This is something I regularly think about and today was no exception. So why not bring the discussion out again?
I’ve been a vegetarian-ish on and off for 22 years now. I do eat meat (from land animals) on some occasions, like when I travel abroad. I’ve eaten fish since 2004, and eggs and milk, etc.
So you could say I’m not particularly devoted, much less fanatic.
Yet, I do care about animals, health, nature – all the usual things, so that’s why.
No, I don’t see others as being basically uncaring just because they don’t have this particular value.
Just as I don’t see others being basically uncaring if they vote for another political party than I do.
People are more complex than that.
People are more than that.
Some don’t seem to see it that way.
People, even very respected bloggers I know, seem to feel fine calling non-vegetarians Nazis.
A singer, Morissey, once said: “Eating meat is the moral equivalent of pedophilia or Nazism.” (Salon.com, 3 Jan 2014)
But to say such a thing about a single – to some – moral reprehensible act is ego-masturbation. ‘I’m holier than thou’.
It is a reflection of a mindset which is, in some respects, as tunnel-oriented as those people who are – rightly – flagellated for not giving more thoughts to animals and welfare.
No, I’m not going to give you the ‘Hitler was a vegetarian and loved his dogs’-schlock. That’s not an argument, I want to use, although it is tempting.
I’d like to invite you instead to really think about just how complex people are. And why it is ludicrous to judge them – wholly – by any single parameter.
I agree that there IS a similarity between the mindset of slaughtering humans in the KZ-camps … and slaughtering pigs in a factory.
At the very least there is a similarity in terms of willful ignorance as to what exactly happens and how this ignorance frees us, comfortably, from making more moral choices when we are busy surfing for cat-videos, Star Wars-trailers, and positioning ourselves for a new job or a new date.
But that’s Where. It. Stops.
But the problem’s don’t stop, if you are trying to live according to different values than most of society.
Be it with regard to meat-eating or something else.
My point is: The disregard for other life is something we can and should put on a scale.
Not all species are equal.
We have to prioritize.
We do it every day, when we at least kill plants to survive or maybe bugs in the kitchen to secure a clean environment or the bugs in our stomach which compel us to visit the bathroom more often than not.
In a way it’s a variation of the favorite ‘argument’ of people who love meat, of course, that “haven’t humans always eaten animals?” But I’m sure you are intelligent enough to see the difference between an argument and a poor excuse.
And courageous enough to say that ‘yes, you love your steak dammit – and who care’s about the cow’, instead of trying to prop it up like that. As if everybody else are just hippies. (When did that become a bad thing?!)
But I will say one thing: We are ALL hypocrites to an extent – whatever we deride as morally reprehensible.
Yup. All of us. Especially when we try to deride any single behavior – meat-eating, believing in the wrong god, getting divorced, voting for the wrong guy, etc. – as particularly detrimental to global affairs.
Especially when we try to judge people on the basis of just ONE particular behavior.
Just as the aforementioned-otherwise-respected-blogger, I myself …
– write this blog post on a computer full of metals dug up by child slaves in the Africa
– my cheap t-shirt is most likely produced by some poor men or women (or children) under grueling sweat shop conditions
– the wood in my desk and other furniture is most likely made from ‘industrial forests’ planted with the single purpose of delivering this product and to blazes with the natural forests, which can’t grow very well on the same land …
So what are we gonna do? What are you gonna do?
Condemn me for not caring about a buncha chickens?
What if I am saving children in Africa right now because that’s my job? What are you going to do about children in Africa?
You want to stop buying eggs to protest against the killing of chickens and the dairy industry?
How about stop using your computer right now – and make a statement about them kids digging up the cobalt in the Congo for its innards?
… I thought so.
So let’s get serious:
Saying a single act is a serious, terrible, moral problem doesn’t make it right to use that single, particular behavior as the only yardstick for judging everything about other people.
Especially if you don’t take the trouble to understand why people are behaving as they are and how you can communicate best with them to make them change that behavior.
And: Saying everybody is guilty of something is NOT an excuse to do nothing about everything.
So just because everybody is guilty in this life of destroying the Earth somehow, like the examples I mentioned above … that doesn’t mean YOU don’t have a responsibility for doing something about it.
Make a choice – about what you are going to do something about. There’s plenty of problems to pick. But keep it simple, and build from there.
Because you can’t and shouldn’t do everything. But you should do SOME-thing.
Here’s what I do to try to contribute.
Then you decide your own mix – if you even care about it. (But I guess that if you do, you would not even have read this far. This blog post would have made no sense to you at all from line one or two!)
1) Eating: I try to keep it veggie, bio/eco and local produce. I do eat fish sometimes, though. And dairy. But again – try to keep it bio/eco. Ethical+health+environmental reasons. Google’m if you are interested.
2) Communicating and sharing: This blog – sharing my knowledge and experience so far, in the hope of making a difference in more people’s lives than just those in my immediate family and friend-vicinity. I survived psychiatric hospital, a near-civil war in Bolivia, and kept a relationship going for 18 years (still do), among other things. So that experience counts for something and I try to pass it on instead of just keeping it to myself.
3) Charity: I know this sounds banal but I regularly give small amounts to charity. For example, we have a machine in most supermarkets that gives you a refund for empty bottles and you can choose to redirect this money to a charity. I almost always do. I estimate I donate around 200 dollars per year this way, aside from the odd collection donation – i.e. when somebody knocks at your door to get a contrib for a good cause, or if something similar happens online.
4) Sustainable lifestyle – sort of: We don’t have car and we live in a small apartment. I know, I know – we might have something bigger and some wheels if we had the money, so this isn’t purely altruistic. But I would say it counts anyway. Results count, right?
5) Fighting the cause: I try to vote for parties with the net most sustainable and social agenda, and – if at all possible – nudge other people to do the same. Not necessarily voting, but then through actions. I rarely get into arguments, though, because if there’s one thing I’ve discovered people love more than saving the Earth it is saving their ego from losing an argument. So … usually not an option for me. Better to lead through example, than try to convince someone that their lifestyle or whatever from the past and until now is ‘bad’ or whatever.
I know I could probably do more – could do better than this. I will. But I have to take it in a pace that fits me.
Some of my stretch goals here are:
1) Going vegan, at least for periods.
2) Succeeding at a business which will have a surplus to be reinvested in charity.
In theory option 2 would make the greatest difference, but I am also feeling good about the awareness that many small drops over the years, such as the bottle-collection-thing, eventually will add up to make quite a bit of difference!
Lastly, and most importantly, of course, I try to be a good and kind and decent person in everyday life, and all that.
But as the old saying goeth: “If I do not have love … ”
I take that very seriously.
Do you regularly try to give something to the contribution of ‘a better world’? Why?
Do you have a few activities you prioritize or do you try to be more all round in your giving?
Share your mix.