This world lives on the edge of monstrosity.
Otherwise good, gentle people smilingly buy and consume
the products of pain and death. If any person or poster,
letter or literature, tries to remind them of the
possibility of change, or of some of the cruelties
inherent in the products they buy, these people will
wall off the suggestions, smoothly, easily, completely,
either with a certain amount of annoyance or with
understanding and respect that too often is feigned.
A vegan's faith in human kindness can be stretched
to the utmost -- sometimes to the snapping point or
the beginning of misanthropy -- to come up against
the walls of denial over and over again.
Those of us who know the truth and act on it are
considered freaks. For the meat-eating majority, not
to push away our choices by labeling us eccentric,
dirty tree-huggers, radical hippies, extreme, or whatever
other pejorative springs readily to mind, would mean
that they would have to evaluate their own actions
and be prepared for the possibility that not all of
these actions are praiseworthy.
There is fear behind this denial, which is nurtured
starting in childhood by marketing interests and the
people around us who are already in its grip. As every
day goes by and we eat or wear or use the products
of pain, as we make jokes at the expense of the animals
or the people who care about them, as we continue
to buy items without questioning how they got to us,
our society digs itself deeper into a habit that becomes
not just comfortable, not just accepted, but expected.
We implicate ourselves step by step and dollar by
dollar into the mechanism responsible for animal cruelty
We know this, deep down. We are aware, however faintly,
of the distastefulness of this lifestyle. And so we
fear any comment, person, or word that suggests to
us this lifestyle is not the best or the only way
to live. Because what is smothering the deep-down
kernel of doubt that we should live this way is the
sureness of this denial, which has become so strong
it feels like knowledge: "The sun comes up in the
morning, and sets in the evening, and I am a person
who eats meat. Because people eat meat. It's healthy
and tastes good. My family eats meat. My friends eat
meat. It's not a real meal unless it has meat."
These usually aren't articulated thoughts, otherwise
they would be easier to question. These are unworded
assumptions that have become sureties. This is the
worst kind of pretending. This is pretending to oneself,
without even knowing it.
We start down the path of compassion when somehow
we begin to be able to set aside the pretense to which
we are addicted. Something softens or falls away and
we gain objectivity, sometimes all at once, sometimes
moment by moment, about our choices.
What causes this? For some people, it's the first
time they confront the bloody facts in a piece of
literature like Diet for a New America or Meet Your
Meat. Others may have such information come at them
for years without making them change. For me, I was
in a time of flux with my life, feeling less attached,
for various reasons, to rigid ideas of who I was.
I was ready to embrace major changes in how I saw
myself and the world and in how I lived. Everyone's
journey is different.
I believe that with every person who decides to live
a life more gentle, another light comes in amongst
the blind darkness of denial that is our society.
As the number of vegetarians and vegans increases
in the world, the easier it is for the rest of the
world to consider the possibility that such a life
is tenable and enjoyable. I believe that if we make
an example of gentleness, joy, health, love, and ahimsa
with our vegan lives, then -- however slowly and imperceptibly
-- we will have an effect on the walls of denial.
Though it may take years or lifetimes before we see
the walls weaken, I do have faith that we can someday
all be free from their oppression.
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