More thoughts about emotion

sheep-351617_960_720pbI have written before about emotion and its engagement in the struggle for the acknowledgement of the basic rights of nonhuman individuals. I have previously considered how, when one is emotionally affected by the abhorrent practices that are perpetrated casually upon helpless, vulnerable animals, the admission of this is so frequently pounced on and mocked in an attempt to discredit one’s position.

Today I found myself returning to thoughts of emotional response, and the very personal and individual way that emotional response has become a more noticeable part of my everyday life since becoming vegan. I find that it is often those whom I have known longest that I find most difficult to talk to about the fundamental shift in my outlook that has taken place, and I know that many vegans share this experience.

Dis-empowerment and denial

I don’t have a vast social circle, ironically and largely due to the premature deaths of so many close ones from what I now recognise as the diet-related diseases endemic to our time.  I sometimes consider that those who knew me in the old days when they thought of me as ‘normal’ (ish?), find that they dismiss my veganism because they assume I’ve ‘gone soft over animals’. I can sometimes almost see the eye-rolling, head shaking, rueful smiles; the sympathetic, kindly way that I’m humoured by those with a view of veganism as something cranky, weird, soppy, bizarre or perhaps just a tad misguided.

‘She has cats, you know’, ‘she’s always been a bit emotional’, ‘obviously reads too much of that ‘animal welfare’ nonsense’, ‘not very practical, but harmless’, the body language says it all. Suddenly a lifetime of being an honest, sincere human being, of prizing intellect and knowledge, of studying mathematics, of project managing and practical problem-solving in the world of construction has dissolved into an amazingly all-too-plausible notion of me as a naïve, impractical, fanciful and gullible marshmallow, sobbing into my vegetables about ‘poor animals’ being hurt.

I’m compelled to view this patronising as well-meant because I have loved these folks forever, but this willingness on their part to disempower me, this denial of my status as their intellectual equal, leaves me frustrated and struggling to rediscover my voice. However cast in the role of an over-emotional adherent to some weirdly fanatical diet, it is so difficult to exert any level of gravitas.

Are they right?

This caused me to start wondering if there was any chance that they might have a point. After all, before we tackle any misconception, it’s important to know our own weaknesses if for no other reason than to be prepared with a response. And I find that to an extent my emotions are closer to the surface than they were in the past.

Admittedly I have always been the kind who cries at sad films. There are some that have left me distraught for days and I was grateful to have sunglasses to wear. When we have known sadness and loss and the ill health of loved ones, we can find it all too easy to empathise with others in a similar situation. However in the past, it was always possible to deal with this in a manner that was virtually undetectable in everyday life. Every one of us has a shell that protects and screens our innermost thoughts from the outside world. Veganism somewhat changes that for a number of reasons.

No hiding place – on one side the nightmare

As vegans, we walk a path in a difficult place. It is a place where on one side we are beset by the heartbreaking tragedy of what our species does to others. There is no escape whatsoever from this. So completely contrary to the ‘shoving ideas down other people’s throats’ accusation that is frequently flung at vegans, the challenges of living in a world completely oblivious to the extent of their gruesome obsession with death and torment are inescapable. Once we see it, we can’t un-see it and moreover we have no place to hide.

Almost every advert, every conversation, every TV programme, every aisle of every shop, every field, every building, every person we see everywhere is casually flaunting the results of both the tyranny of our species, and its profound disconnection from the consequences of our actions.

Having crossed the border into veganism, we quickly discover that no activity, however innocuous, is exempt from the horror. For example I recently required to buy pyjamas and a more harmless activity it’s hard to envisage. Nevertheless I had a long search for something plain because I could not escape the observation that almost every fabric depicted animals, sweet sleepy lambs, cute fluffy bunnies, baby creatures depicted as adorable and cuddly and a desirable illustration to induce peaceful sleep.

Only a couple of aisles away were their tortured and bloody remains, still echoing with the whimpers of loss and fear that are the inevitable consequence of what our species REALLY does, rather than our distorted and dishonest perception of ourselves. Violated, despairing, grieving, alone and afraid, the truth of our behaviour from the perspective of our victims is the stuff of nightmares, not of peaceful sleep.

Loved ones – on the other side, oblivious

As we walk the vegan path, on the other side, we are beset with the humans in our sphere of contact who are the direct perpetrators of the tragedy that affronts us. Some of these humans we love with all our hearts, and it hurts us deeply every day, to face the fact that these people, many of whom are exactly like we were ourselves, staunch in their perception of themselves as decent, moral people, are the very consumers whose demand is tormenting the helpless and vulnerable whom we now seek to defend.

Despite this, we need only cast our minds back to our own experience to realise that whilst we can never again overlook what they are doing, we have to keep looking for the key that will unlock their understanding. We cannot turn our backs, and there is no way to protect ourselves from the hurt their actions cause us.

After all, on the day that veganism opened our eyes, we did not become different people. I was exactly the same person on that day as I had been on the previous day; all that had happened was that a huge and previously disregarded truth had moved into the centre stage of my being, which resulted in everything else realigning itself. Oddly, the result of the realignment was to make me the person I had sincerely thought I was all along. And those whom we struggle to reach are no different. We must always strive to understand the reasons why their world-view is so inflexible and we can never give up.

