Monday, May 3, 2010

Start All Peace cows have their babies stolen from them so humans can consume their milk.  They become meat at a young age and their male calves become veal or meat.  This is true of all dairy farms....Those calling themselves humane and organic are also guilty of this as part of their practices.
I was asked to speak at the Athens Human Rights Festival this past weekend. The big banner on the stage inspired me. The banner read: STOP ALL WARS. When I saw that sign I realized that this is probably not very empowering for people. It is overwhelming. It is not tangible. I imagined people looking at that and thinking, “How can I, one person, stop all wars? I have no idea how to do that. It is out of my hands.” I talked about taking the words on that banner and just switching a few of them to their opposite to empower ourselves. Rather than STOP ALL WARS, I asked people to change the word stop and the word wars to their opposite. It then becomes START ALL PEACE. Now that is something we can all do. Right now. With our daily actions. ALL Peace really means ALL Peace. Not just some peace for some beings. We humans are slowly evolving and including all people in our circle of compassion...even those who historically were outside of our circle of caring. The majority of us now accept that children, women and all races are deserving of basic rights like life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It was not always this way. We had to evolve to this place of caring.
Some of us have been able to take this circle of compassion even further to include all species. We have redefined the word “other” to include all beings and the earth herself. Do unto others as you would have them do to you, the golden rule, takes on a new meaning when we let ourselves re-define others to be more inclusive. We humans are very slow learners. Other species can take in new information and adapt much quicker than we can.
I asked the people at the human rights festival to raise their hand if they would be willing to change a daily action/choice of theirs if they knew this choice was causing needless suffering/oppression to others. Everyone raised their hand. They easily raised their hand again when I asked if this would apply to buying items produced with sweatshop labor. This is not an easy choice in a world of cheap goods made by slaves and sweatshop workers. But they easily raised their hands because they know this is the most compassionate thing to do. I do not know how many took it to heart.
Then I talked about some of the needless suffering/oppression in animal agriculture. With a broader definition of “other” they would have to change many daily habits if they were being honest when I asked them the first question, “Would you change a daily action/choice if you knew this choice was causing needless suffering/oppression to others?”
The people in the crowd who were enjoying ice cream or hamburgers or sour cream laden burritos raised their hands to the question, but may not have made a connection to what was in their other hand. We do what we can when we are ready to act. We act when we are able to take in the new information. When does our compassion override our own selfish desires? I grapple with it myself today as I selfishly want to keep Tikvah alive and feed him meat from other suffering beings.
Start All Peace….not just some Peace...ALL Peace. It isn’t always easy. The choices are not always easy. Our dollars are our votes. Each time we spend money on something we are saying to the company producing the goods “keep doing what you are doing.”
Ethical consumerism has to be a strong conscious choice that we help each other make. It is easy for me to buy coconut ice cream and eat a vegan diet….That is a no brainer for me. It is not so easy to sort out the decisions around a family member I want to be with for many more years. We all cause some harm in the world.....but, how do we cause the least harm we can?
Zoe Weil, a wonderful teacher and author teaches MOGO (Most Good) workshops and has written a MOGO book. 

Even when it is not so black and white, we can try to make decisions that do the most good and least harm. We can start with the easy, obvious choices and move on to the more difficult is that simple.  We can start right now.

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