The Pressure of Proximity

Why is it that we always feel so much more obligated to become involved with an issue when it is right in front of us? Even when we know the same scenario could be happening anywhere at any given time, when it is in our vicinity, there is an added sense of duty to intervene. I believe this is even something that philosophers throughout history have pondered without there ever being a clear or concise explanation.

On my way to work this morning, once again, I was forced to observe for the third time, these pro-fetal lifers as I passed through an intersection. I have seen them standing there three times now. The first time I was so shocked, I didn’t really get a chance to be angry. The second time, my blood was boiling as I saw the original man had enlisted the help of some woman. This third (and I pray final) time, after my initial spike in blood pressure, I was able to calm myself down enough to consider why it was that this demonstration always makes me so violently angry. I still haven’t really been able to come up with a satisfying reason for why that is the case.

I know that there are anti-abortion people all over this god forsaken country. But for the majority of my life, I don’t pay much attention to them. Even hearing about the new abortion restrictions in Texas, while saddening and disturbing, didn’t give me the same visceral reaction. There is some type of strange mental disassociation when viewing an issue from a distance rather than in our own backyards.

Another example would be animal neglect. I know that there are millions of animals in terrible conditions right now, a lot of which are probably not more than walking distance from where I am now. Yet I don’t really think about it or feel compelled to go out and save them (even though I wish I could.) However, when my sister and I stumbled upon a starving, half-dead kitten on the side of the road a few years ago, we immediately rushed it to the vet and spent $50 only to have it put to sleep when the veterinarian told us they couldn’t save it.

I am guessing this distinction has something to do with the fact that in the past, we really wouldn’t have had any knowledge or ability to intervene in situations that were far away from us. Yet with the rapid advancements we’ve made in technology, I could make a significant difference for people and animals that are suffering across the world if I really tried. And I’m not really sure which way is the best when it comes to this strange phenomenon of personal responsibility.

Part of me wants to use this inconsistency to remind myself that just because I see an affront to decency and humanity in my home town, doesn’t make me any more responsible to change it than I am responsible to fight for civil rights in other countries. Then on the other hand, I wonder if proximity to a problem does hold more weight when it comes to personal duty. To a certain extent, I do believe that everything happens for a reason. Maybe the universe has presented these problems to me as a sign that I am supposed to do something. Another part of me questions whether what I’m supposed “to do” is practice surrender and letting go. Maybe it’s just an opportunity to exercise my anger management.

Yet another problem is wondering what there really is to do that would make a positive impact. Perhaps it would be more effective for us to act only on problems we have some distance from. At least then we may be more capable of responding with a level head. I’m sure doing a fundraiser for the Planned Parenthoods struggling in Texas would be more helpful than pulling over and arguing with those nut jobs I’ve seen on the corner.

Ultimately, while I’m grateful for all of the activists working hard to push society in the right direction, I don’t feel much like participating anymore. At only 28 years old, I am already so tired and jaded. It feels selfish, but I just don’t know if it’s worth it to keep fighting at this point. In the past my attempts at activism seemed to do more harm then good. I may or may not have positively impacted the causes I fought for, but I certainly negatively impacted my own mental health. Perhaps it’s a greater service to society for me to just take care of myself and be an example of what I’d like to see in the world.

Whatever you decide to do, just make sure it’s out of your own personal desire to do so rather than simply your proximity to the issue. I used to feel the weight of this self-imposed duty around my neck like heavy chains. I would often ruin my own day by getting into fights with people on Facebook about politics, religion, or animal rights just because I saw someone say something ignorant and felt I had to respond. I have always been a firm believer in the idea that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” While I still believe it is noble and righteous to stand up for what you believe in, there must be somewhere we draw the line in order to protect our own personal well being.

As far as I’m concerned at this point in my life, the world is crumbling around us. There are so many issues I am passionate about. I have such little influence and such an easily overwhelmed nature. This is the one and only life that I am going to get. Though it may sound selfish or insensitive toward all of the other beings who are suffering right now, I just want to enjoy the small portion of existence that is mine without inflicting a constant state of anger and strife onto myself. Especially when I genuinely believe the changes I want to fight for will take longer to accomplish than we have left as a species on this dying planet. For the time being, I am choosing personal peace over the pressure of proximity.

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Pointing Fingers

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The climate change debate continues to frustrate me in ways I can’t even explain properly. As more and more people come to accept the fact that global warming is happening and is also manmade, now the issue of what can we do about it has finally emerged. Obviously, in my opinion, there is truly nothing we can do at this point to undo the irrevocable damage we have already caused which will continue to collapse larger and larger ecosystems until human life can no longer be sustained on this earth. It’s disheartening to see that most of the world still seems to think everything will work out somehow in our favor.

