I think I shake too many hands
A conclusion drawn in quiet contemplation
Upon the china throne at work where men walk in unblinking
Decant and leave, unthinking
I think I shake too many hands.
I think I shake too many hands
My take on veganism (and I am 100% vegan or as close to 100% as I know how to be at least) is that if you imagine you live for 70 years, then you can do some easy maths about how you live…
7 days a week eating meat you are a meat eater for 70 years
6 days = 60 years
(it’s quite easy from here…)
So 1 day a week and you only eat meat for 10 years and live for 60 as a vegan (or a plant-based eater to avoid technical arguments).
A lot of people ask about being 100% vegan at home but struggling in foreign countries so if you break that down further and it’s more in the order of 4 weeks (solid) per year whilst you’re on holiday then that’s about 5 years in your 70 year life. Now if you manage not to eat meat every day of your holiday, you might be able to bang that down to the equivalent of a couple of years in an entire lifetime.
As a start point, moving towards a more ethical and defensible position that still allowed me to live a full life and experience the wonders of this undoubtedly amazing world – I’d take that.
I’m not a big traveller (or eater really) and I’ve been vegetarian prior to vegan for over 30 years so got used to being laughed at and hungry in the 80’s. I wouldn’t advocate this as a route to go down though for most. I just got used to it. Portugal recently was great in Aldi and so on, but not so good in most places where they make the food for you. It’s something we all have to see how we feel about as time goes on. I would say though that if you’re vegan say for 9 months, you probably won’t even want the meat when it comes along and it may make you feel a bit sick or bloated to eat it, so going to a very meat-heavy place might become tough for that reason alone. I have friends who’ve lived on paprika Pringles and alcohol for a few weeks in China and so on. My guess is the hard places would be where even Pringles can’t be found…
I would add that (in my opinion) the very binary and strict nature of veganism is helpful because it removes willpower from the equation. There isn’t a frequency or amount of cheese I can eat, I just don’t eat it so it’s actually very easy. That suits my brain. When I did decide to be a bit ‘flexitarian’ I ended up flexing all the way and ate all the cheese. So, as with many aspects of life and abstinence (think Religion) I am of the opinion that the strict rules are there to remove willpower from the equation. It’s too woolly and subjective otherwise and if religion allowed any latitude we’d all be coveting our neighbour’s wife, ox and donkey before we knew it.
There are a few ‘interesting’ programmes on the BBC at the moment about pornography. Whilst they’re worth listening to for some reasons it’s desperately disappointing to hear how naively the topics are dealt with by both the interviewers and the participants. They don’t appear able to think critically about what they are saying, often confusing totally normal relationship matters such as ‘what should one person do for another as part of healthy compromise and what constitutes an abuse’ with genuine pornography related issues such as ‘my other half spends two hours a night w*nking to porn on their own and as a consequence we never have any physical contact’.
An example might be the fixation with bodily hair I note in the broadcasts – seemingly viewed as a safe tea-time porn related topic. Now, head, face and pubic hair configuration has been a matter of fashion since time began, it doesn’t have to be about porn anymore than a particular body type or size being popularised. Of course you’ll see more exposed genitalia in porn than anywhere else and if it’s mostly shaved these days then you can easily assume that’s all there is to it, but be very careful before assuming links based on that kind of thing – it certainly wouldn’t stand up in a study. People always make demands on their partners (whether implicit or explicit) – they may include not wanting their bloke to get a big fat gut or fart whilst eating or be clean shaven or someone else not wanting their girl to have a short hair cut or pick their nose or get a piercing. I’m not defending porn but I do not like lite-touch thinking when it comes to complex matters such as the psychology of sexuality, attraction, love, self expression and so on.
I also object to a programme claiming to be frank and then constantly reminding the contributors of their needs to self-censor. The risk is that the uninitiated will believe what they are hearing is frank when in fact it’s hideously euphemistic. Therein lies the risk that a netherworld is allowed to exist right under the noses of parents and so on who have responsibility for children and a genuine need to know what’s what out there.
For the record I absolutely believe that porn can be unhealthy, but if you’re a broadcaster or politician or teacher or whatever and you’re gonna say this, you need to be able to say why and how and for whom.
See in particular the ‘Brought up on porn’ item here
And from about half way through this programme
I don’t believe in God, but you sure as shit have to believe in something so it seems like yourself is a good place to start. Anyhoo, with that in mind, I rewrote the Lord’s Prayer…
And in text form…
Me, who art on Earth
My name is handy to narrow down who you’re talking about
My ‘kingdom’ is already here
What I do on Earth
Probably matters a bit
I’ll buy my own bread, or make some
Friends forgive my trespasses (thanks!)
