OUT OF SYNCH?
by Keith Akers
Is vegetarianism a social movement? To most of us, it would
seem that it is, but it is also different from other social movements. It is not
a social movement like civil rights or women's suffrage, because the primary
objective of those seeking to promote vegetarianism is not political. One could
certainly make political demands on the basis of vegetarianism, e. g.
elimination of grazing on public lands or changing the school lunch program. But
attitudes towards food are deeper than laws or politics; they are felt literally
and figuratively at the "gut level." The goal many of us are hoping
foróa vegetarian worldóis very easy to state; yet this simple request, which
in theory requires no social or political change, would in fact change
everything, and change it so totally that the world we would then live in would
scarcely be recognizable to most Americans.
For the people we are trying to reach, thinking about the
realities of food can be disconcerting. It's not just the facts that we display
about food that are badówe are always so careful about documenting everything.
It's not just our presentation which is disturbingówe are always so careful to
be polite. It's that the mind rejects ideas which are out of synch with one's
behavior. It is incredulous and threatening that something so central to the
average person's lifestyle could be so cruel and so wasteful and so unnecessary.
Thinking deeply about eating animals without changing one's diet is like
whirling around with one's partner in a dance without focusing on the partner's
eyes or face: what might be entrancing becames confusing and then nauseous.
Meat-eating is sickening at many levels: it makes us sick if
we eat it long enough, but it is also sickening to see, hear, or think about how
it is produced. When people look over a precipice or at something unexpected and
unpleasant, the reaction occurs at the gut level, not at the level of the
intellect. Things which are "out of synch" with our current
understanding, that do not fit in with the latest version of reality as
publicized on TV and in newspapers, are not so easily understood. "I don't
want to think about it," they say, and they're right. And that is our
fundamental struggle: not for our own equality, not for our own rights, but
simply to persuade people to think about it.
Written in the mid-1990's