[“Poem on the Lisbon Disaster,” by Voltaire, translated by Joseph McCabe. Quoted from “A Treatise on Toleration and Other Essays,” Prometheus Books, 1994, page 4.]
This piece is dedicated to Animal Liberation Front (ALF), their agents, their cells, and all that they have done for us…
Part 1 – Determining that it is a Political Question
When we bring ourselves to face the questions of our modern era, we are open to an entirely new field that, for a considerable amount of the time, has remained unknown. We are faced with the questions of animal rights, vegetarianism, the ethics of vivisection, the morality of our treatment of the lower species, among other things. These things are all interrelated, and if you find proponents of one of them, you will find that they promote the others as well. Many organizations have formed to advance these ideals, using pressure to create legislation that defend their values, as well as to convince businesses and corporations to adhere to their values. Whether one agrees to with these movements or not, there is a certain life to their activities. They live and breath emotions of sympathy, justice, and empathy. Whether or not you believe that animals deserve liberation is not the context of that last sentence. When Animal Rights activists protest, they do it for a longing of liberty. When we write, we do it with an admiration of those who have gone before us. Our daily lives seem to be a routine of understanding the beauty of the revolution that we are committed to creating.
The word “revolution” is very specific, and that is why I used it. When I speak of Animal Liberation, of the rights of animals being recognized, I am speaking of a political desire. By political, I do not mean to use it as a method of benefiting me, or the other corrupt activities of politicians squabbling while poverty wracks us. By political, I mean in the true, original, and pure sense of the word. Thomas Paine asserted his right to self-government during the American Revolution. He demanded that the government recognize, protect, and defend his political rights. When the Abolitionists of the century after Paine’s fought to eliminate slavery, they demanded that the political rights of African humans be recognized. It was a battle to change the laws so that they reflected the spirit of the people they were meant to defend. It was a political battle. In this same writ, in this same vein of passion, I am declaring that the liberation of animals is in fact, very much so, a political battle. Just as others worked for the liberation of African humans, and their eventual recognition of rights, so too, we work for the liberation of all animals, that they may live without the tortures and abuse of modern exploitation.
The sentimentalism offered by some of our own movement individuals only harms us. We do not argue for the rights of animals because they are adorable or because they are innocent, two qualities that are highly subjective. These ideals offered by anyone who wants the liberation of the animal kingdom is doing a disservice. Thomas Paine never plead for the rights of man, never spoke on behalf of the spirit of goodness or acted as a mouthpiece for liberty, even when his actions condemned him death, even when though he was recognized as a traitor by the government of his own country, for defending the ideals of truth and honor — he did none of these things because of the peculiarly adorable nature of man kind. He asked for justice, not sentimentalism! His plea was for liberty, not for adoration! The sufferings and misery of the oppressed class touched his heart in such a deep, impacting way. When I speak of the liberation that must be afforded to animal creation, I do it on the same grounds. I am not asking that a sentimentalist vibe be offered for animals. I ask that the sufferings of this admittedly downtrodden class be taken into consideration, and that on the grounds of reason, logic, and humaneness, I am allowed to make a plea for their liberation. I do not ask for charity, but for justice. My arguments are on behalf of freedom, not for the sake of some prejudice or bigotry. I want my reader to understand and know that I openly reject all sentimentalist claims, or foolhardy arguments. The arguments that I present here today are arguments on behalf of animals and the injustice that they suffer. These arguments are but gentle poetry whispered in the ear of humanity.
Part 2 – The Rights of All
When I argue for the rights of animals, on what foundation am I making this argument? Well, before I continue in that line of thought, another question is integral. On what foundation are the rights of man formed? In a political sense, the idea that individuals have rights is based on the idea that each person has interests, that these interests are the fire of the soul. To many people who are passionate about progressive reform, who feel that “a better world is possible” is a form of action and not a phrase, to these people, revolution takes on an almost sacred quality. Human beings have interests, they have desires, there are things they need and want. The reason that these interests are respected is based on sympathy, empathy, and the ability to associate — essentially, the primary foundations of the ideal of justice. Where does sympathy come from? Why do people sympathize with the plight of others? What field of study can answer us this question: why do people have a desire to help others in distress, a desire as strong as the need for food or as strong as the need for water? There are multiple ways of answering this question, coming from every angle: the biological, the economic, the political, the social, the anthropological, the religious, etc., etc.. Some of these fields try to answer the how, others try to answer the why, and others still try to answer other questions related to the matter.
