Thursday, 13 October 2016

Selective empathy: The ethical schizophrenia of our times

It's been a long time of deep thinking about selective empathy.

It is very important for me to finally express the thoughts that keep coming in mind almost daily, the questions that stay unanswered and the conclusions I may have done until now.


Veganism is growing exponentially throughout the world (ex. 360% raise in 10 years in Britain) so this means that a new international community is emerging and it needs to be respected because veganism is a protected belief under the Article 9 of the European Convention for the protection of Human rights.

But what exactly is veganism? It's a lifestyle that avoids all animal foods such as meat, dairy, eggs and honey, animal derived products like leather and as far as possible, products tested on animals. The Vegan Society's formal definition is "veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food,clothing or any other purpose".

Do you find this extreme? I am sure that it makes sense to everyone when they read that. Then why vegans are considered as extremists, terrorists or crazy? My personal opinion is because they are showing the ugly truth of our society's killed values. This makes people who still follow the lifestyle that they have adopted or even obeyed without ever questioning it, to feel guilty and (especially the ones among them who consider themselves as animal lovers) extremely uncomfortable as well.

The extremists

Of course there are indeed some extremists among vegans but this is happening in all communities. These peoples' behaviors are driven by anger, ego and hatred. Not by the need to go out and SHOUT the truth to everyone when they confronted it and it became a necessity for the sake of the animals, the planet and humanity to spread it A.S.A.P before it's too late.

Personally I am a baby-vegan because I quit dairy products only 5 months ago. But I have been a vegetarian and applied all the other values except the dietary one (meaning to buy ONLY cruelty free cosmetics, cleaning products and clothes/shoes) since 2009.

A month before I quit dairy products, I participated to a Greek documentary which talks about a life without harming animals. At some point I said: "I am not yet a vegan but I am very close to that point. I find it difficult to go out for food with friends for example -in a pizzeria- and find to eat something without cheese or eggs". You cannot imagine the comments I got from this kind of extremist vegans for exactly this phrase. As if they were born vegans and they never passed through that stage.

Then some young girls were asking in a group which is made to help people go vegetarian/vegan, why it is bad to eat eggs from their neighbor's chickens who are free and happy (and probably they will never be killed). They were really asking the reason and the reaction of the admin was an hysterical delirium instead of a logical explanation. I couldn't help it so I wrote a comment "Welcome to the world of vegans where if you do the mistake to ask the wrong question, you may be shot from the ones waiting for you in the corner", some minutes after I was out of the group without any informative message from the admin.

A couple of months after that, a 3nd incident took place that led me even to block an ex-friend (who even became e vegetarian inspired by me, after we first met on 2012) because the amount of hatred and aggressiveness from their part was extremely high to ignore it and the way to express their opinion was very disrespectful. The reason in that case was the fact that my friend and I use Bee wraps but call ourselves vegans. To be honest, when I ordered that product it was the same days I decided to quit dairy and I haven't decided yet if I would quit honey and eggs. I feel very relieved for not having to buy aluminum paper anymore as I also try to adopt a zero waste lifestyle - because what's the meaning to stop killing animals but to leave them a destroyed planet full of our waste to live?
Of course now that I have decided to quit honey too, I will not buy bee wraps again and after these ones get bad (thank God they are still usable) I seriously don't know with what I will replace it. I remember this person was trying to excuse for these past 2 months the top extremist of the Greek Vegan community (who was talking shit for the creator of the documentary and me) and I was always telling her to not bother because I won't ever give a chance to someone with fascistic attitude. She was getting angry whenever I was using this term and I only realized why, after her attack. Because she was becoming like this person. What is sad in their cases is the fact of both being highly educated  and growing their kids with the values of veganism. I am seriously afraid that their kids will maybe one day attack physically someone eating meat.

Veganism as a holistic approach for a peaceful life

Keeping in mind these negative behaviors let's go towards the opposite direction: If we want to adopt a lifestyle without cruelty and exploitation, why attacking other vegans who haven't reach yet the point that we have? Why not helping them to go faster at "the finish line" (if there is one... ) instead of cursing, arguing etc? All these extremists apparently don't realize that their hatred releases more toxins than what a steak has. They haven't realize the real meaning of the vegan lifestyle. Dr Tuttle has written a book named "The World Peace Diet" and most people who practice yoga in their lives are vegetarians or vegans. THIS is what's veganism is all about. No one forced me to watch Earthlings nor anyone demanded me to go vegan. I was thinking for 3 years after having watched "Forks over Knives" that I shall quit dairy but I was not feeling strong enough and I had other serious problems in my life to solve so I did one step at a time: first I replaced the milk with almond milk, then yogurt with soy yogurt, milk cream with soy milk cream etc. Finally, Cowspiracy brought the message home and as I watched it when my mind was ready to quit the crappy lifestyle which allows you to eat whatever you want whenever you want, after having lived 6 months with no dairy in the house, I did it. And it was so easy.

