Why I shop at Locavore

There’s a long wooden bench outside. It’s under the shelter of the awning running from the newsagents to the barbers and people, presumably, could take their chai or herbal tea out there, even in Scotland, in January, but I suspect that some passersby sit there too. Taking a restful moment off, from all the trundling about that’s so much part of modern life. It’s a nice touch. Human, simple, neat, good business sense. That’s Locavore.

Inside and…ah! The herbs and fresh fruit and veg and scented soaps and candles. I breathe it all in, immediately feeling better. I smile at the customer on her mobility scooter, coffee resting on the large wooden table in the cafe area, and head towards the free fruit and veg box.

I’m an inveterate recycler. I just can’t see things go to waste, so this is one of the many aspects of Locavore that I approve of. I start here because I’m thinking of what’s in the vegetable rack and fruit bowl at home. As a vegan who prefers whole to processed food, that’s where I start my meal preparation.

I always buy something too and recently decided to buy all my bread and pastries here. Everything’s organic. That sounds like a luxury until you think about the choice: with or without poison. Why do that to yourself and your housemates—then have to spend more on remedies for the harm those poisons cause?

The vegetables are interesting. Kohl rabbi and fennel as well as the usual cabbage, carrots and spuds. Paper bags or biodegradable plastic. There are huge containers of nuts and seeds and pulses at the back—I really need to investigate that end more—as well as refills for Ecover and other products that are natural and not tested on animals.

Okay it’s not entirely vegan, or even vegetarian, and I wish it was. But it’s shops like these where, looking along the shelves, someone who usually buys salami might see the vegan chorizo and decide to give it a try.

Let’s talk about cost. Yes, you’ll probably find an inferior version available for less in a supermarket but here’s the difference: this isn’t a shop where the emphasis is on sugar and starchy empty calories. This is good food and it’s good for you. So it terms of what you’re getting, pound for pound, this is better value.

Finally, the best thing about Locavore—apart from the unhurried time and space you have to pack your shopping—is the staff. People who know that their work makes a difference look different from other shop staff. Their eyes shine. When you chat about a recipe (3-ingredient vegan pancakes, for example) they’ve probably tried it or they want to and will tell you about it next time you shop. As they’re ringing your purchases up on the till, you’ll hear about the new baby, the new doggie, their visit to the Glasgow allotments where the produce is grown—and they’re interested in your news and views too.

I always come out of Locavore feeling better than when I went in. I’m a carer, going through considerable employment stress right now (and seeking legal remedies for it). My life at the moment is quite challenging. I shop at Locavore because it makes my life easier and reminds me of the consistent aim of philosophers down through the ages: the good life.

Colourful crammed Locavore veg box

Photo from https://locavore.scot/ (I’m not on commission, I just really like the shop!)

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Of Rats and Greater Manchester

Eric Adams, Mayor of the Big Apple, is seeking someone “somewhat bloodthirsty” to be the city’s “rat czar” (in popular parlance) according to Sky News:

The vermin have survived a multimillion-dollar effort under former mayor Bill de Blasio which introduced more rubbish pickups and better housing inspections in targeted neighbourhoods. The city also used dry ice to suffocate rats in their hiding spots. Mayor Adams, when he was borough president of Brooklyn, once demonstrated a trap which used a bucket filled with a toxic soup to drown rats lured by the scent of food.

Samuel Osborne, Friday 2 December 2022 21:36, UK

Typical resort to toxins. When Big Pharma (specialising in addictive drugs and poisons since long before WW1) runs the world, anything that pushes their profits is the default. As well as “data collection” and “trash management” the person specs include “highly motivated”, “determined to look at all solutions from various angles”, “improving operational efficiency”, “technology innovation”, and “wholesale slaughter” (all ibid).

So the Mayor wants someone who’ll really get their claws into the situation. Hmmm… 🧐

The State (not the city) of New York has 48 cat shelters, according to this website and if my arithmetic is correct they currently have 1,112 cats waiting for adoption…or death.

It seems NYC has two problems and one solution: any household or business plagued with rats should adopt a cat, ASAP!

Start spreading the news, it’s up to you New York, New York!

This side of the pond, results from the parliamentary by-election in the beautiful English city of Chester (currently suffering from raw sewage being dumped into the River Dee) show a similar lack of imagination. Seemingly unwilling to learn from decades of British bumbling—(slightly) Right, (slightly) Left, privatise, nationalise, repeat ad nauseam)—Cestrians have voted Labour, or rather, have voted against the Tories.

Each of these two parties appear principally interested in opposing the other, a project the Lib Dems enthusiastically usually join in with—seemingly having no fixed policies of their own. Yet, as well as the woker-than-thou Greens and their Scottish and Welsh supposedly separatist allies, and the various small wannabe career politician parties, there is an alternative.

Parties such as Freedom Alliance, ADF and the Libertarians don’t want to simply oppose (or become) government—they want an entirely different form of governance. Largely ignored for business as usual in Chester last Thursday, there’s another opportunity on 15th December in the Stretford and Urmston parliamentary constituency in Greater Manchester.

On both sides of the pond the question is: are you capable of thinking outside the box? If so, reject the usual poisonous approach and choose a real and wholesome alternative.