The reason why humans can and do sympathize with each other is because they themselves have felt suffering and misery at one point in their life, their sorrow and pain engulfing them with a unavailing sentiment of helplessness. Upon feeling suffering, when the shards of salt were ground in to their wounds, at this low point in their life, the sensation created a memory. Carrying that memory like it was a thick and deep scar on the soul, that human would find another in that condition. Their memory combined with their sense of feeling, their awareness to things about them, and their ability to think, all of these factors will become the catalyst to sympathy, the groundwork for all ethical systems. This is where the ability to associate comes in to play. The human who carries this memory, and now is ready to sympathize, will only be able to have moral feeling for his fellow sufferer to a certain extent. If the human suffering is a close friend, a relative, a sibling, a parent, a lover, then the sympathy will be the greatest. The person sympathizing will almost be able to feel the sting of pain ringing through their friend’s heart, feeling grieving echoes vibrate through all their skin. For years, the sympathizer was the sufferer’s friend. The sympathizer gained an intimate knowledge of how the now suffering friend thinks, how their mind operates, in what way they perceive the world. As these thoughts enter the mind, they will be bludgeoned with the sufferer’s idea of perfect beauty, their idea of a sad and meaningful poem, those vulnerable points in the mind that we can only share with our closest of allies…
But, maybe the sufferer is not a family member. Maybe the sufferer is simply a fellow countryman, or a comrade from the same town. The sympathizer will probably look on still with a very strong conviction that a moral atrocity is being committed. However, their heart will not feel the tender vibrations of deathly longing. Perhaps the sufferer is neither family nor countryman, but speaks another language, belongs to another race or culture, holds different beliefs. This is where the sympathizer begins to strain. For many of our ancestors, these differences were enough to justify animosity and a declaration of war against all who are different, on that sole quality. If the person watching happens to be a Humanitarian, or a Freethinker, then they will reason with themselves…
“Their god has a different name, but holds the same reverence for all people. Their superstitions are based on fears, and remind me of the many myths and fears that my own people once had. The language they use was taught to them by their community, as the one I use was taught to me by my own people. They use sounds to indicate meanings, the way any language-enabled people do. To please the spirit of truth, I must say that all the differences between myself and this man are skin deep, that our characters are more alike than they are different… If it so happened, by the will of our gods, that we were born in the same village, I do not doubt that we could have become close friends, partners through life’s high moments and through life’s dark hours.”
If the person watching the man in suffering is not a Humanitarian or Freethinker, perhaps they can only offer to us this much: “I would prefer not to watch this suffering, I would prefer not to know that it exists.” Even in this statement of seeming indifference, there is a kernal of humanity. Perhaps the sympathizer was not looking at a human at all. Maybe they were looking at a primate, an ape or babboon. What would their response be to a creature of the same genus in misery be? It would take a person to have either well-developed logic skills or a thorough history of experience to feel deeply for the creature. They might argue, “You were born full haired, but I was not. This does not matter to me, just like another’s skin color does not change the fact that I feel sympathy for them.” What if we changed the scenario around even more, though? What if it was a chicken, or a cow, or a horse, or a dog, who was in suffering? When the human suffered, it may have been the political tortures of a cruel regime, it may have been the knowledge of a lover dying, it may have been clawing at the grave of parents never known, it may have been their property being destroyed and stolen… How would you feel if you came across a coyote that was stuck in a bear trap? Perhaps you, dear reader, are knowledgeable in outdoorsman skills, and you know that the coyote will chew off its leg, only to die of starvation because of the inability to hunt. Maybe you don’t just hear the coyote calling its brethren for help that they can’t offer, but you can feel the soft rumble of its whimpering voice trace its way to your feet as you stand before it.
