It is just over a year and a month now, that this speech was made. So why am I writing about this just today? Well, first of all, this blog was born like three months ago, and unless we have a time machine available it would have not been possible to write this at the time. Second: I didn’t think about this speech until a couple of days ago, and I actually don’t even remember why I thought about it. Third: I don’t believe this speech has gained that much consideration, even at the time it was made, a year ago, while it is absolutely still relevant (despite this fast-running, speed-racing machine that is the contemporary world, where things become obsolete after few months). Hence I feel like this should be made more widespread.
The speech I am talking about is the one that Joaquin Phoenix gave when he won the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance as Joker in the homonym movie (which is brilliant: if you haven’t watched it yet, do it, you won’t regret it! I leave you the trailer at the end).
So, Joaquin Phoenix is a long-time vegan (since he was a child) and he has publicly spoken many times as well as taking part in public protests for animal rights (you can read it here, here, here and what a recent interview here). If this wasn’t enough, he has also been arrested during a protest on climate change.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that he took such an important opportunity, such as the Oscar’s acceptance speech, to raise awareness of animals rights. But in these 5 minutes, he managed to include themes of social justice, the fight against racism, gender rights and LGBTQ+ rights. Few moments, with very powerful words.
You might remember that Leonardo DiCaprio did something similar when he won his first Oscar (whoo-hoo! Well done Leo, you should have gotten one much earlier, but better late than never!). He said that “making The Revenant [the movie for which he won the award] was about man’s relationship to the Natural World, a world that we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history. Our production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet just to be able to find snow. Climate change is real, it is happening right now, it is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating, we need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, the big corporations, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people who will be most affected by this, for our children’s children and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed. I thank you all for this amazing award tonight. Let us not take this Planet for granted, I do not take this night for granted.”
I find that Joaquin’s speech went beyond that: that through veganism people can not only live in a more compassionate way, but also that the vegan lifestyle can benefit non-humans and humans alike, helping in the fight against social injustice as well as for a better environment.
I leave you the video here (and the transcript below it):
“I’m full of so much gratitude right now. And I do not feel elevated above any of my fellow nominees or anyone in this room because we share the same love, the love of film and this form of expression has given me the most extraordinary life. I don’t know what I’d be without it. But I think the greatest gift that it’s given me and many of us in this room is the opportunity to use our voice for the voiceless. I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the distressing issues that we are facing collectively and I think at times that we feel, or were made to feel, that we champion different causes. But for me, I see commonality. I think whether we are talking about gender inequality, or racism, or queer rights, or indigenous rights, or animals rights, we are talking about the fight against injustice, we are talking about the fight against the belief that one nation, one people, one race, one gender, or one species has the right to dominate, control, and use and exploit another with impunity.
I think that we’ve become very disconnected from the natural world and many of us, what we are guilty of, is an egocentric worldview: the belief that we’re the centre of the universe; we go into the natural world and we plunder it for its resources; we feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and when she gives birth, we steal her baby even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable and then we take her milk, that it’s intended for a calf, and we put it in our coffee and our cereal. And I think, we fear the idea of personal change because we think that we have to sacrifice something, to give something up: but human beings at our best, are so inventive, so creative and ingenious and I think that when we use love and compassion as our dieting principles we can create, develop and implement systems of change that are beneficial to all sentient beings and to the environment.
Now, I’ve been a scoundrel in my life, I’ve been selfish, I’ve been cruel at times, hard to work with, and ungrateful but so many of you in this room have given me a second chance, and I think that’s when we are at our best: when, when we support each other, not when we cancel each other out for past mistakes, but when we help each other to grow, when we educate each other, when we guide each other towards redemption. That is the best of humanity.
When he was 17, my brother [River Phoenix] wrote these lyrics, he said ‘run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow’.