Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Part-time Activist. VERY part-time.

In typical bandwife fashion, I ought to have a cause. But maybe that comes with boredom, or the need to have a purpose. I'm not a "kept" wife just yet, and I have plenty to keep me occupied and motivated (including supporting a family). But still, it's probably never too early. For any of us. The late Mrs. Linda McCartney had a meat-free message, while Yoko still pushes peace. So what's my cause?

On Saturday, I was a political activist, for just a little while.

Alex and I joined an estimated 3000 people at a rally in Yonge-Dundas Square on Saturday to support Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament. I'm not one for pushing my views on anyone, so I won't tell you why you should support it too. Also, I'm a fair-weather activist anyway. I admittedly wouldn't have gone alone. It was Alex's repeated temper tantrums over the situation that had me inspired. I admired his passion, and believed in the cause. Colder weather than expected that day encouraged us to take two shortcuts through the mall during the marching portion of the event. Perhaps if actual marching had been afoot (it was a slow shuffle, at best), we might have been more eager. But still, our numbers sent a message. (Hopefully not the "I care about my cold feet more than democracy" message). Even though we cheated, it felt good to have a (second hand) cause. I knew then that I needed one of my own.

(images from ctv.ca)

It's not that I don't care about politics. In truth, I intentionally don't read or watch the news and I'm so behind in current events and the political goings-on, that I'd end up confused anyway. I live in a thin permeable bubble. I like it here. I let things in, but only so that I don't become complacent or ignorant. Alex shares observations, and sends me links to a must-read article here and there. The problem is, that most news stories leave me feeling extremely furious and helpless, or incredibly saddened (and helpless). My change-the-world ideology died when I left the suburbs for the "real world" to spend the next 3 years with cynical art students. It's when I found out that my meager attempts at a better world (say, foregoing meat) were laughable. My heart can't support the weight of watching horrors unfold beyond my control: devastating natural disasters, child abductions, animal cruelty, kids with guns, wars, AIDS orphans, and the deaths of young soldiers. Every day. I suppose we're desensitized - we have to be, a little. I am maybe just not there yet.

It's the guilt that overrides the compassion and empathy, the sadness and the anger. That's the part that I can't handle. But, it's probably the reaction that has the easiest cure. I'm guilty because I think I can't change the world, and therefore I don't try. If Haiti has proved anything, it's that one plus one plus one will eventually equal a force of people large enough to make a significant difference. I need to join a force.

So what's my cause? Animal activism is the natural direction. OK, activism might be a stretch - the word invokes images of screaming, homemade signs, and tireless lobbying - it sounds exhausting. I must now begin my quest to find my little change-the-world niche in an animal rescue or animal rights organization. It won't be easy - how do I balance my time and efforts without neglecting my own little animals at home? Alex and I have already earmarked our retirement years to helping fuzzy creatures, with our favourite daydream involving fostering many dogs on a big middle-of-nowhere farm. It's just not soon enough. Financial contributions to the OSPCA are a start, and may just cure my heart that breaks for Zoe, the abused dog featured on the association's TV ads, everytime I look in her little eyes. These men are inspiring: rescueink.org

©Ann-Eve Cunningham www.ann-eve.com

My second cause is a little more selfish. Also, it's a bit weird. Maybe you've heard of Michael Schmidt, the Ontario farmer who won his case regarding the distribution of raw (unpasteurized) milk to fellow farmers? (See, I do absorb some news.) For me, this was a victory, but only briefly. Turns out, raw milk (straight from the cow herself) is illegal to buy/sell/consume in Ontario, unless you live on a farm. And why do I care about such a cause? Wouldn't you, if you could only enjoy real ice cream once a year? 

Technically, I'm not lactose intolerant. At least I don't think I am. I'm self-diagnosing again. I can enjoy yogurt and some hard cheeses without incident, but my body lacks the enzymes to properly digest most pasteurized milk products. Gr.11 Biology doesn't actually qualify me to draw these conclusions. BUT, I've done some reading, and despite the contrary dairy industry propaganda, there is be evidence indicating that pasteurization kills enzymes - good enzymes needed for digestion. This means that your poor pancreas has to strain extra hard to produce these enzymes. I guess my pancreas is on a permanent vacation. My milk indigestion (cramping, etc) began after a short stint of veganism in 2001. I suppose my body adapted to my diet, and took great exception to the re-introduction of milk. I now need to eat soy ice cream, drink soy lattes, and limit my intake of cheese (please, I'm not going to give up cheese altogether!).  However, while traveling in Cuba 4 years ago, I took a chance on the ice cream, while in a foggy, desperate vacation haze, and didn't end up curled up in my hotel room in agonizing pain. Eureka! Same thing happened in Mexico and the Dominican. I shovel down heaping mounds of the stuff, but only for one week per year. 

Back in Canada, I found this site: naturalmilk.org. It seems that there is a very determined group of activists already on the case. Milk is pasteurized in Ontario to prevent illness sometimes caused by raw milk. Naturalmilk.org argues that people should have choice. Consumers should understand the risks, as with alcohol or cigarettes, but be free to make that decision on their own. I agree. They also disagree that pastuerized milk is actually any safer. Turns out the issue runs much deeper than my "boo hoo, I can't eat ice cream" complaint, and involves some pretty scary claims about the processed food industries, and antiquated laws governing them. I've signed their petition, and will whole-heartedly march (or shuffle) should a rally ever be planned. Food is something I can stand up for. More info here: realmilk.com

I'm also in the middle of a strongly worded email to the TTC regarding poor customer service and the arrogant union response to the "sleeper" incident, but that might not qualify as a cause. A lost cause, maybe.

To not walk around blind to the horrors of the world, might be a relief. And while we're on the topic, a (Twitter) message of peace through small acts of kindness, from Yoko herself: "Keep sending notes of appreciation. See what happens to the world." - Yoko Ono

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