This Time, It Ain’t Personal! by Michael Lagace

Posted on June 3, 2010 at 04h20

What you eat is not a personal choice. Not as personal as, say, what shirt you wear, or the placement of your furniture. Diet is one of those things that unknowingly, unfortunately affects the whole world. And if not that, then at the very least one other individual, depending on who you’re eating. And although there may be arguments for and against the choice to eat whichever particular species of individual, I don’t think whether or not it’s personal is an arguable matter.

As long as your diet is not completely self-sustained, someone else is involved in what you eat. Maybe it’s the gardener where you get your potatoes, maybe it’s the butcher where you get your free-range chickens; someone else is involved. And maybe you eat more than chickens and/or potatoes, maybe you’re like me and hardly grow any of your overall food consumption. That’s a lot of people involved in your food choices.

And then let’s think about the food itself, what the average person eats. Most of that food is produced by great big automated farms, and these automated farms — as well as the corporations that own them — are of course concerned with making a profit. And when they can produce food more quickly and cheaply, they make more profit faster. That’s pretty much an ideal situation for them. That’s like Godzilla finding an ice cream factory, assuming Godzilla loves ice cream. Continued…

Quote, Unquote by Michael Lagace

Posted on May 6, 2010 at 12h48

A while ago I was having an online discussion where I used a quote to help illustrate my point. The quote was this:

“I have found the missing link between animal and civilized man: it is us.”

The quote was not the substance of my argument, but it articulated my thoughts more concisely. When the response came a few hours later, I was surprised to read that my argument wasn’t being disputed, but instead disregarded because of the quote’s author, Konrad Lorenz. His biography includes, among many achievements in medicine, association with the Nazis.

A more recent while ago, I was having a discussion with my girlfriend about quotes. She argued that the context of the quote is important and ultimately inseparable from the quote itself; my argument was that this isn’t necessarily always true. More important than the context of a quote is the meaning to be taken from it. There can be a single sentence of hope in a book of despair, and this shouldn’t disqualify its usefulness, even regardless of the author.

Weeks ago I posted on Twitter, “Even the devil can honestly tell you it’s raining.” What I meant is that if something is true, it doesn’t matter who said it. I personally enjoy a good quote, even if I’m unfamiliar with its author. I won’t often read their biography for the simple reason that I don’t need to know each person that provides me spiritual truth. True, knowing the individual may help understand the quote better, but I don’t think it’s crucial in order to understand the meaning. On a bathroom stall I once read that peace is love, love is peace. I don’t know who wrote it, but I believe it — even if the author was the same who revealed elsewhere on the wall that so-and-so was a bimbo.

War of the Worlds by Michael Lagace

Posted on April 23, 2010 at 04h20

Recently I read War of the Worlds, and while I wasn’t particularly thrilled by the plot, its meaning was enormous. In the novel, Martians come to our planet to wreak havoc. They have no regard for us; as one character puts it, humans are to them what ants are to us… insignificant annoyances. In the end, humanity is saved when the Martians are all killed by the flu because their bodies are unaccustomed to Earth’s diseases. Sure, this is pretty standard science fiction plot — particularly now, over a century after it was written — but this wasn’t a story about Martians, it was about us.

Throughout human history, similar events to the Martian invasion have happened. When the Europeans first arrived in North America, Native Americans were inconveniences in the process of expansion and were killed with the same mass carelessness as the humans in the novel. Similar things happened to the indigenous peoples in China, Africa, Australia. Historically, this is common in exploration, but there is little to explore today and this same pattern exists: the powerful abuse the weak. We see this same common theme in all forms of discrimination — racism, sexism, speciesism, classism — and it’s unfortunate that while we can identify it, the systemic abuse of the weak by the powerful retains a darkly dominant role in our humanity.

