To start with, although I’m typically a loner and gravitate away from groups, I really did make an effort to engage the vegan community in my life, on my blog, at events, and on especially twitter. I just realized last week that involving myself in the daily minutia of “large groups of vegans talking” that I had become something I wasn’t happy with. I got completely caught up in being reactive, whiny and judgemental — and those are not characteristics I want to foster.
It felt like, on a daily basis, the sorts of things I ended up talking and thinking about were “so and so isn’t vegan enough”, or “that celebrity is no longer vegan, so they’re such a bitch”, or “that magazine didn’t use vegan photos”, or “shame on you for not having the same beliefs about veganism as I do” and developing fairly negative feelings in the process. Obviously that’s not all that happens in the vegan community, but it seems to be a dominating current in discussion when I was involved.
This wasn’t making me a better vegan, and was definitely not making me a better person.
That’s not to say every vegan is like this, there a fair number of my friends that are vegan and amazing people I wish i could be more like. But, similar to organized religion, it seems to me that a lot of veganism has become a fractured set of dogmatic rules believers need to adhere to for fear of ostracism, and a set subjective guidelines and nomenclature that all completely divide instead of unite. The essence of the way we talk to each other and talk about others has become as preachy and judgemental as television evangelists.
So instead of trying to do something about it, I’d just like to leave.
I still feel, right at my core, that I don’t want to use animals or their bi-products for food, clothing, shelter, anything. I’m just not enthusiastic about even calling myself “vegan” anymore. It’s a label I don’t need, as my reasons for being “vegan” are entirely mine, and my place in world doesn’t seem like it should be the person on the mountaintop telling everyone how things should be. I’m not that enlightened.
I’m not ok to eat animals, but if you are happy eating animals — good for you, that’s your choice. If you are considering becoming vegan, that’s good too — just don’t let some in the vegan community who are quick to jump at any shortcomings (I’m speaking about myself here too) or deter you in anyway. Your choices in life don’t mean you have to become exactly like people who have made the same choices.
As much as I feel I want to judge or jump on ideas and beliefs that are not shared, I will do my damnedest not to. It’s just like if someone’s religious/faith believes differ from mine, I have no right to push against them if I don’t feel the same. No one is right, no one wrong. If we’re comfortable with our choices and able to critique them from time to time, then that’s a good thing — regardless of the choice.
If someone has honest questions about veganism, health, diet, etc. I have no problem talking about that – as I think that’s really where conscious change can possibly occur. Same with discussing good food. That comes from so deep inside myself that it could never stop.
To me, and for me personally, veganism is love.
And it certainly sounds silly to say out-loud. But if I honestly think about it, I love all life too much to take it from another being. That comes from a place of happiness and literally feeling amazing when I’m in the presence of animals. It’s something deeply personal to me, and I know not all others feel the same. but this is where I need to focus my thoughts and build from.
I realize that I’m being a complete cop-out by just walking away, and if I was a stronger person, I would not. I have and will probably continue to walk away from a lot of things. I could “be the change I want to see”, which is a much harder (and a much more enlightened) seed to sow. but I’m not there yet, and feel like I’d just get sucked back into the judgemental, antagonist vortex again. I’m at a place in my life where I need to focus further inward before I can project outward.
I need to figure things out. I need to figure myself out. and once I do that, I’m sure I’ll have something to share and offer again, but in a more constructive way.
This post was written in November 2010, well before I wrote my book Eat Awesome. It did however shape a lot of how I approached writing the content for it.