Layered images of rats in greyscale

Thanks to Linnaea Mallette for releasing her image Rats into the Public Domain.

The Real Greens

The trouble with the terms “greenwashing” and “pinkwashing” is that those using them may (perhaps) inadvertently do what they accuse others of doing: painting over structural issues that need to be addressed.

Pinkwashing is often used to denigrate the success of the LGBT community in Israel and there have been several aspects to this accusation:

  • Denying the issues faced by LGBT people in majority Muslim countries in general and in Palestine in particular.
  • Denying the freedoms won by the LGBT community in Israel.
  • Denying the possibility of a people under oppression to simultaneously oppress a community of their own.

Countering the first denial, Mark Segal of NY Daily News is quoted as stating:

If you have a need to prove your “wokeness” by assimilating with those who support the rape and death of LGBT people, you don’t know the meaning of LGBT liberation.

Countering the third denial, Al-Qaws, a group dedicated to gender and sexual diversity in Palestinian society, has a more nuanced statement:

Singling out incidents of homophobia in Palestinian society ignores the complexities of Israel’s colonisation and military occupation being a contributing factor to Palestinian LGBTQ oppression

My point is not to reduce the socio-political complexities to which the latter quote alludes to some kind of catchy soundbite but rather to emphasise that key word. Some issues aren’t simple—but that doesn’t mean they should be painted over in pink.

Or green. Cory Morningstar, on the blog Wrong Kind of Green, has written a detailed take-down of current media environmentalism entitled The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg. (For those who prefer listening to reading, there’s a beautifully-read podcast version.)

The reaction to greenwashing can also be rather simplistic and, similarly, has various aspects:

  • Denying the ecological issues of the planet
  • Denying the benevolent motivations of environmental protestors
  • Ignoring the possibility of both of the above co-existing with invented (or exaggerated) issues and with malevolent motivations

To stop communicating in double negatives, let me state clearly what I mean. While climatologists are divided on the question of there being a planetary temperature crisis caused by human (or animal) agency, no-one sane denies the obvious issues of air, land and water pollution by pesticides and other poisons and by plastics. Electromagnetic (high or low) frequency pollution is another source of concern.

Related issues are those of the cost-effectiveness of supposedly environmental alternative sources of energy and fuel—as well as the social impact of the market for conflict minerals (used in phones, laptops, solar panels and electric cars).

About all these issues my point is simple:

  • Unless supposedly progressive groups are prepared to grapple with the complexities of real intersectional oppression and liberation, they aren’t really progressive.

It’s not enough to pay attention to the wake-up calls of green celebrities; we also need to see beyond—to the marketisation of Africa and other repressive goals of the Great Reset.

It’s not enough to acknowledge the latter and ignore the very real problems of pollution.

It’s not enough to be aware of the dangers of Frankenfood and the sinister appropriation of the means of global food production by a very small group of plutocrats; we also need to acknowledge the unnatural and inhumane treatment of farmed animals—if not for their own sake then at least for the effect that their confinement, torture, forced assimilation of toxins and barbaric slaughter has on our own bodies and on our souls.

The so-called Green parties are allied with inhuman forces indifferent to the fate of most of the planet and its population—apart from some ecological pleasure parks strictly set aside for the elite. Let’s not pretend that meanwhile these plutocrats are all ethical vegans: they’re all guzzling meat pizza, fatty hamburgers and high sugar Coca-Cola.

In contrast, the resistance to global tyranny is full of people who eat healthily, exercise daily, participate voluntarily in various community projects and grow our own food.

We’re the real greens.

Cress growing out of soil held in a White male hand in front of the mesh cover of a plastic greenhouse.

Shanghai

While every single institution of higher learning that offers degrees in Scotland has rushed to assure the tiny number of Ukrainian (and some also the larger number of Russian) students and staff that the Scottish educational establishment cares for them and their loved ones back home, to my knowledge none of them have even mentioned the situation in Shanghai—now spreading to other regional Chinese cities.

There could be various reasons for this, including those ideological and economic, but unlike my colleague who presumed my motives in publicly called for me to be sacked for questioning the official WEF narrative on Ukraine (parroted by media outlets and exploited by Hollywood starlets, despite obvious discrepancies and stage management) I will not attempt to read minds.

Instead I reproduce a redacted series of messages I have received from an old friend living in Shanghai, about the harsh and inhumane lockdown there, starting mid-March 2022.

Sorry these have been crazy days, you might have heard but the whole China is going into these last-minute local lockdowns , shanghai keeps shutting down and opening residential districts every days …it’s a bit of a mess

My living compound was supposed to go into lockdown yesterday but instead they just came for a “voluntary “ test , and probably we will go into lockdown next week for the mass testing

Office compound went into lockdown two day ago and I had to rush to […] finish the work that could not be done at home, as I can’t go back there for 2 weeks at least

I’m home, with some groceries and frozen/canned food (but not stacked for like a nuclear like some people did …I have just a full fridge and some cupboard of dry food…) I have a new book ([…] ) and also I’m reading […] for the book club on Kindle , some videogames , pc for work , and a little space to do stretching (my home is very very small…)

But I keep going out for now, as lockdown here has not happened yet

[…]

I do a short meditation in the evening and journaling in the morning as a regular practice.

