Wednesday, July 23, 2008

3 Ways to be the Revolution

Vegan Freak - Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World

Posted July 20, 2008

We’re a movement dominated by professional activists - paid by large organizations - to do the bidding of those organizations. This is fine if you think that dressing up in chicken costumes makes sense, or if you believe the latest animal gassing scheme is a good thing, or if you happen to agree that Wayne Pacelle actually deserves a compensation package worth more than $230,000 annually.

But if, like me, you have doubts about highly paid activists, about so-called “victories” that still leave animals as commodities and property, and forms of activism that use one form of exploitation (sexism) to combat another (speciesism), there’s only one solution: be your own activist.

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Activism should not be left as the mere province of paid, professional activists. If we are to have the effect that we’re hoping for, we need to make the movement for veganism a genuine, grassroots social movement, driven by everyday people like you and me, working in our communities and in our lives to help create a base of vegan education and outreach.

Only by working in our lives and in the spaces that we know best can we hope to affect real change and build a genuine movement built of people who genuinely wish to change the essential relationship of domination that humans have over animals. Without a genuine pool of social activists, without people who are willing to put their own talents and skills to use, we are going to be stuck with the so-called “victories” of PETA and HSUS, victories that celebrate killing more gently. Shouldn’t we be celebrating not killing at all? Shouldn’t we be celebrating veganism? In her book The Dispossessed, Ursula LeGuin has a quote that sums up my feelings perfectly about activism. She writes:

"You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere."

The revolution is in your spirit - I know it is. If you’re vegan, something got you to go vegan, to decide that you would not have a part in the human domination of animals. You knew it was wrong, and you decided to have no part of it. Find that original fire and use it! You must be the revolution if it is to mean anything or change anything in the long run. You have to do it; no one will do it for you. Considering that, here are three things that you can do to be the revolution:

1. Use your talents and skills to educate people about veganism We’ve talked about this at length various times on our podcast, but we’ll repeat it again: every single one of you has some kind of talent that you can use to support this cause. You are a unique and special snowflake! We’re so used to beating ourselves down and to accepting that we don’t have much to offer that we often forget how we can be of use. You may think you have no skills to offer, but that’s impossible. We need everyone. We need people who can write and speak and cook and organize. We need people who can hand out literature. We need people who can sew and sing and entertain. In short, we need everyone. Get creative: use your skills to raise awareness or in support of others who are raising awareness or educating others. Which brings me to point two:

2. Work in small, consensus-based affinity groups Find a group of people who share your vision, get together, and make some change. Leverage each other’s strengths to promote veganism and to be vegan educators. For example, one of you may be an excellent public speaker, one of you may be a quiet person but a fantastic cook, and one of you may have excellent organizational skills. Why not get together, get a room at your local library, give a talk on veganism or vegan cooking, and bring some food along to convince people that eating vegan isn’t as horrendously subpar as everyone imagines? There are a million different possibilities here and a million different talents. The point is to use your creativity and your understanding of the world to make the most impact.

3. Start asking questions Why would an organization ostensibly opposed to animal suffering give an award to a slaughterhouse designer? Why would the so-called “father” of the animal rights movement say it was okay to eat animal products? Seems to induce a bit of what the psychologists call “cognitive dissonance,” doesn’t it? It is time that we all start asking questions and stop assuming that because PETA or HSUS or Peter Singer (or anyone, including me) says that something is good, it is. Think. Examine the issues. Ask hard questions. Consider the situation and the context, and think about the issues. I know that thinking is often scorned within this movement as a “luxury,” but you have to stop and think before you can act wisely. Don’t skimp on thinking: it is the most important thing you can do. Effecting change is never easy and is often inglorious, but it doesn’t have to be onerous; you can work little by little to educate others, and you can work with others to deepen your impact. We need to build a vital movement of people doing genuine, abolitionist vegan education. We don’t need another set of stupid stunts, sexist ads full of naked people, or overcompensated suits declaring yet another false victory.

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