Despite knowing we are already doomed, it is really irritating to me to watch the rest of the world wasting the short time we have left pointing fingers at one another. The social justice warriors online are trying to place all of the blame on corporations like the oil and gas industries. At the same time, those corporations are trying to pin the responsibility on the individual consumer. Meanwhile, perhaps the biggest contributor to climate change (the meat and dairy industries) continue on as the leading cause of deforestation, desertification, species extinction, habitat destruction, greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, etc.

I find this frustrating because it’s so stupid. Two things can be true at once. Yes, the gas and oil industries are part of the problem, undoubtedly. However, these industries would not continue if we were not supporting them with our money. It’s a little easier to play the victim when only considering oil and gas companies. How can any one person practically boycott an industry so essential to our every day lives and survival? The most I can do is not work for them or vote for politicians that prop them up. However, I am not rich enough to buy an electric car or install solar panels on my house. I have to continue putting gas in my car to get to work. Plastic (which is made using oil) seems nearly impossible to cut out of my life completely. Most of the things we use everyday are made at least partially of plastic.

Until we implement plans to divest from fossil fuels as a nation, as well as globally, there isn’t much point in blaming the consumer or the corporation. We are mutually benefiting from one another at the Earth’s expense. Yes, these industries may have lobbyists that are making it harder for our representatives to remain unbiased, but that is a failure of government, not these industries. Capitalism has taught us to make money at any cost, and that is what they are doing. For the most part, they aren’t breaking any of our societal rules. Our government has written corruption into law.

On the other hand, no one wants to mention the meat and dairy industries’ role in climate change. Why not? Well, I think, among many other reasons, it’s because then we, the consumers, are very obviously largely responsible. While it may be unrealistic to give up oil and plastics, giving up meat and dairy is something that we are all capable of as individuals. In a single day, the world’s population could topple these unnecessary and heinous industries.

Arguments that the individual can’t influence the market have already been proven false. Just in the decade that I’ve been vegan, I’ve seen changes with my own eyes. When once there was only one, disgustingly awful veggie burger in my local grocery store, there are now too many options to name. I have multiple options at non-vegan restaurants. Hell, even Burger King has the Impossible Whopper! The largest names in the animal agriculture industry such as Tyson Foods and United Dairy are already beginning to invest in meat and dairy replacements due to the impact vegans and vegetarians have made. Imagine if we were able to get the government to stop subsidizing them. They would go under within a year.

Because of all of this and more, I am so sick and tired of hearing everyone try to shift the blame onto someone else so that they don’t have to make any changes in their personal lives. This is no time for the blame game. At the end of the day, we can only change our own behavior. The only question we need to be asking ourselves right now is: What can I do to make the biggest impact? Even if corporations were primarily to blame, we cannot wait around, bitching and moaning. We can’t expect a capitalist, corporate entity to make moral decisions.

Few things irritate me more than when people refuse to acknowledge their role in an issue. Why is it so difficult for people to admit that they messed up? I will be the first to admit that I could be doing more to make a difference. As I believe it’s already too late, I’m honestly not even expecting anyone to change. It just feels like the very least we could do is own up to our mistakes as individuals and as a species. But by all means, lets just continue to argue while the Earth burns to ashes all around us.

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The Responsibility of Being Human

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It seems to be agreed upon by the vast majority of the world, than humans are different, superior, to the other animals that inhabit this earth. I would agree except, instead, I would say that human beings have the potential to be great. However, as things stand right now, we are merely more pompous and self-righteous.

You see, as humans we have been blessed and cursed with a large capacity for intellect and understanding. We can conceive of the future, for ourselves and for things beyond us, we recognize death, and we comprehend the intricate relationship between our actions, individually and as a species, on each other and our world.

Up until this point in our progression as a species, we have been selfish, as would be expected. We, like any other animal, strive to secure our place in this world and ensure our survival and comfort. However, we have long since achieved these goals. With the technology we have created and the availability of information and resources that we have accumulated, there is no longer any excuse for us to continue existing is such a short-sighted and selfish manner.

It is time that we set aside our childish pleasures that we know to harm the earth and even ourselves. We must do what is best for all of the world and its inhabitants. We have the power to do so. Human beings are capable of so much more. It is time for us to realize what is important and stop behaving like we have no control over our fates and the fate of our world. Together we could create a utopia. We could live with nature instead of against it, if only greed was not so many people’s driving force.

Open your hearts. Use your heads. We do not have much time left to us. We owe it to ourselves and to the world to utilize our sublime ability to reason and understand and act. Let us help each other to reach enlightenment. Don’t live your life in comfortable ignorance. Do your part to spread intelligence and joy and tolerance. We say that we are more than animals. Let’s start showing it.

Stay peaceful, fellows. ❤