On the Seemingly Silly Questions I Ask
I've asked what you read (/if you read) as a child, if your parents or any other grown-ups were vegan, whether you had an affinity for animals, and what I'm looking for in probably the most inefficient, ineffective way possible, is a pattern.
In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell describes patterns that led to certain successes (or not, such as a spate of plane crashes, or plane crashes in general). The commonalities and patterns are different from what you might think (such as the oft-given example of what the top hockey players in Canada have in common . . . they were born in January, February or March . . . and were more mature and larger than the kids born at the end of the year. It's far more complex and I recommend reading the book).
I don't think we're being as conceited as we are accused of being when we say that our moral development is more advanced than others. (Do you?) But the outlier question is: why? What is it about us, or what was it about our childhoods, or maybe what was it about our parents, or maybe what is it about our culture that makes us this way?
Where's the pattern? It appears that it has something to do with allowing for something other than what is acceptable in the mainstream. What makes certain Americans from various socio-economic backgrounds, with varying degrees of affection for nonhumans and varying interest in reading at an early age and coming from homes steeped in both major parties, feel compelled to seek nonviolence and social justice by opting out of significant parts of what America calls tradition?
Critical thinking is an important element here, and maybe it's the answer. At some point, we said: Why would we do something that hurts someone else just because everyone around us does it? We don't have the same obedience to authority and deference to culture for the sake of it.
But why? Where does that come from?
Certainly not from formal education or field of study, as Richard Dawkins demonstrates. His work against the mainstream in one area is commendable (speaking out against religion and god), but then his odd
statements such as that he doesn't have "the level of social courage
necessary" to stop eating animals though he thinks we should, is
frustrating. He admits he's in a difficult moral position and would
rather everyone stop and then he'll stop. So he spends years fighting one thing the majority does, yet doesn't have the "social courage" to fight the one that could save billions of lives? What? (And here's the transcript from a talk Dawkins gave, where Singer asked him about animals. It's enough to knock Dawkins off any pedestal. Quite frankly, it's pathetic.)
If vegan education were the answer to duplicating our success as vegans, we'd have a lot more vegans. But some people, as we all know, listen intently to what we have to say, read our pamphlets, watch Gary Francione's slideshows, and even watch some of Earthlings, and still aren't moved enough/interested enough to change their lives.
Why is that?
If we can get to what made us receptive, then maybe there's a way to reproduce that in others.