Archive for the ‘Peace/Compassion’ Category


Part I …

March 21, 2009

Well, Nihon. I’m going to have to post in parts, chunks, bits. The reason for this is that I observed many different sides of Japan and another flame of interest in me has been sparked (interests are awesome, but they suck all your time when you want to be pursuing other interests).

I saw lots of very cool stuff. I met people that amazed me with their kindness and their willingness to talk and put up with my daft attempt at speaking some Japanese. I saw and listened to brilliant musicians play. I also saw an amazing and different (but essentially the same) form of capitalism. I saw artefacts of Japanese culture that spoke to me from a whole new and interesting perspective. I listened to and attempted to speak the amazing language that can be subtle but on closer inspection very expressive and straightfoward at the same time. I saw some weird things. I saw some dark stuff beneath a rather polite surface. I could go on forever. So, the point is that I can’t just write about all this stuff in one post. Hence… the chunks.

Part I: Food

Food in Japan is interesting. For a vegan, it is both challenging and interesting. It varies, like in any country. Highlights:

– A little backstreet bar ‘n’ grill in Osaka. Grilled vegetables (zucchini, yellow capsicum, sweet potato and others) cooked by the guy behind a glass panel in front of you. All spoke a bit of English and we spoke a little Japanese back. We had a few beers (I liked most Japanese beers) and then a few nips of warm sake. Nice food and nice and interesting people. I think they were taking the piss a few times with us, but it was all in good fun.

– Hiroshima: Sweet potato cart on the side walk along Peace Boulevard on the evening of December 25th (the date when Japanese couples go on dates together). Old man selling hot sweet potato kept warm with gas. Wrapped in foil, a half sweet potato with it’s skin. You kind of eat it in the same way as a kebab, but it’s a really nice sweet potato taste! Perfect for an evening when you’re freezing your butt off ’cause it’s like -2⁰c. Really warm and tasty.

– Fresh noodles with a massive tofu piece on top pretty much anywhere in Kyoto. The tofu piece has a very strong soy taste and I did get sick of it after a few days, but it was great the first time. Fresh noodles with vegetable-based broth again anywhere in Kyoto. It’s easier to get these in Kyoto, where shojin ryori (buddhist inspired vegan meals) are served by monks in temples around Kyoto.

– Hhhmmm. Sapporo. Sapporo was an aesthetically beautiful place and the people were nice (it was also all cold and snowy – which was a novelty for me who’d only really ever seen snow in Tasmania and it was nothing like this), but the tabemasu experience for a vegan was very difficult. Seafood everywhere and in everything. Managed to get by eating, well, salad. One special mention though. At an onsen about an hour and half outside of Sapporo, we got this awesome vegan Nepalese curry. Yum.

– Tokyo: Three words: Fujino Tofu Restaurant! The area of Rappongi wasn’t really my cup-of-tea, but it’s worth going to once for an awesome set of desserts whipped up from tofu and soy-based stuff. These included sponge cake, cream cake, ice-cream cake, whipped cream and other stuff. Nice.

Assorted Pakistani, Nepalese and Indian restaurants in Shinjuku.

Nice Vegetarian/Vegan place about a 10 minute walk from JR Ochanomizu station in the middle of the book district (which is amazing!) serving an assortment of stuff like dahl and rice, steamed and boiled sweet potato, delicious pickled vegetables (I think some were pickled black-bean strips) and assorted stuff. One of the workers insisted on telling me several times that the coffee was definitely from Brazil. OK.

“Vegan Healing Cafe” in Shibuya. Backstreets near “Tokyu Hands DIY Department Store”. Nice organic simple food. Not the best vegan food I’ve had, but still nourishing (everything comes with a cup of steamed brown rice) and some leafy salads (and rather inexpensive).

Yeah, basically everywhere and anywhere. You find them by getting purposefully lost and looking around whilst doing so.

As for the carnivores, you’ll have no trouble finding places that serve up the fourth stage of the subjugation of animals, just like in most other parts of the world.

I’ll be back soon with part II: My impression of Capitalism in Japan.


