Veganuary

My news feed on Facebook is filled–well, memes of course, but also with people breathing out 2016 and embracing their goals of 2017. There are people who are celebrating that they didn’t smoke during the last year, and they will continue on, people who are quitting smoking this year, people who are declaring their exercise regiments, their upcoming sobriety and so on. All of which are met with well wishes and support because good for them for trying to better themselves!

My personal goal for 2017 is to write a page a day (at least), but also to participate in Veganuary. Veganuary is where you go vegan for the month of January. This is not the first time I’ve attempted to go vegan, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Though this time, I am purely doing it for the month of January, and I will go onto why. However, I’m intrigued, as I always am, by the amount of aggression I am met with when I decide to change something about my diet that isn’t simply taking out fatty or sugary foods.

I’ve been (mostly) pescatarian for the last nine years, which is vegetarian though with the addition of seafood. There have been some more recent slip ups, however, it’s something I’ve been been happy with. When I decided to do this, I had a fair amount of people who didn’t understand why I would do this, and would try and get me to eat meat. My parents didn’t really understand it either, my grandparents thought that meant that I still eat chicken (and they’re not the only ones, though I’m not really certain as to where the logic of that comes from), I had a few people try to literally wave steak under my nose to tempt me into eating it, and my ex’s family even once invited me over for dinner, knowing my dietary choices, and put meat in everything before telling me the salad was safe, though then putting chunks of ham in it.

I once wanted to test out whether or not I had a dairy or gluten sensitivity, which involved cutting both of those things out for a couple of months and then slowly introducing them back into my diet. Again, people lamented, would try and tempt me with cheese and the like.

Since telling some people that my goal is to go vegan for the month of January, I’ve had quote the backlash–people trying to tempt me with things I’ve said I wanted to try, people telling me about local cheese farmers, and even one person saying, “What’s the point? You’re not going to get anything out of it.”

Don’t worry, having been pescatarian for nine years, I’ve gained a thick skin when it comes to people commenting on my dietary choices.

However, I’m ever curious as to why it is that people feel the need to do it. They support people who want to make healthier dietary choices, just so long as it still includes meat, eggs and dairy. Firstly, I’m not really certain as to why people feel that they have the right to comment on what I eat or experiment eating, at all. And secondly, they don’t bother to actually listen to me when I try to tell them exactly why I’m doing what I’m doing. They just hear that it’s not what they’re doing.

So allow me to illustrate why it is that I’m choosing to participate in Veganuary 2017:

  1. Environmentally friendly
    I’m huge on trying to help the environment, and in my current position, there’s little I can really do other than being conscious of what I buy and from where I buy it. However, I do know and understand that the meat and dairy industries are extremely wasteful, and raising livestock in the manner of factory farms is extremely harmful for the environment.
    I’ve had people in the past tell me that protesting eating meat/dairy doesn’t make a difference to protest by cutting out meat–after all, I’m just one person. However, due to many people taking on less meaty diets, the meat industry has been steadily decreasing by 10% since 2017. I can’t find the statistic now, unfortunately, though I will say that I recall reading that in 2014, the meat industry lost 14% of profits due to a movement called Meatless Mondays, where people just don’t consume meat one day a week.
    This is important because it takes an excruciating amount of water to raise one cow, one chicken, or one pig. Then farms have to deal with their waste, which contaminates underground water reserves that many people rely on. The Meatless Monday website reports that it takes an estimate 1,850 gallons of water just to produce one pound of beef.
    Many people forget that the dairy industry will use ample water as well, since it does have to keep those cows, goats and sheep raised. And let’s not forget the eggs!
    I am of course, talking about mass-producing farms/factory farms. There are many farms with ethical and sustainable practices, and I am grateful to say that I worked for one. However, especially with my upcoming lack of work, I can’t afford to support those farms. So in the mean time, I would like to start my year with a protest to the big industry.
  2. Get back on track to a healthier lifestyle 
    I’ve gone through a  rough year–every one has. Though when I go through a rough time, I find that I forget how to eat. Especially with moves and breakups. I find that all my abilities go into survival-through-the-stress mode, and I simply forget what it was that I used to cook, how I used to eat. I know that I used to be a healthy eater, but I can’t remember what kind of thought I would put into planning a meal.
    So forcing myself to think about what I’m eating is a really good way to get back into that. I used to have a great interest in nutrition, and still do. I just have to remember that spark. By eliminating something from my diet, I then have to be a conscious shopper, cook, and consumer. It means that I’m paying attention to ingredients again, and I’m not buying insta-foods either. I’m cooking in bulk, and I’m remembering what it’s like to have home-cooked food again. And I’m making sure that I am having eclectic meals that will ensure I’m getting the nutrients i’ll be lacking, which sparks creativity. I do love to be creative in the kitchen.
  3. Personal perseverance  
    It’s just good to have goals, and the more challenging they are, the better you feel when you’re done, especially when it’s something for a better lifestyle. Knowing you can do the touch stuff can help someone set harder goals and aim higher. Right now, after this last year, I feel like I need to accomplish some of those touch goals.