Nobody knows if their living compound will enter lockdown as they only announce it the evening before, so everyone is rushing stocking groceries and I had to do the same, but now it’s seems that each district of the cities will have different policies, who allows deliveries , who doesn’t , who allows walking dogs, who doesn’t , who allows going into common areas of the compound who doesn’t let the people out of their house door who installs sensors who makes daily census …it’s a total mess

[…]

[…] I’m always available as I’m locked at home

[…] I’m not feeling great and I need to rest

Ok no worries. Pls enjoy the Easter holidays . I’m home since end of March and not allowed to go out due to the strict lockdown. I’m fine but just scared of ending up in a quarantine center and that is affecting my mood but I keep it under control. I’d like to hear about your campaign.

[…]

I’m sorry, I cannot get through

Happy Easter to you too Alan !

I don’t think there is anything that could be done if not spreading the news of what is happening, so that the international exposure could force the local government into adopting more human measures

This article is very well written

[…]

Life in Shanghai is not so great at the moment.

Personally, I realized that being at home in good health is the greatest happiness in these days, and we can choose to embrace it and observe all the beautiful things that blossom from it.

A few months ago a friend who I reached out to in need of inner peace was so kind me to give me a Gratitude Journal, that since then became my morning practice with a warm tea or coffee, and it’s now what I gladly wake up to in these days of home routines.

I’m thankful for the food I have at home, but the other day during the queue for testing, an auntie of the compound gave me her homemade wonton “to take care of my health”. I cooked them, they’re not the best wonton I had and they’re a bit too starchy, but they felt like the best meal ever with some spicy peanuts sauce.

Work is not great at the moment and trying to maintain the normal workflow […] during heavy lockdowns, movement and travel restrictions around the whole China has proven to be difficult and stressful, but it’s teaching me resilience and confidence in problem-solving.

I have the chance to dive deeper in my readings, enjoying the quietness. I was so fascinated by the solemn and profound writing of […] that took me back to my high-school classical studies, I’m now marveling at […], and I’m looking forward to start […] from the monthly Book Club gathering we plan to have after the lockdown.

Several people reached out to me to ask my feedback on their activities, their work, their writings, their business, and I was happy to sit and provide my impressions in this newly found way of connecting with them. It’s a time to recollect, to plan, to reconsider, and I’m trying to do the same.

I regularly practice mindfulness without expecting anything from it, just for the practice itself, being it sitting 10 minutes to listen to by breathing and scanning my body, or […] that leaves me rested or healed.

I’m indulging in playing video-games on my dear […] in the evening to wind down and take my mind off things; I’ve finished […] (so emotional!) and now starting […] to satisfy my thirst for j-rpgs.

And yes, sometimes I sit on my small couch hugging my knees under a blanket and fear, anxieties, sadness rise. I allow them to be, let them make their course, and observe them subside after a while, breathing them out. They do not disappear and part of them stays with me, like a wave that comes and goes, slowly subsiding each time.

So, life in Shanghai is not so great at the moment, but it’s amazing how many ways we can find around ourselves to get through it.

[…]

I try to cope

I feel alone and lonely. […]

[…]

I don’t want to talk in a negative way

Thanks

Hi Alan

Thanks for reaching out

No, things have gotten worse

They are fencing people in now. The objective is to clear the city of Covid by locking all the compounds where positive cases are found with fences . The communities will be punished for not being able to curb the infections , fenced communities will not be able to receive any kind of food delivery if not the government rations delivered by volunteers.

These two articles are very well written

Sorry, I had already sent you the austrianchina one

Anyway now the talks are about trying to open by end of May, but the situation will be in and off till October, when Xi Jinping will be re-elected. They won’t risk to change the policy until he is re-confirmed

Meanwhile Guangzhou, Beijing and around 40 other cities in China are starting mass testing, lockdowns etc

It is estimated that at the moment around 400millions Chinese people are under lockdown. The government is showing its force and they are only starting

I will write about it, I’m just trying to figure out what I want to write. I won’t do it to share the news, that is already happening . I need it to be personal

I haven’t heard from my friend in a week.

Cartoon male prisoner wearing grey with arrows behind steel bars on window opening in brick wall

Thanks to Dawn Hudson for releasing her image Prisoner into the Public Domain.

Bloody Nature and the Goodness of God

Reading my SARX articles on St Francis and on the modern animal liberation movement, the journalist and history of animal rights author Jon Hochschartner asked me a question:

How do you reconcile the existence of God with animal suffering, specifically wild animal suffering not caused by humans?

This is my response:

Firstly, I must say that it’s a question that has never bothered me. I don’t think that’s because I’m callous to the suffering of wild animals that is not caused by human beings but rather that, because it’s part and parcel of Nature, it doesn’t seem to me to be a moral problem. I also don’t see either human suffering or animal suffering caused by humans to be a theological problem. Suffering caused by humans is certainly a moral problem but the first and fundamental gift to humanity, after existence itself, is free will. Therefore, the alternative to suffering is lack of autonomy. God, the Architect of the Universe, could of course have decided to create us as puppets without any free will but that wasn’t the plan.

