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Increasing numbers of us are beginning to understand our culture more clearly. We are beginning to look behind the curtain of denial and to see the massive ongoing cruelty toward animals that pervades our meals and virtually all our cultural activities and institutions. We are also glimpsing the indoctrination that drives this cruelty. While this increased understanding of our culture’s hidden violence is liberating, and opens doors to healthy individual and social transformation, it is also disturbing. In our understandable outrage at what others are doing to animals, we may become angry with them and think that aggressive resistance and even violence are necessary to stop this terrible and unnecessary suffering.
Let’s look more deeply! As I’ve discussed in The World Peace Diet, the invisible core of our culture is the mentality of reductionism, commodification, and exclusion that is mandated by our daily meals. We are all forced to participate in the rituals of oppression and disconnectedness known as meals, and the spiritual and social hardening this ongoing violence causes in us is the hidden root of war, racism, the domination of women and the Earth, and indeed, of virtually all exploitation and violence. It explains why we find it so difficult to make real social progress. Our daily meals—our most intimate connection with our culture and with the web of life here—inject all of us with the precise mentality that surreptitiously and relentlessly impedes social progress. Fortunately, more and more of us are realizing this.
We are coming to understand that the essence of the mentality that allows us to confine and kill animals for food is the mentality of exclusion. We are all taught by our culture from infancy to exclude certain beings from the sphere of our compassion. Veganism is the healing and radical response to this: it is a mentality of radical inclusion. As vegans, we practice consciously including all living beings within our circle of caring; we exclude no one.
Anger is an expression of exclusion. There are some strategists in our movement who like to compare our movement to other social justice movements, and to justify using similar tactics, which often employ anger or violence in some form. These forces undermine veganism and compassion. We are called, as vegans, to transform our anger toward those who are harming animals, people, the Earth, and future generations into compassion and understanding for them, and to focus our efforts on creating and building vegan alternatives and educating our fellow humans. We realize that the enemy is not other people. All of us have been injected with a toxic cultural program of eating animal-sourced foods and exploiting other living beings. The only “enemy” is that program that persists, to a greater or lesser extent, in all of us.
I believe Buckminster Fuller was correct in encouraging people not to fight against obsolete institutions, because this further reinforces them and just drags us down, but rather to focus our energy positively and creatively to build new institutions and cultural habits that more accurately reflect the truth that we are and that we yearn to see manifested in our world. The vegan movement is, in many ways, the “ur-movement”—the source from which all the other social justice, peace, and rights movements spring. Our routine mealtime violence toward billions of beings is the foundational, churning core practice of exploitation, and as we literally eat this program, its consequent mentality generates the injustice, inequity, war, and other problems we endure. With the vegan movement, we’ve got our hands on the hidden-in-plain-sight quintessence of cultural violence, and it is thus inappropriate for us to strategize in the same dualistic ways that other social justice movements have.
The vegan revolution is an evolution of love and radical inclusion. It is a celebration of the unity and interconnectedness of the welfare of all living beings. As Gandhi emphasized, there can be no social transformation without personal transformation. Each one of us is called to root out of our consciousness the remaining residues of violence, anger, disconnectedness, and self-righteous judgmentalism that have been injected by our cultural conditioning, and to replace these with unconditional love and respect for everyone, even our “opponents.”
We are all in this together. The vegan evolution is a celebration of the joy and splendor of life, and an awakening to the beauty and potential of our shared life on this planet. The strategy for each of us is continually to discover how to love and give more deeply, fully, and authentically, and in harmony with our unique talents and gifts. We can see that our efforts are bearing fruit, and that there is nothing more urgently important for any of us at this time in our cultural evolution than to make an effort to understand clearly the nefarious cultural program that our meal rituals have planted in all of us, and do our best to remove it in both our outer and inner lives, and to help others do the same.
As we do this, we create the new foundations necessary for the more conscious, just, peaceful, and sustainable world that is beckoning. To the degree we yearn for peace, health, and wisdom, and work to realize these in ourselves, we’ll be successful in our quest. I don’t believe there’s any calling more noble than coming to a planet like our beautiful and imperiled Earth, and dedicating the brief time we have here to healing the wounds of delusion and violence, and planting seeds of loving kindness in all our actions. As legendary peace activist A.J. Muste said, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.” This is the heart of the vegan evolution that is gaining momentum and traction every day.
Image Source: Sterling College/Flickr