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.

NYC Veggie Pride Parade: March 30

Join us Sunday, March 30 for the annual Veggie Pride Parade. March, mingle, eat, connect, and hear a bunch of speakers (including me)!

Click HERE for details.

P.S. Here I am in action last year:

#shifthappens

Coyote Ugly: The NY Times Endorses Speciesism

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It’s fascinating to witness the intellectual gymnastics required to rationalize speciesism. So often, when animals are abused, confined, tortured, or killed, the perpetrators and benefactors hide behind lies about the victims’ lack of feelings, awareness, and sentience. 

However, when humans set about justifying systematic, premeditated murder, they never hesitate to produce headlines like this from a March 2013 New York Times article: “The Sly Coyote Becomes a Bounty Hunters’ Target in Utah”

As if to even out the playing field between hunted coyotes and armed human mercenaries, the “dumb” animal becomes “sly” and thus, a more worthy target for state-funded serial killers.

Corporate Journalism 101

Times journalist (sic) Melena Ryzik opened the article by deftly leading readers down the intended path: “Spencer Glauser, who started hunting as a boy perched on his father’s shoulders, is an unabashed coyote hater. ‘One’s too many’ to have roaming the mountains and encroaching on towns, he said.”

Corporate media message: Hunting is a meaningful experience passed down by loving fathers. Wiping out a species is acceptable behavior. “Encroaching” is bad only when the accused are non-humans.

Some of what they omitted: Coyotes use a wide variety of vocalizations in order to communicate with one another. Howls, yelps, and high-pitched cries are best known, but they also bark, growl, wail, and squeal sometimes. Family groups yelping in unison can create the illusion of a dozen or more performing together.

Ryzik went on to explain how the Utah Legislature has enacted what they call a  “Predator Control incentive program” which ostensibly “curbs” coyotes while “safeguarding” mule deer, occasionally the prey of coyotes.

“Under the law,” Ryzik added, “the state now pays civilians to hunt coyotes.”

From there, the Times dutifully glorified an 18-year-old hunter “ably” shooting a coyote and “proudly” hauling “the carcass” to the office of an Orwellian nightmare known as the “Division of Wildlife Resource,” where “ears, jaws, scalps and nose-to-tail pelts were deposited in an iced-over flatbed.”

All this is done, they assured us, in an “orderly fashion” as the assassins are rewarded with $50 per coyote. In case any readers began to feel squeamish, Ryzik was quick to remind us that coyotes are “considered a persistent menace.”

Corporate media message: Humans teach their children to shoot animals and then proudly trade in the body parts for cash—but the “persistent menace” is the coyote.

Some of what they omitted: In order to not get detected by predators, sometimes coyotes walk on their toes to make as little noise as possible. The coyote is able to detect hunters coming from a mile away or even more. They have a very developed sense of smell, which is used for finding food and avoiding dangerous predators. They can even use their smell to spot prey scurrying beneath snow. The coyote can attain a running speed of 40 miles per hour and has great swimming skill.

Another contract killer who, we’re told, has been “hunting coyotes for 15 years,” was conveniently called upon for a quote about his targets being “vicious” and a “nuisance.” And why would this longtime murderer feel this way?

“I’ve seen them pull down animals,” he explained, as he cashed in the remains of eight coyotes.

And they say irony died on the day Kissinger was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

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Having laid down enough evidence (sic) to allow most readers to confidently move on to the sports pages, Ryzik did have more for those who stick around: offering further details on the program, highlighting the need to “manage” the “damage” coyotes do, while reminding us that Utah residents “pride themselves on the state’s natural beauty, its wildlife, and the acumen of its hunters.”

Of course, no need to clarify that she was referring only to its human hunters.

Follow the Money

In the final one-third of the article, we learned the truth behind the demonization of the coyote. The aim of the bounty program, we’re told, is “to protect the mule deer, a symbol of Utah.”

By “protect,” of course, they mean “eliminate the competition” as mule deer are a “favorite” prey of Utah’s human hunters.

And before you think the state really gives a shit about any down-on-his-luck resident desperate enough to hunt down a sentient being for $50, here comes Big Truth #1:

Gov. Gary R. Herbert, a Republican, signed the program bill last March at “a shop that manufactures hunting bows, as a way to emphasize the $2.3 billion that hunting and wildlife appreciation bring to the state economy.” (emphasis added)

This was quickly followed up with Big (and inconvenient) Truth #2: “A  six-year study published in 2011 found that coyote removal did not effectively increase the mule deer population in neighboring southeastern Idaho.”

“The argument that coyotes have much impact on mule deer populations is speculative,” Mark Clemens, manager of the Utah chapter of  the Sierra Club, told the Times.

Yet, all this pales in comparison to Big Truth #3…

Fight for Your Right to Slaughter 

Buried within the last portion of the article, the aforementioned Sierra Club manager, Mark Clemens finally exposed the context we truly need to understand why murdering coyotes is being justified by the newspaper of record: The bounty bill, he explained, is “mainly about protecting livestock owners.”

Give that boy a prize.

“Ranchers are keen to swap stories of coyotes taking out an entire herd of young sheep or cattle, and some have complained to legislators about coyote attacks,” wrote Ryzik, piling on the rhetoric for rationalization.

Reminder: “Taking out an entire herd of young sheep or cattle” is solely the domain of human predators.

The equation is simple: Coyotes must be portrayed as “sly” and “vicious” and a “menace” because they may kill (for survival) a few of the animals humans own (sic) and breed and confine and genetically modify and pump full of drugs and torture and then brutally slaughter—and all of that is big, BIG business.

Not that you’d ever learn it from the corporate media but all that is also the cause of oppressed human workers, a holocaust of preventable human diseases, more profits and more control for the 1%, and irreversible environmental devastation.

All that is also the #1 source of human-created greenhouse gases—but coyotes, wow…they sure are a nuisance, huh?

Shift happens

In a moment of temporary lucidity, Times journalist (sic) Melena Ryzik seemingly bemoaned the fact that “the incongruity of killing one animal to spare another, only to kill the second animal for sport (or food), is not recognized here.”

Well, she can take a bow for a job well done, but the good news is that more and more aware humans are recognizing this incongruity. So, in the name of expediting that awakening, please allow me to yet again repeat these two steps:

 Reject speciesism.

 Respect and defend all earthlings.

If these modifications sound unlikely or even impossible to you: Try tapping into your vast imagination, seeing past the limited choices we’ve been programmed to accept, and choosing to view such adaptations as not only eminently feasible but also as undeniably necessary.

#shifthappens

To continue having conversations like this, come see Mickey Z. in person at Hunter College on March 26.

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