A conversation with the universe (“Occupy this Book” excerpt)

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One of the guaranteed audience questions at every event I’ve done is some variation of this: “Where/how/when do I start?” Thus, while this question comes as no surprise to me, my reply can be somewhat unexpected.

You see, I’ve learned that the dissidents who endure are those who remain open to starting and re-starting over and over again. Please allow me to explain… 

When I was first booked to give a talk called Occupy for All Species at the Jivamuktea Café in March 2012, I could’ve never guessed that the new OWS camp would, by then, be in full effect right up the street at Union Square Park.

This development added an exciting dynamic to the event and there were plenty of amazing, dedicated occupiers at Jivamuktea that night. One of them—someone who goes by the name of Eco—told me afterwards how deeply impressed he was by my presentation as he thanked me for what I do.

Without realizing it, I fell into an old pattern and sort of moaned and groaned about how I’ve been doing this for years—basically begging people to occupy—but it was so frustrating to think I was being ignored.

Eco smiled serenely and said: “You were talking to the universe, Mickey. We all are. You weren’t being ignored but sometimes it takes a while to be heard. We hear you now.”

One definition of epiphany is “a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by a simple occurrence or experience.”

Such a revelation not only gave my perception a much-needed kick in the ass, it also helped me realize that if you talk to the universe, sometimes the universe talks back. 

What I heard the universe saying that night: If we remain open to change and new ideas, we will start and re-start over and over as an radical—often finding that the road circles back to revisit destinations and concepts when we’re more ready to appreciate and utilize them.

#shifthappens

(The above post is an edited excerpt from Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism, which can be ordered here.)

Facebook Flame Wars: The Fire This Time

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For anyone who is serious about inspiring, creating, and participating in social change, please allow me to offer a simple bit of advice: AVOID FACEBOOK WARRIORS.

You know the type. They don’t necessarily troll but rather, start and maintain flame wars, provoke drama, sow division, and – of course – are way more involved with social media than activism.

I know it’s tempting to put such bullies “in their place” or to imagine yourself as the one who can and will change their ways, but again, I urge:

Avoid them. Don’t “like” their posts. Don’t visit their pages. Remove them from your newsfeed. Do anything you can to prevent their insecure, cynical, and negative energy from slowing you down.

Consider this: While you got sucked into one of their counterproductive two-hour flame wars, roughly 15 plant and animal species went extinct; 17,000 acres of rainforest were destroyed (mostly to make way for doomed cattle); 22,000 sharks were hunted down and killed while 2 million chickens were murdered for “food”; 222 children were born into poverty in the U.S. while – globally – 2,500 children under the age of 5 died from preventable causes; and 3,600 humans starved to death.

All this and so much more happened while a few privileged humans focused their skills, time, and energy on an ego-tripping, movement-dividing social media melodrama.

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Hopefully, you don’t need anyone to provide a list of the many progressively productive ways you could’ve utilized your time but, since it involved you sitting still and typing away, imagine if you instead chose to set aside those two hours to write letters to prisoners?

Is there a single person reading this post who would posit that two hours of flame war bullshit is time better spent than two hours of reaching out to those incarcerated within the Prison-Industrial Complex and letting them know they are not alone?

Here’s my story: Anyone who creates and/or participates in divisive social media flame wars is no comrade of mine. 

Here’s my question: Are they comrades of yours?

#shifthappens

Note: To continue conversations like this, come see Mickey Z. in person at Hunter College on April 24.

Order Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism here.

Activism: Leading by example

I believe it’s possible for dedicated street activists to display such discipline, focus, and restraint without relying on the counterproductive hierarchical style of the group featured in this clip:

#shifthappens

Courage & Compassion (“Occupy this Book” excerpt)

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“A woman in the Black Power movement was considered, at best, irrelevant,” explained former Black Panther, Elaine Brown. “A woman asserting herself was a pariah. If a black woman assumed a role of leadership, she was said to be eroding black manhood, to be hindering the progress of the black race. She was an enemy of the black people.”

It damn sure couldn’t have been easy to stand up and expose rampant sexism and patriarchy within a high profile radical movement but efforts like that are an important part of every struggle.

This isn’t about demanding/expecting perfection or purity from yourself or anyone but rather: It’s all about being unafraid to recognize and challenge inconsistencies, contradictions, and blind spots.

It’s fundamental: If we want to live up to labels like activist, radical, or revolutionary, we must do our best—every minute of every day—to challenge and reject classism, sexism, racism, homophobia, patriarchy, ageism, ableism, transphobia, body shaming, speciesism, and all other forms of hierarchical privilege.

The glue is compassion…

Imagine if the majority of us woke tomorrow morning and suddenly recognized all forms of life—including ourselves—as part of one collective soul. If so, how could we not defend that collective soul…by any means necessary?

There’s my definition for activism: defending our collective soul by any means necessary.