So when someone talks about going vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free, vegan, any of those things that is against the norm regarding food, be supportive and recognize that they’re trying to better themselves. Help them come up with recipes, find alternatives, and just be a friend as you would trying to help someone cut back on smoking or alcohol. Be supportive.  Don’t be a jerk.

Red Cross Poster

As many people might have seen, the Red Cross is under scrutiny for their “racist” poster. I didn’t know anything about it until one of my friends posted an article about it on Facebook, saying that people were just being overly sensetive at this point, and choosing to get offended.

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So here’s what this picture depicts: individuals following the rules and breaking the rules of the pool (such as no pushing, no diving, no running, no….don’t whatever that kid in the middle of the pool is doing that’s labeled as not cool). However, it’s clear that the majority of the “not cool” actions are being performed by non-white kids.

Sure it could just be a coincidence, and one might argue that it’s great that they included different ethnic backgrounds on this poster. However, when those that are not white are not seen as doing anything “cool” or correct in accordance to the rules, there is a subliminal message that goes along with this, and that is why people are offended, and openly calling it racist.

There are a huge amount of people who are jumping on the Politically Correct bandwagon because it makes them feel as though they have power in the world. However, there is an even bigger group of people who legitimately have the right to voice their complaints, and this is one of those cases. This is a prime example of White Privilege here. My friend who said people were being overly sensitive is white, and thus doesn’t have to worry about the subconscious programming that happens–either purposefully or accidentally–since, as seen in this poster, the vast majority of the time it’s saying people who are white are “cool” and “follow the rules”.  However, when we’re in a world where people of color are getting shot for far less than people that are white by the police, then yes, posters like this absolutely matter.

Yes, equality of people of different religions, different colors, different/fluid genders, etc, is the name of the game–ensure they have equal right and equal pay and equal opportunity. But there is a deeper level here. Calls for attention to White Privilege and Third Wave Feminism and true religious freedom all have to do with our attitudes toward one another, and undoing the programming that has been instilled over the past decades and centuries. It’s about getting rid of the mentality that “Sure, every one should be able to be with who they want to be, but I just don’t want to see two men kissing”, “Yeah, I suppose women need to work too and get equal pay, I just don’t want to hear about them griping about their periods”, “Of course black lives matter, but so does every other life.”

There are a lot of people who don’t understand the Politically Correct movement’s philosophy, which isn’t just to avoid words which might trigger people (though that is a part of it), but rather to undo social subliminal programming with the words we use in every day speech, which alter the views we might have of those next to us that might just be different in some way.

So yes, this poster is racist. It’s extremely likely that the Red Cross had no idea what they were doing when they created and published it, because maybe they were acting on subliminal cues. But either way, it’s not something that people are being overly sensitive about. This is a matter of quality of life for millions of individuals within our own supposedly civilized societies. In a time now where fear is ruling our political decisions, we need to make sure that we are uniting to fight against those who are dividing us, be aware of what advertising and media are telling us, and work together to create our own harmony.

In Defense of the Social Justice Warriors and Third Wave Feminists

A few friends of mine and I get together and have, what we call, drunken debates. However, no matter the topic, it generally boils down to the nitty-gritty of defining terms and then damning the Social Justice Warriors (SJW). Then it inevitably somehow ends up with feminism, as well as the parallels drawn with BlackLivesMatter vs. AllLivesMatter, as well as how it all ties in to all Muslims being damned because of ISIS.

