Thoughtful Revolution



I Dare You.

I’ll say it right now: I am suffering from an acute case of political burnout, also known as banging-one’s-head-against-the-wall syndrome.  Sometimes (and I hope this isn’t just a particular neurosis of mine) the problems in the world just seem so vast, and the solutions so insignificant, implausible, and willfully ignored, that any and all political thought feels like a miserable waste of time.  This feeling has been hovering just below the surface for me for a good long time; yesterday’s National Equality March, an enormous, revelatory event that nonetheless is almost impossible to find on washingtonpost.com and is unlikely, given the minimizing media coverage, to have any profound effect,* exacerbated it into full-blown depression.  I am in no mood to go on a self-righteous crusade right now.  The prospect of meaningful change, in any form, for any cause, seems implausible, unachievable, and unappealing.  I’m sure, given a couple analysis-free hours of recovery, my passion will be back in full force; in the meantime, I leave the pontificating up to readers.

As anyone who knows me can tell you, I am a great lover of food writing — the industry of food, the preparation of food, the global personalities of food, recipes, you name it — and I consider myself fairly well-read on the subject.  Yet not once have I been able to find a cogent defense of the modern upper-middle-class American carnivorous diet: countless chefs and writers, including the outspoken meat-lover Anthony Bourdain, have either made a joke out of the subject or avoided it entirely, writing it off as an inalienable fact of foodie life.  Even Michael Pollan, whose “Omnivore’s Dilemma” I genuinely admired, put forth a half-assed, logically weak argument that mostly embellished on “meat tastes good.”  So, carnivores, I challenge you to a mini-debate.  Why do you eat meat when physical/financial survival is not at stake?  How, on an intellectual level, would you defend it to yourselves and others?  Please speak up — this is a respectful, hopefully welcoming forum, and I’ll be interested to hear what you have to say.

Addendum: I should have been clearer — I’m primarily interested in responses from people who can physically and financially afford to sustain a meatless diet. If allergies, diseases, money, and so on make meat a necessity, I understand that completely and wouldn’t dare pick on you. ^_^

*I was also disheartened by the profusion of stereotypes at the march, projected mostly by straight marchers/supporters; apparently, an LGBT event is a disappointment if the lesbians aren’t all adorable, busty and non-threateningly androgynous and the gay men aren’t all reminiscent of Project Runway’s Christian Siriano.  Maybe it’s just me, but I find talk of “cute gay people!!” (in the same tone one would use for a toddler or pet chihuahua) genuinely problematic and dismissive of/condescending towards legitimate anger.

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Comments

  1. * Stefan says:

    The reason I currently eat meat is convenience. My parents have to deal with two jobs, 4 children (one of which has severe autism), and the expensive therapies for said autistic child, which aren’t covered by insurance under ANY plan. Meat based dishes are simply more convenient/cheaper to hunt down in my limited experience.

    That being said, while I haven’t been able to convince myself of any “wrongness” of the act, I haven’t been able to put a proper argument into words. The only one I was able to piece together is both pessimistic and definably flawed. (“No one species holds any obligation to another. If any permanent damage is caused than we reap what we sow. If we end up killing ourselves off, there is no God to give half a fuck. We are just screaming in the dark”) That attitude towards life in general isn’t exactly pragmatic.

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 11 months ago
    • * Stefan says:

      I don’t exactly feel confident in my response, for obvious reasons. The only subject that I can talk about with any confidence is fucking video games.

      | Reply Posted 7 years, 11 months ago
      • * Stefan says:

        The more I look at that response, the more I dislike it. This is why I don’t comment on the internet that much.

        Also, it may be disappointing for you to see 3 comments, only to find it’s the same person constantly revising his statement.

        Posted 7 years, 11 months ago
    • * thoughtfulrevolution says:

      Actually, I think this is a really exceptional response, and I’m glad to hear it. Convenience is a very important factor in any diet, whatever it may be; if meat-eating is in whatever way necessary to survival, I don’t object to it.

      I guess I really should have phrased my question better — I’m interested in the views of folks in the same situation as Anthony Bourdain or Michael Pollan, folks who could financially and physically manage to go vegetarian and do not. Thanks for pointing that out.

      | Reply Posted 7 years, 11 months ago
  2. * nate says:

    I think “meat tastes good” is all that is really needed to be said. I eat meet the same reason I do a lot of things – it gives me pleasure. And pleasure, according to the Utilitarians, is one of the only goods there is. If eating meat gives the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, then tahts a good thing. We should take into account whether the food we eat is tied to oppressive practices that harm others and causes unnecessary pain to animals. Not to mention that a good diet is a varied diet and we are helping control the animal population by eating ’em.

