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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Judgment and Complacency

(Here’s another chapter from Can-Do Vegan.)

 

“Don’t judge me. Eating animals doesn’t make me a bad person!”

How can I judge you, when I used to eat animals myself?

I’m going to say something that might sound mean at first. Hear me out, okay? (I did promise you tough love!)

You will believe whatever you need to in order to see yourself as a good person.

Now, I’m not saying you’re not a good person. I’m saying that we are all terribly adept at making excuses for our behavior. Being vegan certainly doesn’t exempt me from this; I’m as guilty of wishful thinking as the next person. It’s called being human, right?

That said, we shouldn’t let “being human” lure us into complacent decision making. If we can do better, then by all means, why don’t we? It makes no sense to say, “I’m a good person, I really am, but you know what, actually, I’d kind of prefer not to know where my food comes from. It’s too upsetting.”

Here are a few more things we try to convince ourselves of on a daily basis:

  • “No one suffers so that I can drink this milk and eat these eggs and bacon.”
  • “It’s what my parents and grandparents eat, and all my ancestors before them; it’s what I feed my children; therefore it’s the right and proper diet.”
  • “A diagnosis of cancer, heart disease, or diabetes is a matter of genetics and good (or bad) luck.”
  • “I’m just one person. There’s nothing I can do to help create a better future for this planet.”

Here’s the rub about complacence: by definition, we can’t see the thing we’re oblivious to. As the novelist Junot Diaz says, “We all have a blind spot around our privileges shaped exactly like us.” In the world we live in, not being born a cow, pig, or chicken is very much a privilege. Most of us were born into the assumptions I’ve listed above, and it takes a great deal of courage to question them.

One of the most profound benefits of the vegan lifestyle is the rigorous intellectual inquiry it sparks. You start asking the uncomfortable questions so that you can align your behavior with your values. This process of opening your heart and reframing cultural assumptions may very well transpire over a period of years, but once you reach “critical mass,” as it were, your life becomes more joyful than you ever thought it could be.

* * *

In fact, you can be a very honest person and yet not be living a truthful life.
And not even realize it.
This matters because stripping away all the inaccuracies, misunderstandings, and untruths that surround you is exactly how you can overcome anything at all.
Truth is accuracy.
Without accuracy, you can’t expect to manifest large, specific changes in your life.
It’s not enough to believe something is true.

—Augusten Burroughs, This is How: Surviving What You Think You Can’t

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.