I’ve always made my arguments, stating that you can’t condemn the rest of the group for the extremists who have a heated, hated skew on the philosophy of said group. The most common argument I have is how Third Wave Feminism makes a mockery of feminism as a whole. In all honesty, I don’t really know the difference between the Waves, only that feminism is about the equality of voice and rights between all genders. However, during the last debate, I actually went to look up what Third Wave Feminism is. The argument I was hearing was that it was making all the social injustices about feminism–racism, immigration issues, LGBTQ–and so on. I asked Siri for the definition of Third Wave Feminism, and sure enough, she told me that it (according to Wikipedia), “…refers to several diverse strains of feminist activity and study, whose exact boundaries in the history of feminism are a subject of debate, but are generally marked as beginning in the early 1990s and continuing to the present.”

This backs up what he was saying. However, I think that what my friend was stating was only surface level. It does sound like Third Wave Feminists, also viewed as the SJWs, are simply picking up the tab on all the other injustices and making it their own, which could be seen as inappropriate…

Except for the fact that all these social injustices are their own. Feminism is a blanket for all women, and when I personally picture it, I think of women from first half of the 1900’s, fighting for the right to vote, which were those who were educated enough to have convincing rhetoric–more than likely white. I picture all those photographs from the ’60’s and ’70’s of women burning their bra’s–also white. While feminism is about all women, there’s still the minority groups whose women are struggling as well. LGBTQ women are struggling; women of color are struggling; women of various faiths are struggling. And they’re struggling more so than white, straight women, because they’re still part of the minority.

I once had a conversation with a gay, male, friend of mine who said we can’t have a woman president. He, nor the rest of the world, would take her seriously. This is an individual who belongs to a group that right now is the center of media attention–whether it’s about the concern for their safety or which bathroom they’re going to use–and experiencing intense ridicule simply for being. And yet, he had no problem making note that he didn’t believe a woman could be taken seriously in the White House. I suppose, now that I write it out, it’s not as applicable as I thought it was when I began to write (for the sake of full disclosure of my thought-process), since he wasn’t referring to a woman of color, nor a woman in any other minority category. However, it does accent a point that this individual, facing his own struggles in society, still has an upper hand over women.

Of course I don’t meant that my friend represents all men, or all of society. It was simply something interesting to note.

So when people say that feminism are just becoming the new Social Justice Warriors, who not only want to “make a big deal” out of everything, or make everyone’s struggles about them, I implore them to consider that all the individual groups that are trying to have their voices heard, their lives matter equally, and their rights as important as the hegemonic individuals, the women of each of those groups still have a lower hand than then men in those groups. That is what Third Wave Feminism is about, and that’s what Social Justice Warriors fight.

I’ll Just Be a Beach Bum in the South of France

I hit a hard place. I’ve been trying to file for Financial Aid to go to school in the UK. My mom, Hell bent that because I’m a British citizen that happens to reside in the US, decided to reopen the case of how to get residential tuition for Durham. I went back and looked at my application in UCAS, and noticed something that might have been of some importance: For some reason, I had answered “no” on both questions asking if I or my parents had lived and/or worked in the UK.

I wrote to UCAS, alerting them to the error, which they happily changed, and then wrote to Durham, who was more than happy to let me know that I qualified to be reevaluated. After a lot of gathering of information and scanning it all into the computer (and I do mean a lot of information) and sending it off, I was informed that I didn’t qualify for residential tuition because it had been more than three years since I’d lived and worked over there.

I’m hung up on the loan system over here in the US. I can’t do it. I can’t pay the amount of interest for student loans. I can’t do it. I’m working 70 hour work weeks so that I can get out of debt, and I don’t want to keep being in the amount of debt with impossible interest rates just so I can get a piece of paper. This is part of the reason I stayed out of college to begin with! I can’t do it, and I just don’t wanna!

So my options are this:

  1. I suck it up, and take the US loans
  2. I move to the UK, hope I get a job that pays £18+ an hour and work 40 hours a week so I can save up for one year’s worth of tuition
  3. Move to the UK and live and work there for 3 years to get residency and reapply to universities, hoping that my AA from the community college is still applicable, and be able to apply for scholarships and British Financial Aid
  4. Apply to schools in the US so I can qualify for scholarships
  5. Apply to European Universities which offer free or greatly reduced tuition
  6. Scrap the whole idea and just move to Europe anyway and eat cheese and speak French

I won’t lie, I’m mostly leaning towards option 6, except for the part that I’ve worked so hard and come so far in my education. However, if I did that, I could just gain residency in the EU, and while it wouldn’t help me get the British tuition, it would help me get a reduced tuition (from what I’m eligible for currently). However, again, it would be a matter of potentially waiting another three years. But then again, it would really strengthen my re-application to be fluent (which I think after 3 years in France or wherever, I’d be damn near fluent) in a second language.