In every one of these instances, we see the moral framework of an individual at work. This is ethics, a decision of right and wrong. Whenever we hear great politicians speak to us about “family morals,” etc., they are covertly talking about promoting monogamous, heterosexual, sexist relationships. A governor gets more votes if he lies and decieves with “I believe in family and family values,” than when he says, “I think it is a woman’s job to accept what her husband tells her to do.” But, alas, the term “politics” has come to be defined as “dirty, underhanded, and deceitful tactics” — and there is a reason why such a definition has been applied. Those questions about morals, about the rights of individuals to do as they please in their own homes, whether it is drug use (slamming heroin to smoking pot) or the right to sexuality (incestual cuddling to outright orgies), these are not moral questions. In these instances, peolpe do not suffer, they are without misery, they are independent and free to make decisions for themselves. To scream that it is a crime for two men to engage in sexual activity, or for underaged children to engage in sexual activity, is not a far cry to claim “the races should not intermingle” or that genocide isn’t such a bad idea. [And here, my dear readers, we see the always beautiful, always meaningful chain of progress.]
We see the moral framework of the sympathizer and the sufferer in these hypothetical scenarios. I have answered the how and why people sympathize with each other. When one suffers, it is a dreadful emotion, and when seeing another suffer, it triggers that memory, and creates sympathy. It is rather simple. But, I have also applied this sense of sympathy to all living creatures in these scenarios. Why do we offer sympathy and justice to our fellow men and women? On what grounds, on what foundation, on what earthly understanding do we promote peace, truth, fairness, and nobility of character? Quite simply, because we ourselves have suffered. So, too, animals suffer. And when an animal suffers, it is not at all unlike our own suffering. In fact, you could potentially remove all the parts of a man that make him look human. Cut off his flesh, or go in the opposite direction, and dress him as an animal, and he will still suffer. This was a lesson that our forefathers learned centuries ago, when they discovered that skin color alone was not enough to forsake someone to a class of insufferable criminals.
We are making a step that is not less grand today. As progressive reformers, we are realizing that all of our fellow creatures on this planet can suffer like any man. For this reason alone, we offer them our sympathy, our hope, and a sense of justice that always seems fleeting. When men and women earlier in our century made the decision that black skin and white skin does not determine one’s character, that ethnic background is not a substitute for right or wrong, they were overcoming a great barrier that imposed itself on all of society’s institutions. By eliminating racism, they did something great, something powerful, something meaningful. As they marched on, these bold members of progressive reform, their heart’s scripture read “My friends and allies are of all skin pigments. So long as a man’s words are sincere, and he has a mind for truth, I will call him my brother. It is a moral imperative that we end this belief in subjegation — so long as men are imprisoned or discriminated because of their background, I will be fighting against the society that has turned blacks in to enemies.” If you were to read the heart’s scripture of an animal rights activist, you would find similar phrases, similar words, similar beliefs and ideals — you would find the same person, just breaking more barriers, just liberating those who have been unjustly taught.
If it is wrong to condemn a skin color, where is the justice in condemning an organism with four legs, wings, or fins? If you scream injustice at discrimination of race, why are you saying nothing at the discrimination of species? Maybe there was a day in your life that you were curious about American history. In looking through the pages that described slaves being beaten and raped, you cried. It is a commonly accepted fact that animals in factory farms are being beaten and murdered — but I can find nothing, except these hypocrites.
The injustice still persists. Men feel emotion. Animals feel emotion. For every sense of equity that I hold dear, I argue that both man and animal are equally deserving of rights.
Part 3 – Diet being the Primary Reform
The simple question I wish to ask here is, how can we offer justice and fairness to our fellow creatures, when we still kill them to consume their bodies? It is quite clear that if we are to offer our fellow animals the same kind of justice that we offer other human beings, we must abstain from killing them to consume them.
