Despite having no religion, I am not a nihilist. My morality is based on reducing the suffering and increasing the happiness of others, and I extend this principle to as many creatures as I can. I stop short of caring too much about viruses and bacteria, and although I no longer kill bugs just for the sake of it (as I did when I was a kid), I don't feel too bad about a dead mosquito.
As those who follow my blog may know, I have been struggling with the idea of exploiting animals (and humans) for food and convenience. I am a vegetarian, which was an easy step and one that I have not once regretted or reconsidered. I don't use any leather, which was a bit more challenging, although I did end up finding pleasant solutions. Most recently I have been trying to go completely vegan. This is partially fueled by health concerns as well as some practical ones. I am lactose intolerant, so cutting large amounts of cheese and real milk from my diet made sense. I've grown to love almond milk and vegan cheese pizzas, and I don't miss ice cream as much as I thought I would. And I certainly don't miss the predictable and painful stomach upset that used to accompany those items.
I wanted to avoid hypocrisy, and I truly wanted to stay as close as possible to my principles of decreasing suffering and increasing happiness. Dairy cows are not happy animals. Laying chickens are not happy animals either. In fact, an argument could be made that some of these animals are worse off than their bred-for-food counterparts. I don't know if I would agree with that perspective, but I've heard it made and it's a compelling idea. So the step toward veganism makes sense. Except that there's a step beyond that. And one beyond that as well. No matter how far I go to be kind and gentle and humane, there are people and sentient creatures who are harmed and humiliated and killed.
I can't help the harm that is caused to bring me the lifestyle that we are all used to. And just because I can't be perfect, it doesn't follow that I shouldn't even bother. But after a point it becomes tiring and I don't know if my spirit is really up for it. Chinese workers threaten mass suicide because of appalling conditions at the plant where they work building the XBox that I spent all day playing. I know this, I feel terrible about it, and when my current XBox dies I will drive out immediately and buy a new one.
So yes, I am hypocritical. I am aware that my actions cause pain to others and damage to the environment. And for the first time, I think I understand the motivations behind people who are aware of the horror of factory farming and still eat meat. I don't agree with their decision, but I understand it. I don't agree with my decision to eat eggs and butter.
This is all a part of my decision to withdraw a little bit. I was wandering through a bookstore recently and walked past a stand of conservative political books. I was struck with a violent anger toward all of the bigoted idiots and cruel assholes who write and read those books. And then I had an epiphany. I knew that those people would never understand. I briefly entertained the notion that they might have some valid points, but I discounted that. I don't think that they do - sure, I might be wrong on a great number of things, but I don't imagine that Glenn Beck is right on anything at all. And the thought of being an ambassador for good was just depressing and tiring. I want to change the minds of conservatives because they are destroying the world, but I don't think any progress can be made. So I gave up.
Roughly coinciding with the New Year but not being related to it, I have resolved to no longer give a fuck. I want to live in an echo chamber and talk to people who share my point of view. I'm tired of fighting over things of substance. I still want to write about the things that enrage me and I do want to practice what I scream about, but I'm not particularly interested in changing anyone's mind.
So I have stopped listening to Citizen Radio (a podcast that I really can't recommend highly enough) even though (or maybe because) they were the only people who constantly challenged me to be a better person. No one else in my life really does that. Everyone else is happy with me the way that I am; everyone but me. But I'm tired of feeling guilty about everything. I'm tired of trying to be better. For now I'll just try to be good.