These are the things rolling around in my head. I think perhaps a lot of my uncertainty of what to do boils down to my exhaustion. As I mentioned, I”m working 70 hour work weeks. I took sick days this week because my back and hip is so messed up from my coffee warehouse gig–and those are the first days I’ve had off since May 1st (that’s 25 days of working, for those of you wondering).

Plus, I’ve had the carrot of l’Ecole Normale Supérieure dangled in front of me, which is a University of a higher ranking than Durham in Paris, where I could study philosophy in French–and that is quite a tasty looking carrot. However, I know that in order to get into such a school, I’d have to have a lot more fluency under my belt than the one college year of French. But golly! What a fantastic dream it is to have…..

The Difference Between White Privilege and Racism

Today I had a conversation with someone close to me that really upset me. There are several reasons why I allowed myself to be affected by this more than I should have, but they are neither here nor there.

I found out this neat thing that in Washington State, a bill was passed which allows individuals who are also felons vote as long as they aren’t in jail or prison during the election, nor are they under parole. I went to pass along this news to this person and received the question:

“Who’s worth voting for?”

Of course I put in my thoughts, which is Bernie Sanders. At no point was I saying this person should vote for him, but my opinion was requested.

The person then went on to explain to me that Sanders is racist. I asked how that was so, unable to fathom any possible way that the guy that marched with Martin Luther King Jr. could be considered racist. I was told it was his promotion of the “stereotype called White Privilege” is “hate speech.”

Now, I’m not going to go on a spiel about Bernie Sanders, nor this individual. This is simply how I got to the need to write this post. What’s more, I’m not attempting to shame this individual. I want to put it down to a misunderstanding of terms. However, I feel absolutely compelled to explain and examine the difference between White Privilege and Racism.

There are many people who are white who feel that White Privilege is attacking them, saying they are in the wrong simply for being white. This is NOT what White Privilege is!

White Privilege is a social construct which is perpetually enabled by societal views. It’s not that someone has an easier life because they’re white (though that can generally be the case), or that they get more because they’re white….except for it kind of is. Of course people don’t get hand-outs for being white, or get into schools for being white. That’s not the case at all. It’s the way people react and respond on a subconscious level. It’s that more often than not a person won’t feel threatened if being passed by a white person on the street. It’s that a police officer is less likely to assume someone has done something because they’re white. It’s not having to speak on behalf of the white race. Again, this is a social construct, this is something that is programmed into the general population, and is generally accepted. The idea of pointing out what White Privilege is is to undo this programming, and view everyone on the same level.

Racism is just hatred. It is hating someone because of their ethnicity. This is on an individual level that can enter into a generally accepted social level, but it is simply hatred. Where as White Privilege isn’t really a choice that one has or exercises, racism is choosing to keep the mind closed to those that are genetically different, and deciding they are not as good as those that are genetically similar.

So when politicians, celebrities, individuals point out and talk about White Privilege, it’s not a matter of shaming those who are white. It’s a matter of pointing out how our society and culture has formed to accept white as the norm, and everything else as not–so much so, that even in towns/cities where white is the minority, they’re still seen as the norm.

A Reluctant Argument for Star Wars

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I was going to, due to the many negative associations I have with it, but I finally but the bullet and saw the new Star Wars movie.

Regardless of my opinion of it, I’ve been drawn, since, to many articles and opinion pieces written on it. I’ve read a handful, which is more than I expected to, and analyzed them. They’ve swayed me to go back and watch episodes 4-6 and then go back to 7 again with a note pad and pen to take notes.

But more than wondering what it is that I’ve missed that all these articles feel the need to write about, I’m intrigued with everyone’s need to read, watch and write Star Wars. I’ve been in countless discussions over the years, and due to my ex’s obsession with the movies and the books in the Extended Universe, I know far more than I’ve ever wanted to know about it. But what is it that draws people into it?

