I remember first coming across Propagandhi’s How to Clean Everything around mid-late 1994. I was becoming more aware of how fucked up many things were in the world – yet not fully able to grasp or comprehend what was actually going on and why. Recently prior to this, I had an epiphany – one that I could not fully explain: it was wrong to hurt animals which led to my becaming a vegetarian. Hearing nailing Descartes to the wall / (liquid) meat is still murder really helped me clarify some things and began the process, for me, of opening my eyes to deeper issues. It was the line ‘I have recognized one form of oppression, now I recognize the rest’ that made it possible for me to verbalise that which I had become aware of, yet could not grasp.
I often reflect on this simple one-line lyric and how far we are from actually giving it credence. I use ‘we’ to refer to not just the broad ‘animal movement’, rather those who clearly state, or imply that they are anti-oppression vegans. Many of these people, including myself, believe that oppression is antithetical to veganism. What is troubling for me, and has come back to squarely kick me in the face once again, is how actions of a number of people I have discussions with – people who ascribe to this notion – do not reflect this belief as praxis.
I am not saying that I am free from doing this – and I would ask anyone who notes me doing this to point it out to me. To refer back to How to Clean Everything – it did have a profound impact on me – and again draw on some lyrics, this time from apparently, I’m a “PC fascist” (because I care about both human and non-human animals) … I ascribe to this line: ’Tell you what- I’ll call you on your shit, PLEASE CALL ME ON MINE. Then we can grow together and make this shit-hole planet better in time’. That said…
There exists – as some people would argue – the stereotype that vegans are sanctimonious arrogant fuctkards. I have met many vegans who are. They are not who I am reflecting on here. I am reflecting on those working towards social change rather than dime-store politics and the politics of individualism. I am seeing amongst a number of people I know the construction of such a persona. I have tried to point this out, yet received not only the expected reactionary response. Sanctimonious arrogance was entrenched and reified in the defensiveness of the response. I am not referring to one event, rather a series of many. A recent exchange has brought this bubbling to the surface. To be harsh, the basis of the reactionary actions – and the actions leading up to my constructively critical comments – mirror approaches typified by electoral politics, albeit without attempts to pacify/sugar coat language.
I am all for open and vibrant discussion, yet when one line dismissals become the norm (i.e. ‘fuck you’, ‘who do you think you are’ or pertaining to ‘how long have you been a vegan / activist’) and the associated rear guard action of constructing an old boys club there is clearly a problem. I do not like the word tolerance when used regarding issues of race and culture, yet it is appropriate here. Whilst some of us may have become vegan overnight (and sometimes self-righteously so), we were not instantly aware of all oppression, clearly able to verbalise it, or as ‘perfect’ as we would like to believe we are at times. The path to removing oppressive practices from our every day existence is a long and possibly endless one. We all started form somewhere – yet appear to either not afford the same opportunities to others, or perpetuate the disdain levelled at us by sanctimonious fucktards…
What I am seeing, and I have seen it repeated over more than a decade in different circles, is this lack of tolerance for someone who has started walking the path based on either, or in part both, a holier than thou attitude or a frustration with the fucked up status of the world and the never ending struggle to change things that we take offence at the needed repeated (from privileged position) restatements of this out on them.
I could go into detail and be here writing for a week about the implications and still not touch on more than a fraction. What troubles me to no end, reflected in the title of my ramblings, is that when we do this we perpetuate many of the exploitations we seek to transcend. For a society free from cruelty and exploitation, the means must reflect the ends. We cannot work towards such a society through the use of previously referred to electoral political tactics of dismissal nor can we achieve such ends through reactionary intolerance filled with contempt, demeaning, divisive language and the dismissal of those less holy than thou.
Until we cease perpetuating the exploitations we seek to transcend – those we think we are aware of – are ‘we’ really anything more than sanctimonious arrogant fuctkards???