Monthly Archives: March 2012

Activism

I cut my teeth in animal activism the same way most privileged, self-righteous, PETA-influenced, young kids who discover an issue like they were the first do, by being loud, confrontational and mostly obnoxious. I wish I could find all those people I annoyed all to hell with my immature ranting and raving and apologize. Well, most of them. The fur store owners and assholes who taunted us before we taunted them get what they deserve. At some point though, I continued to evolve in my approach and strategy, refining my activism to be more effective and understanding. Then, I don’t know, the pre-established avenues for activism eroded in broken friendships, a seeming ineffectiveness and the struggles of daily life. My veganism, however, never wavered. That is simply second nature and I turn my nose up (there’s that self-righteousness again) at anyone who started contributing to animal suffering by way of their diet after moving away from activism. There is just no excuse.

With that move away from protests, direct action, liberations (my most proud and effective form of action…statutes of limitations are up, but that’s all the info you are getting on that) I also shed the label of “activist”. To be honest, it began to sound with an annoying association of peacey liberals staging privileged sit-ins, petition-signing and general calls for reform. I preferred the “radical” moniker or whatever.

Then I started running and although at first it had nothing to do with animal activism, I began seeing just how powerful it could be. I had been constantly subjected to the tired perspective that vegans were “frail and weak”, so having the results list as reference or confidence to challenge any naysayer to a foot race, suddenly I was thrown into a new form of activism. It was something of a results-based promotion, where I could “prove the possibility” that veganism is EASILY adopted and in NO WAY decreases athletic performance or makes one frail or weak. And in no way am I the only one taking this route. Just visit veganfitness.net for endless points of reference. I think, if Forks Over Knives hadn’t taken center stage with it’s “dietary vegan” approach, the vegan athletic community might have driven the next wave of veganism and animal liberation.

Personally, it is exciting that this new wave of vegan athleticism has also begun to open up the definitions of what it means to be an “activist”. I think we often attach a very rigid perception of what qualifies as an activist and in effect drive away those who might engage themselves in the struggle more if they could see how the little things they do have a greater effect towards animal liberation. Further, instead of showing people that they can attach activism to their personal interests, we have often established activism as an identity itself, something for others to conform to instead of adapting to themselves.

I no longer have an interest to engage in social circles of vegan activists, solidifying myself into a sub-cultural ghetto of groupthink, but rather expand my veganism to the many other cultures I run with, whether that be my running community, artistic community, anarchist community, etc. I want my activism to be a part of what I do on a daily basis, whether that is running, working, designing or play. We don’t have to sacrifice our passions for the romanticized notion of being an “activist”. Our lives are our activism. If we can’t show others that caring for animals and fighting against the machinations of animal abuse can simply be a part of our daily lives, then we’ll never win. No one wants to drop everything to be an “activist”. They want to live their passions and interests first and foremost. So do I.

Further, activism speaks to a very specific kind of action. It conjures up images of protests, sign  holding, confrontations, petitions, reform, etc. Some of don’t buy this approach. We are either more radical or simply more expansive in our thinking about strategy. This doesn’t mean we are no longer activists though. What is important above all is to be ACTIVE, not just an activist.

Personally, I found a way to incorporate activism into my running, but my wife and I have also begun hosting vegan “share-IN’s” at our house once a month, inviting mostly strangers (to each other) over with food and a recipe that we compile into a cookbook for all attendees. This is our other way of being activists, reaching people in a spirit of sharing and inclusion that certainly doesn’t fit into the mold of being an activist with a capital A. We are simply being active in showing people the practicality of not contributing to animal suffering. It’s fun and easy.

The examples of just how we can be activists are ultimately endless. No matter the issue, we can take the importance of our issues and integrate them into our passions. The point is not to be an activist, it’s to be active. Sometimes this is cerebral, sometimes it’s about literally being active, putting one foot in front of the other.

So whatever moves you, use it to the greatest potential. The animals don’t care what identity you subscribe to. They only care that you are doing SOMETHING for liberation.

Go vegan.

 

Before / After / And everything in between.

I’m amused by “Before and After” photos, in part because they show an amazing transformation of body types, most often positively. Whether the photos are referencing muscle, weight or aesthetic transformation, the drastic differences between “Before” and “After” are encouraging, if only to view the potential. Nothing is fixed.

