Don’t Feed the Yiannopoulos.

My colleague is a Milo Yiannopoulos fan. I found out via Facebook.

The next day I asked him if it was ironic, but apparently not. That night he linked me to a talk by Mr Yiannopoulos and, in an attempt to escape my very left-leaning echo chamber, I watched it.

Well. Forty-seven minutes of it.

I was sure that listening to someone like Mr Yiannopoulos would make me extremely angry. But it didn’t. He didn’t say anything at which I could get angry.

He didn’t argue against Left wing policies. What he did do (a lot) was insult left wing stuff, including left wing peoples’ appearances, leftist peoples’ weights and even Frosties cereal. But not the policies. Perhaps he couldn’t think of anything to say against them?

He didn’t defend any rightwing arguments either. Perhaps he couldn’t think of any good points about them?

It’s interesting that Milo chooses to verbally attack the physical appearance of people with whom he disagrees, rather than their politics. A person could have purple hair, blue skin and green fingernails but that wouldn’t affect their politics. Yet Mr Yiannopoulos seems to think that the way to counter someone’s views is to call them fat.

He also calls the POTUS “Daddy”, which is creepy on so many levels and makes you feel vaguely uncomfortable which is why, I suspect, he does it.

One of the few points he made was that safe spaces don’t work because “the way to overcome the issue is controlled exposure to it.”  The point that he misses here is that trigger warnings are a way to control the exposure. Without them, people can unwittingly expose themselves or be exposed to something which can cause panic attacks, flashbacks or other psychological problems. With a warning, the person can prepare themselves or excuse themselves, allowing them to avoid the issues when they aren’t up to dealing with it. This lets them control their exposure so that they can work through it healthily, rather than being forced into a relapse.

I think that some people, on the right and left, misunderstand what  “triggers”are.  A trigger is not just something that makes you angry, or scared. A trigger is something that causes such a strong psychological reaction that the person is completely incapacitated, suffering flashbacks and reliving their trauma or having a full-blown panic attack. Trigger warnings aren’t to stop inconvenience; trigger warnings are there to allow people to function on a day to day basis.

The more I watched Mr Yiannopoulos talk, the more I realised: I know him.

Well, not literally him. But his kind.

He was the kid who, for whatever reason, always needed more attention. And when they didn’t get it, they’d say and do ever more stupid, ever more theatrical things to get their fix. They don’t care if it’s attention for doing something bad; being noticed is the important thing. It doesn’t matter what for.

And that’s what Milo is doing. You can tell because he absolutely came alive when addressing people who are protesting. He insisted on going out to talk to the large crowd of people protesting his presence on campus, despite the warnings of his security team. He doesn’t do what he does to further the cause of the right, or to smash the left. He does what he does for money and attention.

I have met several people with that character trait, and I like to think I cracked how to deal with them. It’s very simple:

Ignore. Them.

This will make them worse in the short term. They will be angry at the lack of attention that they are getting, and shout and scream louder in the hopes of luring you and the attention they crave back to them.

However, if you stay strong and ignore them, they will eventually twig that you won’t pay them any more attention, and will leave you alone to sit in a corner and grumble at your treatment of them.

He has called himself a troll, and that’s an apt description. And what is the first rule about trolls? Stop feeding them. Protests and histrionics are meat and drink to the man. He has pushed back the publication date of his book so that he can include a section about people protesting his talks. So, for God’s sake, stop feeding him and he will starve.

I’m not saying let him get away with things, but don’t engage. Write a blog, do a vlog, talk to people about why his beliefs and methods are wrong. But don’t let him trick you into protesting him because that’s what he wants and besides, it gives him free advertising.

I can see why some people agree with what Mr Yiannopoulos say, especially people who are one or all of the following: straight, white or male. You have spent your life mostly just trying to get by, being as good a person as you can. And now all these horrible social justice warriors are shouting at you from all sides, telling you that you’re the reason for every problem, that you caused every bad thing in the world. It’s not fair!