Discrimination requires one to believe in their own superiority to another. However, since this is subjective, it is not possible to become superior without first believing someone else is inferior. This is the key to all forms of discrimination, even those that exist subconsciously. The Martians knew they were superior to humans, so destroying us was justified. The Europeans knew they were superior to Native Americans, so killing them and claiming their land was justified. The majority of the world knows they are superior to animals, and so confining and consuming them is justified. It is possible to justify one’s actions only when they believe they are morally right, even if it is their own belief that provides them the authority. Discrimination does not reveal any actual inferiority of those discriminated against.

If ever humanity prevails into a time of peace and understanding, it will come from accepting ourselves as equal to all others. There is no superiority, not by gender or race, not by community or religion, not even by species. All discrimination comes from the same roots, and as long as one form exists, they all do.

The Depth of the Swindle by Michael Lagace

Posted on March 16, 2010 at 12h44

The dentist leaves me with such a miserable feeling of helplessness. Twice now I’ve come out of that office and didn’t even make it to the elevator before I felt down. The procedure itself isn’t as painful as the cost of their false compassion. When I’m in their seat, I’m the most important person in the world, and when I’m at the front desk, it’s clear why. It’s all about the money.

I’ve told the dentist on two occasions that I couldn’t afford the procedure. And honestly, I can’t. Yesterday’s thirty minute appointment cost over two thousand dollars. This isn’t something that I just write off on my budget, this stays on my credit card for years. I find it hard to believe that the dentist actually understands this. His office is on the top floor of an expensive building and very rarely have I seen other patients there. Someone has to pay the lease.

There are other dentists in the sea, and I’m sure one of them would be more affordable. The problem is that this has been ongoing for years already. The first surgery with a different dentist ended up not working, another didn’t seem confident, and this one now was recommended to me by a friend. At this stage I only want this ordeal over, and I suppose this is why I relegate myself to meeting their demands and coping with the ensuing misery.

Good Food and Oppression by Michael Lagace

Posted on January 11, 2010 at 05h12

Out wandering our neighbourhood late Saturday evening, we stopped in to the Topanga Cafe for a spontaneous pitcher of margaritas. Never having ordered a pitcher of margaritas in my life, nobody knows why I did then; certainly not because I wanted the smell of tequila to linger into bed with me. At the waiter’s suggestion, we also ended up ordering the eggplant-stuffed burrito, which was likely the best burrito I’ve ever had.

I. and I have experienced outstanding service lately. Last week we went to Steamworks, and when I asked about vegan food, our server was knowledgeable and accommodating. He offered us a stir fry with vegetables, something off the menu. It sounded interesting, but we finished our beers and left, finding ourselves a few blocks East at Six Acres. Once again, our server was helpful and we enjoyed some tasty bean fajitas; but all in all, even hippie-loving Vancouver is slow on the vegan menu courtesy.

I’ve ranted about this before but must mention it again: if a restaurant wanted to increase its sales, it would expand its menu to accommodate all customers. This seems like the most logical thing in the world to me. I’m not talking about changing over entire menus, but adding two or three entrĂ©es isn’t going to ruin the business. Most restaurants already stock the ingredients used in vegan cooking, it’s just a willingness to offer it that’s missing. Veganism is a growing trend, and the lack of vegan choices in restaurants is not a reflection of veganism itself, but a reflection of the society it exists within. It is a society that has historically opposed differences, it is a society that is often slow to change. But I understand that this process takes time, given how many different mechanisms of oppression are still ongoing today. We can only counter this oppression with patience and understanding.

That’s the hard part.

Going Under the Knife by Michael Lagace

Posted on January 8, 2010 at 11h23

In the past several years, the greatest physical pain I’ve known has been at the hands of dentists. An infected root canal from ten years ago had to be removed and replaced. Bone from my jaw was grafted to where my front tooth was. When the first bone graft failed, it was redone, and sixth months after that healed, I had a titanium post inserted. This was the procedure that disturbed me the most.