Smashing misogyny, patriarchy and sexism

November 24, 2008
As White Ribbon Day approaches, it seems the day where women are treated as equals, subjects and people is still a distant dream. Indeed, for someone who is a feminist, it feels wrong that I should long for the time before I was alive in the 1970s because it seems like feminism was gaining traction and the female fist was raised in resistance and defiance back then. The world has changed, but it hasn’t necessarily progressed. Bleak is the world where:
The above are results of an Australian survey only. These stories are repeated in millions, if not billions of lives around the world.
Bleak is the world where I just watched the news and saw 21 nations at the APEC summit with only 2 represented by women. Bleak is the world where I today heard a 15 year old boy claim triumphantly that he would rape and kill a woman. Bleak is the world where in every conflict that is happening around the world at the moment, rape is used as a prominent weapon to degrade, dehumanise, humiliate and destroy women. Bleak is the world where men don’t speak up about this fucking bullshit – and shame on every man who doesn’t. We are brothers and sisters and we are both subjective human beings who are at one when our minds interact to make this world a better place. We are nothing and no-one if we let it happen and don’t confront it ACTIVELY. Smashing misogyny, patriarchy, sexism and any other form of oppression is a 24 hour a day attitude and activity, not merely an intellectual plaything.
Raise your fist and resist. We have work to do. We have a world to improve.

Hate whaling?

January 16, 2008

Fair enough. So do I. But why not the killing of cows, pigs, chickens, fish? I mean, what’s the difference? Lots of people in Australia are getting in a fuss about Japanese ships hunting whales in and around Australian waters. People are getting outraged at the way in which whales are harpooned, hauled aboard while alive and then cut up… After this, the Japanese groups with vested interests claim that the whales are scientifically studied and catalogued. However, some Australian groups with vested interests claim that it is sold in Japan as whale meat and that this is the primary reason that some Japanese ships are hunting whales. Either way, why not object to other animals being treated in this way? I love whales and think they are beautiful. But they are no more worthy of our respect and protection than other animals.

There was some indignant reaction in Australia last week when a video, produced by an anonymous person from Japan and distributed on YouTube, made claims that Australians hunt kangaroos and other animals for both sport AND to eat and we kill other animals such as cows and pigs to simply eat them. The video went on to claim that Australia’s objection to Japanese whaling is simply a reflection of Australia being racist and acting with overtones of cultural imperialism. It’s not my intention here to address the particular points made by the video. I just want to ask a few other questions while the issue is out there.

So, why are whales so special? Why is it more appropriate to eat a cow, pig, chicken or fish than a whale? What about a kangaroo? a beautiful, majestic deer? A moose?

We compartmentalise, steralise, lactate, torture, abuse, neglect and then eat cows, pigs, chickens, fish, kangaroos, deer etc. everyday as a society. But, when whales are hunted, a double standard of outrage surfaces. Is it simply because some species of whales are endangered? If this is so, then why not make as much noise for any other species of animal or plant that is endangered?

The way whales are treated by the Japanese is a direct reflection of the way that we as a society treat the cows, pigs, chickens and other animals that we raise with the explicit intention to chop up their bodies, wrap them in plastic and sell them in supermarkets for x amount of dollars per kilogram. It’s an outright double standard. Different cultures kill and eat different animals. Both exploit the animal, who has vested interests of their own: their right to life and their right to freedom. Humans of all cultures are guilty of robbing all animals of their right to life and freedom. Whales are one example of this… and many more can be found in among our own culture as well as in most others.


What you gonna do Zimbabwe?

March 1, 2007

What you gonna do Zimbabwe
What you gonna do Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a man who tried
to teach his children what was right
but then there came a time when war
split the family from inside
he said no fighting no more
what you gonna do Zimbabwe
what you gonna do Zimbabwe
the old man sits and shakes his head
while the multitudes insist
where is the cause of unity
with just one thought there could be peace
men gathered in silence the same
can there be some peace on Earth
can there be a love
greater than the world we see
greater than us all
it’s the last station home
it’s the last station home
you ran your heart in those days
when no-one could see days
you want to run in the wind
you want to go back inside
see no more crime in your lifetime
Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe
no more crime in your lifetime
Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe

– Toni Childs, Zimbabwe

I’ve had this song playing in my head all this week, ever since I saw Robert Mugabe prancing around celebrating his 83rd birthday at the weekend . The celebration reportedly cost millions of dollars, whilst millions of Zimbabweans struggle to even feed themselves and their children each day. Mugabe celebrated his birthday by slapping a three month ban on all political rallies. In early February, Zimbabwe’s inflation was up at 1600% and the IMF is predicting official inflation to be at 4000% for this year. So what does Mugabe do? He sacks the Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa who warned him recently not to flood the country with newly printed money that would just make inflation worse.