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 11 months ago
  3. * Alex says:

    Before you ask someone to defend why the eat meat, a logical argument has to be made as to why eating meat is wrong. If you’re eating something other than other human beings (and even then, there are times when ethics cannot be called into question) it really should not be called a question of ethics until a viable and logical ethical complaint is put forward. While I understand that such things have (debatably) been put forward in the past, it’s illogical to assume that these arguments are common knowledge or commonly accepted. In other words, give people a reason to need to defend it before asking people to defend it.

    Alternatively (and it hasn’t happened here yet, but it happens often enough to merit mention), I am also sick of meat-eaters criticizing vegetarians for their diet alone. There are so many more important things to do with your time and energy than attacking the way other people eat. Paradoxically, when there’s peace on earth there’ll be more time for us to be at each other’s throats for trivial matters such as diet, but until then, let’s worry about the other little contemporary problems… like genocide, imperialism, health care issues, epidemics, famine, and rampaging mongol hoards.

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 11 months ago
    • * thoughtfulrevolution says:

      I disagree that a logical argument has to be made as to why eating meat is wrong; I’m interested in hearing the reasoning behind one’s choice to do so, which isn’t contingent on a defense in the other direction. An opinion deemed “default” by society is rarely challenged (you, as an avowed anti-capitalist, know this as well as I), and I figured a simple, open-ended inquiry into a very popular one didn’t require a rant in the other direction yet. Though if you’d like, I would happily post one…

      And it’s worth noting that the way we eat is not a “trivial matter.” It’s a critical element in the fabric of our lives, and one that (considering its profound effect on the planet, human health, and corporate wealth, not to mention the factory system’s often astounding cruelties) is urgently important to our lives and sustainability as a species. Though, even if it was trivial, there’s nothing that bars it from discussion; some might call talk of “the revolution” far more meaningless than anything I could say about food, but that doesn’t justify scrapping it entirely from discourse. And why is it that you had no problem with my post on theatre, or Roman Polanski even, but when I address a genuine global issue, suddenly it’s deemed insignificant…?

      Likewise, for what it’s worth, your comment would be somewhat more merited if I spent my entire time on this site justifying vegetarianism — but as I see it, I have tried to comment on “the other little contemporary problems” in as all-encompassing and free-form a manner as possible, and plan to continue in future.

      Thanks for weighing in, though!

      | Reply Posted 7 years, 11 months ago
  4. * Danny says:

    I was a vegetarian for about four years of my life. I eat meat now for one simple reason: Protein. Or, to be even more personal, a combination of depression and allergies. I was diagnosed with depression in my sophomore year of high school, and therapy did little to help me. In fact, months and months with a particular therapist didn’t do as much for me as one session with a nutritionist where I was told point-blank to start eating meat again. I was allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, soy, lentils, chickpeas, and fish (for the pescovegetarian) – some of the basics of vegetarian nutrition. I was quite protein-deficient, and my unhealthy diet was probably contributing to my mental health, or lack thereof.

    I don’t think meat tastes particularly good. I still don’t eat pork, and it still feels weird eating chicken or beef sometimes. But I still eat it, because now I realize it’s far better than the alternative. I wholeheartedly support vegetarians – even dated one for a while – but their ideals, in my mind, don’t justify starving myself of protein.

    Yes, by all means, talk to me about beans, kelp, quinoa, amaranth, and mushroom protein. I’ve eaten them, even enjoyed them, but there’s no bloody way I could build any sort of reasonable diet on them.

    Oh, and as Barbara Kingsolver argues, most contemporary farm animals have been bred to a point where they’re essentially useless for anything but consumption. Horrible as it is, many are genetically ill-equipped for anything but copulation and early death.

    (Wow, long comment. I’m sorry if I come off as more impassioned and vehement than I mean to be – this is just a very touchy issue for me, one I’ve wrestled with for a while. And I won’t even get into the March here.)