And then someone brave, like Milo Yiannopoulos or Donald Trump, stands up and sticks up for you. Points out that these triggered special snowflakes are being ridiculous and they should shut up and stop whining. Phew. See? He understands.

Except he doesn’t. The trouble with living in a society which is built for people like you is it’s hard to see how this can make things difficult for others.

Try to remember a moment of injustice in your life. Perhaps your sibling blamed you for something. Maybe your teacher punished you unfairly. And other people in power, your parents or head teacher or whomever, took their side over yours. Remember how that felt?

Now. Hold that feeling. That is how marginalised people of all kinds feel most of the time.

Imagine how much better it would have felt if someone in power, that parent or that teacher, had taken the time to sit and listen to your side of the story instead of taking the side of the other person in power. Better?

That’s why people complain about injustice. Because they want someone, someone in more of a powerful position, to listen. They aren’t attacking you as a person; they just want to be heard.

The best thing that humanity can do for itself is to listen to each others’ experiences, learn from them, and make themselves better. Try it; listen to the story of someone different to you. You’ll be surprised at what you learn.

Lastly, Mr Yiannopoulos spent a lot of time laughing during his speech. But he didn’t say anything funny. I can forgive people a lot of things, but not making me laugh isn’t one of them.

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Vegan red lentil and carrot soup

Vegan food, like all food, is delicious when done right! I made a lovely soup yesterday and I highly recommend it!

Ingredients
200g red split lentils
4 large carrots
2 white onions
250ml vegetable stock
2 garlic cloves
Vegetable oil
Pinch Parsley
Pinch Basil
Pinch Oregano
Pinch Ginger
Pinch Pepper

Method
Boil the lentils until softened.

While the lentils are boiling, chop the onions. Peel and chop the carrots finely. Grate the garlic gloves.

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the onions, garlic and carrots. Fry until softened. Add the vegetable stock, season with parsley, basil, oregano, ginger and pepper to taste.

When lentils are softened, drain them. Add the rest of the ingredients from the frying pan and stir in.

Allow to cool.

Once cool, blend until smooth.

Heat up and enjoy!

I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Terry Pratchett

That title’s a bit dramatic. I would be alive. but I definitely wouldn’t be the same person I am today.

I was going to start this by saying that I started reading Pterry’s books at a pivotal time in my life. But I think that Pterry would point out that all points in every life are pivotal, if only at least to the individual to whom that life belonged.

So. This particular pivotal moment in my particular life was when I was eleven. I grew up on a diet of Disney and the stereotyping usual to British society (my family buys the Daily Fail. I’m so sorry.)

I remember, when I was young, my favourite colour was red. But, from everywhere, I was told that pink was for girls. The females that were held up to me as role models were good girls, they were pretty, and delicate, and graceful, and they liked pink. Oh, how I wanted to be like those role models.

So I started to claim that my favourite colour was pink. Because that’s what girls were supposed to like, right? Right. This went on for long enough that my dad agreed to repaint my room pink, even though pink isn’t a colour I truly like.

Another time, I was arguing with my sister. I don’t remember what about. But I remember telling her: “One day when I grow up I’ll marry a prince, and then you’ll be sorry!”

I know. Bear with me.

Somehow, growing up, I couldn’t think of anything better than marrying a prince. That was the ultimate goal for young me. Not that there’s anything wrong with having marriage as a life goal, of course. But it shouldn’t be one’s only life goal. Besides, there aren’t enough princes to go around.

It came as a disappointment to me (I promise I’ll start talking about Pterry soon) to realise, as I grew, that I wasn’t a Disney Princess. I wasn’t graceful, or delicate, or pretty. I couldn’t sing or convince woodland animals to do household chores. I worried about this a fair amount. If I wasn’t how a girl should be, what could I do when I was older? Would anyone accept me? Was there something wrong with me?