One must make the understanding here that it is not eating meat that is intrinsically wrong; it is only immoral instrumentally. It is the killing, the butchering, the slaughtering of the animal, in cruel and brutal conditions that is wrong. Eating meat is only wrong because it is so strongly connected with the way that animals are raised and slaughtered. It is logical to abstain from meat on account of the ideal that any living creature deserves the same right as a human, or the humane belief that no creature should be raised in horrid conditions and treated poorly. It is not that far from when our African American citizens refused to do any business with enterprises that were prejudiced and discriminated. And, indeed, refusing to consume animal flesh is no different than those of us who are Socialist and Communist, and refuse to purchase goods that are made by foreign slave labor, or in nations under an unethical military regime. By refusing to buy these products, whether they come from slaughterhouses, businesses that refuse access to minorities, or sweatshops in foreign countries — by refusing to buy any of these products, we are refusing to support and cooperate with entities that work only to degrade everything that is beautiful and healthy about civilization. I have yet to hear a reasonable argument why children should be forced to work 16 hour days in sweatshop conditions, making pennies an hour. And, indeed, I have yet to hear an argument why animals should be kept in abusive conditions until they are slaughtered.
If one were interested in the subject deeply enough, they would be able to research the ancient histories of the world and find that many cultures allowed or even promoted the practice of cannibalism. In many cases it was simply a matter of ritual, but we find ourselves disgusted with a practice because we see a complete lack of respect for human life. There are few today, whether conservative or liberal or libertarian, who would argue that the rights of mankind mean nothing. At least every group will adhere to the simple principle that among all things considered, there is no doubt and no skepticism for the right to life. Even though conservatives may enact or support regulation that inhibits the rights of African-Americans or Hispanics, they will never outrightly argue for their deaths. There are some ultra-conservatives, among the Nazis and other White Pride groups, who will argue for this, but they are simply the dying vestiges of a culture that never meant anything to begin with. Even religion can be used to back this assertion. The Bible, the Qur’an, the Vedas, the ancient texts of Sumerians and early civilizations, all of these condemn the murder of innocents, regardless of their many exceptions.
In this one point where it seems that the right to life is secured, we are then presented with the attitude that the world has held for animals. Though it is admittedly by all that they are capable of suffering, they are not granted any rights that would protect them from living lives full fo misery. To speak of the time when it was a condoned act to murder the innocent for any reason, a time when virtue huddled for warmth in the cracks, is to speak of a time when there was no justice and no freedom. Today, we are looking straight in to the eyes of an era that has allowed this one, magnificent maxim pass by without inspection: do as you will, so long as you harm none. And we find ourselves cutting down wildlife, breeding animals that we may cold-bloodedly slaughter them, and then chasing creatures to the point of death by exhaustion or gun wound. There can be no legitimate argument against this simple conclusion: if we are to defend the rights of humans with a degree of fairness and truth, then we are equally obligated to defend the rights of animals. As we stand with the ideology that torture is among the highest crimes, that there can be no peace without justice, and that humans should be granted the rights which ultimately please them, — as we, Humanitarians and sacred guardians of these ethics, we must offer our opinion on the matter of animal rights, and the opinion is clear. They must be granted the right to life, as any human is granted.
Why is it that only humans should be granted the right to life, and that all other beings should be excluded from this right? I can already hear a thousand arguments. And it was these arguments that were utilized in helping African-Americans stay segregated, in keeping the Jews in a constant oppression, in sentencing the Asian-Americans to camps during war time, in a thousand wars incited by racial conflict and a million murders spread by bigotry. These images flow through our minds’ rolling imagination, as we are horrified, scared, and given the sentiment that maybe the world and its people will always be victimized. We realize all such brutality and its unbelievable power, and then we turn around and gorge ourselves with the bodies of dead animals! These creatures that we consume could once feel like any human, the emotions of fear, of love, of affection, desire, hope, happiness… and yet, we grant them no rights! We are hypocrites! We are liars! The practice of killing animals for food must stop, if there is to be any genuine respect for the ethic of justice and truth.