On the other hand, these representations are deceptive in their simplicity. As short attention span advertising is based upon, we the consumers read them as such – “Before” is suck. “After” is awesome. Again, whether muscular development, weight loss or total makeover, the message is clear and concise. Of course, it needs to be, because these ads are selling you either a product or some sort of widget that is held as the CAUSE of this transformation. It’s simple. Drink this and lose weight.. That’s what SHE did. Here, ingest this and get huge… That’s what HE did. It’s So. Easy. Right? Obviously not.

What we are missing here are visual depictions of that huuuge expanse of time that resides between the before (suck) and after (awesome!). That expanse of time isn’t filled with pill-popping, noni-juice drinking, whatever-doing  consumption while “After” finally takes place. No, actually it’s a lot of hard work, dietary changes, physical effort, etc. It’s any number of factors that slowly take one from “suck” to “awesome”. From “I hate this” to “I love this!”

And this is where I find the intersection with running.

I woke up to a sky still dark, my body weighted with the heavy cloak of sleep I had yet to shake off, or drink away with coffee. My pack lay on the couch, dissuading me with it’s increasing weight as I packed in a coffee thermos (full), lunch and work clothes. I thought of running through Brookside Park, in the pitch dark, my gait restricted by the bulk and shifting of the pack. And suddenly, I hated running. Ok, maybe hate is a strong word, but that early in the morning the reaction is sufficient.

Reluctantly I turned on the red rear blinker clipped to my bag, signaling out a fading warning that read like the dead heartbeat of a dying battery than the beacon it was supposed to be.

“Shit…I hope the drivers are more awake than I am.”

I stepped out the front door, gently closing the door hoping not to wake my 6 year old step-son and wife who brought herself home late after “partying” (I just kid Michelle!) at a friend’s house. The 36 degree air hit me and traveled through my long sleeve tech-t, chilling parts of my body I hoped would remain cozy and protected.

“Ugh. I hate this,” I thought.

“Hating” running…what a new concept. Let’s not be dramatic here though…I don’t  hate running…I hate getting up before my body is ready. I hate trying to run freely with a pack restricting my usual form…slowing me down. I hate trying to navigate rough ground in the pitch dark. I hate keeping mentally positive when I feel like I’m running in my refrigerator freezer with the light off. I don’t hate running….I hate THAT.

Admittedly though, all this is a PART of running. And this is what brings me back to the Before and After consideration.

I HATE being up that early and having to force out the door. I really really dislike the first couple of blocks when it’s dark, boring and I’m cold. I really dislike running down the sidewalk for what seems like forever. But here’s where the dark goes grey. I don’t mind that downhill section that has me running more freely. I don’t hate that soft ground of the park I run through about halfway to work. I like finally getting away from the parks and making my way towards light. I enjoy that part where I run over the railroad tracks and down the other side of the road. I really enjoy the stretch of pavement leading me into the false sun alertness that are the streetlights leading to my workplace. I get excited blasting across the street crossings in front of the winter weary drivers staring at me in…what is that…envy? And then… I’m thrilled when I finish the 5 miles into the parking lot where I unlock the building and start my work day. Finally…I LOVE the feeling of accomplishment that sets in that morning when I remember what it was like to start and finish the run.

There was the Before….the suck. Then there was the After…the unparalleled sense of accomplishment that comes with the physical act of running. The satisfaction of overcoming the initial Before adversity in order to get to the After awesomeness. More importantly, the In Between is the most valuable part of the experience…the actual DOING of it all. Before is a passive state, an unflattering photo of a sagging belly and frowning expression. The After is the proud glow of a smile and confident pose photoshopped into oblivion, but still passive. It’s all the in between that we never see that is what really matters. It’s the effort it took to go from suck to awesome.

So here is the lesson in this. It’s ok to “hate” running. It’s ok to feel frustrated at being the Before and not yet the After, but just know that if you take the first steps to enter into the transition, it will ONLY get BETTER along the way and you will ultimately become the After you hope to be. Sure, it won’t happen immediately with a sketchy pill or a magical few sips of some South American fruit juice, but you’re smarter than that aren’t you. You know it happens in the in-between. You just have to begin the process to get there.

So yeah, I’m with you. I HATE running. But I also know how much I LOVE it when I go from suck to awesome.

Sorry, I’m too inept to take photos before and after my run…so you’ll just have to take my word for it. That transition takes place every day.