Friday, March 14, 2014

The irony...

isn't lost on me. My last post was about how we human animals aren't particularly at ease with violence and yet....yesterday while chatting in the lobby of the local library...chatting with a relative stranger...I had to struggle hard to hold back my impulse to grab the man by the throat and shake/choke him. I was stunned by the rapidity of the desire as well as the incredible strength of it. I actually had to turn my body a little away from him to help me control myself. I felt a burning flush spread from the middle of my stomach to the top of my head. It was all so unexpected and so strong that it seemed almost surreal.

I was leaving the library after checking out an armload of books when I ran into a woman that I knew casually through my previous work. I hadn't seen her in 4 or 5 years and actually didn't recognize her until she said something. She was with her husband whom I had never met and we introduced ourselves and shook hands...all the usual doo dah that the culture/species calls for upon strangers meeting. The woman and I were chit chatting about what we had been doing over the past few years and I shared that I was spending time almost daily helping out at Heartland Rabbit Rescue. They were both surprised that there was such a thing as a rabbit rescue at all, much less in central Oklahoma...then the fun started.

The man said something to the effect of rabbits...they are what you eat aren't they? It was right there that I surprised the hell out of myself by almost attacking the guy who was trying (I suppose) to be funny. I was caught totally off guard by my powerful and rapid reaction. While holding back I was also trying to think of what to say...I guess my face/body showed something, I don't know. I responded by saying something to the effect that as far as I knew the only group on the planet that had said it was ok for humans to kill other beings were the humans...that I didn't know of any other animal that had said...hey humans...come and kill me....and I said that killing someone else was murder and I didn't think murder was ok at all. I then asked him if he knew what veganism was...he said he had heard the term but really didn't know...so I told him about what it meant and that we didn't have to eat animals to survive...that it was all some made-up crap we told ourselves to justify hurting others without looking like total a**holes.

He seemed to realize that I was having some strong feelings and maybe that I was angry...he became conciliatory sounding and appearing. He said he had hunted when he was younger but gave it up because he didn't like it and hadn't hunted in 30 years.

After a bit more chit-chat we did the good-bye thingee and went our separate ways. I've been churning on some level ever since. I truly was and am stunned at my response. I don't anger very easily...and I don't think about or feel like being violent toward others hardly ever. And yet...there it was. I'm still processing this...as I was sitting in the car I realized that his joking was the emotional equivalent...for me...of his saying that my wife or my sister or my father or mother  are what you hunt and eat. The rabbits of Heartland (and all rabbits) have become members of my family and I love them and if they're threatened (even jokingly) I respond with angry feelings/impulses.

It's been awhile since I've been in a situation where someone tried to be funny about killing...especially about killing rabbits (or any Earthling). I've changed...being vegan changes how I see the other animals...it's changed how I see people who hurt other animals...it's changed how I respond to jokes about hurting others. I'm changed and my reactions and responses have changed. And I wasn't a particularly good ambassador for veganism nor was I very articulate. It is probably always disconcerting when we encounter an aspect of ourself that we were unaware of. And I was genuinely discombobulated...and still am for that matter.

We may be uncomfortable with physical violence...I am...but that doesn't mean we don't have impulses to be violent. I did...I wanted to grab that guy so strongly I could almost taste it. But...I didn't. I stopped myself...I was even able to speak and be coherent (I think). We may want to be violent...but we don't have to be. That's the good thing.

My apologies to Darby and all bunnies and all the victims of human animals...I wasn't a very effective or convincing advocate on their behalf yesterday. I stumbled through the encounter and got away from it without behaving violently...I guess that's the best thing about it. Attacking strangers in the lobby of a library isn't a good way to advocate for living without harming others.

Please live vegan if you aren't already...but be forewarned...doing so will change you in more ways than you might know...it certainly has done that in my case.

15 comments:

Laloofah said...

I agree that it doesn't make for effective outreach or advocacy to be angry, but it's also completely understandable to feel as you did! Hope you won't berate yourself over this. I have to work SO HARD to regain my composure enough after many such exchanges (and do my best not to show that I've lost it to begin with!), but it's worth it because calm, reasoned responses usually have a much more positive outcome than angry, frustrated ones. Still, it's entirely possible that your unexpected reaction got that man's attention more than a calm one would have, and I think it says a lot that he brought up his hunting/non-hunting experience to create a bridge to you. No doubt you planted a seed, even if you hurled it into the soil instead of gently placing it there! :-)

Two things that often help me when I am trying to find the Vegan Ambassador Hat that I figuratively hurled across the room in a hissy (lol) is to listen to Colleen Patrick Goudreau's podcast "How to Talk to Hunters (or Anyone with Whom You Disagree"), re-read CAAN's "The Importance of Understanding Carnism for Vegan Advocates and Organizations" and/or to re-watch one of Melanie Joy's presentations about the psychology of meat eating. The more the years pass between my "not knowing any better" and my becoming vegan, the harder it is to remember how I once viewed things and behaved, so that I can try to relate to people who are still sleepwalking to the prevailing paradigm's drumbeat.

