The two most important arguments against veganism

Both of the aforementioned situations can potentially have a significant cost to the person living the vegan lifestyle. Principal among them is mental health.

This is a discussion about what I feel are the two most important arguments against/ problems with veganism, and why we should work to overcome them. I felt impulsed to write this for two reasons. The first is that 98% of anti-vegan arguments that vegans hear every day are patently silly, irrelevant, incorrect, or easily overcome. The second is that these two problems with veganism are important, yet seldom discussed (for various reasons that I won’t speculate here).


Before we get started, it’s very important that we clear up the word “veganism”. I like the Vegan Society’s definition: “A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”. So, veganism is about avoiding the exploitation of and harm to (non-human) animals. What veganism is *not* is the solution to all of the world’s problems– nor any of them actually, with the exception of society’s unjust exploitation of animals. Furthermore, veganism /= ethics, nor is something ethical just because it is vegan. For this reason there is absolutely no contradiction between veganism and any unjust practices that go into producing vegan products, whether they be avocados, quinoa, faux leather, almonds, soy, etc. These products may not necessarily be very ethical, but they are vegan.


Now I’m going to make a bibliography of common anti-vegan arguments, and their satisfactory retorts that demonstrate their irrelevancy.


First, check the wiki that covers arguments like “Vegan diets are too expensive” “Vegans cannot get enough protein” “B-12” “Nutrients” “Soy is bad for you/estrogen in soy” “Vegans cannot eat sweets” “getting bored of food”.


This post covers some more arguments like: “Humans have always eaten meat”, “Vegans aren’t healthy”, “But humans have canine teeth”, “If we stopped eating animals they would overpopulate the planet”, “Plants feel pain”, “Animals eat other animals”, “Cows need to be milked”, “You can never be 100% vegan”, “Vegan food is tasteless”, “Going vegan will make people unemployed”.

Here is a list of another 44 anti-vegan arguments refuted.

If reading’s not your thing check out this TED talk by Earthling Ed. It’s well worth the time!

If you have any more arguments against veganism that aren’t covered here then please do message me or leave a comment below! Now, on to the two interesting arguments against veganism and why we should work against them.

Now, on to the arguments…

The first argument I want to discuss is about cultural identity (CI). When I speak of CI I am not talking about the prevailing culture of a people. In many cases the prevailing culture is patently problematic and should be disassembled and abandoned (think: rape culture, pedophilia culture, animal product consumption, and cultures of white/male supremacy). What I mean when I say CI is how a person’s identity is tied up in any such cultural construct. I know from many first and second hand experiences that challenging who you (think you) are can be a difficult, or even traumatic, experience. Making the switch to a vegan lifestyle forces you to reject a lot of heritage, tradition, cultural knowledge and pride, as well as leaves a void where those things used to be. It can take months or years to fill those spaces and create new cultural concepts. This takes personal work, and that work can be uncomfortable.


The second argument I want to discuss is that of social/societal discomfort (SSD). SSD comes into play when you do something that goes against what society and the prevailing culture think is right/normal. It happens to men when they cry in public, to women who over the years have broken dress code and professional barriers, among others, and to people like Colin Kaepernick, for example, who do what they know needs to be done, no matter how unpopular it may be. Society has ways of punishing non-conformers, so someone who not only eats differently, but also lives in a way that others assume to imply a moral high-ground may/will suffer for it. The punishment will be dealt by their friends, family, co-workers, and/or society at large.


Both of the aforementioned situations can potentially have a significant cost to the person living the vegan lifestyle. Principal among them is mental health. Deconstructing and rebuilding a large part of your cultural identity is energetically taxing and stressful. For example, men who struggle to un-learn the culture of toxic masculinity often experience something similar: “if I’m not the dominant one who controls, then who am I? What is my role in a relationship and how do I fill it?” etc. However, it’s important that men take on this challenge in spite of the difficulty it may cause them. Similarly, SSD has mental health and other costs. Constant arguing with family and loved ones over what to eat, as well as the ethics of animal exploitation, is burdensome. Feeling the odd one out, or even being targeted for it by others can lead to insecurities and feelings of isolation, among others. In sum, a vegan lifestyle can indirectly cause social and mental health problems for the person who chooses to live it because of the way that the people around them react to it.


So why do it then? I’m going to write a longer answer to this and post it soon, but in the mean time I will present a few short arguments.

