinner/storage (wash salad once, eat it for at least a couple days).
• This little blender is super powerful, portable, and affordable. As seen on TV and in my house when David Wolfe comes over and makes everyone smoothies like he does on the Home Shopping Network.
• Pretty plants that hardly ever need watering for people with "no time" for plant-life. Your local nursery should have them, too.
• Non-GMO groceries delivered to your door at discount prices. Use code GPDB15to get $15 off your first order (with club membership).
THE REBEL / PUNK-ROCKER
• This hardcore vegan message T-shirt. Or this one.
• Send the vegan message to any meat-eating rebel type with this book.
• Controversial authors have to stick together! Check out my friend, Sirius Radio host Rude Jude's book of wild and depraved life adventures (á la Charles Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson. Warning: not for the easily offended, but I find the brutal honesty refreshing and the vision of the world actually relatable!).
Happy conscious-gifting! Please nominate your favorite gifts in the comments below!
In the greenroom just before this TV interview, a producer gently warned me that the anchors would likely take a tough stance against my book, Vegan Is Love.
I imagine that she, the producer, had taken in my small stature, the cuteness of my book cover, and had suddenly felt badly about throwing an innocent little children's book author to the wolves.
"It's okay," I told her, playing soft. Secretly, I was already hardened from my FOX interview, plus I had just returned from a health conference. I was feeling pretty damn sharp.
The anchors, of course, went in as they do. Along with other feigned concerns about protein and ostracization, they suggested that Vegan Is Love might fall into the category of things parents do to "traumatize" children at an early age.
By the end of the interview, as I stepped off the stage, I could feel it had not gone as expected by any of the KTLA staff...enjoy it!
P.S. Today is the LAST DAY to save 50% on all my limited edition art prints from Vegan Is Love and That's Why We Don't Eat Animals. These prints are reminders of our love for animals and the planet—a gift that lasts forever! Hurry, the sale ends tonight at 6p PST!