Also, I just saw this quote this morning on today's Word A Day email (which is run by a vegan, by the way!) and it is so germane to your post and several conversations I've witnessed or had lately: "Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from that of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions." ~Albert Einstein

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Laloofah. And thanks for the great photos you continue to present on your blog.

I appreciate your concern that I might whack on myself...that's very kind of you. I don't do self-berating much anymore. Intra-haranguing and/or violence is as counter-productive as directing those behaviors is toward others. It took me a long-time to learn that but it sticks pretty well now.

No, it was the surprise that discombobulated me. I'm not used to me getting so aroused so powerfully and so quickly...jeez...the sympathetic nervous system mediates the "fight/flight" response...and my arousal went immediately off the charts. Us old people can get a blow-out that way, lots of the tread is worn off my tires. :-)

I'm more bemused by the whole situation than anything else. I've been trying to recast it into a comparable situation in order to facilitate understanding and one analogy I thought of goes something like...let's say I had been talking about one of my adopted children being from Korea and he said something to the effect that Asians were only good for being killed and eaten (or something like that). My reaction couldn't have been any stronger...nor could his insult have been any more egregious.

As I write, it occurs to me, that one of the consequences of expanding our "circle of compassion" is that defending from harm (even verbal slurs) those we care about means we have lots and lots more beings we care about and hence...lots and lots more beings are going to evoke our protective reactions. That's part of the consequences of giving a damn.

My suspicion is that it would be a much much better world for all if more of us got riled up at casual talk about harming others. (as long as we don't tump over into enacting impulses toward violence) :-)

Your references are thoughtful and appreciated and most especially the quote attributed to AE. He was a hero of mine when I was a child and I remember being very sad when I heard that he had died. I get a hoot out of folks who can express non-mainstream social opinions with equanimity...and he was one of the best. We're lessened by his absence.

Laloofah said...

"...it occurs to me, that one of the consequences of expanding our "circle of compassion" is that defending from harm (even verbal slurs) those we care about means we have lots and lots more beings we care about and hence...lots and lots more beings are going to evoke our protective reactions…"

An especially excellent point!

D.E.M. said...

Fascinating post and commentary here. I can see why you responded with anger because you had just revealed something important to you--a rabbit sanctuary--which was responded with a joke founded on all the assumptions about rabbits you fight (they're edible, etc). The joke was a bit of an attack, if unconsciously motivated. Interesting in itself: Attack when someone tells me something they care about. Dismiss it "humorously."
It's the kind of so-called humor I grew up with--learned behavior and all. I am glad the dude conceded to tell you his hunting story. Also interesting in the day-to-day experiences of life.... i.e. sometimes I'm equanimity personified :) and other times I'm easily caught off guard and easily angered. I remember just flipping out a conference, repeating, "no, no, no, no, that is not what I meant" in an angry tone. I was trying to link the internment camp research someone just presented to confined farm animal operations (ideologically, spatially) and got some weird-ass response from the moderator about people caring more about animals than other people, historically or whatever. And it set off my rage. I don't usually respond so angrily....
So interesting.
Also, I have been working overtime to quell that horrendous inner voice of self-berating violence. It's work and it's worth it. Little by little, I am more at peace. xo Dana

Have Gone Vegan said...

I agree with Laloofah that your reaction of anger was probably more effective than calm may have been. Anger definitely has its place, and you were probably a better advocate (and more articulate) than you're giving yourself credit for! That fellow will certainly remember the exchange, and will likely not think of rabbits (or murder of any being) in the same way anymore. So, you done good! :)

And as you rightly point out, feeling anger isn't the problem (I'm quick-tempered, so sadly am never surprised by it anymore), it's what you do with it. And in this case I would say you handled yourself well. By the way, how did the woman that you know react during this exchange?

Emy Wilhelm said...

I totally understand your response of intense anger. It seems to be a primative reaction to protecting those who are defenceless. Have you ever come between a hippo and her young?
Then of course the rational human part kicks in and reminds us that we win causes by sound argument. Yet it is that very passion that makes us care and fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. As you say - as long as we don't act on our violent impulses it is natural to have them. There are some acts of cruelty that make me feel muderous and it is important to channel those emotions constructively and not to suppress them.
Thank you for caring.

Christina said...

I completely understand and identify with this. 2 times yesterday I was confronted with the joke about eating rabbits. It is disrespectful and ignorant at the very least. The bunnies mean the world to us and when our devotion and passion for helping them is turned into a big joke, I could cheerfully strangle a person.
I used to be a very aggressive person. Being around the buns has calmed that tendency but boy there are days....

Bea Elliott said...

I would have been enraged too. It was a crass (intentionally hurtful?) comment to make after you presented Heartland Rabbit Rescue as something important to you. One can't help but think it was said with the goal to incite. In that light, it's amazing you held it together as you did.

