Happy Passover.

In two weeks, or there abouts, Jews will celebrate he Passover (Pesach)  and Christians will celebrate Easter.   The Passover seder is a service, over an evening meal, that tells the story of the ancient Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. The meal consists of  a prescribed order of symbolic foods, stories, songs, and prayers, the Haggadah. The Hebrew word Haggadah means “telling,” and the whole ceremony  occurs  according to an ancient written script,  the Haggadah, which provides the order of the service with precise  instructions.

For Christians the occasion of the Crucifixion begins with the last supper, which to me,  appears to replicate the Haggadah.  This of course, should come as no surprise as Jesus was a Jew who carried out Jewish customs.   Whether one follows either of the religious beliefs, it seems clear that the celebration is one of freedom either in life or in death.  It can also be viewed as the opportunity to find freedom in personal change, to shed the burdens that have been weighing us down for the past year or so.

I must confess that I have never been personally attracted to the Christian form of celebration. Indeed, I recall as a child I was quite fearful of the man that was seen  hanging, bleeding from a cross.  The crucifixion, albeit a matter of great reverence to many,  was to me,  a small semblance of brutality that men were capable of doing to each other.  It goes without saying,  the historiography of all religions has been brutal, but it is a history not to be ignored.

Passover is a part of the Jewish history of liberation, both bodily and spiritually,  which is not forgotten.   It tells us a lot about human nature. Once liberated from Egypt the Jews turned away from their new God and built a Golden Calf as an idol of worship.    The Christians had their leader condemned to death.  Today, we have not stopped turning to idols for worship.  Nor have we ceased to turn on our leaders, sometimes for good reason, but also because they just seem to be the focal point of everything that might be going wrong in our lives, things we do not want to address.

The Passover seder is a joyful occasion.  The Jewish way is generally towards joy and celebration, but sometimes it can also seem flippant to outsiders.   The essence of these celebrations, however is to view them is an opportunity for understanding the Other and to work towards a (w)holistic and inclusive faith.

How effective is protest?

                                        Image from the Conversation 11th April 2019.

I am a vegan and I have generally given my support to protests over the cruelty to animals, but an article that appeared in the Conversation raised  questions about the effectiveness of direct action.  I have a long history of political action that includes street protests. There is no doubt that protests today have attracted hostile and often violent responses.   The police carry guns and tasers and their tactics are generally rough, to say the least and of course protesters are going to react.  Here is the gist of my response to the Vegan protest in Melbourne posted on Facebook on the 11th of April 2019.

I have, for a long time now, advocated positive methods of protest.  The article in the Conversation this week demonstrates the need to understand the emotive public responses to direct action and in particular where issues of veganism and animal cruelty are concerned.    The writer questions whether such direct actions actually stop cruelty to animals. The article argues that showing images of humane treatment to animals, rather than images of cruelty,  might bring about a better outcome.

I think there is a middle ground here. People need to have the information on cruelty, but at the same time, they need positive pathways to change that are not perceived as threatening.  Australians are big animal consumers and they are already disturbed by rising prices, whereby demonstrators add to their insecurities.  The fact is, market forces are having a dramatic impact on meat eaters and more people are turning to non-animal products.   This does not not solve the problem of cruelty, but boosting attention to alternatives does go a long way to creating change.  

I think we still need to be vigilant and carry out protests in less threatening ways, such as using social media, especially for personal testimonies on the health benefits of being vegan.   The British sociologist Stuart Hall noted that to create any kind of change it first has to be embedded into the culture. Veganism is fast becoming the trendy way to live, especially among the younger consumers.  The culture is already undergoing change, perhaps not quick enough for some, but social change is always a slow process.  In the long term the market forces will determine the change, while in the interim we must care for the animals in the best and most benign ways possible.