Again, the first step is compassion; it’s recognizing that without compassion—limitless, audacious compassion—effective activism is unlikely but more importantly: life is an empty and meaningless exercise.

#shifthappens

(The above post is an edited excerpt from Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism, which can be ordered here.)

ATTN: Pizza & Bacon Lovers (and other non-vegans on the Left)

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**TRIGGER WARNING: Graphic Images**

If you’re against rape culture, why do you support this?

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If you’re against mass incarceration, why do you support this?

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If you’re against slavery, why do you support this?

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If you’re against torture, why do you support this?

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If you’re against the death penalty, why do you support this?

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If you’re against privilege and hierarchies, why do you support speciesism?

If you’re against GMOs, mass extinction, workplace injustice, a human health holocaust, economic inequality, food scarcity, and environmental devastation, why do you support an industry that contributes to all of that - and so much more?

When will you finally stop deflecting from the real issues?

When will you choose to cease launching personal attacks and instead, re-evaluate your own lifestyle choices and culpability?

If you perceive yourself as a radical, when will you line up your behavior with your values and start living it, 24 hours a day?

There are 8.7 million known animal species on the planet. If your idea of equality only includes one of those species, it ain’t equality. If your idea of justice only includes one of those species, it ain’t justice. If your idea of liberation only includes one of those species, it sure ain’t liberation.

Reject speciesism.

Choose revolutionary compassion.

#shifthappens

Note: To continue conversations like this, come see Mickey Z. in person at Hunter College on April 24.

Order Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism here.

Some unsolicited social media advice for activists

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Before you hit “post” on your next clever and profound critique of a group, tactic, and/or fellow activist, you might wanna ask yourself a few questions:

1. Will this post serve to further unify or divide my activist community?

2. Is it more designed to stroke my own ego than to advance the struggle?

3. Is it founded on accurate and verifiable knowledge or is it based on hearsay and rumor?

4. Is it more likely to inspire a reasoned, useful discussion or a time-eating, unproductive flame war?

5. Am I using this post to address a personal vendetta in a passive-aggressive manner?

6. Would it be wiser to turn off my phone/computer and arrange a face-to-face conversation about this issue?

7. Do I regularly allocate my precious time to participating in lengthy social media flame wars? If so, why?

8. What am I doing on a regular basis – beyond using social media – to advance the cause of collective liberation?

With the vast majority of humans – especially American humans – living in a world of willful denial and/or tacit complicity, our tiny population of activists cannot afford to endlessly bicker and fragment.

Yes, social media can be effectively used as a powerful catalyst for organizing, sharing urgent info, and connecting kindred spirits – but they are ultimately designed for the same purposes as mass media: distraction and division.

One more question we might ask ourselves each day before logging onto Facebook – as the eco-system collapses around us: Am I a divider or a unifier?

#shifthappens

 

What’s New? I’m Glad You Asked…

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“What’s new?”

“Not much.”

“Same ol’ shit, right?”

“Yeah…same shit, different day.”

This ridiculous and ridiculously common exchange is typically followed with loud chortling as if these are the first humans to ever experience this particular exchange.

Such is life in a corporate propaganda state…

“Same shit, different day”

As sad as this refrain is within the context of any human’s everyday life, it contains a frighteningly accurate connotation in a big picture sense.

Because we’ve yet to work up the courage and/or tactics to stop the carnage, here is just a infinitesimal sampling of the “same shit” that happens every “different” day:

  • Roughly 200,000 acres of rainforest are destroyed (primarily to create room for pastures and feed crops for doomed cattle).
  • Almost 3,000 American children are born into poverty.
  • About 13 million tons of toxic chemicals are released across the globe.
  • Somewhere between 150 and 200 plant and animal species go extinct.
  • Close to 2,000 women are raped—in the U.S. alone.
  • Nearly 30,000 children under the age of five die from preventable causes.
  • Hundreds of millions of sentient beings are murdered for food (sic) by a global industry that consumes and destroys one-third of the planet’s land surface and is the top source of human-created greenhouse gases.

Another brand of the “same shit” that happens every “different” day: We—through our behavior, silence, inaction, or ineptitude—remain complicit. 

“What’s new?”

What would be astoundingly new is if people actually started talking about all this (and so much more), identified the global criminals most responsible, and worked together to create sustainable social change before it’s too late.

So, if your sincere answer to a query like “what’s new?” is “nothing much” or “same shit,” please allow me to suggest some serious soul searching. Religious dogma aside, this is our one go-around and, as Lennon once sang, “Why in the world are we here?/Surely not to live in pain and fear.”

In the name of evolution, the next time someone asks you “what’s new?” I urge you reply with something like this and then try like hell to live up to it: 

“Every minute of every day, I’m doing my best to challenge and reject classism, sexism, racism, homophobia, patriarchy, ageism, ableism, transphobia, body shaming, speciesism, and all other forms of hierarchical privilege.”

Let’s make that the “same ol’ shit” that happens every day… 

#shifthappens

Order Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism here.