Yes, the argument for the rights of animals ultimately leads to the politics of diet. If we allow others to slaughter animals for food, the way our enemies allowed their people to torture and annoy minorities, then we are very guilty of committing the same crimes. In admitting this to ourselves, we are given the same chance to change our behaviors that have been granted to the people of any era and any culture. Like those we honor as heroes, we ought to take the path that holds the greatest reverence to individual rights. Therefore, we acknowledge that the revolution in the politics of diet is Vegetarianism, abstaining from the consumption of the flesh of our fellow earth kin.
Before concluding this section, I must make a note of a sub-class of the Vegetarian movement, a sub-class that goes by the title Freegan. A Freegan is a person who admits to eating meat and dairy products only when they are free and would otherwise go to waste. The argument here, then, is that since eating meat or dairy products that would otherwise be thrown out, there is no harm in eating it. The only reason why we refuse to eat meat is as a boycott tactic, in harming the industry from slaughtering more innocent creatures. But, when that reason does not apply, such as meat products being thrown away, then I agree, there is no crime in eating meat. We are entering a new generation, my friends and family. While we are recognizing the rights of animals as inalienable as the rights of men and women, let us not gorge ourselves too early with myths and prejudices. If it so happens that meat could be produced in a way that does not harm animals, then there is not crime in consuming it, since it does not support a literal holocaust of oppression.
Part 4 – Arguments Against the Theory
I cannot say that there is no arguments against the principle of Vegetarianism. In fact, there are plenty of arguments, essays, logical deductions, analytical criticisms, and social critics who have taken a stand against the ethic of Animal Rights. Like the soldiers of any statist army, they are marching side-by-side, following the same ideas, looking in the same direction, and relying on beliefs that wouldn’t stand a light scrutiny. Before I bring up some of the popular arguments, before I face my accusers in this philosophical arena and look at the evidence of my opponents, there is something I must say here first. This is something that is taken for granted as truth by all civilized cultures. It is not doubted, either by the layman who knows what he knows through practical experience, or by the scholar, who knows what he knows through enormous libraries. It is a simple fact, and I assume no reader will doubt it. Every animal that is blessed with a sophisticated nervous system is capable of consciousness, that is, the ability to feel misery and delight, to feel pain and happiness. Now, no matter how convincing an argument may be brought against the rights of animals, it does not change this fact. An animal is still capable of suffering and still capable of misery; thus, an animal’s life is still put through tremendous stress, pain, and agony when herded and slaughtered. An animal’s body is engulfed in searing misery when raised in unsanitary conditions, deprived of iron to give its meat a color, and force-fed antibiotics that only make it sick. These are all things that are true and stand scrutiny, no matter what argument is brought against Animal Liberation. With that said, let me bring up some popular arguments and quickly and thoughtfully answer them.
Among the most popular replies to a plea for vegetarianism, there is a plea to consider plantlife. “What about plants?” someone will say, “Why do you not respect their right to life, the way you respect an animal’s right to life?” Well, the entire argument on behalf of Animal Liberation is: animals can feel misery and joy the way that any human being can, regardless of physical adaptations, and therefore, like any human, ought to be granted rights. We cannot apply this same argument to animal life, because, as science has clearly observed, plants are not conscious; they cannot feel pain nor sympathy, joy nor pleasure. Since this is true, we cannot have any recognition of their rights. Some might further argue though, that a plant is a life form, and therefore must be awarded certain protections. Again, whether something is a life form or not is just as trivial as asking whether something is human or not, or caucasion or not. The only reason why animals or humans should be granted rights is for the sole fact that they are conscious beings, full of desire and thought. What if, though, we desired to offer rights to plants. What rights could we possibly offer them? Since they are not conscious, they cannot have will or desire. And the reason why we offer the rights to men and women that we do, is because these are rights that the people themselves want. What could a plant want? It has as much desire to live as it does to be hacked down; as much desire to spawn and reproduce as there is a will to be the last of the line. We simply cannot offer rights to plants, because they are not conscious, have no ability to suffer or feel pain, and have no want.
