Vystopia or: Yes, I am actually begging you.

Posted on

From beasts we scorn as soulless
in forest, field and den,
the cry goes up to witness
the soullessness of men.     – M. Frida Hartley

It has been more than a year since I last posted content on this website. I guess life just got in the way: work, adopting a dog, buying a house, moving, getting settled, doing the laundry and vacuum cleaning every now and then.

But recently the urge to write came up because I have some important things to say. I ignored this urge for a while though: getting a message across only works when your argument is lucid, when you know what the tone of your text should be, and when you’re willing to get into discussions and possibly arguments with the people you genuinely like. To be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever be really ready for that last aspect.

But today I broke down; I saw footage of a pig being slaughtered. Facing the pig who got electrocuted, fell onto some sort of conveyor belt, was raised by one of her legs into the air with a chain, got conscious again and started struggling, was stabbed in the throat, kind of bled out, and eventually disappeared into boiling water. I kept the sound off, which probably saved me from losing it completely.

I’ve been seeing similar footage because – well – that’s what you get when you turn vegan and follow vegans and animal rights groups on social media. But for the first time after seeing this footage, I just wanted to die. Not just the brain saying: “Ugh, I want to die”, but my legs became wobbly,  my stomach turned, my heart rate went up, and I could feel every ounce of joy and happiness just disappear from me. There is genuinely no way to enjoy anything in life when realising that what I had just witnessed is normal and happening every minute, every hour, every day, every week, every month, every year. (Apparently, this is called Vystopia).

Getting electrocuted or being gassed by CO2 are the most ‘humane’ ways to kill/sedate a pig before it’s being slaughtered by stabbing. And by looking this pig in the face and seeing the expression on her face, from the beginning of this electrocution up to the falling onto the conveyor belt, it became very very clear: it is never humane, it is never quick, and I would rather die than put someone through that experience. And believe me: the CO2 option isn’t any more humane than this. And yes, this also happens in The Netherlands, don’t fool yourself.

A week ago, Meat the Victims (an organisation whose members break the law -in a non-violent manner- by going into farms, inviting the media to come in and film the living conditions of the animals that we consume and use) walked into a pig farm in Boxtel, the Netherlands. There was a lot of commotion: the media weren’t allowed to enter, activists were locked into the farm, farmers went berserk and started damaging activists’ cars and throwing meat onto the cars, etc.
Prior to this event, there was a Cube of Truth on the Dam in Amsterdam for 24 hours. Almost a thousand activists showed footage of the meat, egg, and dairy industry and the effects these industries have on the animals, our health, and the planet. People passing by are free to watch the footage, ask questions, have discussions and sign up to try and become a vegan themselves. Although I have respect for both activists’ groups, I feel that the Cube of Truth would have been a perfect statement on its own, without the commotion of the Meat the Victims action. Because it’s friendly and has a positive vibe to it. It might even be possible that Meat the Victims ruined it for the Cube of Truthers when you look at it from the public’s point of view. It’s also believed by some pragmatic vegans that showing how veganism (or any behaviour you want others to adopt) is done in a positive way, encourages people to do the same. The more people act a certain way, the more common it becomes, the more common it becomes, the more people will act in the same manner.

And really, I want to be that pragmatic vegan. I want to show you how easy it is, how creative you become when baking cinnamon rolls and all that jazz and how delicious and awesome the food can be. But sometimes, on days like this, I can’t. Because I know that if all the people that I know and that I love would watch this footage that I saw – that poor pig being gassed or electrocuted, that little rooster being drowned, that cow running after her calf and going to slaughter some years later, those fish in those trawl nets- ….if my friends and family would take the time and really look at it…really let it sink in…then no one would consider buying meat, eggs, dairy or fish ever again.

It doesn’t matter if you see these animals as less sophisticated, less intelligent, or whether you feel there are more pressing issues in the world that we should deal with. It’s not an either/or issue: it’s not either we will stop wars/child molestation/racism/domestic violence OR we’ll speak up against animal cruelty and recognise that all this suffering in factory farming and in slaughterhouses is no longer necessary and we stop buying the products that keep this horror show going. It doesn’t work that way. It’s accepting that there’s a way to minimise the pain you inflict on others and acting on that acceptance and the responsibility that comes with it. Even if this means looking at the footage and leaving the bacon and milk out.

Because I truly believe that the people that I know and hold dear can recognise suffering and pain in others (man or animal) and would do everything they could to stop it.

Please consider watching the following documentaries:

Earthlings

Dominion

Forks over Knives (can be found on Netflix)

And get a vegan starter kit here


What about The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau?

Posted on

When turning the last page of Guillebeau’s Happiness of Pursuit  you almost start wondering how you’ve managed to stay this happy with your comparatively uneventful life. Your one-year trip to a foreign country after graduating from college isn’t worth mentioning anymore, on the contrary: it’s embarrassing you decided to come back at all.

This sudden awareness of one’s unadventurous lifestyle and the hidden discontent that lots of readers probably have (why else would you start reading this book?) might be exactly what the book is aiming at.
In his book, Guillebeau asks the reader a couple of questions: is there something you feel unhappy about or which bothers you and which keeps lingering in the back of your mind? Do you have a great – but slightly crazy –  plan that keeps asking for attention while you are desperately trying to live a ‘normal’ life? Are you really aware that one day you won’t be here anymore? Is there anything you feel deeply passionate about and you want to give it the attention you think it deserves, even when others won’t understand and won’t give their support?
If you have answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, chances are there’s a seed for a Quest planted somewhere inside of you, and it is trying to grow and turn into a beautiful flower (or a shrub, or – with any luck- a giant sequoia).