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 11 months ago
    • * Danny says:

      Oh, oops. Wrote my comment before I read your response to Stefan, that you’re not asking for people who can’t physically or financially afford not eat meat. Oh well, maybe it’ll somehow move the discussion futher anyway.

      | Reply Posted 7 years, 11 months ago
  5. * Sarah says:

    They did cover this in the post eventually darling, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/11/AR2009101100161.html

    New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/12/us/politics/12protest.html

    CNN(I watched CNN coverage Sunday night and it made my cry as well, but that was from hope I suppose): http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/10/11/U.S.gay.rights.rally/

    Faux-News: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/10/11/gay-rights-advocates-march-dc-bring-demands-obama-pledges/

    MSNBC: http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2009/10/10/2095343.aspx and http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33265863/ns/us_news-life/

    C-SPAN: http://www.c-span.org/Watch/Media/2009/10/11/HP/A/24091/National%20Equality%20March%20in%20Washington.aspx

    Thanks for going to the march, I’m so glad that even though I wasn’t allowed/able to go that almost every single one of my close friends was there fighting for civil rights for me and every other LGBTQ person. It means a lot to me. I spent most of Saturday/Sunday crying because I was missing so much. I’m done with my stupid self-pity party but I still would have loved to be there. Apparently they covered the whole thing on C-SPAN so I can watch what was filmed at some point. I’ve already seen all the speeches thanks to the wonder that is youtube. They were also covering it here and there on WTOP on the radio on Sunday, and thanks to it blocking roads, was at least mentioned every 10minutes.

    Also, these are beautiful in every sense of the word http://eyegotcha.biz/nem.html
    on an artistic level… I was also obsessing over the photos I wasn’t getting and the chance to have a photojournalism opportunity to get photos out there of something I really care about.

    Finally, on very personal level, I’m very fond of adorable busty lesbians, non-threateningly androgynous is optional. 😉

    I’m going to leave this comment mostly about gay rights and not get into animal rights, but I whole-heartedly agree that Michael Pollan is a “happy meat” advocate and general douche bag. I also think at some point you should remind people that cheese isn’t usually even vegetarian because of rennet “harvested” from the inside of dead cows stomachs to essentially digest milk into a solid and making cheese. Also, on the dairy note look up casomorphins, the essentially addictive opioid compound in milk that biologically is intended to keep a baby cow coming back to feed from his/her mother.

    Here’s a lovely cathartic rant about a horrible article on the “happy meat” note, http://veganfreak.com/uncategorized/dumb-omnivore-or-fuck-theguardian/
    Even as much as I love Bob and Jenna Torres their blogging can sometimes get too angry to a juvenile level, but I think they did nicely on this one. They are very smart people when not enraged, I suggest you read Making A Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights at some point, it takes a look at animal rights through a Marxist lens.

    These are just suggestions/a few thoughts of mine and it is indeed your blog and you are the writer.

    Much love,
    S

    P.S. maybe you could do a blog about Matthew Shepard, hate crimes and the bill passing house? http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/09/us/politics/09hate.html?_r=1&hp

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 11 months ago
    • * thoughtfulrevolution says:

      Yeah, but the eventual Post coverage was kind of pathetic relative to the size of the march, especially when compared to their star treatment of the (much smaller) “Taxpayers’ March” a couple weeks ago. My impression of the NYTimes article was pretty similar, though maybe I was missing something… and I don’t watch CNN all that often, so I couldn’t really pass judgment there.

      Thanks for chiming in, though. I admire the response that the march elicited from supporters, and I think it was a terrific event; I just tend to be skeptical that it will have any lasting effect.

      | Reply Posted 7 years, 11 months ago
    • * nate says:

      I’m not really sure passing tougher laws that give the state more coercive power is a good way to advance the cause of GLBTQ liberation. The emphasis one hate crime legislation in the play “Laramie: An epilogue” made me uncomfortable. You should chek out Andea Smith’s “Conquest: Sexual violence and Genocide” for more about how hate crime legalization doesn’t help an is actually counterproductive to stopping violence.

      | Reply Posted 7 years, 11 months ago
      • * thoughtfulrevolution says:

        I disagree with you completely; when hate crime legislation is extended to race/creed/gender/etc, it’s a grave oversight, and an offensive one, and a backwards one, to leave sexual orientation out of the mix. However we feel about hate crimes legislation as a concept, it’s important to note in legislative form that hate crimes against LGBTQ victims exist and are as motivated by bigotry as any of the above.

        Posted 7 years, 11 months ago
  6. * nate says:

    Its an oversight, but more state power isn’t they way to end violence against any oppressed group. This is a distraction from more important structural issues, like the prison-industrial complex (which criminalizes people of color) and patriarchy.

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 11 months ago


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