The problem with vegan blogs

May 21, 2010

We’ve spoken before, both here and in the newsletter, about how many of you don’t have a lot of vegan support beyond the internet, because you simply don’t know any other vegans.

And don’t get me wrong, the internet’s awesome and growing like crazy every day, and I’m not suggesting you go out and make friends with any vegan you can find in real life, no matter how crazy, but here’s the thing:

The internet in general, and text-based blogs in particular, fall short in a lot of ways.

Here’s a brief summary of a lot of the posts we’ve run this year on Staying Vegan:

“Dealing with X can be a problem for a lot of vegans, but you have to remember that Y and Z, and to help with that, here 5 key points to keep in mind.”

There’s nothing wrong with it, and I’m happy with how things are going (and from comments and emails, a lot of you are as well,) but if I was being really, really honest, here’s how a post would really look:

“OMG, X sucks rocks.

Like, the biggest rocks you can find, that’s how much X sucks.

Why don’t omnivores realize Y and Z and

make this go away?

It’s not like it’s not staring everyone in the face ALL THE TIME.

But noooooo…

Instead we have to cope with things like these 5 ideas.

You know, instead of the world getting together and fixing that X thing once and for all.

Animals are frigging dying left and right,

and what, we’re supposed to talk about coping strategies?

Did I mention how much X sucks?”

(OK, I’m back.  That was cathartic.  Thanks.)

Here’s the thing: I don’t write like that because omnivores visit this site a bunch, and I don’t want to look like a crazy person, and I don’t want to encourage you to do that either.  Because every interaction with meat eaters, which, statistically, is like 95% of your average day, because I’m not just talking about discussions about food here, every one of these interactions is a representation of veganism, and it’s not going to win us any points if we all said what we really feel.

Wanna know why?

Because the omnivore you’re talking to, or the one that’s reading things, is trying really hard not to respond like this:

OMG I really like bacon

I’m not trivializing their views any more than ours today.  The point of all this is that our food choices, all of our food choices, are very much emotional decisions, and it’s very easy to come across as logical rather than emotional in our communications.

The written word and social conversation can’t convey that level of emotion well without breaking society’s standards for conformity, which I assume exist for a reason, but dammit, do they ever get in the way sometime, eh?

We as a community (and make no mistake, we are a community) can read between the lines, I think, but there’s a gaping chasm between our world and the other 95%.  I’m not sure how to deal with that, but I wanted to take a moment to recognize that just about everything we say, write, and do absolutely pales in comparison with everything we feel.

And it’s way more than OK to feel these things – just throwing that out there for the weekend in case you or your subconscious were starting to wonder why everyone on the internet was so calm and collected and logical about this stuff.  We’re really, really not, but a lot of the time, it’s the only way to cope with the world we’ve woken up to find ourselves in.

Is that bleak?  No, not really.  I think knowing we’re all in this together is pretty bright, really.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

tomb7890 May 21, 2010 at 12:01 pm

In _An Inconvenient Truth_, Al Gore quoted the socialist and muckraker Upton Sinclair: “It is hard to get a man to understand something if his living depends on him not understanding it.” Most people’s livelihoods don’t rely on not understanding veganism or the plight of farmed animals. X does indeed suck. But the list of ways people benefit, especially socially, from not realizing Y and Z is very, very long.

Sinclair is touching on what psychologists call motivated reasoning. My other operative concept for the day 🙂 is conformity. Humans have a terrible fear of breaking away from the group, and that’s what veganism is perceived to demand. Jonathan Haidt has a lot to say about these concepts and much else in his illuminating _The Happiness Hypothesis_. No one would mistake this for a book on veganism, but it does offer much to those of us who feel beleaguered by (in the words of John Stuart Mill) the “tyranny of the majority.”


Sayward May 21, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Another excellent article. You’re on it dude.

Colleen May 23, 2010 at 8:20 pm

When did we all begin imagining we had to be awesome and calm 100% of the time? Oh right, because of the crazies who make us look bad. Maybe just being normal people who are sometimes irritated could be as good for the movement as seeming calm and unperturbeable. Maybe nothing says “Being vegan isn’t so hard after all” when others see normal-ish people doing it?

C Kane May 27, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Does what we say pale in comparison to what we feel? Maybe that means what we say and think is less important, maybe that’s true, I’m not sure. But I do think we’re not so much homo sapiens as homo emotiens or at least, “homo sapiens sapiens” our official term, one of those should be replaced by “emotiens”

That’s why folks believe evolution “can’t be true” and climate change is “a hippie conspiracy with Al Gore” and will vote for a candidate who takes those positions and book burning so long as she knowns how to make ’em FEEL good and knows how to say, “You betcha!” and “I’ll get back to ya on those pesky little factual questions”. Drill baby drill…drill that blather into the skulls of sure emotions trump logic and common sense and even survival..remind us why we’re not screwed as a planet as a result? 🙁

But isn’t another element values? It’s not just logic and environment for veganism, but our values? Isn’t that another problem with vegan blogs? How authentic can the “feel” of the blog be if it’s based on values, if we don’t give a hoot about mass starvation, billion on bombs and wars, and ecological destruction? If we go too inclusive, though, then our blog isn’t a “vegan” blog anymore, so danged if ya do, danged if ya don’t. Or really, a matter of finding a way to balance those. I’ll throw in one reader’s vote in support of your including in the past eco and peace and justice stuff, while still staying a ‘vegan blog’ keep doing that or even more would be great, imo… (that’s IMO, not “emo” as in emotion) Thanks.

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