I finally realized it while texting my bestie yesterday, relaying to him somewhat sheepishly that I had been to see the film–disputes my various vows against it woven between colorful cursing words. He immediately said he wanted to get together to discuss it. It was then that in dawned on me that Stat Wars was the philosophical outlet for those who don’t consider themselves to be philosophically inclined.

The entire concepts of the Force, of the light side and dark side, the nature of balance, is philosophy in itself. Then going through and tracking the complexity of how this universe works, the lineage, the strategy –this is all feeding the public’s want and need for critical and deep thought, but in a popularized way.

Even the age-old discussion of who shot first regarding episode 4, has become philosophical in nature. I have heard people who have never uttered an intelligent thought in my presence pick apart the backstories and critically analyze the likelihood of which gun shot first under that table.

So while I might scoff, and perhaps feel some residual anger in the direction of Star Wars based on my own experiences, I realize the necessity of the series in our culture, and can only hope that writers today can further create such popularized media to inspire the public to flicker that light of thought that we all have and begin exercising our brains.

Why We Need to be Less Materialist, and More Humanist

I might find myself losing followers for this, or–with a little luck–inspiring debate, which I whole-heartedly welcome. I am a Bernie Sanders supporter, and have been since I learned what he was about, maybe seven or so months ago. In fact, he’s the first politician I’ve ever donated to–and I’m not exactly flush with money to donate. But I do quite believe in him and what he stands for. Even if he loses, he’s opening the eyes and minds to these seemingly radical ideas that we should be working towards.

I found myself in a debate first thing this morning about Sanders’ policies with a friend of mine. He said he was looking into him, but he didn’t see any of what Sanders was saying as feasible. As the debate went on, he felt the need to point out to me that he’s coming at this from an accounting and economics background. It annoyed me, because I felt like he was using this as a matter of authority to shut me up. So, childishly I rebutted, “Well I’m coming at this from experiencing two different economic systems and a critical thinking and ethical background!” Perhaps not my finest moment.

The debate-turned-argument moved to the raise of minimum wage to $15 an hour. His argument was that it’s not fair for those that aren’t qualified to get the same amount as those who are, and my argument of course is that everyone deserves a living wage, period. As the debate continued, I couldn’t understand how it could only boil down to just numbers. How was ethics not a part of this standpoint? How is it not seen that just because these are idealistic ways to be looking at things doesn’t mean they’re not possibly? After all, just because our system is going the way it is, doesn’t make it right, and it would be sightless (and lazy) to claim that the system can’t change.

It finally dawned on me the main difference between us. He was arguing the stance of a materialist, while I was arguing from an humanist perspective. Everything he’s using to reason is set in the real world: they’re numbers, data and algorithms. It’s not wrong, it’s just not the whole picture. His points are valid, and his reasoning is sound–if you’re only using that for your logic. But there’s so much more to it. I’m arguing ethics as well as feasibility. What can we make done so that the people of the US aren’t struggling to get an education?

Right now, we’re hypocrites. We sing the song of freedom and opportunity of America, yet there’s very little opportunity for Americans. As my blog followers will know, I’ve been looking at schools in the UK as well as the US because the schools in the UK are at a set price at £14,000 (for non residents, £9,000 for residents), while our schools are anywhere between $21,00 and $51,000 a year–making it very difficult for those without good financial backing to make it to a quality school. This means that minds of those that could be leads in top scientific or engineering fields are squandered simply because they don’t come from the “right” people.

There is a lecture that we’re going over in my Critical Thinking class, which is Elizabeth Warren lecturing about the diminishing middle class in America, using nothing but pure data. The bottom line is that what a single-income family could afford in the 70’s (a family with two parents and two kids, though one income), a similar-sized two-income family can’t afford now with two incomes.

So yeah, our system is broken. And it might be like fixing a broken jaw–in order to repair it, it has to be broken more. The way the structure is working now, we cannot smoothly fix it to Sanders’ ideas. But that’s not to say its impossible. We can do it, and what’s more, we need to. If you or me or the generations to come are to have any chance in life to contribute to the enhancement of humanity, then we need to fix it, yesterday.

This isn’t about numbers. This isn’t just about data. It’s about what it means to the individual, to the people that make up the world. We can’t be bombing and bugging other countries because they don’t uphold what we feel to be righteousness and justice, not when we can’t even be just in our own county.