  1. The suffering of the animals is far greater than the suffering you may experience. The least you can do is give it a try and see how you manage before writing it off as “too difficult”. Your efforts will be worth while because every day you choose not to harm animals you massively reduce the negative acceleration of your “impact”, especially considering that eating animal products is easily in the top two individual things that most people do each day that has “impact” (along with driving cars).
  2. There is a deeper reason for going vegan and will be the main subject of my next post, but it involves the idea that we must stop normalizing actions of oppression if we ever want to be free. The fundamental idea here is that freedom, sensu Paulo Freire, is a requisite for the change that our society needs to overcome the current global crisis(es), and that we will never learn to live free if we continue to ignore our intuitive morality in deference to culture. After all, if you know something is bad, but you use culture to justify doing it, then what you are doing is disregarding something fundamentally human (morality), and replacing it with an external programming (culture). I call this form of de-humanizing oppression being a “culture robot”. Humans, in their fullest and freest condition will save the world. Culture robots will not and cannot.
  3. The last reason also involves freedom, but from another perspective. If you feel unable to do something that you think/know should be done due to some outside force, that force matches the textbook definition of an oppressive force. The cultural and societal effects discussed above are examples of such forces and often put us in oppressive situations. On an individual level, to quote Paulo Freire, “to be free is to be human”, so in all instances our own humanity depends on us a) identifying things in our environment we’d like to change, b) having the ability to change them, and c) taking action to make the change. After all, this a-c is the definition of freedom.


Thanks for taking the time to read this! Let me know what you think about any of it! I think this is a very important discussion, so I’m happy to spend some time having it! After all, I know that I don’t have all of the answers, and my knowledge and perspective are only improved by my conversations with you.

How I think about ethics

I was recently writing a post about two interesting, important, but seldom discussed arguments against veganism when I realized that I needed to refer to an article that I never wrote. A side conversation of that article is that there are unethical forms of veganism, and even potential ways that a non-vegan could live a more ethically consistent life than a vegan. To clarify these points I need to explain my concept of ethics and what constitutes an ethical existence.


There is a nauseatingly overused cliché which states that there “is no ethical consumption under capitalism”. While this is true, people tend to use this phrase to maintain the status quo and skirt beneficial actions they could potentially take. It’s possible to acknowledge the reality of this statement while also recognizing that not all unethical things are equally bad, and that we still have choices to make and a better world to fight for.


When I think about ethics I imagine a number floating above everyone’s head. It’s a bit abstract, but I think it’s useful. This number is called “impact”, it can be red (negative, more harm done than good), or green (positive, more good done than harm). When people do good things their number becomes more positive and vise versa. I believe that most of us have red numbers, and that the only way to get those numbers closer to 0, or even into the green is by creating a superstructure that mostly does good in order to make up for all of the little unethical things we do day to day.


Before going further, I need to explain what I mean when I say “good”. The number floating over our heads is actually composed by two other numbers. The first is “ethical impact”, in short, this number is made more negative the more suffering/pain/anguish/etc you cause. The second is “physical impact” which, in short, is made more negative based on the physical damage you cause (this mostly applies to the environment). These two categories are not entirely distinct, but I find it useful to think of them as separate entities.


So, as we live day to day our number goes further negative as we continue to unethically consume. However, we can reduce the rate at which our impact value gets lower. We can do this by finding which of our regular practices make a big negative contribution to our ethical impact or physical impact. Whether or not you leave the water running while you brush your teeth or whether or not you recycle your cardboard obviously doesn’t have the same impact as flying around the world twice a year on holiday or consuming animal products. Looking for and improving upon the big contributors of your number’s negative acceleration is a way you can make a real change. But is there a way to get the number actually going up, closer to 0 and eventually into the green?


YES! One person probably cannot do it on their own with individual action. However, if the society as a whole is considered, it is possible to look for the biggest social causes of ethical and physical impact and try to make them better on a larger scale, far beyond yourself. Also, if you help your fellow citizens to improve their own numbers, those improvements reflect on your number as well. For example, feeding a hungry person every day is a good deed, but starting or participating in a movement that solves world hunger is another thing entirely.


This way of thinking about ethics is exactly why I have dedicated my life to trying to help people in the most fundamental way I know how in order to help society reduce its overall ethical and physical impact. I take it for granted that we all would like to live the most ethical life we could and that we would like to see a better world for tomorrow, if only we knew it was possible and how to do it! Conceptualizing the problem, avoiding clichés that support the status quo, and making real moves to improve the situation now is the best way to start.


