I do not hide the fact that my profession, public health nutrition, is the direct result of my social justice activism. I was brought up by working class parents who instilled in me the ethics of empathy and consideration of others at all times. Very simple ideas, yet often not followed or just simply ignored. As a teenager I (unknowingly) turned them into a political analysis that quickly led to veganism, environmentalism and radical politics.
In the early 2000’s I was entrenched in the anti-globalization movement and the early anti-war protests. We didn’t ask corporations and the government to be nicer or to kill fewer people. We challenged their right to do so. Often people misunderstand this as not having demands; we did and do, they just may stand outside of what you think is possible. And that’s the point. A radically different world is possible. Those left of the traditional left are pushing you to dream. Not just in tactics beyond marches, but in how the world can really be.
In public health nearly every issue is one of inequality. There is enough food for everyone, but it is hoarded by corporations to maintain its high expense. There’s enough space for healthy food for everyone, but the farm bill continues to subsidize companies to produce cheap unhealthy foods. Automobiles dominate our streets not because they are the best choice, but the most profitable. Cheap and free clinics are only necessary because most healthcare is beyond the means of millions of people. Public Health exists mostly to address issues of economic inequality! Instead of treating the symptoms, why not address the cause?
So I ask all of you who work in my field to stop for a minute and think about the big picture. I know there are people we want to help right now. I feel it too. But what if we worked to change the system that survives on keeping people poor?
You may feel uncomfortable with this idea. Or going to protests. You may want more structure. I feel it too. But we have to move beyond that. I’ve said before that most of the things worth doing in the world are hard and cause you to sweat. I’d like to add they are also uncomfortable at first. Most people reading my site are okay with discomfort. In fact, we seek it out!
So instead of persuading you to push your comfort physically, today I’m asking you to push yourself politically and support the Occupy Wall St movement.
How do you feel when you watch the footage of cops beating protesters? Or sweatshop workers making our products? Or the story of a widow whose partner died because he couldn’t afford a surgery and didn’t have health insurance? If you have any feeling toward human beings you are mad. Embrace it. Don’t make excuses for the oppressors. Stay mad. Use that anger. Fight back. It’s not useless. You do make a difference. We have power as individuals. And jail isn’t that bad, I’ve been many times. What are you going to say when ten years from now you are asked what you did to stop the inequality that plagues our society?
Here are some resources to learn more, get involved and stay involved:
Occupy Wall St main site
Remember, you can get involved in a variety of ways. Noam Chomsky wrote that when he was young he didn’t think his time was best spent at protests so he decided to write instead. 40 books later….Or my fellow Swarm! racer just made a vegan breakfast for hundreds of OccupyLA folks this morning. There’s no one to tell you how to get involved, it’s up to you…
If you have good links please post them in the comments!