Shark fin syndrome

Today’s post was inspired by a panel at Pantheacon two weeks ago, Gods and Radicals. I recommend reading the ‘zine after you finish with this post. During the discussion (in a tiny room meant for 25 and upwards of 75 were trying to take part), I found myself thinking of ideas to expand on for this blog. Eventually I decided to write out a pet theory I’ve had for several years.

If you are not familiar with the food, shark fin soup is a delicacy thought to have originated in China over 1,000 years ago. It was a delicacy found at special events such as weddings. Now it has become a more common dish, often found at business lunches as a sign of prosperity. In order to sate the demand for shark fins there is now a booming business of finning: cutting off the dorsal fins of sharks and throwing them overboard. Without this fin, sharks are unable to move, sink to the ocean floor, and die.

When I was younger my dream was to be a marine biologist. Sharks were one of my favorite aquatic life forms. Now they are a commodity. This is problematic on multiple levels. First, as apex predators, sharks serve a vital role in their ecosystems. (I’m not going to be going into details of that here but if you’re interested in learning more I highly recommend the book Where the Wild Things Were.) Second, and what led to my naming of shark fin syndrome, is the waste. The fin is not the only part of the animal which has been considered edible. I imagine that at least part of the reason why the fin was originally made into soup was to minimize the amount of leftover shark after it has been consumed. Instead of respecting the animal, and the hunt, now it’s simply another commodity. And who’s to care about dead sharks or decimating the cycle of life in the oceans? Sharks may not be the prettiest animal in the ocean and have the man-eater reputation thanks to Jaws. But that does not make them unnecessary, or only valuable by what prestige they can bring to humans.

I see this kind of thinking rampant in our cultures. With foods, it’s the wanting of specific cuts of meat, or latching on to a “super food” billed as a panacea when other, more common fare can have the same benefit but does not have a good PR department behind it. While my syndrome applies to things where we want a small amount of something while ignoring the totality, I think it applies well to other aspects of our society. Our overculture teaches us that if we want it and can put out the money for it, we should just be able to have it without consequence. If we want cheap goods, we have a right to them, along with overseas slave labor to make it and people receiving below-poverty level wages to sell them to us. Cheap food? Sure! Complete with migrant workers to pick it, monoculture grains (corn, wheat, and soy primarily) genetically engineered to withstand synthetic fertilizers and pesticides hosed over them and made stronger every year because the bugs feeding on them quickly become resistant, and causing the food which does come to our plate depleted of nutrients. Diamond jewelry or rare earth metals? War in African countries. A full wardrobe? Sweatshops in Bangladesh collapsing and killing workers.

How do we combat this waste? I wish I knew. Despite its marketing, making individual choices isn’t going to do much when the people in power are able to sell personality responsibility over making major ideological changes to the world at large. The back of the Gods and Radicals zine reads “An Other World Is Possible.” We need to actively work toward this world.


Shark Truth
Shark fin soup and the conservation challenge

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Moral Monday CT

Monday, February 23, 2015

Today was a turning point for me. I acted on what I’ve been saying I respect for a long time while watching from a distance. I know that many people whose opinions and approval are important to me may disagree with what I did. The best I can hope for is their understanding of my need to act on what my gut tells me is right. Here’s the story…

I’ve been fortunate to meet some pretty amazing people in the months following Ferguson. Some of those people are White, most are Black. All of them are sympathetic to “Black Lives Matter” but most know the truth of that slogan from a lifetime of personal experience. I am doing my best to listen when they talk of White privilege. I am doing my best to untangle my emotional reactions to that concept from the reality of its truth. I am doing my best to identify ways to make a difference in a meaningful rather than merely a rhetorical way. So, after much thought, I decided to attend the first Moral Monday in CT, set to address the urgency of “Black Lives Matter”. I knew we’d be meeting at a church and that following some speakers we’d be marching to City Hall. After that, I didn’t know what to expect. (Debra, you can walk away at anytime if your comfort level is challenged beyond tolerance) Some call that ability White privilege.

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When Family is More than Blood

Three Mother Goddesses of Egypt. Photo by RevKess.

My High Priestess shared an article with me in December 2014 about how many have turned the concept of the Coven into a Family. The author seems to feel that Coven members should be friends at most, hinted that near strangers may even be better. I may be interpreting her intent incorrectly. It is not my purpose here to pick apart the article or the author.

What family means to me…

Family is one of the most important things to me. Both in my mundane life and in my spiritual life. When you break it down, there really is little difference between the two. Continue reading

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Racism and Activism at Pantheacon

FB_IMG_1424196654259–by Shauna Aura Knight

Yesterday Pantheacon ended. Pantheacon is the largest Pagan conference and has almost 3,000 attendees and takes place in San Jose every year. I’m posting this a day late because I’ve been at the conference and wanted to write about activism within the Pagan community and specifically on activism-related issues that come up at Pantheacon.

Several years ago, Pantheacon was rocked by the exclusion of transgender women from one of the women’s rituals, and that controversy rippled out (and is still rippling) across the broader Pagan community.

This weekend I was proud to be part of a panel discussing racism within the community. Unfortunately, that panel began on a sour note as I learned that there had been something hurtful and racist written in one of the various newsletters distributed at Pantheacon.

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Privilege and Its Limits

boundaries-2After the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, a lot of talking heads said that the people deserved what they got because they knew the storm was coming but didn’t evacuate. What a lot of them didn’t realize is that many of the people didn’t have the means to leave, or anywhere to go if they did.

We’re often blind to our own advantages. Discussing privilege is necessary and important. Having someone point out your privilege is like having someone point out your blind spots. It provides context and, hopefully, compassion as we learn to walk in someone else’s shoes.

When the talking heads criticized the folks hurt by the hurricane, they were really just dismissing them out of hand, which is an important aspect of othering. When we dismiss others, we deny them any possible reasons or causes for their actions; if they behave differently than us, it’s because they’re just deficient.
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