Spam poetry 1

I have recently been getting some hilariously written adult dating spam messages. I am also, for whatever reason, subscribed to Donald Trump’s campaign emails. His emails are quite desperate and even, at times, feel like they could have been written by the same author of the adult dating spam. This inspired me…


What if Donald Trump wrote honest campaign emails in the style of adult dating spam?  I think the product approaches poetry; I hope you enjoy!

The original Spam message:

I’m Alyssa23. I’m so exhausted, and I want to get a new feelings: my boyfriend does not interested in my thirsty body. All I require – is a major licking. I have had a really hard weeks, even my new boobs do not make me smile. Give me a hope. Help me a little bit! My photos you can view in my dating profile. Ready for you!

A message to you, from your dear leader:

I’m Donald Trump. I’m so broke(n), and I want to get a new donation: my country does not interested in my thirsty vitriol. All I require – is a major licking. I have had a really hard weeks, even my new walls do not make me smile. Give me a hope. Help me a little bit! My scruples you can view in my twitter profile. Ready for you!

Poem: “The Movement”

the modern day warrior, fights the cause

struggling for good, without a pause

advocating, not only, advancing too

pushing ideas, new, through to you


oops! too fast, lost coherency

all your theory, is a mystery

but you’re the expert, self proclaimed

the papal of wisdom, in echo-chamber ordained


so many the path, of best intentions go

yet positive history, goes to show

don’t give up, we come to learn

that knowledge and wisdom, come in turn

This poem was inspired by my own experiences and by some people in my social sphere.

Rejecting nihilism and proclaiming “our lives can have meaning!”

I think it is correct to say that an act is meaningful or significant when it gives substantial realizable betterment to people or the community at large.

Donny:                   Are these the Nazis, Walter?
Walter Sobchak:  No, Donny, these men are nihilists, there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Donny:                  Are they gonna hurt us, Walter?
Walter Sobchak: No, Donny. These men are cowards.

The Big Lebowski (1998)


A colleague of mine recently made the claim that “all of our lives are insignificant and meaningless and have a zero percent chance of gaining significance”. When they said it, it struck me as overly cynical and I felt that it wasn’t necessarily true. I found my reaction strange because I have been telling people for years that “our lives are ultimately insignificant”. Reflecting now it seems that my outlook on this matter has been changing, but because it was without my conscious knowledge it took me by surprise.  In this post I wanted to elaborate a bit on what I feel gives life significance, and why our lives don’t have to be meaningless. (Note: I will only discuss positive significance here. There is no shortage in opportunity, philosophically or materially, to be ill spirited, and I do not think that people who strive in this direction need any encouragement to do so.)

I can think of just two ways someone can impact the world: inventing or discovering something useful (Nikola Tesla, Louis Pasteur, Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin) or they somehow bettered a problematic aspect of their culture. Again, I will focus on the latter here as I think humanity is not lacking new technologies to better or save ourselves, but is rather more suffering from problematic aspects of culture. So assuming this to be the case let’s look at how to one’s life can be significant.

The pursuit to making life significant in life is, as ever, an issue of scale (in time and space).

In one way, my opinion has not changed from the start. I still believe that once the sun has exploded and the biological experiment we call life on Earth has come to an end that everything humans, or any other earthly life form, ever did will not matter anymore. But that’s an excessively large scale to consider, and I find it rather uninteresting and useless. I only mention it because it is where a lot of people (including my past self) get caught up. (Note: I imagine religious and spiritual people just rolled their eyes, which is fine. I think it is great that you all have something you believe in which you feel gives your life significance already. However a growing number of us who don’t jibe well in those philosophies do have a tendency to succumb to nihilism. Either way, I hope the following article will be interesting for all thinking people.)

On a smaller scale, there is the history of humankind. Few people make a memorable, beneficial contribution to this level, although a few names do spring to mind (a spattering of ancient and modern philosophers, eastern and western, religious leaders and so called ´prophets´, various inventors, and some politicians). This is the level I think my colleague was referring to when they made their claim, and I still largely agree with that. There is very little chance that the average person will be the next Socrates, Mohammad, Mother Teresa, or Nelson Mandela.

As we move to each smaller scale it becomes clear that one has a greater and greater chance (read: opportunity) to make a significant impact and bestow some significant meaning to their time on Earth. Individual levels of scale aren’t clearly demarcated, but I would like to focus my discussion on the level of community- country (CC), as this is where I feel that most people have an opportunity to make a significant impact. At this scale I think it is correct to say that an act is meaningful or significant when it gives substantial realizable betterment to people or the community at large.