Mugabe’s brutal regime has run the economy into the ground, suppressed all opposition and ignored all suggestions and pleas for sane policies that will at least attempt to bring the economy back on track and pay the long suffering people of Zimbabwe their wages in order for them to feed themselves. Ah, but how to feed themselves when Mugabe’s policies (or lack thereof) have resulted in food production to drop to one-sixth of what it was in 1999?

Over the past decade, over three million Zimbabweans have crossed the border into South Africa, desparate for work. Is there any hope left in this once shining light of Africa? Perhaps there is and the reason for it is depressing, but it is a reason nonetheless. The economy is so bad that the people of Zimbabwe are starting to stir and are defying the bans on demonstrations in greater numbers everyday. With the combined economically driven desparation of the people and the umpteeth mobilisation of the Movement for Democratic Change behind Morgan Tsvangirai, there are signs that Mugabe’s days could be numbered. The fear of many is that Mugabe will try to hold onto power at any cost. Brutal suppression is a speciality of this man and the corrupt forces he employs to protect his power. As the people of Zimbabwe rise to claim back their country, Mugabe will probably make it as difficult as possible for them to do so and will not shy away from shooting, beating and starving them in the process.

My heart cries out in pain for this great nation. My hope is that Mugabe will be booted out on his arse in peace and Zimbabwe will have the hope that it once possessed returned to it. What you gonna do Zimbabwe?


Sunday thought… Don’t fear… Anything

October 15, 2006

“It’s just a ride, and we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your door, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. “ – Bill Hicks.

As soon as you fear something, you’re as good as dead. Love it and you’ll feel more alive than you ever have.


Getting Worse

August 8, 2006

No sign of peace in sight. There has to be a point when people put down their guns, start talking and stop killing. Why do people always seem to forget what war is all about? I had many things to write about today – the ongoing war, the HoWARd government starting to sink and a poem… But, I think I might hold those off for today. This is just going on and on and on and it’s depressing.



Hello, Hello! Bonjour, Bonjour!

July 21, 2006

I’ve been listening to Michael Franti’s new album, Yell Fire and I think it’s great. The reggae influence on this album is much more prominent than on his other albums. In 2004, Franti traveled throughout Iraq, Palestine and Israel to see what he says was the human cost of war. The album doesn’t have one dull or depressing song on it though which struck me – everyone he met, all ordinary people wanted peace… So what do you get? An album of peace songs. Fancy that – people wanting peace. My favourite song thus far is “Hello Bonjour”. Some excerpts:

I don’t need a passport to walk on this earth
Anywhere I go ’cause I was made of this earth
Born of this earth, I breathe of this earth
And even with the pain I believe in this earth


Don’t tell a man that he can’t come here
‘Cause he got brown eyes and a wavy kind of hair,
And don’t tell a woman that she can’t go there
‘Cause she prays a little different to her god up there,
You say you’re a Christian ’cause god made you,
You say you’re a Muslim ’cause god made you,
You say you’re a Hindu and the next man a Jew
And we all kill each other ’cause god told us to? NO!
Hello, hello! Bonjour, bonjour! Hola, hola! Konnichiwa, konnichiwa wa!

Franti’s songs of protest, peace, rebellion and resistance have been a source of great comfort for me and I’m sure many others over the last few years as things have turned rather sour around the world and there have been nothing but dark days. This album comes at a time when again, we are facing more uncertainty as Israel and Hezbollah shoot, bomb, maim, injure, torture, scare and brutalise the humanity out of each other and perpetuate retribution and war for… well… who really knows? As I listened to this album in the dark last night, I was reminded of the power of art, music and poetry to connect people and give them hope – even in the darkest of days. It reminded me of a passage that I read in a zine around 5 or 6 years ago. I don’t know who the author of the zine was – I picked up a copy at uni, but it has stuck with me ever since and was resonating through my head last night as I had just finished watching the news and started listening to Yell Fire:

ART is the last frontier.
ART is both the pacifier and the protagonist.
It is important that we embrace ART in our lives in any way we can.

I concur.