Although it may not be originally a Christian idea, the Neoplatonic notion of the Pleroma, that I first encountered in Arthur O. Lovejoy’s The Great Chain of Being, tackles this problem head-on. Lovejoy’s answer is that, in Plotinus’ account of creation through the Demiurge, it is an expression of the Divine, according to the Divine Will, and must necessarily express all possibilities – otherwise creation would be lacking. This is because, in the ancient Greek sensibility, fullness is better than lack: it is more perfect for something to be actualised than not to be actualised. So then everything has to be. Aristotle sometimes uses this sensibility to argue for something necessarily in being rather than simply in potential – and it is this binary of being and potential, of fullness and lack, that is the basis for his theory of Forms.

The concept of pleroma does occur in the New Testament, especially in the letters of Saint Paul, who of course was a Greek scholar, as his learned discourse to the Athenians (which is often criticised by fundamentalist Christians) shows. Saint Paul doesn’t apply this concept to creation directly but he does apply it to both Christ and the Church, including to believers:

(I quote from the Jerusalem Bible)

COLOSSIANS

1:15 “He is the image of the unseen God and the first-born of all creation,

1:16 for in him were created all things in heaven and on earth: everything visible and everything invisible, Thrones, Dominations, Sovereignties, Powers – all things were created through him and for him.

1:17 Before anything was created, he existed, and he holds all things in unity. Now the Church is his body, he is its head.

1:18 As he is the Beginning, he was first to be born from the dead, so that he should be first in every way;

1:19 because God wanted all perfection to be found in him

1:20 and all things to be reconciled through him and for him, everything in heaven and everything on earth, when he made peace by his death on the cross.”

1 CORINTHIANS 10:26 “for the earth and everything that is in it belong to the Lord.”

EPHESIANS

3:16 “Out of his infinite glory, may he give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong,

3:17 so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love,

3:18 you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth;

3:19 until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God.”

I think also that we have to remember how artificial our ideas of animals are; how artificial our ideas of Nature are. We live in countries where “wilderness” is mostly created and often has been created by erasing the dwellings and habitats of former inhabitants, human or animal, or both. This has been extensively theorised by J. Baird Callicott, whose critique of wilderness is now less controversial than his proposed alternatives – some of which seem perilously close to UN elite neo-colonialism (see below). I do recommend the work of Lee Hall whose ideas about animal domestication I find very challenging, especially because I have a dog. Lee highlights how artificial animal domestication is, and as a vegan of years who spent decades as a vegetarian, I find this very challenging indeed because it opens my eyes to the fact that, when I go walks with my dog, he immediately wants to be with other dogs. And what he really wants to do is to form a pack and then go hunting and to mate and therefore to ensure the survival of the pack.

My brother-in-law is a dog trainer and I have benefited greatly from his advice, the core of which is that dogs think differently from human beings, and that they have a reason for their behaviour. It’s interesting to me the derision that canine behaviourists have for this idea, as basically they see dog training not as forming a bond with another rational animal but rather as “teaching your dog good manners”, as one put it to me in conversation.

Lee’s work challenges me to accept that the relationship I have, and that my family and my friends have, with my extremely cute tan terrier, Ben, is highly artificial and is, to a great extent, abusive. Ben was taken from his family, at least from his mother and siblings, at an early age. His tail was inexpertly docked in his first year, in his second he was castrated and by the time he got to me he could not live with other dogs because of his aggressive behaviour. Now, with my brother-in-law’s advice, he’s a calm and happy dog aged 11. He gets on well with other dogs and loves people. But his life is not natural and it’s full of frustrated impulses. Just this morning I stopped him from heading into a foxhole. He obviously found this confusing. It’s bad dog logic. Dogs and foxes have a mutual enmity, who am I to interfere? But the land all around, the habitat of this fox, has been devastated by recent tree felling and burning as well as house building some decades ago. There is also an almost continual presence of at least one dog and accompanying human. So to further tip the balance by letting Ben dig out and kill Reynard would be immoral. Ben is like a model prisoner who gets on extremely well with his gaolers and even likes them. Sometimes, when I’m so extremely busy, because I’m an unpaid carer with three part time jobs, he only gets out to the back garden and otherwise out for a short 15 minute walk. He accepts this. He has no choice.

So my point in this long ramble is that the problem of the suffering of wild animals is not a theological problem because the alternative is immoral. We svelte, urbanised, soft, humans have a twisted idea of morality, especially when it comes to animals, because we are so good at hiding from ourselves the abuse that we practise on animals in the name of a “kindness” which is actually selfishness. Nowhere is this more evident than in the services which are dedicated to animal welfare. I remember watching a video on social media of a dedicated (obsessive) animal shelter officer who managed to trap a female dog and her puppies who were living in a junkyard I think, feral, and bring them into the Pound. That, of course, was the end of the story. And it may have been for the female dog. The puppies, if they were lucky, would have been separated. If not, they would have been killed along with their mother. For “their own good”. That somewhat natural family could have been living, still, in the urban wilderness. Suffering no doubt but together and alive. However, the kind human being couldn’t stand seeing that and so she “rescued” them and probably killed at least some of them. It’s this same deadly kindness (allied with economy) that causes us to reject any possibility of the kind of palliative care we extend to our human kin, when one of our beloved domesticated animals is gravely ill. Instead we employ a euphemism for lethal injection, get weepy and expect sympathy. For our kindness.

