Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Month of Activism

Happy New Year! Have you made any resolutions yet? One of my non-New Year's resolutions was to step up my activism game, so this month I am dedicated to blogging daily about it.

Vegan MoFo was a lot of fun - so much fun it ruined me for blogging for a month, apparently. I didn't do a lot of planning, but was still able to post about food every day for the month of November. I made a lot of food during December, and meant to share it, but never got around to it.

I love sharing the food I make - both in the blog and with people in life - and I've won many pessimistic souls over to more adventurous palettes and even, in some cases, to a vegan lifestyle.

Food brings people together. Our gatherings and holidays are often conducted around meals, and many of us have traditional or cultural dishes that we are proud to share. We bring each other food to commemorate, to congratulate, and to console. It's only natural then, that the best gateway to vegan living is the food. Challenging the myths about deprivation, protein, and absent flavors helps people to see that it's not a massive sacrifice, and that can help to alleviate guilt and denial that we so often see in those confronted with their choices.

But not everyone will be won over by treats, and eventually, we have to turn off the ovens, put up our mixing bowls, and confront people with the truth.

It's an uncomfortable truth, and most of us are unwilling to be the preachy, annoying vegan. Time and again, people express shock that I'm not trying to force my views on them, but those people don't realize that I don't because I can't.

You can't force anyone to believe what you believe. In fact, the harder you push, the more resistance you're likely to encounter. That's where activism done right becomes your best friend.

Activism should never be about force, but about change through education. That's not easy - I know how angry I am about the brutal treatment of animals and the ignorance or cruelty people express in response. I want to shout, I want to tell people they're awful, but the fact is, I was once awful too. I once knew nothing about the industry, and even when I became a vegetarian, it took years to realize that veganism was not an extreme lifestyle. Rather, it was the only reasonable response to the animal agriculture industry.

And so, I harness my anger the sickness in the pit of my stomach. I strive to approach people in the ways that are most effective. I listen to what they have to say, I provide information, and above all, I never get my temper get the best of me. We have to use our anger and we have to fight, but we have to do it in a way that works.

Activism has always been my bugbear because I am a shy introvert. The idea of approaching strangers to ask directions turns my stomach, so I assumed I couldn't handle any outreach activities. I've always preferred to be a passive-aggressive vegan, distributing cookies to friends and pointing out little nutrition facts to help people reduce their animal product consumption.

I'm not giving up on being that cheerful, cookie-sharing vegan, but I'm going to explore my activist options. The good news is that there are so many ways to help. You don't have to be out on the streets, handing out literature to effect change. My hope is that my exploration of activism will inspire you to try something new.

It's all new to me. I'm not writing these posts as an expert - most of what you read here will be new experiences. I'm looking to find my niche in the world of activism so that I can continue to help all animals (people included).

If you have any tips, ideas, or organizations you think I should explore, please let me know. I’ve made a list and have some ideas, but like I said, this is new ground for me and any help would be appreciated.

Happy 2011 to all of you!

We run on the fumes of injustice,
We'll never die with the fuel that you give us,

Keep it coming 'cause I'm prepared to burn,
Keep running from me at every turn.

Your life around,
(into something true, into something true)
So turn your life around,
(into something true, something true)

-Rise Against, "Bricks"

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