And still, another popular argument against the Vegetarian diet is the observation that other animals in the world kill and consume each other. There is no scientific argument against this, because animals in the world truly do kill and consume each other. Some will say, that because other animals kill and eat each other, then we are only doing to them what they would do to us, and we’re justified in our actions. The argument here can be simplified by saying, “Because tigers hunt and kill in Africa, I am no criminal for breeding cows for miserable and short lives so they may be killed.” The argument’s flaw becomes obvious: if we wanted to, we could say that we know humans killing each other all over the globe, so it is justified for each of us to kill the humans around us. What others are doing does not set the standard for a moral ideal. Whether or not animals kill each other on other parts of the planet, it does not justify or injustify the way people are treating animals, by raising them in miserable conditions only to slaughter them. Furthermore, most of the predators in the environment are a natural part of the ecosystem, and they prevent the overpopulation of other species (which would only conclude in mass amounts of starvation and greater misery).
Another argument is to state that animals are not as smart as humans. This is easily refuted: there are some humans that are not as smart as others; does this mean that their lives are less valuable, that they should be granted fewer rights? Certainly not. The Civil Rights Movement has done wonders in teaching the world that every person deserves rights, regardless of any variation that we find in these humans. Regardless of skin color, regardless of religion, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, culture, tradition, practices, intelligence quotient, or any other varying part, all humans deserve the same basic rights. So, too, we must learn to advance our humane ideal, and further the net of compassion to those creatures born without human genetics. There is a slew of other arguments against this theory. Some will say that human teeth being designed for consuming flesh means it’s justified. But, this isn’t a justification. A weapon is designed to kill; this does not justified it’s use. Some say that meat tastes good. Again, it’s an observation which one cannot draw off any conclusions. What if human meat tastes good? Does that justify homicide? Others point to the cycle of life, saying that it is a practice of the world. Again, pretty weak. Last, but not least, people will argue that god said we could kill animals. True, he may have. But some religions claim that god said we are responsible in killing heretics. In fact, many religions (Islam, Judaism, Christianity) all mention the murder of blasphemers as a duty in their texts. It doesn’t justify the cat, though, and I’m sure my readers will agree with me.
The fact is, there is no argue against a Vegetarian diet that relies on valid evidence or thought-out conclusions. The only choice left is to adopt the ways of life of a Vegetarian. And those of us who decide to resist the mass exploitation of animals on our planet, we are no less revolutionary than the people who boycotted every racist business. We will stand strong, because our actions are motivated by reason and compassion for all that can feel.
Part 5 – The Future of the World
When we look our present condition of civilization, seeing how we have overcome racial discrimination, how we have nearly obliterated sexism, how we have made such progressive strides towards a better society, and as we see the law and policy reflect these attitudes, we must understand something that is special and sacred. We must recognize that these strides in progress were not made by any one person, but that they were brought about the will of a collective of people with heart and mind. Martin Luther King cannot solely by thanked for the rights that African-Americans have fought for and achieved. Nor can we solely just thank Malcolm X, or W.E.B. Dubois, or Rosa Parks. All of these people, and their countless followers, are all responsible for every right that they now possess as a minority. When we look to those who pressed forward to create rights and liberties for women, we can thank the author of The Feminine Mystique, Emma Goldman, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Stanton, Mary Wallstonecraft, the millions of Freethinkers who attacked the Bible and the many Liberals who uphold equal rights. We have all of these people to thank for the recognition of women’s rights that we have accomplished so far today. So, too, when it comes to Animal Rights, when the day comes when a law bans the murdering of animals, it will not be of the thanks to one single person in a crowd of the globe. It will be due to the strivings of an often-insulted and often-mistreated group of Vegetarians, sympathizers with animals, and those who genuinely believe in the right to life. With every person who can join this collective of liberationists, we are one step closer toward total liberation.
