Animal Rights, Social Norms, and Perspective 09/30/2012

It's very frustrating living in a society so utterly opposed to my values. I have to smile and tolerate things I believe are atrocities if I want to get along with most people. It really messes with my head. I mean, it doesn't change my mind about anything, but it changes the way I think about other things. If I'm expected to tolerate people's acceptance of torture, injustice, insanity and self-destruction on such an enormous scale, then how am I supposed to react to other things?

It's socially acceptable to ostracize people who are racist, sexist, homobophic, or what have you (maybe not everywhere, but humor me), because it's generally agreed-upon that those things are wrong. Yet it's not socially acceptable to disapprove of attitudes I consider just as wrong, such as the exploitation of animals and the environment. This means that I have to live alongside people whose views are intensely hurtful to me. All the time.

Many of these people are my friends and family. Ignoring their contributions to animal suffering, regardless of whether they do so knowingly or not, I consider most of them very good people. They are caring, fun to be around, and I love them. Perhaps they even do a lot of good in other aspects of life. Yet I often have to fence off an area of their psyche and tell myself not to go near it. Because if I enter that area, it may be so irreconcilable with my most basic values that I might not be able to stay on good terms with them anymore. This goes far deeper than personal flaws or political disagreements - I can handle both of those just fine. Rather, it changes how I see them on a fundamental level; how we relate to existence itself.

This creates incomplete, compartmentalized relationships and that makes me sad. Too often I've gotten close to someone only to be slapped with how far apart we really are and how little they think of the things most important to me. I've learned to cut off conversations once I see them heading in that direction because I don't want to face that part of them. But I know there must be more holistic ways to appreciate the person as a whole, and I'm working on that. Not least of these is the knowledge that I'm far from perfect and that nobody can do everything. We all do our part, for different things, in different ways, as we struggle with the absurdities of life.

What's most interesting, I think, is that my perspective gives me a window to see the most marginalized people of society in a different light from the majority. If I make exceptions for my friends, why not others? Why not listen to what they have to say, try to understand where they're coming from, or at least find some common ground in other areas. I may vehemently disagree with them on topic x/y/z, but maybe there's more to them than that? Maybe they're likewise nice people so long as I don't enter that fenced off area? If I can figure out how to view all people holistically, if I can approach them with openness and compassion, I think more progress can be made on both ends.

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DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor or a nutritionist and am not authorized to give medical advice. All I can do is offer suggestions based on my own experiences. Please consult a professional before making drastic changes to your lifestyle.