We have to take responsibility for how sanitised our concept of Nature is. How we have artificially created wilderness by displacing indigenous people and the rural poor in order to make the wilderness a playground for the urban elite. How we have caused devastating ecological change in order to make the world into this playground. So we can’t be surprised about the “wrong kind of Green” that is happening right now under the marketing strategy “The Great Reset”, as detailed by journalist and activist Cory Morningstar, because the monetization of Nature is an old concept and we have all signed up to it already.

Most human interaction with Nature and with animals is now destructive and abusive. It is the height of moral hubris for us to then imagine that how animals interact with each other is morally wrong and constitutes a theological problem about the goodness of their Creator. We simply cannot imagine what Nature is because we see Nature, and animals living in Nature, through so many artificial lenses of our own construction. The best thing we can do for animals is to leave them alone. The second best thing we can do for them is to try to remedy in some way the destruction to their lives and their habitats which we have already wreaked on them. In both endeavours, we can look to God, because we are told (Matthew 5:23-24) that we cannot be in good relation with God when we are at odds with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, we cannot be in communion with God while we are at odds with our fellow creatures.

Rather than judge their Creator for the destruction and the pain that wild animals would cause each other, if they were living in a state of Nature, we should accept responsibility and seek remedy for the destruction and pain we have already caused them, because they are not.

Blue black head of a raven looking watchful against a black background

Thanks to George Hodan for releasing his image Raven into the Public Domain.

How to save piglets

It’s the feast of St Francis and you may know that about 150,000 UK pigs are under threat of being slaughtered, without the excuse of eating them, due to shortage of staff at abattoirs, due to Brexit. Of these, some are just piglets who face being shot in the head and thrown into a skip like rubbish. Agricultural doublespeak refers to this destruction of the barely-lived lives of the 5th most intelligent animal on our planet (humans, supposedly, being the first) as “animal welfare”.

Here’s how to save them.

1) Network by phone and social media until you have a local group of vegan and vegetarian households willing to either be Piglet Rescuers, Piglet Foster Families or Piglet Food & Finance Friends.

2) Piglet Rescuers need a vehicle (preferably a van) with plastic sheeting and straw or grass cuttings and/ or willing arms to hold scared or excited piglets with their backside/ back legs in plastic/ bin bags/ incontinence sheet nappies.

Bag of Boots 60cm x 60cm disposable bed pads.

They’ll need wellies (farms can be muddy) raincoats (so can piglets) and the pragmatic mindset that they can only take piglets, only as many as can be homed, and saving some is better than saving none. They also need to be polite to the farmer (who may think they’re fools) as well as the firm assurance that the number of piglets they pick up is the number that will be homed, as arranged.

2) Piglet Foster Families need a County Parish Holding (CPH) number, a fenced back garden with 6 square metres per pig, a cleared shed, heated in winter, with straw (a few rescued hens will help deal with troublesome insects but keep their nests out of reach of the growing pigs). Pigs like to root around (it’s comforting for them to do this and distressing when they can’t) and may root up the whole back garden but they can also be walked, especially to woodland, which they love, like dogs. This needs an Animal Plant & Health Agency herd mark but APHA need to be notified of pigkeeping, even as pets, within 30 days of arrival, in any case. Keeping two pigs of the same sex means they won’t be lonely or multiplying! Dogs and pigs don’t usually get along well but there’s mutual appreciation with cats.

3) Piglet Food & Finance Friends are essential to keep the pigs’ food in supply and help with vet bills. Although government websites tend to have dire warnings about domestic food waste, especially containing vegetable oils, they of course are hand in glove with agricultural food suppliers and, although there are somethings that must be avoided, pig sanctuaries do feed their animal friends with veggies and show this clearly on social media. They also know about bills and how to keep them down (because they have to) and need to work very hard to do that—so social media might be a good start to contact them for advice as you’re also advertising them and attracting donations. Whereas everyone can advertise, local piglet rescue networks could perhaps have one person who contacts the nearest sanctuary and passes on advice, to avoid inundating them with your anxieties about your piggy friends when they’ve got animals of their own.

DISCLAIMER—I love pigs but I have no experience or qualifications in caring for them. I’m passing on what I’ve been able to find out about government regulations and advice but I may have misunderstood or be missing a lot. Therefore this post is simply a call to action and the first step is to get informed. There are many great social media sites (such as the American Odd Man Inn on Facebook and Instagram and Pigs in the Wood in England on Facebook) but do be aware that regulations are different from state to state and country to country—including around the UK.

This is a naive attempt to rescue little lives that are currently under threat. I’m prioritising them because they’ve barely lived at all and because by the time they grow their Foster Families should be more experienced in looking after them and better prepared to care for big pigs. When I first turned vegetarian at the age of eight, I stuck a big poster of a pig on my bedroom wall. It said “To Know Me Is To Love Me!”

I still believe that. Let’s rescue piglets!

Cute pink piglet in a pen with straw bedding looking anxiously up at the camera.

Thanks to Petr Kratochvil for releasing his photo Piglet on Farm into the Public Domain.

5 Ways to Disagree

This is a more structured version of my podcast of the same title which reflects on how we can discuss and even argue with people who hold opinions opposed to ours, irrespective of logic or empirical evidence, and so passionately, that we may be justified in calling them beliefs – and they may be justified in doing the same.

