Check Yo’self: Activism is Not a Popularity Contest

Mickey Z.

November 15, 2013


Let me tell you about how hard I’ve worked to “convince” activists I’ve met via Occupy Wall Street that rejecting speciesism and embracing veganism/animal rights is a necessary and revolutionary choice. Never mind, you can probably imagine (or have already witnessed) how hard I’ve worked, how important this particular mission was/is to me (and the planet).

But that’s what it’s slowly become: a mission. And like most missions, it requires a hefty dose of ego to be sustained. Please allow me to explain…

After September 17, 2011, I saw so many new comrades getting it on so many levels, so many issues. Surely this was the fertile ground I’d been dreaming of.

Yeah, more than a few occupiers moved towards veganism partly or directly due to my influence but as I look around now—more than two years after Zuccotti Park—it seems almost all my radical comrades can do is throw pizza parties and make bacon jokes as they robotically repeat anti-vegan canards—all the while talking of “love” and “saving the world.”

Most puzzling of all are the environmentalists. “Why do so many environmentalists refuse to even acknowledge the role of global animal agribusiness in the destruction of our shared eco-system?” I recently wrote. “These ‘eco-activists’ eat animals, wear animals, serve animals at their ‘eco-conferences,’ but never even mention animals when discussing the fate of the planet.”

Why the disconnect? 

This question had me tossing and turning until it hit me: They are way too much in love with being an activist.

Thanks to a combination of the global Occupy movement and ever-evolving social media, our every radical move is being documented in real time and damn, it’s intoxicating. A whole new breed of virtual hero is being spawned—measured by Facebook likes, Twitter followers, and donation page tallies.

Why then would such a non-vegan activist willingly perform the uncomfortable self-exploration required to break free of speciesism? Why admit such a glaring activist weak spot when so many “fans” regularly tune in to our livestream or share our photos or quote our statuses?

Translation: “Activist” must not be transformed into the upper rung of yet another human hierarchy – and we all know how smoothly those on the top will justify their actions based on a dominant position. We must not choose ego over solidarity. We cannot allow ourselves to become more attached to our reputations than our evolution.

“We,” of course, includes me.


You see, I’ve kinda carved out a unique niche: accepted and liked by anarchists and socialists, revolutionaries and reformists, artists and tech geeks, and yes: vegans and carnists. This allows me to reach a diverse audience and deftly position myself as the “holistic justice/collective liberation” guy. Not that this stance isn’t authentic—it was and is and will remain—but it started to feel powerful to, um, occupy such a singular standing.

But now, however, I have to live up to it and that means “converting” occupiers to veganism. But when my ego-driven mission butted up against their ego-driven desire to not change what was seemingly working for them, frustration reigned, to say the least.

I’ve been, so to speak, barking up the wrong tree and that’s precisely why I’m moving on from the OWS outreach and voila: I’m already having more results (and more fun) connecting with a more diverse and mainstream audience.

I’m exploring new ways to contemplate the time-honored practices of activism and outreach and, in the process, even got myself a deal to write a book about (wait for it) activism.

Interestingly, the primary reason I’d been giving for not having a new book published since April 2011 was that since OWS started, “things were happening way too fast” to slow down and write anything longer than an article or blog post.

(insert laugh track here)

Now, I realize that because things are happening at an accelerated rate, I must to de-occupy my ego and simply follow my heart and my instincts. Call that activism if you must but I’m kinda just listening to the universe.



[Born and raised in Astoria, Queens, Mickey Z. has been a vegan since 1995 and is probably the only person on the planet to have appeared in both a political book with Noam Chomsky and a karate flick with Billy Blanks. Armed only with a high school diploma, Mickey is the author of 11 books and has spoken and lectured in venues ranging from MIT to ABC No Rio, from Yale University to Occupy Free University.]

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