Unlike the previous few surgeries, this time I was awake. The chair was tilted far back and an anesthetic was applied to my gums and the roof of my mouth. Then the dentist cut open my gums and drilled a hole up into the site. I wasn’t sure if I could feel the drill itself or just its pressure, but I felt something and had to stop for more anesthetic. The dentist then pushed a large ratchet-like tool up into my mouth and told me I might experience some discomfort. He began to crank the lever. Continued…

Culture as Defense of Choices by Michael Lagace

Posted on January 5, 2010 at 12h35
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We humans are a crafty breed. We’ve adapted ourselves to live in nearly every area of the planet; from coastlines to inland, frozen tundra to deserts. Through innovation of resources at our disposal, civilizations have developed almost everywhere, and within these civilizations, cultures were formed and carried down through generations. Today, some of us embrace our culture completely, others not at all, and the rest embrace culture selectively, with each subsequent generation adjusting it little by little.

Culture includes such things as language, food, social constructs, customs, and religious beliefs. The non-physical aspects of culture are dependent only on its ability to be communicated, whereas the physical aspects — predominantly including food — depend partly on communication but greatly on available resources. For this reason, moving to a new country centuries ago meant leaving behind a lot of your culture, particularly food. Recipes themselves moved easily but when certain ingredients weren’t available, they had to be adapted to what was available. Even the non-physical aspects of culture changed, since some things are taboo or illegal in other places. Culture, then, always changes. Continued…

The Premarin Irony by Michael Lagace

Posted on December 28, 2009 at 03h35
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Then she mentioned how her doctor had initially prescribed her Premarin following her oophorectomy, but she’d chosen natural sources of estrogen instead. It wasn’t out of place in our conversation of animal abuses in society. A vegetarian and animal lover, she was put off by what Premarin was; a compound drug derived from pregnant mare urine. The horses involved in the drug’s manufacturing are kept artificially pregnant and restrained against their will while their urine is collected and used by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, and because of this lack of movement, they develop many physical disabilities that drastically shorten their lifespan. She told us that she couldn’t allow herself to use this product while there was an alternative that did not harm animals.

And while she told us this, I chuckled sadly and ironically to myself, looking at the three different cheeses sitting half-eaten on the coffee table. Continued…

Let Them Eat Dog by Michael Lagace

Posted on December 27, 2009 at 05h01

By Jonathan Safran Foer (author of Everything is Illuminated), as published in the Wall Street Journal, an excerpt from his novel Eating Animals

Despite the fact that it’s perfectly legal in 44 states, eating “man’s best friend” is as taboo as a man eating his best friend. Even the most enthusiastic carnivores won’t eat dogs. TV guy and sometimes cooker Gordon Ramsay can get pretty macho with lambs and piglets when doing publicity for something he’s selling, but you’ll never see a puppy peeking out of one of his pots. And though he once said he’d electrocute his children if they became vegetarian, one can’t help but wonder what his response would be if they poached the family pooch. Continued…

Biotechnology as the Way to Feed a Starving World by Michael Lagace

Posted on September 14, 2009 at 03h08

“One of the problems that the biotechnology industry has is that it’s done nothing for the American consumer. There’s nothing there. There’s no genetically engineered food that does anything… no nutrition, nothing for us. So how are they going to sell this technology to the American people? Well, they’ve come up with this idea that maybe biotechnology should be sold as the way to feed a starving world.

“One major problem with that, the reason why roughly 800 million people starve every day – and that is a tragic fact – has nothing to do with the amount of food available. Most of these people around the world who are starving used to be farmers. But because of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund giving huge loans to these countries, these countries can no longer allow for subsisted farming. They had to grow expensive export crops back to the first world to pay back those loans. So they kicked these hundreds of millions of farmers off their farms, they end up in the Bopauls and the Mexico Cities and the Brazilias of the world. Without money. They are no longer growing their own food. And they’re competing for the scarce jobs available in the new industrialization of these countries. They are no longer food independent, they’re food dependent.”

– Andrew Kimbrell
Executive Director, Center for Food Safety

Transcribed from The Future of Food.