Although many of us moderns (especially White, slick urbanites) like to think of ourselves as all about science and having nothing to do with belief, there are some convictions on issues which are clearly not evidence-based and about which we are immune to rational persuasion.

Rather than identifying particular positions as irrational, I prefer to present examples of opposing beliefs, and some middle ground, without (too much) judgement. After doing so, I suggest 5 ways we can dialogue with each other, even when we disagree. The table below is not a nuanced account of any of these positions but serves to show their conflict. The middle position is not necessarily the one I consider most rational in all cases.

Issue/ Belief  Established Middle ground Dissenting
Abortion Amoral medical procedure, sometimes necessary/ human right. Cornerstone of female autonomy & modern feminism. Unborn baby is basically a bloodclot. Tragic conflict of rights in a misogynist society which still does not support female socio-economic autonomy, pregnancy, childbirth or childcare. Lucrative immoral practice of eugenics, often racist, sexist & ableist, by selfish women, authoritarian governments & doctors breaking Hippocratic Oath. Zygote is basically a baby.
AIDS HIV is the necessary & sufficient cause of AIDS (Gallo)  HIV is co-factor of AIDS but good nutrition/ clean water will flush it out (Montagnier) HIV is at least a co-factor of AIDS, oxidation may be another, but epidemiological data is so flawed & positions over e.g. poppers (alkyl nitrate) & Kaposi’s Sarcoma so entrenched, it is difficult to say anything for certain. HIV is a harmless passenger virus unconnected to AIDS – an  incoherent set of diseases caused by malnutrition & drugs including HIV meds (Duesberg)

HIV has never been proved to exist

(Perth Group)

Animal Farming Natural: humans are omnivores and animals hunt eat other for food. Factory farming & fishing bycatch/ plastic pollution unnecessary is cruel but animal welfare can be improved by a return to traditional farming/ fishing. Immoral. We are not just wild animals and traditional ecological communities of hunters & fishers do not subject animals to a (short) lifetime of cruelty.
Black Lives Matter Black people are causing racist division in our now totally equal societies. The cause of BLM is good but it is funded/ infiltrated by corporate interests with a different agenda.* It’s the 21st C. and Black people are still not safe anywhere. Defund the police!
Environment There is no environmental problem. Big business as usual! There may or may not be a relationship between emissions and global warming but plastic & air pollution is real. The Green movement is funded/ infiltrated by corporate interests with a different agenda.* The Earth is in crisis and only an immediate halt to CO2 & other toxic emissions will save humanity.  
5G/ Cashless Economy/ Cryptocurrency/ Blockchain 5G is useful, empowering, safe & efficient. It’s unconnected to the others which are just a more efficient & sanitory method of finance. We should be cautious about possible harm from any new technology, especially one using microwaves. The industry promoting it is unlikely to be impartial. The others are useful but problematic in terms of money laundering/ the Dark Web. All this is part of *The Great Reset: unelected oligarchic global governance based on citizen surveillance using biodata.
Transgender Human right if born in the wrong body. Access all areas! Confusing conflation of transsexual and transvestite people who have very different rights and present very different dangers to women and children. Attack on female safe space and sovereignty. Unnatural & especially harmful to kids who end up irreversibly mutilated, scarred & sterile for life & unable to enjoy sex.
Vaccines Totally safe. Good in general but their proliferation is worrying as is lack of legal accountability for past & future harms by pharmaceutical industry. Totally unsafe. Cause of autism etc.
Viruses: Covid-19/ H1N1 (Swine Flu) Real threat to life. Masks, social distancing, citizen surveillance, vaccines are our only hope against certain destruction of the human race. Bad (incommensurable) data; bad (incoherent) results. Censorship of dissenting experts not helping understanding of threat & solution. Scam/ social engineering with real or fake virus. Key part of another agenda operating since the 9/11 scam.*

Some of these issues line up with bipartisan politics – especially in the USA – and so some have described this as conflict of cultures. If we accept ideologies as similar to cultures, then one solution to continual argument is an approach similar to multiculturalism – which is a social strategy that has never been tried seriously in the UK (despite the political rhetoric) because, throughout our history, no culture apart from the dominant one has ever felt sufficiently safe.

In the USA it has never been tried at all, as the famous ‘Melting Pot’ is the antithesis of cultural respect. Expression of non-dominant cultural identity in the USA is only tolerated if it is folksy, touristy, commercially packaged, relegated to the past or heavily-constrained and bounded communities. When accessible, urban, vociferous and resistant to assimilation, it is severely repressed.

However convivencia was a key virtue of much of Al-Andalus (Moorish Spain) during the years when Christians and Jews lived securely under Muslim rule. Out of their dialogue came many literary, philosophical and scientific riches.