The CC scale is an ideal ground for cultural change because it is so rife with problems, while also workable due to our intimate involvement with it. There are obvious problems, such as racism, misogyny, and inequality, to name a few. But there are also meta-problems, such as widespread political apathy in the face of injustice or the issue of how to organize our future society in the best way, and convince people of it while deconstructing deeply engrained cultural norms which leave them recalcitrant to this much needed advancement. We humans are quite unique in our ability to forward plan, set goals, and organize the people around us and our time in pursuit of those goals, and there is realistically very little that makes this process inherently impossible for most people. In the West most people are symptomatically lulled by the comfort of the status quo, be it political or cultural, and therefore don’t want to challenge it. However, and this is the crux, they could.

In this way many people who lead lives they feel are meaningless only do so on their own will. If only these people would more frequently step out of the comfort of the status quo and take some meaningful action to better the situation of their community or country. I recently read the autobiography of Malcolm X, and I think he is the utmost example of this. Malcolm X, or at that time Malcolm Little, grew up in segregated USA. His life developed intimately with, and he often suffered from, the cultural issues that plague black-white and inter-black community relations. Later in life he became a leading force for change, the likes of which the country, or even the world, has seldom seen before or since. Over 50 years after his death his ideas still permeate discussions around race and society and his memory serves as an inspiration for all who reject the toxic cultural status quo and seek a better tomorrow.


Closer to home I have a good friend who works incredibly hard to change the opinion of society regarding political movements, human rights, and the refugee crisis, all as a volunteer in their free time at home. This person has saved many lives of refugees both in a direct way (by pulling them out of the freezing water as their boats crash ashore), and though giving legal aid to people desperately trying to complete the asylum process to begin life anew away from their war-torn homes. This person has helped people avoid the fate of so many who are victims of human trafficking, as well as was (probably) instrumental in preventing a terrorist attack due to their connection in underground information networks. This person has dedicated their life to the pursuit of goodness and does significant, meaningful work every day.

In conclusion I roundly reject the nihilist position that our lives are inherently and unalterably meaningless and I instead grant meaningfulness to actions that better the current situation of the world, even on smaller scales.

Thoughts inspired by Kendi (Part II)

We need to understand the way our cultural practices may nonchalantly inflict harm on ourselves and others.

[This post is a part II, click here to see Part I.]

In part I of this development I discussed Kendi’s understanding that racism comes from self interest. Below are the relevant quotes from an article/interview with him that I shared in the previous post, just to refresh your memory.
““We have been taught that ignorance and hate lead to racist ideas, lead to racist policies,” Kendi said. “If the fundamental problem is ignorance and hate, then your solutions are going to be focused on education, and love and persuasion. But of course [Stamped from the Beginning, Kendi’s book] shows that the actual foundation of racism is not ignorance and hate, but self-interest, particularly economic and political and cultural.””

“Kendi boils racist ideas down to an irreducible core: Any idea that suggests one racial group is superior or inferior to another group in any way is a racist idea, he says, and there are two types. Segregationist ideas contend racial groups are created unequal. Assimilationist ideas, as Kendi defines them, argue that both discrimination and problematic black people are to blame for inequalities.

Americans who don’t carry tiki torches react viscerally to segregationist ideas like those on display at the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one young counter-protester dead. Assimilationist ideas are more subtle, seductive and coded.

You can be someone who has no intention to be racist,” who believes in and fights for equality, “but because you’re conditioned in a world that is racist and a country that is structured in anti-black racism, you yourself can perpetuate those ideas,” says Kendi.” (Bolding by me)

(If you didn’t already read the whole of the article I linked about Kendi that goes a bit more into this idea and his new book that explains it, I really suggest you do so as I won’t repeat all that he said, but will expand upon it.)

While I totally agree with Kendi’s analysis, I do think that his insight can be applied to other areas of oppression in society, so for today’s post I want to expand these ideas to misogyny. After all, isn’t male supremacy and the systemic oppression of women based on a similar culture of privilege and self interest? It may not be exactly the same, but I think Kendi’s insight applies here. Like my struggles with understanding racism, I have wondered for a long time how so many men who I would not consider to outwardly hate women could be so content with, and even proud of, their misogynist habits.