Guillebeau’s Quest was to travel all countries in the world (he succeeded) and afterwards he decided to find and interview like-minded people who had Quests of their own. The Quests aren’t all about travelling the world: we read about Hannah who decides to move to Israel and hike the National Trail, or about Phoebe Snetsinger who set the world record for the most sighted birds, but also about Julie, who decides to train her own guide dog after learning she will gradually become blind, or A.J. Jacobs who read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in one year. The described Quests fall into different categories such as ‘Exploration’, ‘Athletic’, Self-discovery’, ‘Documentation’, ‘Academic’ and many others. By discussing so many different Quests (although all of them meet certain requirements) the doors are opened for the insecure reader who feels the urge to change his or her life, but has no clue on where to start.

One of the tips given in this book is making lists: start with a ‘bucket list’: a list of things to do before you die. Start writing and see what comes up. After picking a quest (or a task – to start off small), start calculating the costs and start listing the steps you’ll have to take to make the Quest a success.

“Why go through all this effort while I can sit on the couch and watch Netflix for the umpth-time?”, you might wonder.
Maybe this book is not entirely about having a Quest, but about shaking you up a little. For some (author included), the necessity to see life as it is (a once in a lifetime-experience, pretty painful and awesome at the same time, and definitely not something to let wither away) and doing something with that insight, is much more important than avoiding risks and being moderately content all the time. Having goals, quests and/or adventures to tick off your list show you – quite literally – that you are not taking this life for granted.

As Guillebeau explains to us: some of life’s struggles become more bearable when there is a sense of purpose. We tend to work harder when we feel passionate about something, we tend to feel more useful when we have something to work for, en we become more grateful, more confident and feel more alive when we work to achieve something and see that this hard work pays off – whether financially or emotionally. For those who feel the urge to change their life a little or a lot, The Happiness of Pursuit definitely puts you in the right state of mind to begin.

Inspired by Kristen Goldberg – who created a life list (things to do while alive) when she was sixteen and is still ticking off the boxes on that list- your author has made a list as well.  Enjoy.

 

Travel:

  • Travel through the Southern States of America (preferably by Greyhound) for at least a month.
  • Go on a World Cruise (on a big ship, please).
  • Sail the Orinoco.
  • Be a passenger on a Mississippi River Boat.
  • Go on one big trip with my parents.
  • See whales.
  • See a white shark from a cage.
  • Go to the Storytelling Festival on Cape Clear Island once more.
  • Visit an old sanatorium.

Courses:

  • Do a course on phytotherapy.
  • Learn Portuguese.
  • Course on speed reading.
  • Course to eliminate the fear of flying.
  • Course on Southern Gothic Literature.
  • Learn to bake at least one spectacular and delicious vegan cake.

Physically:

  • Run for 10 kilometres (I know, it’s nothing).
  • Become so good at yoga that I can stand on my head (maybe a course in India?)
  • Start eating vegan for at least one month.

Other:

  • Start writing more often and more regularly, focus on essays. Write an essay every two months and get at least one published during my lifetime.
  • Make traditional corn bread in a skillet (buy a skillet).
  • Volunteer in an animal shelter.
  • Live in a climate neutral house.
  • Have my own vegetable garden in my own garden.
  • Pay off my debt before May 2019.
  • Raise and have my own dachshund and go on adventures with her (boyfriend and kids allowed  on the adventures as well)
  • Hatch quail eggs and keep the quail as pets.

 

 

 




Voor Dag & Dauw

Posted on

Het was windstil, de dauw lag op het water, langzaam begonnen de vogels aan de dag. Samen met negentien onbekenden startte ik de zondag op een fluisterboot op het Naardermeer. Mijn reisgenoten droegen grote camera’s mee om dit mooie meer in het ochtendgloren vast te leggen. Ondergetekende was bewapend met een verrekijker en een mobiele telefoon die goed in staat is sfeerimpressies te produceren.
Later brak de zon door; de waterlelies sprongen open, de libellen en juffertjes werden wakker en het kroost van de meerkoeten vroegen in een mix van piepen en krijsen vanaf een lelieblad om meer, meer, meer eten.

Om half vijf ging de wekker en er was nogal wat twijfel of ik wel moest gaan. Want dan moest ik alleen naar Naarden rijden, en ik raak zo snel verdwaald. En alleen in vreemd gezelschap, en soms ben ik daar zo onnozel in. Maar ervaring leert dat onzekerheid een zeer slechte raadgever is en daarbij: wat is er nu troostrijker dan de gedachte: “Je kunt altijd nog terug”?
Je gaat namelijk nooit terug; je gaat minimaal tot halverwege, en mocht je halverwege hebben gered zonder al teveel kleerscheuren, dan peíns je er niet over om om te keren, want je bent nu al op de helft. 

Dus ja: ik vertrok te laat, reed verkeerd bij Muiden door een – voor het navigatiesysteem onbekende- wijziging van het wegennet, maar kwam (wonder boven wonder) een halve minuut voor vertrek aan. De gids en zijn vrouw stonden open voor een praatje, dus zo onnozel kwam ik niet over, en in de uren daarna zag ik aalscholvernesten (en rook aalscholverpoep), sprong ik op trilveen, dronk ik watermunt-thee, zag ik talloze jagende visdiefjes, twee purperreigers, en kwam ik erachter dat we Natuurmonumenten mogen bedanken dat het Naardermeer niet is veranderd in een vuilnisbelt voor Amsterdam.

En terwijl het fluisterbootje tikkend over het meer schreed, de zon op mijn gezicht scheen, en ik luisterde naar de vogels, het water, en het geroezemoes van mijn bootgenoten, sloot ik mijn ogen en werd ik wakker.