So what are my thoughts on a more convivial way of engaging with people of different persuasions? I suggest 5 ways to disagree:

  • Acknowledge the benevolence of people on the other side – they may truly believe what they do in good faith, with the information, cultural identity, emotional investment and relationships they have at this time.
  • Find shared values & goals: e.g. Pro-Life & Pro-Choice women can at least agree on supporting women who want to give birth and face social & economic obstacles, without giving up their opposition over the morality & legality of abortion.
  • Agree on a basis of evidence. This may be a legal or religious text that one or both parties holds as authoritative, a set of scientific studies, a certain database, etc.
  • Explore coherence – using logic, the value system each claims to uphold, and perhaps one of the above, this step may serve to demolish an opponent’s argument but may also enable it to be expressed more intelligibly, enabling better mutual understanding.
  • Agree to disagree. If you agree on nothing else, at least acknowledge the legal right to freedom of expression/ freedom of speech and resist attempts by others to censor this fundamental value of democracy.

argument-silhouette
Silhouette of older White man & younger Black man arguing

Thanks to Mohamed Mahmoud Hassan for releasing his image Argument Silhouette into the public domain.

 

5 Ways to Disagree (podcast)

Rather rambling reflections on possible strategies taken from interfaith dialogue between people committed to opposing secular ideologies they believe in and both claim to be rational and factual. Mention of: failed multiculturalism in UK and (especially) USA contrasted with success in Moorish Spain; opposing views on:

Abortion

AIDS

Animal Farming

Black Lives Matter

Environment

5G/ Cashless Economy/ Cryptocurrency/ Blockchain

Vaccines

Viruses: Covid-19/ H1N1 (Swine Flu)

(And I completely forgot about transgender ideology, which is another case in point)

https://www.podbean.com/eu/pb-zegba-e23cab

Bodies

Living both north and south of the Tropic of Capricorn in Brazil, I had to get used to walking slowly and smoothly­ – otherwise I’d arrive sticky with sweat (and Brazilians are extremely fastidious about hygiene). In my native Scotland, we walk at a brisk, jerky, pace because speed and friction keep us warm north of the latitude of Moscow. In the days before mobile phones, when I still had my Brazilian tan, I sat for an hour outside Holborn Tube Station waiting for a friend and watching the citizens of London walk by. Generally, the White people scurried along, head-first, frowning, shoulders tense, neck at 45o; mostly, the Black people had shoulders back and walked with head high, evenly and upright. Of course there were exceptions.

Taking an African dance class in California (I’m White and, yes, I was hopeless) I observed a White American classmate with a very Irish name skip across the floor and asked her when she’d learned Irish dancing, because I recognised the movement. She said “what is that?” and told me her family had emigrated from Ireland centuries ago. I replied, “your legs remember”.

Muscle memory’ was a hot topic in those days and it was something we were well aware of in our massage class, led by our gentle, feminine New-Agey teacher – she’d burp as she worked, feeling it released the blocked somatic energy she was picking up – who summed up her philosophy: “when you bring peace to the body, you bring peace to the world”.

Although I try to do that, nowadays, I’m sorry to say, I tend to poke my neck out and scurry with the rest of my peely-wally compatriots but occasionally I am reminded (by all our stooped White elderly folk) to straighten my spine. And, when it’s hot, I still drag the back of my flip-flops along, like a good Brazilian, rather than snap them to my heels.

What’s the point? Today for Catholics is the Feast of Corpus Christi, the body of Christ, and bodies are on all our minds right now. The Italian cultural theorist and moral philosopher Giorgio Agamben critiques the church for failing in a duty which was recognised as paramount even by the Ancient Greeks:

“The first point, perhaps the most serious, concerns the bodies of dead persons. How could we have accepted, solely in the name of a risk that it was not possible to specify, that persons who are dear to us and human beings in general should not only die alone, but — something that had never happened before in history, from Antigone to today — that their cadavers should be burned without a funeral?”

As the main carer for two family members, one human, one canine, and as a vegan, I am well aware of the importance of bodies, especially right now. She can get cramped from sitting too long, her accustomed exercise, a short bus trip to the local town for mass and a potter round cafes and charity shops, greeting friends, curtailed by the powers-that-be. He’s probably getting more walks than ever but other animals are not so fortunate. All across the United States, pigs are being herded into gas chambers to cut their sad lives even shorter.

Unlike many new converts to animal liberation, I don’t watch footage of cruelty to animals. I know about our inhumanity. Instead I share the work of animal sanctuaries – and I invite you to do the same.

When I read that the bodies of our elderly, frightened and sometimes starving to death, were being discovered, alone and decomposing, in homes in London, I felt we had reached an end point in utter selfishness in metropolitan society.

Agamben, rightly, criticises the church for embracing the Covid Cult rather than the sick:

“The Church above all, which, in making itself the handmaid of science, which has now become the true religion of our time, has radically repudiated its most essential principles. The Church, under a Pope who calls himself Francis, has forgotten that Francis embraced lepers. It has forgotten that one of the works of mercy is that of visiting the sick. It has forgotten that the martyrs teach that we must be prepared to sacrifice our life rather than our faith and that renouncing our neighbour means renouncing faith.” (ibid)

Pope Francis, in his defence, has a long history of embracing those whom society repudiates as repugnant. As well as his ad hoc embraces, his annual washing of the feet of prisoners and the poor was only seized upon by the press when he became pope but for him it is nothing new – and he has publically urged respect and compassion for people caught up in prostitution. Nevertheless, I fear that the Vatican may have been overly conscious of its geographical position in the heart of Italy, so hysterically caught up in the Covid Cult and so tragically beginning to become aware that so many of its elderly were simply killed by well-meaning medics in a lethal combination of multimorbidity and iatrogenesis.

