Should We All Be a Little More Unreasonable?
Vegans, by and large, exist within communities and societies that have yet to adopt a healthy, compassionate way of life as a general rule. I’m not certain this even needs to be said, but it occasionally helps to remind ourselves that our current state of being is a delicate balancing act. Quite naturally, we wish so very ardently that our friends, neighbors, and coworkers will begin to open their eyes to the realities that they’ve been shutting out for so many years. Our passion often leads us into delivering fiery monologues that deal with the nature of injustice, oppression, and shifting paradigms; and yet, we are all (at least most of us) aware of the fact that the core of our message (compassion, mercy, health, social justice, etc.) will be totally and completely lost if the way in which we communicate leans too far into the realm of unreasonable, vicious snarkiness and barbs filled with venom.
It is quite often that (due in large part to the conundrum listed above) animal activists find themselves a bit stuck, and anxious in regards to how they’re perceived in the community at large. On the one hand, their own state of veganism would lead us (rightly) to believe that they care more about justice and compassion more than they care about what opinions other people might draw about them. Yet, by the same token, they’re often very concerned about just how they’re coming across, for many possess a concern that they might lose a chance to plant a seed of compassion in the heart of an omnivore due to their style of communication or the manner in which they’re attempting to speak on behalf of the animals; if the latter is the case, the animals certainly lose in that scenario.
In response to this paradoxical situation, many vegans unintentionally reside in a state of homeostasis; not really willing to risk “losing” ground in a conversation about why veganism is necessary and important, as well as not wanting to outright offend a coworker or friend, many of us simply carry on with our lives, perhaps wanting to have a larger, more tangible impact on the world around us, but being unsure with how to best approach that rather complex issue.
While there may not necessarily be a “one size fits all” approach to solving this conundrum we all face, there is a general principle which we must remember in our interactions with those around us who may not yet be open to the truth quite yet. Malcolm Gladwell, in his new book “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, And The Art Of Battling Giants”, gently reminds us that all innovators, dreamers, and thinkers, throughout the course of human history, have insisted upon being disruptive in a manner that suits the greater good. When I use the term “disruptive”, I mean to employ it in the service of how we might understand innovators; we don’t consider them to be rude, unpleasant, or un-amenable, but rather we see their eccentricities as forgivable quirks. Gladwell considers disagreeableness to be a crucial trait of the innovator, an element which provides them with a “devil may care” attitude in the pursuit of something greater. whatever that passion might be. He writes,
“Society frowns upon disagreeableness. As human beings we are hardwired to seek the approval of those around us. Yet a radical and transformative thought goes nowhere without the willingness to challenge convention… If you worry about hurting people’s feelings and disturbing the social structure, you’re not going to put your ideas forward”.
While Gladwell is not speaking specifically about veganism, his message is timeless and perfectly applicable to the effort that vegans are attempting to make on behalf of their fellow man, animals, and the planet. Should we ever be rude, violent, condescending, or spiteful in our expression of the message? Absolutely not. I would never condone such an approach. But by the same token, should we be bold, straightforward, and willing to challenge the current paradigm with a sense of purpose? Absolutely, we should. The fate of so many sentient beings depends on us doing exactly that.