It was then that CBBC aired their adaptation of Johnny and the Bomb. I saw it advertised and was desperate to watch it, but, being the sort of child that I was (i.e. an insufferable little knowitall), I had to read the book first.

That December, my Christmas list read: Anything by Terry Pratchett.

I was given The Wee Free Men and that is how I met Tiffany Aching. She was the girl who, when told “It had eyes the size of dinner plates,” went and measured a dinner plate to find out how big exactly that meant. Fact checking; it’s important!

Tiffany was the girl who was plain, unremarkable, unadmired, and in the background. But she is still a complicated, valid heroine.

Not only is Tiffany physically dissimilar to the heroines that I’d been exposed to before, but her character was different too. Tiffany is resentful. She is selfish. She is proud. Tiffany gets angry. She never once sings with animated creatures. But she is still shown in a positive light, an approving light. She literally hits the embodiment of the idea of putting on a facade to hide one’s true self and impress others (otherwise known as The Queen of the Fairies) in the face with a frying pan.

I had never witnessed angry heroines before. The ladies I had seen were allowed to be despairing in the face of adversity, or hopeful, or even faint. But they didn’t get angry. Tiffany gave adolescent me licence to feel my natural emotions without shame or fear.

Tiffany led me to other wonderful female characters in Pterry’s books, Discworld and otherwise. Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Adora Belle Dearheart, Sacharissa Cripslock, Corporal Littlebottom, Susan Sto Helit, Agnes Nitt, Glinda Sugarbean, Polly, Captain Angua, Sergeant Jackrum, Daphne, Sybil Ramkin to name a few.

These women are a symphony of positive female characters. They all have different personality types, all have different methodologies, all have different body types.  They all do the job that needs doing, whether it’s nice or not and whether or not they look good while doing it. It proves that you can be amazing no matter your personality or shape. Even if that shape is occasionally a wolf.

Even better, they all support each other. So much media pits women against each other, but not in Pterry’s universes. Angua and Cheery, Esme and Gytha, Polly and Maladicta, Glinda and Juliet… they all hold each other up instead of clawing each other downwards. It’s so refreshing and uplifting and wrapped up in the intricately-plotted, ingeniously-written bow that is Pratchett prose.

I know that Pterry wasn’t predominantly a feminist author. He said himself that people were just people; weirdly, that includes females as well. He didn’t set out to write feminist prose (though arguably that is what he did), but he did set out to write believable female characters. In doing so, he helped me accept and understand who I was, and that who I was was okay.

This is the gift that Pterry gives. He would look at something so commonplace that no one ever noticed it, turn it around to a new angle, and present it to you in such a way that you said “Oh, shit.” And then made enough puns and references that you laughed until you cried.

Terry also looked at horrors and got angry. So angry. But then he used that anger to make something beautiful, a masterpiece like Monstrous Regiment or Nightwatch so that other people could get angry too, and maybe – just maybe – change the way they think and act, and make the world a little bit better.

The small change enacted on people who read Pterry’s work cause ripples which spread through the world, improving it one open mind at a time. And, as the man himself told us:  “No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…”

So, if you haven’t read them, I implore you to do yourself the favour of reading his books, for all of the above reasons. Also, they’re damn good books in their own right.

Thanks.

In defense of Veganism

The stereotype of vegans is that they like to berate and lecture dairy and meat eaters at every opportunity.

As a vegan, and friend of several vegans, I haven’t witnessed this. The vegans I know will talk about their eating habits in person if asked, and on social media. But even then it’s a celebration and explanation of their food choices, rather than a haranguing.

I realise that blogging about this could be seen as your Typical Vegan Rant, but I’m not trying to lecture anyone.

Every time I speak to someone outside my friend group about food, and mention that I’m vegan, people unfailingly feel the need to ask “Why?” in horrified tones, and then give me all their arguments against Veganism.

It’s always fun.

This weekend I was at an awards ceremony which involved dinner. At one point the entire table felt entitled to explain at great length why no one should be vegan.