Full circle

Which brings me back round to the start; how to communicate that what we have become is so far removed from over-emotional naivety as it is possible for us to be; how to convey that it was in fact the removal of that naivety, the end of our innocence, and the continuous exposure to an inescapable horror that makes our emotions sit nearer the surface than before?

We each have our own coping mechanisms; some days they work better than others. My own focus is on justice for the persecuted, an end to unnecessary violence, the cessation of society’s delusions of necessity and entitlement to hurt others without cause. When someone mentions my ‘love for animals’ I never miss a chance to correct them. I am not vegan for love. When ‘welfare’ is mentioned, I correct the phrase. This is not about ‘welfare’, it’s about rights; the right of every individual to belong to their own self. I am not vegan because of ‘compassion’ or ‘kindness’ or any other nebulous reason to which we can each apply our own interpretation.

I refuse to be sidelined and overlooked as a weak-minded sentimentalist. I am vegan for justice. I am vegan as a rejection of violence. I am vegan because what we are doing as a species is wrong. I am vegan with my heart and my soul, but also with my mind, my intellect and my intelligence.

I value the knowledge that I am not alone and for that, I’m grateful. Let’s keep each other strong because this battle is not about us, it’s about the powerless billions to whom we owe the clarity and passion of veganism. We’re making headway.

Be vegan.

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9 Responses to More thoughts about emotion

  1. Julie Hamilton says:

    Fabulous article! I relate to every feeling the author perfectly articulated!

    Like

  2. Hella says:

    You have a wonderful ability to convey your thought processes/emotions in a succinct,penetrating,touching heart and mind manner.Your sincerity and clarity literally shines throughout every sentence. I totally echo your ” I am vegan for justice. I am vegan as a rejection of violence. I am vegan because what we are doing as a species is wrong. I am vegan with my heart and my soul, but also with my mind, my intellect and my intelligence”. Thank you for being a true champion!;-)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi there,

    Firstly i am blown away by your writing. I have only recently started writing and i thank you for following my blog the All Seeing Vegan. Hopefully through persistence my writing may grow and i will be able to explain myself and opinions as you do, in such a profound way.

    May i ask if it is not rude how you went about getting such a large following on wordpress? I am not the most computer literate so am unsure how to start building a loyal following. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again for sharing your amazing writing ( – :

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi there. Thank you so much for your positive feedback about my writings. I came across your blog in a link on Facebook. What appealed to me was your sincerity and that your experience was very similar to my own in that, having become vegan, you felt compelled to write as an avenue to share your thoughts and perspective. I can really relate to this, as when it happened to me, it was stepping out of my comfort zone, but having discovered and embraced the profound shift in outlook that comes with veganism, I suddenly felt compelled to shout it from the rooftops!

      This happened in 2012 and my first thought was to set up a Facebook page which I did in October of that year. There are hundreds, thousands of Facebook pages which purport to ‘love animals’ and at first I was swamped with possibilities, and shared a lot of content but little original work. My thoughts were still churning with the impact of the new world I had discovered. I can remember the thrill of reaching 100 likes. Suddenly I knew I was not alone!

      Over the next couple of years, my thinking became more grounded (in my own opinion). I read a great deal of related work and became aware that all is not necessarily what it seems when it comes to those individuals and organisations that claim to ‘oppose cruelty’. I realised that I wanted to, needed to focus on the issues of animal use as opposed to ‘welfare’, speciesism as the underlying cause of all that humans perpetrate upon nonhuman species, and veganism as a matter of basic decency and the only truly impactful solution to the horrors of our wilfully blind society. I also needed to be consistent both in my own writing and in the pieces that I share. The Facebook page continued to gather new followers but I wanted to write longer pieces and to be able to index and refer to them at a later date. It was at that point, in 2014, that I set up the blog.

      Since then, I have simply written about what I know, as honestly as I can. That was one of the few pieces of advice that has remained with me from the days of ‘what I did on my holidays’, the injunction to stick to what we know when writing. The Facebook page is where I share short pieces as well as the blogs which happen when inspiration strikes. I am fairly certain that many who now follow on WordPress originally discovered the blog through Facebook. I try to remember to make full use of WordPress tags to ensure that my work pops up when anyone is seeking a particular topic.

      I am amazed to find the number of page followers gradually increasing each week (many more on Facebook than on WordPress) but I must stress that gaining followers has never really been a goal. Many pages have vast followings and many have sensationalist content but popularity was never my aim. If I can make one person stop and think seriously about why they really need to become vegan, then my purpose has been served.

      Sorry the response is so long – once I start it’s hard to stop…. So anyway, I think the main advice I would offer is that persistence, consistency and sincerity pay off. Time takes care of the rest. I think you’ve made a great start and I wish you well. We can never have too many voices sharing the vegan message. Please feel free to message me if I can help.

      Like

      • Thank You so much for your reply i appreciate it so much along with the encouragement i have taken from it.

        My sentiment is exactly the same as you stated in that i am not after numbers for the sake of numbers but just want to reach even one person and maybe change some opinions.

        Thank you again for taking the time to reply.

        Richard

        Like

  4. Sonnette says:

    Thank you for reminding me about the right reasons for being vegan,it is because of the RIGHTS of those who does speak for itself,BUT US HUMANS CHOOSE NOT TO HEAR IT.

    Like

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