And I try to forgive those who trespass against me
I think it’s OK to indulge in a bit of temptation
But I try not to be a total shit
This blue and green ball belongs to everything that lives
Power and glory isn’t real
Most of us get about 70 years, the good ones a bit less
At first sealed, shiny, perfect, full of promise
Persuaded from their shelf through fair exchange; a drive home
Taped up seams at first resisting, now broken, treasure revealed
Contentment through contents new, superseding all that came before
And so the box, now folded, finds a new home for months or years
In time it is awakened, unfolded, resealed, filled, marked
The marks remain and the box reused through many, many moves
So it is now that I find these boxes, corners damaged, scribbles faded
The writing of a once loved-one’s child, now unknown to me, yet about me
The love of a child is easy though it has no aim, a driverless train
The quiet, unthinking legacy of the broken family has or pays no mind
As we ride a carriage on the line between fate and blame
Vote for who you want, no matter what, or to put it another way, don’t vote for a party you don’t want. A democratic vote was never and can never be a route to getting solely what YOU want, as an individual. It’s a way to indicate what you want, and when enough people indicate the same thing, they should get it or something like it – I suppose that’s democracy, when it’s working. It’s hugely complicated by our horrible electoral system but until we get electoral reform that isn’t going to change but we can build collective confidence in our positive choices and that will effect change and will encourage electoral reform. Sadly, electoral reform is tricky for any party in power to take a punt on, after all, they got voted in on the current flawed system and therefore unless they think a new, less flawed, more fair system would deliver the same results to at least them as the leading party, their reasonable assumption is that they would do best if they leave it alone until they’re not in power at which point it’s safe to moan about.
So, you really hate Labour, or the Tories or whoever and you’re shit scared that they will get in or get a seat in your area but a vote for the party you really want is a ‘wasted vote’ so you vote for a party you don’t really want to stop the baddies getting in, but then the party you really want gets fewer votes and the next time it rolls around everyone says a vote for the party you really want is still a wasted vote so you vote for someone else and so it goes on. The only parties benefiting heavily from tactical voting are the major ones, because they are apparently the ones with a chance and therefore who you need to vote for to keep the baddies out – after all, even the supporters of your preferred party, including yourself don’t vote for it. I wonder if it has no chance *because* even the people that support its policies don’t actually vote for it?
Tactical voting is bound to appeal to almost everyone. We are mostly a politically uneducated island population. Ask the person next to you to usefully summarise the workings of the House of Lords, House of Commons, Queen’s Speech, Hustings, whips, seats, first past the post, proportional representation and so on. I bet they struggle. I would, so don’t worry, I’m not being highbrow. Despite my lack of knowledge on matters political, I can be made to believe that voting for a party I don’t want is ‘tactical’. This makes me feel pretty good and empowered. Yes that’s right, I’m using tactics. How could I use tactics if I didn’t know what I was doing? The OED definition of tactics begins ‘The art or science of…’. Check me out with my artistic, scientific vote for a party I don’t want slightly less than another party I don’t want slightly more.
If I challenged you to think of a way to get people in their thousands to vote for parties they don’t want you’d say that was impossible, but it’s not – it’s here and we’re doing it, aided capably by our electoral system. Election after election, both local and national we head out to the polling stations to put a cross against a party we don’t want, and why? Because we are being tactical. Clever us! Excellent use of our democratic right. It feels more like I’m being given the right to be tricked, the right to imply through my voting that I want to be lead in a direction I don’t want to go in – after all they’ve expressed their polices and plans and I’ve voted for them. It must be what I want. In some ways I can’t even blame them for that, after all, they did warn me and I said ‘yes please’… Ever wonder why we’ve had government after government of the same major parties, are they really that good, do we like them that much? Most people seem to claim the ruling parties aren’t very good and even that they don’t trust them or hate them and yet we keep on voting for them because we have no faith in the potential of success of the parties we believe in.
When it comes to the party I vote for I don’t like the idea of least worst. We had a chance for electoral reform in the Alternative Vote Referendum of 2011. I fear the process was confused with a vote on whether or not we liked the coalition and as such we lost our best chance in a long time to get a system to return what we ask for. I suppose I may simply be asking for another chance at electoral reform. Maybe it will take yet another poxy coalition to push us in that direction. Of course, this is a long game and really requires electoral reform, but it would be a whole lot shorter if we vote for what we want and keep on doing so.
I have to acknowledge after all this that I am hugely over-simplifying matters, to the point where I’m probably wrong – perhaps what I’m asking for simply can’t deliver the best results, not only at this election or any in the future. I must also acknowledge that a lot of people do know how these things work much better than me, and that they do vote tactically based on that knowledge. To those people I must concede, they understand the political landscape and take a pragmatic approach typically to minimise the negative impact of their least favoured party getting a seat locally and therefore the chance to win at a general election – they do this in good faith and with well-considered reasoning. My belief is that these people are not typical and that for the most part, especially long term this may not help most of us as it in effect playing a system. If the system needs to be played then it’s too complicated for many citizens and therefore is a system that fails many citizens. I don’t want to vote for that.
To me a vote for the party I support feels right, it sends the message I want to send both to the politicians and to my fellow citizen. It does so whether or not my party wins a seat or gets in to power. That’s what I’m doing and it’s what I think we should all do alongside campaigning for a better system where our votes really do count.
Having said all that….
Taking a moment away from reality and allowing nostalgia to run rampant…
I hope everyone has a period in their life when they could feel like I felt in my late teens watching American eighties movies and wondering when I could have a day off like Ferris Bueller did. The innocence combined with expectation captured in the films of Chevy Chase, John Candy, Steve Martin and the brat pack (among many others) has never been matched, before or after. You could almost feel that pregnant pause, that deep intake of breath just before the world launched into the information revolution spanning the 90’s and 00’s that we are now living in the wake of and have no way, short of apocalypse, out of. No one gave a shit about txting or recycling, cars were still big and smoke came out the back of them. Girls wore bikinis and usually got about on roller skates and men had short shorts and serious hair options, everyone was happy. I’ve no idea if I was but thanks to the dream I was fed by the films of the time I certainly expected I would be. That’s a good start.