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shrinkykitten

"...another reason I'm intrigued with the hanged of Salem, especially the women, is that a number of them aroused suspicion in the first place because they were financially independent, or sharp-tongued, or kept to themselves. In other words, they were killed off for the same sort of life I live right now but with longer skirts and fewer cable channels." Sarah Vowell, The partly cloudy patriot.

6.18.2007

Do we need to be the change we want to see in the world?

Or are you simply a hypocrite if you aren't? Are there shades of grey such that you can be somewhat of the change you want to see in the world? Or is it all-or-nothing?

My supervisor - aka fodder for liberal rantings on my part - criticized Al Gore for using a lot of electricity and noted that all the democrats are hypocrites because they are rich and do not espouse the values they purport. First, Al Gore is not (yet) running for President - so he ought not be lumped with the democratic presidential candidates. Second, it would be impossible for someone who is NOT RICH to run for President. And third, can't we fight for change without being perfect ourselves?

Yes, John Edwards is extremely well off. Does he need to live a life of self-imposed poverty in order to be a credible force against poverty? Does Al Gore need to read by candlelight and bike everywhere in order for us to pay attention to his concerns about global warming?

On a more mundane level - what about me? Do I, in order to be a credible vegetarian, need to be 100% in my adherence to a vegetarian lifestyle? Or is it okay that I have some inconsistencies (like leather shoes) or frailties (sometimes I like to eat starburst!)?

Why are these inconsistencies so sexy? And why is it not okay to be inconsistent if one's intentions are good? Why is it so bad in the US to be human?

And why don't the conservatives take a long hard look at their own inconsistencies before pointing fingers? Let's take, for example, Foley and his supposed fight against child exploitation, all the while exploiting some underage pages? Or Newt Gingrich who was trying to impeach Bill Clinton for infidelity, while at the same time Gingrich himself was having an affair (while his wife was in the hospital!?)?

As I argue that perhaps we ought not be judged harshly for our inconsistencies - it seems to me that there are gradations and issue-specific considerations. To me, Foley's inconsistencies are far more problematic than Gore's.

I'm not saying that being the change we want to see is unimportant. Clearly, I could not be a good vegetarian if I enjoyed rabbit hunting and eating steak tartare. But if I still eat cheese - without checking to see if rennet is in it (which it is), does that obviate my vegetariansm? Am I just paving my way to hell with my good intentions and not actually doing anything of value?

2 Comments:

At 3:13 PM, Blogger Ianqui said...

I know this isn't the point of your post, but I really hope you mentioned Foley and Gingrich to your boss. ALL politicians are hypocrites, although, I'd argue that the republican hypocrisy is worse.

Also, Gore's home is his and his wife's place of business, so it's not fair for people not to include that.

Finally, I'm coming to peace with the idea that the best thing to do is reduce as much as possible, not treat these issues as black and white. I think my reasons for being a vegetarian are different than yours, but if everyone reduced their meat consumption by, say, 50%, then there'd be that much less pollution, that much less chance of mad cow, that many fewer calories consumed, that much more grain available for starving people, etc. I think we're only setting ourselves up for failure if we try to see these issues as moral black and whites.

 
At 4:32 PM, Blogger dr four eyes said...

Not really the underlying point of your post, but Gore also pays more for 100% green electricity and works to offset his & his family's carbon footprint. So, yeah, his house/workplace is huge, but he's taking steps to address that.

I also agree with Ianqui's comment about reducing as much as possible, rather than seeing this as black or white. Chica and I would prefer to use public transport, but FunkyTown simply doesn't have options for us. So we buy the most fuel efficient cars we can afford, walk as much as possible, and take tons of other small steps (like using cloth napkins instead of paper) to reduce our footprint. We're not perfect (we need to address all the phantom power we're using in our house, for example) but we make a consistent and sustained effort.

I eat cheese all the time--it's the main reason why I'm not a vegan--but I also NEVER tell anyone they should be vegetarians, even though I think reducing meat consumption would have huge heath, environmental, and humanitarian benefits (see Ianqui's comment).

As for your boss, I kinda think he's a nitwit. He's using dubious arguments to dismiss views/people he doesn't agree with. To be fair, I'm sure there are liberals/Democrats who do the same thing, but it still doesn't change the fact that he's standing on shaky ground on this one.

 

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