So one last time, I’m going to try and answer the questions that non-Vegans invariably ask on here. Because I couldn’t get a word in on Saturday.

But if we didn’t eat farm animals, they would have died out!

They also wouldn’t be slaughtered at young ages. A a cow’s natural lifespan can be up to twenty years. Dairy cows can be slaughtered at only six, veal bulls are killed at four or five months.

Pigs can live up to fifteen years naturally. If they’re being bred for meat, they are slaughtered at five to six months.

Chickens can live up to nine years. They are killed at five or six weeks for meat, or at eighteen months if they are laying hens .

I could go on, but I won’t. The information from the four paragraphs immediately above is from the RSPCA site

Being farmed isn’t good for animals’ health. They are bred to create a higher yield, but this can lead to inbreeding and health problems. Over half of Ireland’s purebred cattle was inbred in 2004.

Other animals, deemed less useful due to the fact that humans don’t consume them, also suffer. More and more land is being used for farming, leaving less available for wild animals and making extinction of other animals more likely 

Aren’t you worried about your health?

Veganism has been proved not to affect bone mineral density or alter body composition .

It has also been proved to help achieve good health and avoid diseases like osteoporosis, stroke, heart disease and cancer .

But thanks for your concern, and for voicing it as I’m sure you do with all your friends who smoke, drink, or don’t exercise. Because if you’ll talk to one person about your concerns about their lifestyle choices, you’ll do it to everyone else right? You don’t just pick on vegans. ‘Course you don’t.

What about the jobs that rely on the meat and dairy market?

I am not suggesting that everyone in the world converts to veganism immediately. But as it gains popularity, the meat and dairy industries can wind down gradually. Jobs will hopefully be created in other sectors, like green energy.

Besides, automisation is already causing job losses. In a post-automated society, changes will need to be made to the way the labour market is run. The dairy and meat industry won’t save the good old-fashioned 9-5 from extinction.

But it must be so hard to cook! What do you eat!?

You’d be amazed at how many edible foodstuffs aren’t made of animal products.

I will admit that, just after making the change, it can be difficult. But, as with everything, the longer you do it, the easier it gets. You get to know the products you can and cannot buy and have a reserve of go-to recipes until it becomes second nature.

Where do you get your protein from?

Everywhere.

Seriously, though. Vegetables, nuts, soy, quinoa, tofu, lentils, beans… we’re fine. Same goes for calcium.

Don’t you miss bacon?

I was never a bacon fan, sorry. But other vegans may have been in the past, but are choosing not to eat it anyway. Thanks for bringing it up.

Am I making you uncomfortable by eating meat in front of you?

Thanks for checking, but we’re all consenting adults. I’ll let you eat what you want to in peace if you do the same for me.

If you don’t eat the animals/dairy, someone else will. You’re not reducing the number of dying animals.

I know. But I’m more comfortable not supporting the industries that do these things. And, as more people hopefully become vegetarian/vegan, demand will decrease and fewer animals will die.

I would be vegan, but I love cheese too much!

So, go vegan except for cheese. It’s about minimising the impact you have. Any reduction is good. It’s not a religion or law: eating meat and dairy is not a sin. You’re allowed to slip up. You’re allowed to cheat. Doing your best is the best you can do.

But WHY!?

It’s a very personal thing and every vegan will give you a different answer.

For myself, it’s about reducing the suffering in the world and for the environment. The amount of land being used to grow crops for farmed animals to eat, and the land being used as grazing for those animals, could be put to use growing crops for humans. This would reduce the amount of land required to feed everyone, reducing deforestation and increasing yields.

Plus, when you stop eating meat and dairy and take a step back to look at it objectively, animal products are kinda gross.

So there you are! That was my attempt to address the most common things people say to vegans.

Next time you’re out to dinner with a vegan, and think of saying one of these things, please… don’t. I guarantee you, we’ve heard it all before. Many times.

Thanks!