Thursday, June 11, 2015

COMMUNITY- June, 2015

                                    by Fireweed for the Island Word, June edition, 2015

The desire to belong is universal. From our extended family of origin to the biotic whole of our planet, “community” is clearly vital to our wellbeing.

     The word itself is derived from the French comunete, stemming in turn from the Latin communis, meaning things held in common. No longer bound together by our ancestral tribal affiliations alone, most of us recognize the myriad communities we identify with today as overlapping, and/or contained within larger circles of extended community on a global scale.

     Author and social thinker Jeremy Rifkin has noted how over the course of human history technological advances (like means of travel, the printing press, and now the internet) have liberated us from isolation, encouraging eventual acceptance of others originally excluded from our communal allegiances. But contemporary research in neuropsychology, childhood development and related fields has shown Rifkin and others that it is our biological capacity for empathy that lies at the heart of all relationship building and that that, too, is an evolving part of the human story.

from the film, 'Live & Let Live'
     The first basic human drive is to belong, says the acclaimed author, crediting mirror neurons with allowing humans (and other animals) to learn and bond through mirroring another's actions. Mirror neurons also enable the ability to resonate with another's plight (anger, frustration, joy, etc) almost as if we are experiencing those feelings ourselves. A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that we are not soft-wired for aggression, violence, self-interest and utilitarianism, says Rifkin, but that we are soft-wired for sociability, attachment, affection and companionship. When we think about the times that we have empathized with each other or our fellow creatures, he notes, it's always because we felt their struggle connected to what we recognize as the fragility of life, and we show solidarity with our compassion.

     We remain challenged however, by our adeptness at rationalization and self-deception. Our empathic natures are at odds with a dominant paradigm heavily invested in seeing the consumption of animal products as normal, natural and necessary, for example. Many of us 'live in community' today with companion animals we regard as family members, yet willfully deny the animals we choose to eat the compassion we so easily extend to our loved ones.

     In a recent article, journalist Chris Hedges noted how farmers who feel genuine affection for the animals they raise then send to slaughter have to “normalize” their own behaviour by convincing themselves that what they do is a “practical and unquestioned necessity.” A culture that kills, including for food, he writes, “must create a belief system that inures people to suffering.” Hedges adds that the refusal to emotionally confront the fate of the 70 billion land animals killed for food each year across the world is a willful numbing – and the only way the slaughter of other sentient beings is possible. He adds that this loss of empathy and compassion for other living beings was something he encountered frequently in the wars he covered as a reporter: “Prisoners could be treated affectionately, much like pets – the vast disparity of power meant there was never a real relationship- and then killed without remorse.”

former animal farmer, turned animal sanctuary operator
     Cognitive dissonance is the term social psychologists use to describe feelings of uncomfortable tension when our behaviours are at odds with our deeply-held values. Recognition of this state is also the doorway to change, and there is a growing, supportive community on the other side of that threshold when it comes to animals. 

     “Community” is the theme for this year's Summer Sustainability Festival  here on Denman Island, and our Community Vegan Potluck Series will be screening the documentary “Live and Let Live”  German director Marc Piershcel examines our relationship with animals and the various reasons people choose to abandon eating them. His film tells the stories of six individuals (including former animal farmers) and shows the impact the decision has had on each of their personal lives. It also showcases the evolution of veganism from its origins in London in 1944 to one of the fastest growing international social justice movements, with more and more people recognizing the impact of their dietary and other lifestyle choices on animals, the environment and themselves. “Live and Let Live” also includes interviews with well-known ethicists, philosophers and scientists like Melanie JoyTom Regan, T. Colin Campbell and Jonathan Balcombe.
click to enlarge image

     If you're close enough to attend, our Summer Solstice feast will get underway at 6:30 pm in the Denman Community Hall on June 21st.  Admission is by donation, and all are welcome! Please bring a 100% plant-based entree, salad or dessert (free of gelatin, honey, eggs and dairy, please) that all may share. Thanks for including an ingredient list for the benefit of folks with food sensitivities. Our events are also 'scent-free for inclusivity.'

Vegan potlucks are a great place to pick up new recipe ideas, You can also visit Denman's Virtual Community Vegan Potluck page on Facebook for endless inspiration. It's the height of strawberry season here right now and the following tasty dessert is a delicious, super easy treat to enjoy on a warm summer evening!

2 or 3 cups organic strawberries, sliced
2 cups silken tofu,  or organic medium tofu (squeeze and press out excess moisture in the latter by wrapping in a clean dish towel)
3 T. agave sweetener, or pinch of stevia to taste
optional: 1 T coconut butter,  shaved organic dark dairy-free chocolate, shredded organic coconut, crushed organic walnuts

 fresh picked organic beauties!
place 2 cups of sliced strawberries in your blender, and pulse into a paste. Add the tofu a bit at a time,blending until creamy. Add sweetener, and blend again until perfectly smooth.  If you want to be decadent (and are fine with the calories) add in one T. of organic coconut butter at the same time for an extra velvety texture. Layer your mixture in parfait or other suitably tall glasses alternating with additional sliced strawberries or other fruit in season (sweetened or unsweetened). Sprinkle your remaining optional ingredients between layers, or just on top. Chill before serving, and enjoy!

To build community requires vigilant awareness of the work we must continually do to understand the socialization that leads us to behave in ways that perpetuate domination.” 
                         - Bell Hooks, in Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope

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