New Year all. The latest issue of No Compromise is totally inspiring. I can imagine
myself reading about the noble activities of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Beecher
Stowe circa 1840 (just 156 years ago!).
Slavery on this continent was abolished
fewer than 150 years ago (having started full-scale in the 1520s), and women were
given the vote just 75 years ago. Workers' and children's rights (not to be killed
for insubordination, for example) were just being considered at the turn of the
century. And the idea of gay and lesbian rights is brand new and still not all
that popular. I make these points with optimism. We are a (relatively) new movement.
Like the movements for abolition, suffrage, etc., British activists are showing
us the way. But, my goodness, look how far we've come in a very short time!
movement for animal liberation is more important than any past movement. Far more
lives are at stake and all of them are as important as yours and mine. So it is
important that we: 1) discuss strategy amongst ourselves and, 2) put up a united
In the interest of discussing strategy, and in response to a letter
in the last issue, I think I'll make some waves: dress nice, look conservative,
put your need for carbon copy individuality on hold, and you will advance the
interests of other-than-human animals. Insist on eye piercings, green hair, etc.,
and you make your own personal statement at the expense of the animals.
seven years ago, I grew a beard, wore my hair long, abandoned my shoes and refused
to bathe more than once per week. It was a happy time. My analysis remained incisive,
I got even more reading and writing done (not spending time with personal comeliness)
and none of my friends abandoned me. It's definitely a preferable and more enjoyable
alternative to short hair and conservative clothes.
But, for the past three
years, I have been growing progressively more conservative, in appearance only,
and I have observed that people now listen to me - people who would NOT have listened
previously. I have not fallen at all in the estimation of people who are not conservatively
clad, because these people generally have few if any biases related to how a person
looks. Clearly, it sucks that some people care how you look, won't listen to you
if you have purple hair, etc. However, we still want that person to stop abusing
animals, regardless of reason - we want to save those animals!
I find it
painfully difficult to suggest to people I respect and whose commitment I admire
(everyone reading this magazine, government officials exempted of course), that
I think they should consider changing their appearance, at least at demonstrations
and when publicly advocating for animal liberation, but I feel it is an important
discussion to have.
I offer the above reflections in the spirit of dialogue.
I would never advocate misogynistic, homophobic, racist, ageist, anti-Semitic
or other untoward tactics, even if effective. I do not believe that just ends
warrant any means. However, it is entirely unclear to me how looking conservative
is in any way bigoted or prejudiced. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, ostensibly
the perspective of the A.L.F., I am convinced that conservative-looking men and
women (and children) are more likely to convince the hardest to reach than people
who feel a need to express their own individuality (generally by doing something
popular among their friends). DON'T LET THEM WRITE US OFF SO EASILY!
that since I began sporting a conservative appearance, I've converted people who
would not otherwise have listened. I don't believe that my individuality has suffered
in the least. And, I believe I have profited by putting my own desires and inclinations
on hold for the greater benefit of animals, humans and justice in general.
final note: Why spend the money on nose rings, tattoos, green hair, etc.? Isn't
helping to fund the movement for justice more important? I don't own a pair of
pants which cost me more than $2 or a shirt which cost me more than $1.50. It
costs much less to look conservative than to look radical. And isn't the consumer
culture part of what upsets us?
I look forward to hearing the views of people
who disagree. Specifically, I hope you will address the following: Do you believe
that looking conservative will help some people identify with (and listen to)
you (your parents, for example)? If not, please explain. If so, why is your individuality
(or your personal rebellion) more important than saving animals?
spirit of dialogue and solidarity,
On January 14th
Bruce was given 8 months of prison time for violating probation. Bruce, who is
also a Peace activist, was originally convicted for trying to disarm a F-15 fighter
plane at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. He was sentenced to 15 months and three
years probation. During probation he was arrested for animal rights activities.
Letters of support can be sent to: Bruce Friedrich, c/o Norfolk Catholic Worker,
1321 W. 38th St., Norfolk, VA 23508.