The modern culture of male dominance and misogyny is profound. I won’t dredge it all up, but will just focus my extension here to one sub-section of it: pornography. First of all, I know that some people will find it controversial that I casually state that porn is inherently misogynistic. Well, it is, it is, it really is, it is, and maybe it isn’t, just kidding it is. But one is forgiven for not understanding the damaging nature of porn on women, men, and consequently society as a whole. Just like there are the assimilationists in Kendi’s understanding of racism, there are many people in society who are analogue “assimilationists” for misogyny.

As a 20-something male living a modern European-American life I am immersed in porn culture. I see the objectification and hyper sexualization of women in TV shows, TV advertisements, street advertisements, music videos, and nearly everything else where someone wants to get my attention. Further to this, I seem to be surrounded by people who like to casually, and at times proudly, discuss and joke about their porn habits and preferences. However, nothing in what these men say, or in what this media tells me is overtly about explicitly wanting to harm or promote hate for women, even if that is exactly what it does.

Men have a tremendous self interest in maintaining the male dominated status quo and porn habits reinforce this male dominated power structure. While the images in porn commonly depict men being dominate over, degrading, and even violent towards women, the very act of consuming porn gives men subconscious encouragement to support this paradigm and a sense of entitlement that their throwaway pleasure is all that is needed to justify this injustice. Secondly, maintaining women at the status of ‘object’ gives men the carefree opportunity to ridicule, attack, trade, or penetrate and then casually disregard women because they crave the power it gives them (even unconsciously) or simply because they find the process fun.

It is so common for men to reject these rather simple observational truths about their behavior. After all, there is more for them to lose than I have already stated. Porn consumption and male dominance form an integral part of many men’s masculinity and identity as men, just as white supremacy is inseparable from modern white culture. If you were to confront a man with these facts and remove porn from his consumption patterns it would leave a noticeable void (I know first hand). This void is extremely uncomfortable on a deep psychological level. Just like I had to confront my own racism in the first part of this post, I can personally speak about the difficulties of giving up this harm-causing self interested habit and mentality.

Just like white people who do not outwardly hate people of color supporting racist power structures in society, many men who do not outwardly hate women eagerly support anti-women power structures, and for the same reasons. Both groups’ cultures are built upon the domination of the other, and both groups will face so much to discomfort and loss of ‘normalcy’ in the event of justice. But again, it is so important that we endeavor to learn about our privileges and strive to understand the way our seemingly harmless cultural practices may override our internal sense of right and wrong and allow us to nonchalantly inflict undue harm to ourselves and others.

Thank you Ibram Kendi for these transformation inspiring illuminations.

Thanks for reading.

Thoughts inspired by Kendi (Part I)

I have been struggling over the past, well, years actually with understanding the nature and persistence of oppression in society. That struggle is far from over, but I have gained some understandings which I think are useful to get out into discussion. Before I start I entirely admit that the catalyst of this post, and the interconnection of these ideas is from the new piece I just read about Ibram Kendi (link opens in a new tab).

Kendi dropped some serious truth that I feel expands far further than the context in which he said it:
““We have been taught that ignorance and hate lead to racist ideas, lead to racist policies,” Kendi said. “If the fundamental problem is ignorance and hate, then your solutions are going to be focused on education, and love and persuasion. But of course [Stamped from the Beginning, Kendi’s book] shows that the actual foundation of racism is not ignorance and hate, but self-interest, particularly economic and political and cultural.”” (bolding done by me)

“Kendi boils racist ideas down to an irreducible core: Any idea that suggests one racial group is superior or inferior to another group in any way is a racist idea, he says, and there are two types. Segregationist ideas contend racial groups are created unequal. Assimilationist ideas, as Kendi defines them, argue that both discrimination and problematic black people are to blame for inequalities.

Americans who don’t carry tiki torches react viscerally to segregationist ideas like those on display at the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one young counter-protester dead. Assimilationist ideas are more subtle, seductive and coded.

“You can be someone who has no intention to be racist,” who believes in and fights for equality, “but because you’re conditioned in a world that is racist and a country that is structured in anti-black racism, you yourself can perpetuate those ideas,” says Kendi.”


(If you didn’t already read the whole of the article I linked about Kendi that goes a bit more into this idea and his new book that explains it, I really suggest you do so as I won’t repeat all that he said, but will expand upon it.)

Kendi illuminates that racism comes from self interest and in so doing answered a question I have been struggling to answer for a long time: How can so many people who don’t outwardly hate black people, who recoil in disgust at the thought of overtly racist ideologies, eagerly support racism in their everyday lives? Kendi’s understanding about selfish nature of racism captures the answer. The answer lies in a culture of privilege.

