“We are living in a country where if fear is used as a tactic by our government to remove our civil liberties it is called ‘patriotism’ but if the Citizens use the same tactics in the defense of living beings and the environment it is called ‘terrorism.’”
“IF IT AIN’T BROKE…”
“…don’t fix it.” But it is broke. And all the covering bandages and numbing drugs may kid you into thinking that the problem is getting better and that you are doing the best you can do, but it is not and you are not.
Over ten months ago I was at an animal rights demonstration where I was shoved across a street by a cop [see “The S.S. Persia—Ship or Nazi?”] I was manhandled because I was offering educational material to people waiting on a line and because the cop’s father didn’t show him enough affection when he was growing up.
What is the recourse of someone whose rights are violated by the police? I was told that I could file a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, and that is what I did. I met with an agent and told her what had happened. I gave her the name of someone who gave testimony that she had witnessed what occurred. About ten months later I received a letter from the Civilian Complaint Review Board that said “Following a thorough and impartial investigation…” the Board found Officer Rafael Persia regarding threatening to arrest me for a made-up charge and using physical force against me for no reason “EXONERATED.”
When looking at the accompanying sheet entitled “Explanation of Board Findings” I got a definition of exonerated:
Exonerated: The Board determined that although the act at issue occurred, the subject officer’s actions were lawful and proper and within the scope of the subject officer’s authority under Police Department guidelines.
I was stunned. I assumed we were going to be playing the “His Word Against Mine” game—well against mine and hers. Instead the determination basically said, “Yes, we acknowledge that he threatened to arrest you for acting within your civil liberties and yes, he did forcibly shove you across the street against your will, but the Police Handbook doesn’t consider that improper.”
The system is broken and all the apologetic animal rights activists standing with signs behind a fence created by this corrupt system think they are making a significant impact. They’re not. One animal rights “leader” whose group was denied their civil rights to peaceably demonstrate for made up or irrelevant reasons like, “That’s private property,” and “We don’t have enough manpower,” still insists that working within the system is the only way to get the job done. I was at this demonstration and told this “leader” to give me a sign and I’d hold it up, which he did, but took back as soon as the cop threatened to arrest me. Did he do this because he worried about my safety? No, he did this because he worried about his rapport with the very people that were denying him his First Amendment protected right to peaceably demonstrate. He went sniveling to his police department connection after this event, who gave him a hug and assured him this wouldn’t happen again.
At the next demonstration he was told by a police officer that he would have to stay within the set up barricade. He argued but then agreed to follow the system and after the demonstration again went back to his police department connection to complain. He was told this wouldn’t happen again. At his next demonstration, his group was placed literally around the corner and out of sight of the protested event. Needless to say, he went to his buddy in the precinct afterwards and complained. How many times do you have to get kicked in the ass before you realize bending over isn’t the best plan?
At a lecture by an author who wrote a book about effectively communicating as it applies to social activists, the room was filled with animal rights advocates who shared “war stories” of demonstrations where someone shouted something confrontational to a passerby wearing fur and how “This is bad for our image” and “gives a negative impression to the other people who walk by.” The conclusion at the end of this meeting was that we all should wear three-piece suits and dresses and only speaks loud enough so as not to offend anyone who doesn’t want to hear about animal suffering. This apologetic activism is what has handcuffed activists, figuratively and literally; working within a corrupt system will not get you or the animals you purport to defend justice. On the positive side, the event had free vegan snacks.
For all the animal activists out there who claim that they believe in “animal rights”—the right of an animal to exist free of human abuse because it has an intrinsic right as a living being, regardless of its perceived value to humans—who are beyond believing that adding two inches to a small cage containing fifty crammed-in chickens is a victory, how can you stand smugly with your “COMPASSION IS THE FASHION” sign while a company like Huntington Life Science kills 500 beagles a day and the factory farming industry kills about 50,000 times as many animals daily?
I am all for pursuing legal means to change laws, calling and writing politicians, educating the children and adults who are willing to listen, but if you honestly believe that an animal has the right to live its life, a couple of follow-up question that are begging to be asked are: How valuable is their life? As valuable as a human’s? How many have to sit on death row daily while you self-righteously hold up your sign and the next morning enjoy your Starbuck’s double-latte and morning paper, ignoring the fact that these “inmates” are now dead?
There is an animal rights activist who sends out quick and easy emails to her list with the simple “click here to notify your senators” format. She told her mailing list to support a proposed bill that would phase out foie gras—the force-feeding of ducks with pipes shoved down their throats to cause them to develop enlarged livers—in twelve years. Israel accomplished the same thing within a year and yet approval of a 12-year plan here would be followed by a back-slapping victory party among activists.
During the Holocaust if we could have bombed the train tracks transporting the victims to the gas chambers resulting in the saving of thousands, even millions, of lives, how many of the apologists would have protested saying, “That is really destructive and will hurt our image”? I asked this same question to one of the heads of a large animal rights organization, a person who has written many articles putting down what is termed “direct action,” actions that cause property destruction in order to rescue or dissuade businesses from pursuing their animal (or environmental) abuses. She seemed to give me the old, “only as a last resort” schpeel, but in the next breath, looking over her shoulder, acknowledged that maybe we are at that point of “last resort.”
During the Civil Rights abuses of the 60’s, how many blacks supported writing their congressmen over taking action? If Martin Luther King Jr. had his people hold up signs saying, “BLACKS ARE PEOPLE TOO” and reacted to another forty years of more beatings and abuse by calling his demonstrations off each time there was the potential to upset someone, he would go down in history as one of the biggest cowards the world has ever seen. Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t let the fear of arrest, beatings or public opinion sway him from his mission. As Rosa Parks said, “…knowing what has to be done does away with fear.”
The civil rights legislation of the 60’s was an acknowledgment that, if given the choice, people will always choose what benefits themselves over what is right. These laws were in effect saying, “On your own you would continue to abuse blacks, so from now on we will punish you do so.” Many are sitting around waiting for justice to magically spring forth from a system of law that is more interested in protecting corporate interests than those of living beings. If the system won’t punish the abusers, who are we waiting to do it? God? Karma? Keanu Reeves?
There was a time when the Constitution actually meant something, but in today’s environment the government has effectively used fear as a tactic for the Citizens to gleefully surrender all of their civil liberties. What makes this country great are the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, not our ability to start wars and cheerlead. The current administration has designated “free speech zones” where you have to go if you want to speak against the President when he is on tour, which violates the 1st Amendment protection of free speech and the right to peaceably assemble; Firearm confiscations have been initiated by local law enforcement agencies, in direct violation of the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms; we have seen bag checks in subways in New York which are ineffective and violate the 4th Amendment protection of privacy of your records and possessions; we are forced to fill out tax forms that require you to provide information that can be used against you in a criminal prosecution, which violates the 5th Amendment protected right of not being forced to be a witness against yourself in a criminal case; the (un)Patriot Act has given the government the ability to arrest someone without even providing them the charge and incarcerating them indefinitely without access to a lawyer or trial, which is in violation of the 5th Amendment (due process of law) and the 6th Amendment (the right to a speedy and public trial, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to be confronted by witnesses against you, to be able to gather witnesses in your favor, and to have the assistance of counsel); and recently President Bush has admitted, after first having denied (in a good Christian manner, of course) that he has spied on private Citizens using wiretaps, despite the Congress having ruled this to be illegal.
We used to live in a country that felt civil liberties were so important that the law defended the right of Nazis to demonstrate in Skokie, Illinois—a highly Jewish community—over denying these rights, because we understood that if you prevented a group like them from demonstrating, the line in the sand could easily shift to preventing someone the government disagrees with from speaking, and we couldn’t risk this. So the Supreme Court voted in favor of allowing this group—whose agenda is world domination and the destruction of the Jews—to demonstrate.
Today I hear police officers justifying shutting down Citizens’ right to demonstrate with prevention as their mantra. “We don’t want anyone throwing paint.” While that tactic hasn’t been used in the defense of animal rights in about ten years, the cops “preventative medicine” is still not how our system was designed to run. If someone breaks a law you arrest them, but you don’t prevent them from exercising their rights because of the “possibility that something, on a slim chance, if the sun is setting just so, may occur.” In today’s climate of corporate protectionism, a Nazi running a Yom Kippur Day protest outside a Jewish temple would have a better chance at avoiding police harassment than a single animal rights demonstrator outside a fur store.
John F. Kennedy said, "If you make peaceful revolution impossible, you make violent revolution inevitable.” If John F. were President today, leading a country made up of the wimpy cowards and sleepwalkers of present, his bold statement would have sounded something more like, “If you make peaceful revolution impossible, you are leaving people no option but to go home and do nothing about it.” You see, John F. was living in different times. In the 60’s people were fed up with the war in Vietnam and the civil rights abuses of blacks and because enough of them were smoking the good chronic they didn’t give a shit anymore if the police said, “That action of yours will really hurt your group’s image.”
Today we are looking to leaders whose agents take pride in knocking down any nails that stand above the sleepy status quo and manage to convince themselves, with the same logic of Ann Couter calling anyone who doesn’t give Stepford Wife support to the administration “unpatriotic,” that they are doing something noble. We are looking to a system where it is the Congress’s job to declare war and yet in the past sixty years we have fought in many wars and Congress has not declared war once. We are looking to a system where not one of the Congress, besides the two or three in the special committee that put it together, actually read the Patriot Act before voting approval for something which would change the face of America and affect all of her citizens. We are looking to a system where Republicans who, by definition, are supposed to have an agenda of less government involvement, are making it so you can’t take a piss without a National I.D. card. We are looking to a system where the head strategist for the Republican party committed treason by outing a C.I.A. agent for spite and people in government have chosen loyalty to their party over loyalty to their country. We are living in a country where if fear is used as a tactic by our government to remove our civil liberties it is called “patriotism,” but if the Citizens use the same tactics in the defense of living beings and the environment it is called “terrorism.”
We are living in a country where a group like the SHAC 7 is going through a trial, not for committing any acts of violence in defense of animals, but because of having a webpage that seems to support such tactics, and most Americans don’t care because they don’t see this as their issue. I am surprised that white supremist, black supremist, and anti-gay groups aren’t at least showing their support for the SHAC 7, extrapolating that if the government is going after a group that is trying to defend life, that maybe their groups with webpages that advocate condemning and taking the lives of individuals who are different than them may be next. Maybe they realize that because their hate groups don’t pose a threat to corporate America they will never have the “T” word attached to them.
Non-violence tactics also have to be carried out in the right environment. If Gandhi tried his gig in Nazi Germany the resistance would have been over in a day because “Hitler don’t play that.” In this environment where “you are either with us or against us,” I am not sure if non-violence would have a chance to work. But I would love to see it given the old college try, which doesn’t mean being inebriated and waking up with someone who looked much better at the bar; it means with full-commitment.
I was, and still am, one who has always advocated non-violence. I’ve devoted my life to living the yogic way. But I am a yogi of truth, not a yogi of compassion. And the truth is, holding your protest signs ready to flee the first time any heat is applied is half-assed and ineffective and it’s not enough—if you want to get the job done. If you are just interested in getting together once a month at the Animal Rights Meet-Up dinner and sit in a circle and stroke the back of the person to your right, then you’re doing just fine. But do realize that in the meantime while you are enjoying your tofu and broccoli, hundreds of thousands of animals are dying each day, and our environment is being polluted by big corporations who find it better business to pay some measly fine each year than to fix the problem.
The Indian mystic Osho said that a revolution never worked because it only involved replacing one group of people with another group of people and the corrupt system would bring out the same weaknesses and clamoring for power to which dysfunctional human nature is prone. He talked of rebellion being a change in the whole system, involving a change in consciousness. While “the boy in the mirror” is a good place to start our work, waiting around until the image changes into one of a fully-conscious man won’t protect the billions of animals each year who in the meantime are being disposed of in two kind of dumpsters—the ones outside of “science” research labs and the ones whose taste buds rule over compassion.
Don’t get me wrong, as a yogi I believe consciousness is the only game in town. And I do believe if you open even a single mind to a different, more compassionate way of looking at a situation that this is a great thing. But when animal rights activists start bad mouthing other activists who stray from their apologetics, I don’t care how supposedly noble the cause behind the unconsciousness. They need to be slapped out of their daydream where just punching the clock is enough. Because it’s not.
I find it pathetic that we live in a world where there is probably an FBI agent reading this essay and marking down my name as an advocate of violence. I am not. I am an advocate of peace. The peace I talk about includes those of the animals and the environment. I have seen first-hand the pathetic, mostly useless effect of the predominant tactics used in the defense of animals and I am just shining a light on what most are too blind to honestly face. I am for using non-violent tactics but only with total commitment, where we are willing to go “the full Monty,” and not where we are more focused on getting home in time for “Everybody Loves Raymond;” where we are willing to sacrifice comfort, all the way down to the remote control, for what is right.
An active-ist needs to keep challenging and be brave, whether his method is communicated through peaceful or violent means. Most “activists” today are really passive-ists, too stagnant and scared to challenge the system beyond the accepted level established by the system itself.
So who is to blame in this system? Most of the blame falls on you and me, the Citizen, because we are the ones who raise our voice in complaint one week and then next week are more concerned with the T.V. Guide than our corrupt leaders. We are the ones who are too weak to realize that if the system is “broke” then no amount of gaffer tape will be able to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. We are the ones who are so ruled by our egos that we will give to a poor child overseas and ignore the needs of our next-door neighbor and pat ourselves on the back for our altruism. We are the ones who live in such fear of facing the ordinariness of who we really are that we take comfort in the accumulation of money and power, and it doesn’t matter to us who we have to step on to get it. We are the ones who think that if we just work long enough within an obese system that cares more about feeding itself than it does her starving people, that God will smile at us when we walk through the Pearly Gates. Until we are willing to burn for eternity in Hell for a righteous cause and until we develop an attention span that lasts longer than yesterday’s headlines, we have no right patting ourselves on the back for anything.
Asananda X is a yogi of truth. He leaves advocating for compassion or violence to others, instead seeking to inspire truth with humor. He can be contacted at AsanandaX@yahoo.com. He dedicates all his work to his blessed spiritual guru, Sri Baba Ganesh.