I know you feel about the buns like I feel about my hen-family... When I hear people refer to them as "food" even after they know they are "pets" it infuriates me because those comments either come from a place of ignorance or willful hurtfulness. People can be genuinely "mean". When they are, I have to take a step back from my anger and look at their motivation. I believe they are crude and heartless in their remarks as a way of self-preservation. As soon as anyone offers due respect to a fellow creature that is normally considered a commodity, it automatically points the accusatory finger at their actions. Their small, doubting egos are revealed. Just by saying one is vegan does the same thing. We can't control how others react to their own (well deserved) guilt. But we can control how we respond - And you did a fine job of restraint! Please don't berate yourself for your protective defensiveness. Or anger at having to do so.

I also understand why you would be momentarily dumbfounded at his words... Recently an acquaintance/neighbor was introduced to my backyard where the birds were laying about in the sun, dustbathing and pecking at the earth... I introduced him to a few girls by name, mentioning the way they came to be living here. After a minute or two he interrupted and asked "how many pounds do they weigh?" Such a question deliberately reduced their lives to the only thing he saw these birds as, and it disgusted me. I honestly went into a momentary shock!

Because you got me on a roll, I'll tell you of another time when a friend mentioned that she hated the way animals were raised these days and that she would love to be able to get her meat (chicken) from a place like "here" --- Meaning MY FAMILY! I had to ask her... "Really, really, you'd want to be able to take Doris, or Henna, or Chicklet as a meal? Really?" Yeah... I got super pissed and our relationship got severed shortly thereafter. I'm not of an age or frame of mind to tolerate such emotional upset any more either.

I'm so sorry you went through this with this guy... I'm so sorry we all go through variations of such confrontations with the whole wide predatory world. The best we can do is to repeat for the billionth time, our reasons for believing in fairness and kindness. We know most often we'll get hostility in return... The failing isn't in us who advocate for peace and justice - It's in brutes who reject that message.

Thank you for sticking up for the bunnies, the birds and the bees (Beas). <3

Christine said...

An interesting post. I don't think there is anything wrong with getting angry, it's a natural reaction when what or who you care about most is under attack. The main thing is you kept your cool and restrained your impulse to be violent. We cannot help how we feel, it all happens all at once before we can prevent it. I get angry all the time with the dreadful people in this world that commit the heinous crimes against both human and non human animals. I also get tired of silly jokes about cruelty, particularly towards rabbits and the way people see them as disposable pets for their child, as though they are some kind of interactive toys. A women I didn't really know was talking to me about getting a rabbit for her grandchild, she was absolutely clueless about how much care and attention rabbits need and I could feel my anger rising. Like you I felt I did an inadequate job of convincing her that rabbits are not suitable for her grandchild. I admit I am none too polite with people who go hunting. I got really angry with someone in a horse and cart who was trying to make the horse trot faster, it was obvious the horse was tired. Regarding people who joke, I think that most of the time they don't mean it and while it is annoying to say the least you will probably find they joke about anything and everything. But it does make me so angry and we are right to speak out in no uncertain terms.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting DEM. Interesting indeed. One fellow once said that we (human animals) don't "have" feelings...we are our feelings. I believe there's more than a small amount of accuracy in that observation. Sometimes they (we) surge unexpectedly...and it is interesting. :-)

That old saw about treating others the way you want to be treated includes...treating yourself the way you want to be treated. So...no berating...of me or you.:-)

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting HGV. Good question, she sort of just watched a little wide-eyed (which is sort of normal for her). Beyond that...nothing much. :-)

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Emy. And hello, I don't remember seeing comments from you before...glad you're here. :-)

And no...never have I been between a mom hippo and her baby (and never want to be).

Thank you for caring too...from what I can see of your online presence you expend much time and effort on behalf of those harmed by we humans, your work is inspiring.

Again, my thanks to you and for reading and commenting.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Christina. You said it excellently: "boy there are days." :-)

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Bea. Ah, jeez...what a lovely phrase: "small, doubting egos"...big smile. :-)

Chickens...I think I might print up a big sign outlining the emotional importance of chickens (to me) and require everyone to read it before introducing them to any of my feathered friends. They (the chicken beings) have been thoroughly and almost completely made into objects to be used by our cultural propaganda and practices and I can't even imagine the horrifying remarks you are exposed to about them. Hooray for you for getting "super pissed"...at the same time having to experience such powerful and unpleasant is wearing.

I try, sometimes, to comfort myself with the notion that maybe one of the reasons those who advocate for life must feel such unpleasantness is because way too many for way too long haven't felt the bad stuff they should have been feeling...so guess who gets to start correcting the imbalance? Those who care...life is indeed interesting.

The "momentary shock" and the "super pissed"...think of all the shock and pissed that billions of humans should have been feeling for thousands of years. It may be that one of the burdens of becoming emotionally and perceptually open to our fellow Earthlings is to have to begin the arduous task of making up (as best as is possible) for what should have been all along. Yeeehawww. :-)

Well...for Doris, Henna, Chicklet and me...we're happy that there's a Bea! :-)

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Christine. All this arousal and upset is wearing...and there's way too much to be upset about. All any of us can do is get through each day as best we can and then start all over the next day. One sad consolation is that whatever we're going through...it is indisputably small compared to what our Earthling relatives are going through.

Thank you for you anger and for speaking out.