The type of people Kendi refers to as assimilationists are actually, in my experience and full understanding, the vast majority of Americans (including myself!). We are raised in a culture of racism and we so often don’t know it. It is so part of our reality that we cannot, and many times refuse, to see it. White assimilationists may even reach out to learn something about racism, and try to address individual acts of racism but they will never attack the core of the issue as they rest upon it to maintain their life styles (all of this possibly unbeknownst to the assimilationist).

To give a concrete example I will draw on recent protest events in the US. When people of color peacefully protest they are so often met with dehumanization (“Look at those BLM animals/thugs blocking the road again”), disdain (think of the reaction to Kaepernick silently protesting for two minutes once a week), and violence (think of Standing Rock NODAPL protests, think of legislators in frequent protest states who want to make killing protesters with your vehicles legal). However when white people use the same means of protest, or even more violent ones (think of the militia men who were acquitted of an armed take over of a government building) they are granted sympathy by the media and by much of the public who tend to stretch, even for the “right” of neo-nazis to incite genocide, to see it from their side. I am personally disgusted when I see this type of thing, but I was recently strongly confronted by the shocking news that Trump has apologized to Erdogan for the indictment of his security forces who attacked peaceful protesters leaving 9 hospitalized. An attack which was incited by, in their own words, “The protesters were insulting us, and they were screaming and shouting. The police failed to intervene properly.” Trump loves to cozy up to the likes of Erdogan and Duterte, but to really let it sink in that Trump condones the beating of peaceful protesters who oppose his ideas no matter their race is a scary one.

Re-read that last sentence. It’s pretty racist, right? I take it for granted that I can go out and protest peacefully for the things that I care about in the safety of my own country, and I rely on that ability in order to be an active citizen; that’s my privilege that I did not realize I had. I have known for a long time that these types of things are common to happen to people of color, but I only felt really, truly scared when I realized that now they can happen to me too. It is things like these that remind me how important it is to not only try and recognize my privilege where ever it is, but to also realize that I can never understand what it is like to be a person of color in a white supremacist society no matter how much I think I know about it.

Anyway, now I am processing this feeling of fear and vulnerability that Trump has given me, and how I can learn from it to become a better advocate of justice. Furthermore, I am trying to integrate this situation into my understanding of my own deeply ingrained racism.

Anyway, I think this is long enough for one post. Click here to see Part II of this post as I extend this idea to male misogyny.

Thanks for reading!

Entering a new era

It’s been a while since I wrote, but as this blog is meant to be an outlet for an over-pouring mind I suppose this is the perfect day to come back to it.

I’ve never really liked it when people say “America is the greatest country in the world”, however; I normally come around to granting a concession in my scathing reply which is that in many ways it is one of the greatest countries in the world in which to live. Though now I see, given the events of the past few months, that America is going to be a lot worse place to be from this day forward.

At the head, we have a leader who is an expert at riling people around him in fear and petty hatred. With him we are witnessing the degradation of critical thought and reasoned analysis. But this is what he needs, as else no one could follow him if they really considered what he says. For example, he is yet to release his tax returns. The only excuse he ever gives is an oblivious irrelevancy, and it only serves to obscure more important matters. From the start we were concerned that maybe he was not as rich as he claims, and that he would be shown to be a big fake or that he had in fact not paid taxes in 20 years (both have a very high probability of being true), but now there is another dimension being thrust into the spotlight: ethical conflicts of interest.

In fact, one thing that Trump seems to have done incredibly well is create a writhing cesspool of cabinet appointments with all sorts of ethical problems. You have his Housing and Urban Development pick refusing to say that he will not siphon money into projects in which Trump is invested, which is kind strange because we would almost never know anyway as Trump won’t tell us where his investments are. But as he has chosen a neurosurgeon with no relevant experience to lead HUD who really only has a political reputation of being a complete laughable moron, it seems that HUD may turn into a nice siphon of money from your taxes into the president’s coffers.

Then we have his education pick. She has been getting a lot of press recently with her senate interviews where they have figured out that she knows nothing about current issues in education reform and thinks that bear attacks are a relevant threat to everyday American school children. More troubling is that she lied to the senate (a federal offense that should immediately end her appointment) about not sitting on the board of her parent’s company which is a registered hate group at the Southern Poverty Law Center for its position against homosexuality which they specifically lobby to be taught to children! When confronted with this fact with 990 tax forms she doubled down on her lie and said that the forms were are 12 year running clerical error. This is not to even mention that she is the sister of a very shady mercenary who is creeping closer and closer to Trump’s ear and has made his fortune off of privatizing and intensifying warfare.

Next there is SOS pick, the recently CEO of Exxon Mobile, a man who received the “award of friendship” from Vlad Putin for doing good oil deals with Russia, whose old company (Exxon Mobile) has billions of dollars more in drilling deals waiting to go through with Russia once regulations are lifted. You have his General Mattis pick, which violates the law which states that the head of the CIA needs to be filled by a civilian to ensure that the entirety of defense thinking does not go straight through the military arm of power. Then there is his top policy advisor, who is a known and outspoken white supremacist. Donald has also appointed his son in law to a top position, likely breaking anti-nepotism laws in the process.

So, what does this all have to do with making America a worse place to live? Aside from the horror of what these people believe in, and what actions are being supported by our government across the country, we are establishing a further shift in politics where we normalize brazen ethics violations and corruption. The people in power are trusting more and more power with themselves while taking it away from the people. There is a famous quote that the people should not fear the government, but that the government should fear the people. Well, this only works if the people have the means to speak out against and check government power. With the further militarization of the police, attacks on journalists, and anti-protest laws coming down the pipe across the country (really, please read that one if you even want to pretend to care about the constitution) it seems the teeth are being taken away from the people and it will be the government who instead does the biting. It won’t be nice to live in the crushing jaws of authoritarianism, in a state where the powerful are lawless and the common person lives under lash and chain.

As ever, thanks for reading.

A revolutionary notion of justice

Anshin passed me this idea, and I think it is the most revolutionary form of justice I have ever heard of…

To start, thank you to my wonderful 3rd cousin, Anshin, for putting this idea into my head through lengthy discussions. It may have morphed a bit from the original, but hopefully I tell it well.

Our society currently looks at justice in terms of punishment. When someone does something illegal or harmful they are to be punished, so they will suffer their bad deed. Perhaps they will learn their lesson, perhaps not; the point here is the suffering of their bad deed. The criminal justice system/prison system in the USA is set up, to my understanding, to deprive people of their freedom and inclusion in society in punishment for their crimes. I don’t disagree that this cannot be done properly, after a few changes in principles. However, in our current society prison means terrible conditions, frequent acts of violence, rape, homicides, literal slavery, abuse by guards, and unfathomable times served in solitary confinement in some cases. This is not justice, I don’t care what you did. If you raped or murdered it is not justice for you to be sent to a prison where you will be raped or murdered. The rape situation is particularly appalling because people seem so quick to joke about or condone prison rape, as if just because you have been sentenced to prison for whatever reason you deserve to be raped. Yet somehow people seem to look upon our prison system and rationalize the horrific conditions within in the name of justice. Further, our prison and justice system is so twisted that many people go to prison and learn to become criminals even if they weren’t one to begin with. Where is the justice here? It’s not.

Anshin passed me this idea, and I think it is the most revolutionary form of justice I have ever heard of: heal the wound. When a harmful act is done it not only causes a wound, but the very act itself can be traced back to a wound. There are many ways to heal the wound done by the individual harmful act, but I’m not going into that in this post. I am concerned here with the wound that caused the harmful act.

If you follow this blog then you’ll be familiar with my position that people are victims of their culture. Our culture morphs our perception of reality, our thoughts, and our behaviors form a young age. This can be in good or bad ways; when bad things result from cultural influence, but are normalized by culture in society, then the person who posses those bad traits is a victim of their culture. So how do we find justice here? We should not put so much energy into punishing the person, but the culture itself. We need to be critical, we need to deconstruct the culture that gave rise to such bad acts, if it did indeed do so. If we find our culture guilty of pulling people away from actions and thoughts which move our society toward a condition of peace and love then we need to work actively as a society to change these aspects of culture.

Of course, people are responsible for their actions. If a person commits a crime directed by their culture and is a danger to society, they should be given treatment for their condition and society should be protected from them in the mean time. This treatment, however, should in no way be an expression of any notion of punishment, but an expression of a pure intention of healing the wound that their culture has inflicted upon them.

This is just one of many applications of the notion of ‘healing the wound’. There are many wounds existing within society that are not causing people to commit ‘criminal’ acts, but rather wounds that directly induce intolerance, hate,  and violence in people who practice such cultures. My assertion is that any time someone acts in a way that is violent or hateful we need to examine the areas of culture that might have given rise to such an act and address them at the source, instead of just punishing people for something they are taught to be normal.

In this way we can move our condition of society towards peace, and towards love.

This post is intentionally vague. I hope to write more specific examples in the future, but I just wanted to get the idea out there now. Thanks for reading, and, as ever, for thinking!!!

My chat with a 16yo Syrian refugee at a bus stop in Zwolle

I’m living in The Netherlands now, so normally I don’t count my new experiences as ‘travel’, but today was different as I had to go to a city further south, Zwolle, to do some immigration things.

Zwolle struck me as a very nice and chilled out place. The streets were calm and quiet despite it being a Friday afternoon, kids were playing in the parks, and everyone was, as usual, riding around on their bikes. I was moving across the city because I had to take a Blabla Car back to Groningen to avoid paying the outrageous train fare. I arrived to the meeting place for my ride when a young man approached me and asked me for a light of his cigarette.

After I told him, in English, that I didn’t have a lighter, he promptly introduced himself and invited me for a smoke. He asked me where I was from and seemed really excited to learn that I was from the US. “I’ve always wanted to meet someone from the USA”, he told me, “I don’t get a chance to meet people from the USA here”. I asked him where he was from and he told me Syria. I asked him what he was doing in The Netherlands and he was quick to tell me he was a refugee. He said he was studying now, but that he had come to the Netherlands a year earlier, by illegal means, to escape impending danger in his home city of Damascus. We ended up speaking for about an hour, in which time I learned a lot of things. Some of which you would expect to learn from a 16 year old, like how to ask his friend if he smoked too much weed in Arabic, how to introduce myself in Dutch, and that his favorite subject in school is biology.

The rest of what he told me I found much more interesting, however. He agreed to let me ask him questions about his experiences as a refugee in The Netherlands. He said he came by illegal means, but I never asked how. He said that as soon as he arrived he went right to the police and turned himself in as a minor refugee. He told me that his first 5 months were living in a refugee housing facility. He remembered that life there was really nice, which is a stark contrast to the horrific reports coming from refugee housing facilities in other supposedly helpful nations like Australia and the USA. He said while living there he had lots of parties and that life was good inside the place. I asked him how he felt about the way the media and people in Europe/USA talk about refugees (ie. they are terrorists or people who want to see the destruction of the country they are going to). He told me something really interesting here. He said that there were some criminals in the refugee houses, people who had done terrible things back in Syria, usually in war. But he said that these people were looking to escape that old life and start new, he said that there aren’t any terrorists coming over but just people looking to escape their old situation and continue their lives.

He told me that once he got out of the refugee center he got moved into a place with another refugee roommate. He told me that he is living off of an actually sufficient government stipend; he is never hungry, always has his roof, and is even able to stay plenty warm in the winter! He had nothing but good things to say about the Dutch government, only that it could only be better if he made it to Canada! I asked him more about his life here, like if he ever experienced racism or discrimination. “Never”, he told me, “not once have I been in a racist situation”. This genuinely surprised me as I know the far right is gaining popularity in Europe at large and in particular in The Netherlands. He told me that sometimes people are cautious with him for about a minute when they first meet, but he said that “after only a minute or two talking to me they realize who I really am and are totally fine”. I couldn’t help but imagine what kind of a reception he would be likely to receive in my “country of immigrants”.

He had some good news for me. His family has obtained visas to come live in The Netherlands with him! I asked him if this was made easy because he was here and he told me that yes, especially because he was still considered a child. Near the end of this month will be the first time in over a year that he has seen his father or his sister. I asked him if he or his family were religious, he said that they weren’t. Further to this, he said that most people in his city were not very religious, and that many people even outside major cities were not so religious in Syria. He said that there were a lot of Christians in Damascus, but that there was nearly no religious tension or problems there among the people.

The most surprising thing I heard him say was support for the USA. It wasn’t absolute, he seemed to recognize that the USA was not a wonderful force overall in the region, but he expressed happiness that the USA was supporting the Kurds in their fight against IS. I don’t think his excitement to meet an American was based in this, but more about new perspectives and meeting different types of people. He was a pretty open guy and seemed to just want to meet all different types of people. He told me that he really wanted to shake the hand of a Jewish person because he had never met a Jewish person before.

As our talk was nearing an end I told him that I thought it was such an important thing to express the human side of the situation, and to spread individuals’ stories to inject some -much needed- humanity into the increasingly un-human storm. He totally agreed, so I hope he won’t mind me telling you all what he told me today.