Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

Poverty Contests August 9, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Precision Afrikan @ 1:07 pm
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This essay concerns food security, economic counting systems and third world solidarity more than veganism per se.

An article published in today’s New York Times reports on efforts in India to enshrine access to food as a constitutionally protected right, a law its proponents expect could enable the food-insecure to make their own market choices to purchase food with food coupons or cash, instead of waiting for monthly 77 pound bags of grain, sugar and kerosene under the current regime. The article also goes on to highlight statistics about how India’s poverty is more widespread and intense than Africa’s, despite the “Tiger” rebranding and annual economic growth rate. A report compiled in India Current Affairs in July also highlights these poverty rankings, comparing the one Indian state of Madhya Pradesh in the country’s center with the entire Democratic Republic of Congo, both of similar population (though the Congo’s size is more comparable to India in its entirety), and finding the same levels of deprivation, even with DRC’s wars (though Madhya Pradesh is not without Naxalites and other struggles for land and resources between communities and multi-national mining and other interests, not unlike DRC).

On the one hand, the expectation around the world seems to be of Africa as the world’s eternal poverty yardstick. This in spite of similar levels of conventionally measured economic growth in a number of Sub-Saharan countries that approach such activity as seen in India in recent years. By comparing favorably to Africa, a government should have license to claim progress in the war on poverty – that’s the ridiculous, racist assumption, an assumption of development stasis.

On the other more important hand, these rankings and contests, especially as presented in the links mentioned above, are patently absurd in themselves, ignoring the basic fact that most of the annual GDP growth measures the rise in income of mostly exclusive urban, male, elite high-end sectors which determine and direct mining, cash-crop, real estate (land displacement), and [cheapest] labor configurations which exclude vast rural populations, whether in India, Congo, or Colombia. Human beings are impoverishing other human beings – not continental geographies. And the story is similar in most geographies including those concerned in this essay – Adivasis in rural Chhattisgarh struggle to hold on to their land in the face of “Memoranda of Understanding” signed by illegitimate politicians to mining interests to violently displace the people from their land, similarly to how Niger Delta militants attack oil infrastructure and kidnap oil workers in response to land displacement and ecosystem destruction by a half century of oil exploitation by foreign corporations in happy concert with local state governments and the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Once you understand neo-colonialism and neoliberal market economics, these patterns can be easily understood as to how they determine poverty and struggle around the third world. Malnutrition and poverty propagate fastest and most consistently wherever governments fail to prioritize enabling peripheral population groups to exact their own capacity to cultivate, live and eat of the land. Changes in the environment, and dietary demands which may place undue stress on the ecosystem and reduce its carrying capacity, may further impede nutrition and food security, as predominates in Sahelian countries that currently suffer serious drought. But policy-makers in much of the third world more often than not do not care, since they do not share the same fate as those far beyond the capitals, the urban and privileged spaces where they bury their heads, forgetting what rural populations go through, forgetting they exist.

I think that in itself, that food security should become a constitutional and human right anywhere is excellent. But a shifting in societal priorities would be a more lasting solution, towards actually considering the plights of women, of agriculturalists, and enabling their self-determination while the wealth of the nation focuses first on human and ecological needs rather than profit for exploitative corporations and salaries for ministers and bureaucracies.

Why focus on these poverty contests, with Africa at level zero? These statistics only measure those who, already in positions of control over powerful economic interests, are getting richer as they exploit more underpaid, vulnerable workers, and the land those workers may have been displaced or evicted from. These statistics don’t measure women’s reproductive work, don’t measure broader levels of quality of life that get inflated by those at the very top, even while the masses at the bottom suffer more dispossession and malnutrition year after year.

Human solidarity is to be encouraged instead. The same problems in Nigeria or Congo are found in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia or Peru, the same exact identical types of fierce corruption, the same exact types of high-official sellouts, the same exact identical types of Western aspirationalism and mimicry, the same exact types of ideological and religious extremisms and hysterias which cripple the masses from thinking critically and boldly enough to challenge the regimes that cause their suffering, the same exact multinationals praying on their resources, human and natural, to be exploited to the lowest common denominator. The same exact types of ignorance forced upon the masses with the absence of schools and the tolerance of illiteracy, despite official claims to the contrary. The exact same types of oppression of labor activists and human-rights campaigners and journalists. The exact same types of classisms and casteisms that compel generations to accept their designated desperation. The same exact types of false democracies in which the people do not have choice or voice in the structural economic questions of society, only at best over the latest personality who says the prettiest things or just looks pretty, but in power does little to nothing of the good he or she promised.