Women who advocate for reproductive justice (which should be against forced abortion and sterilisation; against state, social or economic pressure on pregnant women not to give birth; against pathologising natural somatic processes; against pro-birthers who do not support single mothers; and against any discrimination based on sex, race or ability) use the slogan OUR BODIES OUR SELVES! (Naomi Wolf, bravely, nuances the argument with a reflection on Our Bodies Our Souls.)

For human beings of any unselfish faith or philosophy, our bodies are not just commodities at the disposal of the state or the corporate forces of the market.

As we wake up from this global hypnosis, and open our eyes to the long-held plans of the biotech industrial complex, let’s remember that.

faceless-mannequins
Unclothed grey sleek faceless mannequins in a shop window

Thanks to Peter Griffin for releasing his image Faceless Mannequins into the Public Domain.

 

Groundhog daze and enigma variations

I’m re-watching Charmed, that late last millennium/ early this one American TV show about three beautiful weird sisters, their witchy ways, their hunky men and their low-cut tops. (Alyssa Milano, the younger sister, had something to say about the latter.) This time I’m watching it with German audio and subtitles on DVD because you can still enjoy something again, especially if you do it a bit differently. The last episode of Season 1, “Déjà Vu All Over Again”, is about that particular hell of doing the same thing in the same way, over and over again which, two years later, Buffy the Vampire Slayer also explored (hilariously) in S6E5: “Life Serial”. Both clearly inspired by the 1993 movie Groundhog Day.

James Temperton (whose pic makes him look like an inspired saintly monk from Mount Athos) writing for Wired, complains about the same experience:

In the grip of a coronavirus lockdown […] time has started to lose meaning. […] What’s the point of time, after all, when each day is an excruciating repeat of the one that preceded it, stuck on a loop of endless Zoom calls and Houseparty drinking sessions?

Handsome hipster James, like many young men used to getting out of the house to go to work, may have a negative attitude towards repetition precisely because it’s unusual for him (though I bet he does the same things, in sequence, over and over again, at the gym). For many mothers, some fathers, most carers – and all monks and nuns – repetition is something you just have to get used to. Monotony, to get spiritual for a second, can become a mantra.

So one way to deal with it is to settle into it. Think of going through your daily routine as following a rhythm, not being stuck in the blues. Music and poetry need rhythm – even without rhyme or reason. It keeps us on track. So if you’re in lockdown and you don’t yet have a rhythm to your day, establish one. Stop making endless decisions each day and all day about what to do next, it’s exhausting.

For those of us who are carers, it is our charges who provide the rhythm. Bathing, dressing, meal and snacktimes, exercise, education, entertainment and play, communicating with loved ones and with outside agencies, planning, finding time for yourself – often when your charge is resting or sleeping – carers either do all of these or work with those who do. Especially when caring for the very old or very young, a rhythm to the day can be reassuring – and can avoid having to answer at least some of those endless questions.

Not all of our charges are human, animals and plants (if we’ve put them in an artificial environment so they are unable to fend for themselves) need our care too. Here’s some wee seedlings I rescued from outside a supermarket – I won’t name and shame them for not watering their plants as the staff said their spray machine was broken and they did give me a discount. (The cabbage plants at the bottom show most improvement, the Brussels at the top were rescued before them.)

Another way is to introduce some variation. There are lots of ways to do that so let’s focus on just one: cooking! With supermarket shelves emptying of the dead flesh, stodge and sugar that comprise the infamously unappetising British/English diet (don’t sneer, America, yours is even worse!) now is the time to Google that funny fruit or vegetable that you’ve been walking past your whole life.

courgette

For some, courgette/ zucchini might be an unknown but, as well as slicing it in small sections to pop into soup, you can also slice it lengthwise, scrape out the middle to fry it with garlic and onion and herbs then fill the skins and bake them. You can even make a lovely loaf with it.

avocado

Millennials have made avocado toast famous (which is probably what’s keeping them alive as they’re too busy online to eat a square meal) but this extremely nutritious fruit is easily mashed and mixed with some crushed garlic and a squeeze of lemon – and a sprinkle of freshly chopped or dried coriander/ cilantro if you like – half an hour in the fridge will give you great guacamole. And it’s great in a smoothie!

sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes need no introduction to many people (outside Northern Europe) and you can do everything with them that you can with regular spuds – compared to which they have more vitamin A & C, as well as more flavour, though spuds have more protein and fibre.

garlic

GARLIC!!!!! Just eat it. Just get it into everything you can. Best thing ever for your immune system (and for your plumbing, guys). This is why the French survived trench fever and ‘Spanish flu’. And everyone else didn’t. Trust me. I’m a doctor. (Okay a metaphysician, not a physician, but still, I’m right about this.)

celeriac

Celeriac. Why not? It’s a weird muppet-faced funky mass of fibers that you can cook the same as turnip. Here’s Jamie Oliver, with his usual aplomb (I love Jamie but I do wish he wouldn’t chuck his hair about in the kitchen, it’s unhygienic and it started a trend) with a simple recipe frying chunks of it with just olive oil and herbs.

So the next time you’re out shopping and confronted with empty shelves, walk on until you find a bit of adventure. Enjoy!

Establish a rhythm to your day but play variations on the theme!

Photos © Alan McManus