Teaching Power without Domination

January 12, 2015

guns n grenades

A friend of mine once asked a question I’ll never forget.

It was in high school, on the first day of a small sophomore think-tank-like seminar, where we, the students, would be setting the curriculum for the semester (my high school was way better than college).

Suggesting a topic for class exploration, my friend posed a question he said he’d been wondering about: “Does every relationship—whether between two people or two countries—end up with one side being dominant over the other?”

Mind. Blown.

It was the smartest question I’d ever heard. With my neck stuck out, jaw a-slackin', I a little bit fell in love with nerd dude. Even the teacher’s eyes glazed over, I thought she might cry.

The question has stuck with me for 16 years. It never grows old, it has never become irrelevant.

Nerd boy’s question occurred to me again recently, when I spotted a 50¢
gumball machine selling miniature plastic “Guns 'N Grenades” on the street (my first thought, of course, was, ...but my children’s books about veganism are “disturbing”?). 

While I stood staring at the gumball machine in world-weary disgust, I filtered through my reaction...welcome to my brain:

Step 1: detect feeling.
Step 2: name feeling.
Step 3: analyze feeling.
Step 4: name correct feeling.
Step 5: repeat Step 3.

It’s not even that I’m necessarily anti-gun. I have family members who would have been murdered if not for guns in the hands of protectors. 

Really, what I felt was abandon; the abandon with which we allow kids to develop a taste for utter entitlement.

What truly disturbs me about “Guns 'N Grenades” is the distorted prerogative that playing with them instills in children. When little kids play “guns,” they’re not usually playing Rescue the Victim. They’re playing domination.

Maybe that raw tendency is human nature, maybe not…but now we have giant, “evolved” brains to deal with that, don’t we?

We have to teach kids about being powerful without domination.

Left unchecked, I do believe that the dynamic between any two given entities is liable to slip toward imbalance. The economic, environmental, and ecological crises we find ourselves in today are obvious consequences of unbridled, unrefined power.

Historically, learning to wield power effectively, honorably, and justly is warrior work. It is never achieved alone, but in a setting of checks and balances, where one has to practice deference, examination, restraint, and self-control; where one has to answer to an otherand be accountable for his or her actions.  

This kind of training is a subtle but very real benefit of ethical veganism. We learn to go through the steps of examined accountability—answering to our better judgement, to the environment, to animals, to the earth. It is inherently a restraint against tendencies toward reckless and unjust domination.

Kindly take the following request as it comes from the bottom of my heart: please consider gifting my books to a child in your life or to your local library. They are about more than veganism—they are about the kind of questions that last a lifetime.

Vegan Author Schools News Anchors

December 3, 2014

In the greenroom just before this TV interview, a producer gently warned me that the anchors would likely take a tough stance against my book, Vegan Is Love.

I imagine that she, the producer, had taken in my small stature, the cuteness of my book cover, and had suddenly felt badly about throwing an innocent little children's book author to the wolves.

"It's okay," I told her, playing soft. Secretly, I was already hardened from my FOX interview, plus I had just returned from a health conference. I was feeling pretty damn sharp. 

The anchors, of course, went in as they do. Along with other feigned concerns about protein and ostracization, they suggested that Vegan Is Love might fall into the category of things parents do to "traumatize" children at an early age.

By the end of the interview, as I stepped off the stage, I could feel it had not gone as expected by any of the KTLA staff...enjoy it!



P.S. Today is the LAST DAY to save 50% on all my limited edition art prints from Vegan Is Love and That's Why We Don't Eat Animals. These prints are reminders of our love for animals and the planet—a gift that lasts forever! Hurry, the sale ends tonight at 6p PST!

vegan shoes




Ebola, Meat, and the Future of Veganism

November 5, 2014


Ebola is like the best thing ever for the media, fodder to keep their fear-based ratings on fire. Meanwhile, more Americans have been married to Kim Kardashian than have died from the virus this year.  And in the U.S., about 136 million hamburgers are eaten per day—and those are pretty much chock-full of disease-causing virus and bacteria. 

In the back (front) of my mind, I associate animal products with disease, so when I heard on my car radio that the current outbreak of Ebola has been traced back to bushmeat, I banged my fist on the steering wheel because...I. Knew. It. 

Not shocked, bushmeat being any wild animal hunted for human consumption—rats, squirrels, antelope, monkeys, etc. It's not just factory-farmed animals who carry disease. 

The first Ebola victim, dubbed "Child Zero", died in December 2013 in Guinea after the family had been hunting bats, known to carry the virus. The virus doesn't easily jump the species barrier, but it happens. And in Ghana, over 100,000 bats are killed and sold every year for food (BTW, want to see a rescued baby bat respond to loving care? See the video below).

In many interviews, people ask me about my vision for the future of veganism. My answer is this: I believe that eating animals is so entirely unsustainable, that it will eventually collapse—either because the masses become educated and stop funding the market, or because of some unstoppable "food"-borne virus that shuts down the system.

And as for countries and cultures that rely on bushmeat for survival? Whose lands are not conditioned for plant-based crops? There are non-toxic, organic methods of "pedogenesis" (building soil) and products in the works that essentially turn dirt—and even toxic land—into rich soil. 

Read about Michael Meléndrez and his humid acid/soil work. This is the future. 



P.S. Speaking of bats...watch a sanctuary-rescued baby bat respond to loving care: