Who We are & 9 Activism Tips
by Gene Maurillo
To my fellow Animal Rights Activists:
I’ve been a vegan and animal rights activist for 2+ years. Prior to that, I’m not pleased to say that my blinders, safeguarding me from full acknowledgment of the cruelty to and slaughter of our non-human animal friends, worked very well. Many micro experiences later, I finally became a vegan, and around 3 months after that I saw a Direct Action Everywhere video on Facebook. It struck me so profoundly that it didn’t take me long to find DXE in Oakland. I still remember the adrenaline and excitement when attending my first demonstration at a Whole Foods in San Francisco. Since then I’ve participated in numerous demonstrations with different themes created by our amazing DXE community. Also being an activist that wants to keep up on things, Facebook became a valuable tool for information, for connecting with other activists, and for trying to teach those who were not yet in our queue.
As I have noticed and you may have, too, a well-known pattern on Facebook for a significant number of activists is to hold a position of anger and attack towards non-vegans or vegans who are not activists, and when that’s not enough, to attack fellow individual activists and groups.
I will admit, sometimes I have fallen prey to ridiculing and attacking non-vegans in general. Speaking for myself, that behavior emanated from impatience and a deep-rooted fear that our activist mission would not succeed and that “fighting” the billions involved was just too tall a task. Call it a learning and growth period. In that mindset I, too, resorted to behavior unbefitting effective activism. Thankfully that is now rarely the case, and I can safely say I’m 100% on board with something very important. I’ve come to think it is the only way our mission will not just fully succeed but also sustain itself.
My thinking is based in “spiritual” living. Of course the word spiritual, just like “religious” or “atheist” or “scientific” and other labels comes with lots of garbage and stereotypes attached. Let me say that for me, being spiritual is simply about tapping into my higher self or my best self – our good source, the truth of who I am and who everyone is. Words like I am peace, I am love, power, compassion and others resonate to describe me and everyone. Obviously I don’t always live from this, and nearly no one else does either, but I do make a conscious effort to do so. This kind of life, mindfully led, is the antithesis of what we face so often in our activism.
I have been consciously “spiritual” and a learner all my life and have come to know who I am and who I believe we all naturally are. Just like most of us were induced to be carnists from babies to adulthood, all of us were also induced to believe that it is natural for humans to be needy, stressed, angry, to fight, and any number of emotion-driven and sometimes violent ways and means. These kinds of being are all ego and fear-based behavior. But it is quite clear that we were not born this way, yet here we are now living in and believing in this false and illusion-based, disempowering and destructive system. In fact as I have aged, more and more of what seemed to be heralded truths in our society have proven to be nothing but lies. In some cases this has been shocking to me. I mean how can something I believed all my life, not be true?! Right?
With all this said - and I could go on, just like I could go on telling a non-vegan about why they would be best off becoming a vegan - I want to emphasize: the faster one is in tune with the truth of who they are (love, peace, and power among other healthy things), and the more we practice that new knowing enough to supplant the old patterns, the faster we can make a change for the better in our own lives, in the lives of the people we interact with each day, for the lives of our non-human animal friends, and for the benefit of the entire planet.
However, I will emphasize, too, that we cannot achieve success for our culture on a large scale by living a spiritual life only. So while that kind of life is not “wrong,” we have to realize that being proactive, speaking out (and more) is hugely significant at this juncture in history. We have reached, or are quickly reaching, “critical mass.” We no longer have the luxury of sitting back to watch. And on the other hand, sustainability of any success we have or will have is simply not possible without a spiritual base, if you will. We must live in who we are. Spirituality and activism must go hand in hand.
So the next time, if you as an animal rights activist lash out at carnists with a hot temper and vitriol, try to realize that the anger and fear consciousness that created and keeps the flesh industry going is the same level of consciousness you are putting out with your approach towards those individuals. In these instances, the intent to save our non-human animal friends does not make you superior in your anger. The force and negative energy put out on each side does not create a winning situation. It only creates attack and defense - absolutely nothing more.
We must not mirror the same consciousness we want to rid the planet of. We must come from peace. That is who we naturally are, and we have the responsibility to learn it. Learn it deeply. We must continue to grow within ourselves in that direction. We must be open to learning creative new ways to be effective activists. If we are open in this way, we will attract experiences to help us reach the vision I write to in this piece. I acknowledge that we will not all have the same path to this end, and there is no set/defined way to get there. However, for those interested, I’ll offer up the following suggestions that I know have worked for me:
Engage a healthy diet that mirrors the health you want to see on the planet. Your body is “a temple” and what you put into it affects your health, your mood, your thinking, and your communication. A healthy body also sends an evident example to those who think AR activists and vegans are extreme.
Be fit. Find exercise that you can enjoy or learn to enjoy. Then exercise regularly. This will empower you beyond measure.
Reading and watching quality films that will further awaken you to the spirit of this piece. In addition to continuously educating yourself on issues regarding our non-human animal friends (which is also very important by the way), read books and watch films that stimulate you to know who you are. There are so many great books you can buy used online if expense is an issue for you, and there are films you can watch on YouTube and other places for free.
Learn to meditate, and take at least a small amount of time each day to practice. This not only lessens tension, but it brings you home in terms of the peace that you are. And yes, it’s free.
Visualize what you want for yourself and for the AR movement. You can use affirmations as well. Again, there are many aids on YouTube to assist.
Study up on people that inspire you. Often there is a common thread between them regarding a non-violent approach to activism and to life.
Socialize with your fellow activists when you can. Help build community.
Proactively encourage fellow activists to speak peacefully and assertively to those both inside and outside the movement. If you are a living example of this, it will catch on. It also reinforces your brain neurons to start firing in a much better way
Go out of your way to embrace new activists. This kindness can make a huge impact on them, and you’ll feel warm deep inside. This sort of behavior creates a shift in your consciousness and can be used in other situations as well.
Taking the responsibility to do the above or via your own positive methods will absolutely draw more people to live in this sphere as well. Then the power of our ever-increasing numbers will only magnify, making change actually happen and even sooner than we may think. I hearken to Gandhi and MLK, obvious heroes who in no small part succeeded because of their spiritual side. Unfortunately, even though their movements came to fruition in historical proportions, their teachings were often lost on the next generation. And that is a lesson we can learn from history. How do we sustain this goodness of success that came from peace and love? We have to root it in our thinking and our behavior. We have to teach it to our children and new activists as well. If we keep all this in mind, that, too, will further enhance sustained success, peace, and love. Let’s get on the path having this be our way of being in what we speak (within and without). Let’s have all this come from our passion as activists, our compassion as people, and our ultimate vision of fostering healthy change.
Message: You cannot change something by using the same level of consciousness that created it.