The Shock

Why is it such an apocalypse for someone like me who already have been a vegetarian and buying only cruelty free products for that long ? Why did this make me start seeing everywhere around me dead animals or violence? In Greek tavernas menus' for instance it is written "Moscharaki galaktos" , which means "calf" so it is so obvious that we talk about a baby animal which got slaughtered, the waiter will tell us that this is more "tender" (meaning soft) than the pork steak. Why only now I feel that I will explode when I hear these descriptions and details? Why when a friend drinks coffee with milk I hear the caw moaning for her baby which was taken by her? I still haven't answer that question. But it makes me wanting to lock myself in the house and go out only for necessary shopping in veggie markets, when eating out go only to vegan restaurants (but we don't really have many of them yet as we are still in the vegetarian level in Greece) and socialize only with vegans and vegetarians.

And what about humans?

Lately I met a sensitive soul who introduced me to Deep Ecology which made me find at last a theory in which ecology is indeed ecology. What I loved more about ecology is:

"The distinguishing and original characteristics of the deep ecology movement were its recognition of the inherent value of all living beings and the use of this view in shaping environmental policies. Those who work for social changes based on this recognition are motivated by love of nature as well as for humans. They recognize that we cannot go on with industrialism's “business as usual.” Without changes in basic values and practices, we will destroy the diversity and beauty of the world, and its ability to support diverse human cultures."

The reason I find this fascinating is because I finally discovered a theory which respects in the same way ALL living beings because unfortunately, ecologists and environmentalists nowadays don't acknowledge the intrinsic value of each individual of all species. Because even the science of Biodiversity Conservation is based on an anthropocentric way of thinking. And this is destroying our planet, our values and our inner selves but we cannot see it. Humans realize the value of something only after losing it. Literally, a species is getting protection only if it becomes endangered. Do you realize the anomaly of this mentality? 

So how vegans feel for humans? Do they care? Would they bother?
Personally, I am not trying to buy only cruelty free products but fair trade as well. Once I get informed about companies which exploit kids or poor people, I never support them again and I put a lot of effort to find ethical alternatives.

Since last year, I turn my attention to humans in a volunteer/activist level as well. I don't mean that before I ignored them but until last year I was mainly volunteering on animal care, environmental projects and my only continuous humanitarian action was the virtual adoption of a kid in Rwanda. Of course I was helping whoever was in need and deserved it but I never lost myself for humans as I did last year for 3 months in order to help refugees.

I was scared to face this species in need, to be honest. I also was anxious on how to react, until I started acting as always, naturally with pure love and caring. Some people needed food and a smile, others needed dry clothes or emergency blankets, some needed a ride etc. Apparently I could do everything (except undressing & dressing kids lol) but with one big difference: I had no feelings. Other volunteers were crying when seeing a boat arriving for the first time, some people couldn't deal with the tension and the needs of so many people but I was OK with everything, nothing could touch me and I became a robot leaving back my life and throwing myself in this addictive volunteerism.

Selective empathy

I will process for years this experience but basically I want to express my surprise of experiencing in an everyday level selective empathy. Thank God there were many vegetarian or vegan volunteers which made me feel less lonely but still, it was impressive and disappointing at the same time to see hundreds of people, mostly educated, who cared so much for humans but don't give a damn for animals or the environment. How is it possible?

Are all of these people brainwashed with theories as Emmanuel Kant's which basically says that personhood is the quality that makes a being valuable and thus morally considerable? 

Why some of us feel the same empathy for a hurt animal, a baby who cries and a burn forest? 

Why, people that I love and respect, who are doing a great humanitarian volunteer work and help hundreds of people, feel nothing for cows, pigs and chickens? And most important, why some of them love so much their dogs or cats? I mean, OK, some people have never made the connection as I hadn't until I watched Earthlings but so many of them, are aware but still prefer to ignore these everyday violent choices that they make based on what they eat and wear and with what they wash themselves or their dishes.

Ι will not argue about the ones who don't care about anyone but themselves and their families. Nor for poor people who don't have the choice to select the alternative products but I argue about the empathetic ones, the activists, the volunteers who travel for hours to come and spend days or weeks with refugees, who say to me "I also love animals" showing me their pets on their smartphones but yet they don't realize that we just ordered food and they are about to eat a killed pig. 

I will also argue for all these Greeks who insult Chinese people during their dog meat festival as if they don't do exactly the same with lamps every Easter. 

I will mostly argue for so many people who save tens of cats and dogs from streets, put so much effort to heal them, find them families to love them etc and yet the moment they do all that, they are wearing skin of a cow and wool of a sheep who both died in a horrible way after living a terrible life in the dark, without ever experiencing love or having seen the sun.

THIS is what someone called ethical schizophrenia and it helped me find words to describe from what our society suffers. 

If you fight racism, then fight speciesism too.

If you fight discrimination then fight it for all living beings, not only for the one between  men and women.
If you fight for peace, then apply it in your everyday life. 

   Our everyday choices define whether we really have values.

We, vegans, live our values and believe me, it is a really hard way of living. But animals worth it.

Read also:

The moral status of animals, 2010

- Gary L. Francione, Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or the Dog?, Temple University Press, 2000.


                                            The secret reason people eat meat

and of course:

This post is dedicated to Michael, the vegetarian Syrian refugee who rescued and takes care of 3 dogs and 4 cats when Greeks who still have their houses and families abandon their animals "because of the crisis".

                                   CaRpE dIeM

No comments:

Post a Comment