We are the Stewards of the Vegan Meme
Back in June, Seb commented on veganism being a meme, and I completely agree. In BREAKING THE SPELL: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (Penguin 2006), Daniel C. Dennett explores Richard Dawkins’ meme concept and in Chapter Six: The Evolution of Stewardship, he writes:
Memes that are fortunate enough to have stewards, people who will work hard and use their intelligence to foster their propagation and protect them from their enemies, are relieved of much of the burden of keeping their own lineages going (170).
The responsibility of meme stewards is to keep the lineage strong. We vegans, and particularly the small number of us who do not want to spend our time fighting for regulations of the institutional use of nonhumans, should consider ourselves stewards of our meme and should take that job very seriously. The survival and spread of veganism depends on it and we have many, many factors against us.
As a steward of the meme, as you know, I’m creating some material that states my position. I recently heard from two other vegans who are creating literature (one in Canada), and my first thought was, PRAISE GOD! I don’t have to do it now! But that would be most irresponsible, not to mention lazy of me.
After that impulsive, passing-the-buck moment, I realized the more the merrier. Welfarists have dozens of pamphlets available to them because they have dozens of organizations that serve their mission (and in that I’ll include new welfarists, with fewer than dozens, but still way more than we’ve got!). Though we might not have any national organization that we all support, we can begin spreading seeds–our message–through the voices of various members. The more voices, the more slightly (or very) different ways of sending our message, the greater the odds of reaching more people, right? So I create some stuff, you create some stuff, and we all put it out there for everyone and there will eventually be less complaining that there’s no literature that’s up to snuff.
If I really wanted to base my material on Gary Francione‘s work alone, I’d copy and paste a bunch of it, ask for permission, and just hand it out! Done! But I dare (as many of you dare) to find my own voice and write in my own voice. And if others don’t like what I produce, the marketplace (that’s y’all) will tell me that and the new work of others will emerge, or the existing work of others will overtake my work (or whoever’s).
Net message for today? It’s up to all of us. Let’s all create literature. Let’s share ideas, even. Maybe in a year or two, if enough people create material, an organization will emerge (maybe not, but stranger things have happened). All I know is that when I create my material, I understand the importance of sending the message that time is limited for all of us, and my personal priority–the best use of my time–is to educate people about what animal rights is and why becoming a vegan is necessary.