Every word I have spoken here is an expression of the Humanitarian movement, what we believe in, and what values we strive to accomplish.
As human beings, we have all felt suffering, we have all been touched with blight, we all have been through raging storms of depression, the tempest of anxiety and burden clawing at the thing we once called “meaning in life.” As children, we entered this world with parents and a home that we had no choice in. Trying to grasp the concepts of life, of relationships, of learning to talk, and stumbling in to a crawl, we felt like a bee in a puddle of water with only one wing. When we became teenagers and were forced through demeaning and desensitizing schools, prodded like cattle and tormented like inferiors, we sought escape in a number of ways. Some of us indulged in the arts, reading poetry like we were making love and painting pictures like we were crying over a bottle of vodka. Some of us indulged in the chemicals, using psychedelics to expand consciousness and using depressants to eliminate inhibitions. Those of us who were adolescents and promised to ourselves that the suffering we felt was real, that the misery that inflicts us is not a hoax of society, that the helplessness that carried with us everywhere we went like a spreading cancer — those of us who promised that the suffering of those days was very real were perhaps the most honest and dignified of the entire lot of human beings.
Once we reached age 18, we were finally recognized as adults in the real world. For eighteen years, our screams went unheard, ignored, treated like the rantings of madmen who need caretakers… and the world wonders why we don’t vote. We emerged from our schools, our homes, and flooded the streets, feeling like we could do anything, like the last thing we would ever do again was let another person try to run our lives for us. Mistakenly, some of us would say “We are adults now,” but the truth is we were always capable of choosing our own fate, of deciding how we really feel about situations, of learning by trial and error with a spirit of independence, underlined with defiance and irreverance. The only books we ever read were that one poetry book in the library that hasn’t been checked out since 1951 and a few selections from school textbooks. We wanted so much to try things for ourselves. Experience through experiment. Because for all of us, the spirit of youth was coupled with the spirit of freedom, honesty, hope, and strength. We tried so hard to accomplish, but the hands of our parents, our teachers, our policemen, our lawmakers, all pushed us in one direction and then another. In the end, we felt a little bit more helpless, a little bit more useless, and completely dissatisfied.
As men and women passing age 20, some of us look back to our childhood as the greatest era of happiness, but those are just adults who couldn’t readjust to a new world and to new rules. Some of us have gone back, looking for our old selves, only managing to find a library book that was checked out twice: once in 1951 and once again in 1998. We wanted to remember again what it was like to experience some beautiful thoughts from paper. To remember our past, we have this book, maybe one or two scars from suicide attempts, of what we would call “our foolish selves, just going through bad times,” and this feeling in the back of our minds that we left something behind in those classrooms, something that we won’t ever be able to get back. We learned to be honest with ourselves, we learned to acknowledge that our feelings are real, and we learned that if we ever want to be happy, we have to learn to make decisions for ourselves. And here we are, adults, thrown in to mixing crowds and drunks acting like children, cliques forming around social status and the way people dress, and we start to think… nothing has changed. We are still helpless pawns to this thing sociologists have called “behavior roles.” Maybe we start to think that the quiet ponderings of our rebellious spirit are not very different than the closet feelings of our fellow mates. But, maybe this gets pushed asside as an almost nationalistic emotion is regarded for our colleagues.
We emerged from our schools and many of us are still struggling to keep alive. When we sell our labor for food, our blood for sustenance, it feels like we are back in school again. Some of us still feel like we are dying, as the gears of society keep turning. We really want a way out.
In many cases, we chose humiliation by a “superior” than fighting for what we believed in. All too much, we sacrificed individuality for friends, meaning for something resembling family. For those of us who feel that maybe we weren’t rebellious enough when our hearts told us to act, there is still a chance to do something right about the ills of society. Be Vegetarian. It might not be enough to satisfy the yearnings that keep surfacing, but it just might be enough to keep going.
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