Thus I reject poverty contests. Instead, I move towards human collaboration and solidarity in the third world in pursuit of revolution! Towards the African revolution, the South Asian revolution, the Latin American revolution, the world revolution! Towards human-based economics! Towards the end of rapacious capitalism, the end of the rush to privatize water, seeds and land! Towards human and community-level self-governance and self-determination! Towards the humanization of labor such that people are not reduced to pack mules to produce Wal-Mart products at competitively lower and lower wages in ever more dangerous workplaces!

Towards human development work which is interested in human development, not numbers nudging and statistics masturbating.

 

VegNews: Making The “Exotic” Safe For Privileged Western Vegans February 27, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 12:55 pm
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VegNews is offering a “Great Adventure” to “exotic India.” Let’s take a look at the itinerary.

You’ll start off in Delhi, which they describe as “[r]uled by Hindus, Muslims and eventually the British” — & oh yeah, now India is actually an independent country, but the badly-written sentence doesn’t mention what happened after the British. Who cares, right?

Also scheduled is a visit to Jaipur, which “has intrigued and seduced travelers, wanderers, caravans and traders throughout history.” Yes, OOOOH EXOTIC. There you’ll “have dinner with a local family” for that oh-so-authentic touch of “traditional warm Rajasthani hospitality”. (I am reminded of how Thailand’s tourist industry bills it as the “Land of Smiles,” & how the Philippines is often referred to as full of friendly, helpful people. Shall we examine what might incentivize such behavior? Shall we look at what might motivate the West to view certain nations in these terms?)

You’ll also do yoga, by the way — I suppose you might be familiar with it since it’s such the rage in the West among health-conscious types like vegans. But I bet it’ll be even more enlightening when you do it in India!

Journeying to a “rustic yet charming” village, you’ll also enjoy traditional folk dancing & even stay with a Raja & his family in their palace! Because they’re the “long time friends” of the tour operators — I am sure the lure of commerce has nothing to do with why they might be hosting you!

In case you were possibly feeling a bit conflicted about your role as a rich Western tourist, never fear; after enjoying the Raja’s hospitality you’ll then head “to a local village school to donate, on behalf of the group, much needed school supplies and books and where [you'll] be welcomed as honored guests of the students and teachers who have a special surprise waiting.” Phew! Nothing like a bit of band-aid charity to soothe the tourist soul (but make them earn it! Sure hope that surprise is a good one!). Then your conscience will be clear before that night’s attendance at an “auspicious Hindu ceremony.”

To continue with the extra-special-authentic nature of the trip, you’ll also visit a Bishnoi village. Bishnois are vegetarians & “many of their villages, like the one [you'll] be visiting today – look quite similar to the way they have looked for hundreds of years.” Yay! Western tourists love to see earthy primitive brown people living like they have for hundreds of years! It’s so quaint! You’ll get to visit a village girls’ school & then enjoy a farewell party that the Raja’s family will throw in your honor — purely out of his affection for you, no doubt.

Next stop Udaipur, where you’ll traipse through “one of the five holiest sites in the Jain religion.” Don’t worry, I’m sure the temple is completely as it was before hordes of tourists started coming through! It will all still be totally authentic!

After some time at an animal sanctuary (that part does sound good), you’ll be off for a cooking class — so even after you return home, you can still have a bit of the Other with you whenever you want to cook an exotic dinner! Then yet more yoga & authentic folk music & dance as your trip winds down.

What’s that? Your luggage has exceeded the weight restriction for the airline? Well, yeah. Your Western cultural & financial privilege makes for a pretty heavy load.

(… & if anyone is going to comment suggesting that the point of this post is that no one should travel anywhere, then you’ve vastly missed the actual point of this post, so don’t bother.)

 

Reading Up on International AR Work April 26, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 11:49 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’ve recently discovered that Abolitionist Online has published a lot of articles about AR work being done around the world. Here are just a few:

Happy reading.

 

 
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