If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to yearn for the endless immensity of the sea.
~ Antoine De Saint-Exupery
Today I read this quote and I found myself reflecting on how it applies to vegan advocacy.
To me these words convey that before we can gain commitment from others for any undertaking, we must first inspire them; we must make them see and feel from the most basic of principles why this undertaking simply must happen; we need them to long for it as we do ourselves. We need to make our own goals into a mutual desire that determines and dictates actions that we can undertake together. Having done so, everything that needs to be done to achieve our shared passion, will flow from that desire.
Applying this thought to advocacy, to champion the defenceless victims of our species, I found myself considering that it is not sufficient to assign what may seem like disparate tasks to others. In the absence of a cohesive motivation, making suggestions about menus, clothing, toiletries and entertainment, inciting protests about the treatment of other animals during our unnecessary use of them, can all too easily be seen as separate issues, a pick list from which to choose. Similarly, listing the health benefits of plant-based eating or the environmental impacts of ending the practice of ‘farming’ the lives of other creatures are often the subjects of a completely separate focus. Within each of those areas there is a world of subjectivity, a myriad compromises and trade offs that each of us may make to appease pangs of conscience. ‘I do something about X so I can relax a bit on Y’; I’m sure we all know that internal dialogue.
However there is one thing that circumvents all the compromises and all the trade offs, one thing that unites all the issues that I mentioned earlier and it is this.
Motivating from first principles
Once we know in our hearts that our defenceless victims, as sentient inhabitants of our shared planet, each has a life that matters to them, a mind that responds emotionally to life and living; that creates memories, bonds and relationships with each other and their environment, then we start to see, reflected in them, how we would feel were our positions reversed.
Once we are motivated by this deeply felt understanding of what our casual, thoughtless demands as consumers have been inflicting on our victims, we become vegan in that place deep in our core that drives every action, every choice for the rest of our days. We no longer need a tick list because we see the big picture.
Seeking to inspire that profound understanding of what veganism means, is to me what advocacy is all about. It is the only way I can try to make amends for my non-vegan past. Be vegan and work alongside me, asking others to be vegan.