Vegans. We all know at least one, and if you don’t think you do, believe me, you do. There are lots of them in the closet, and some of them even just keep their opinions to themselves, although not too many do. I’m pretty bloody hard (pardon the pun) on vegans in private conversation but I’m going to take a cheap shot now and express a fairly ignorant opinion. I don’t like veganism. It feels wrong. Yeah, sure, I kind of buy that it might help me live longer but at what cost?
I believe omnivorous creatures should be omnivorous. I know, it’s awful to think of the little animals being farmed and slaughtered just so I can stay morbidly obese, but I’m just not a good enough person to stop eating all products which come from animals. Initially, I thought the whole thing was a fad, but over some time I’ve come to realise that vegans and their life philosophy are here to stay, and in greater numbers than anyone could possibly have imagined 5 or 6-years ago.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar came in for some harsh criticism in recent weeks because of some comments he made on eating less red meat, and, of course, there was the usual circus surrounding the comments, with a few exceptional sane commentators. But can anyone tell me why so many people lost their minds? There are a lot of things you can criticise our Taoiseach for, you don’t have to lay waste to his eating habits. I get that it’s not a good look for a farming nation to have its leader say he’s eating less red-meat but in fairness, it’s not a hanging offence.
Now, what I do consider a hanging offence is the emergence of a vulgar hybrid on our supermarket shelves. Non-dairy ice cream. Of course, I blame the vegans. Lactose intolerance is a real condition that has been floating around the fringes of acceptable society for decades and this monster of a food-type has only landed on our shelves, with a broad range, in relatively recent times. I attempted to eat a non-dairy tub of ice cream (you read it right don’t bother looking twice) and low-and-behold I wanted to vomit! A perfectly not good, perfectly expensive tub of vomit-inducing mud is what I had in my hands. Words cannot express how awful I found the experience, so I’m going to punch my keypad in an effort to express my discontent: “vbgknhjhhjhjjnbbgk,m/.mbgj.” And that looks just about how I felt.
Now, for the genuine lactose intolerant among us, I get it, I really do. I mean, I didn’t get it until I ran this piece by a lactose intolerant friend of mine, but I do get it now. The millions of euros spent by the ice-cream companies to research and develop the best possible dairy substitute mean that you can enjoy something which, to you, is barely palatable, after years of eating what I can only assume were much, much worse efforts at dairy-free ice cream. I’m not a monster, I can appreciate the deprivation you all suffered while the vegans got organised and put pressure on the mainstream brands to produce quality, non-dairy ice-creams.
In a nutshell, I don’t have any fundamental problem with vegan products such as non-dairy ice cream, but I do take issue with the somewhat tyrannical approach being adopted by some in the vegan movement. Of course, the militant vegan will place a higher value on animal dignity than on human dignity, and in truth is it harmful? Probably not too harmful, no. Would I try to stop them? No, absolutely not. But I would like to see them engage, like many vegans do, in reasoned discussion about their motives. Vegans have some really good points to make but they often make them so poorly.
It stands to reason that eating less red meat is better for your health, and the environment, but so are loads of things. Walking instead of driving is both better for your health and the environment, but no-one advocates walking 100-miles instead of taking the car. Reason would tell you that if you want to help the environment, you should take public transport and do some cardio when you get home in the evening if you want to improve your health. And that is where the extremist vegans of the world go so far wrong. Showing images of slaughterhouses on billboards, and anthropomorphized animals in cartoons for children, trying to convince them that they are bad people because they eat animals, is only going to incense people.
No matter what your cause, if you want to make a real, sustainable impact on the world, you have to convince as many people as possible to make a change, and the reality we all have to understand is that extremist views never have mass appeal. That is why you must encourage people to make changes a little bit at a time, and convince them to join you on your journey with reason and logic. Not by shouting at them and telling them they are wrong without offering a thought-out explanation of why they should change their ways.
It is often easy to try and evoke an emotional reaction in those with whom we debate important issues. But in my experience, that just annoys people. You won’t convince people of your point of view by pulling on their heartstrings, you’ll just make them feel bad. You might even convince them that they have to change, but they’ll struggle to take any actions to do so, and when the emotive response wears-off, nothing changes. On the other hand, if you can formulate a logical argument as to why your point of view is “better”, then you might actually convince people to change the way they think and thus, change the way they act.
The mere thought of my little dog being hurt upsets me beyond belief, and there is no objective, rational difference between the value of my dog’s life and that of an animal raised for slaughter, other than the subjective, arbitrary values we apply to them. So, in a perfect world, none of us would eat animals or their by-products but we don’t live in a perfect world and we never will. Admirable and all as the vegan ideology may be, the reality is that militant veganism will not affect the change they wish to see in the world. It can only be achieved in moderation and with incremental change.
In conclusion, vegans are not bad people. In fact, they are probably really good people. They’re better than I am. My latest attempts to lose weight involve only eating products of animals; beef, pork, chicken, eggs, mayonnaise, cheese and... that’s about it really. It breaks my heart to think about pigs in slaughterhouses or lambs on kill-lines. It really does, but I don’t have enough empathy to stop eating them and the products they produce. We have evolved as omnivorous creatures, and there will always be that animalistic drive to eat other animals, especially the tasty ones. Some of us will eat more, and others will eat less, and a small few will eat no animal products at all, and perhaps the animal-eating-abstentionists of the world are simply more evolved in some way than the rest of us, but the fact remains that they don’t have to remind us of it so god damn always!
MLK’s legacy should inspire us all to be better people, in every possible way
“I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.” Martin Luther King Jr, April 3, 1968, the night before he was assassinated.
Yesterday (Monday) was Martin Luther King Day in the USA. I was reminded of that when I spoke with a journalist colleague of mine in the States last evening. It ignited memories of my school days, as I remembered when I was in 5th class in St Patrick’s Boys School. One of my first projects, for Master Tiernan, was on great historical figures. We got to choose who we wanted to do the project on and I can’t remember exactly why, but I wanted to do Martin Luther King Junior. At the time I would probably only have known of him from a few TV shows, or snippets of documentaries. The internet wasn’t what it is today, so, if it wasn’t on terrestrial TV, you didn’t watch it. My father always talked about history and historical figures, and spent some time in the States before I was born, so maybe I heard a bit about MLK from him. Whatever the motivation was, all I know is I wanted to know more about him.
I remember being so confused as a child about what racism was. It didn’t make sense to me. I mean, the concept didn’t make sense to me. I was curious as to why MLK had to do so much to obtain equal rights for black people in America. And I was so confused as to why he was assassinated. My parents raised me with the strict understanding that you must respect everyone, and everyone is equal to everyone else, no matter their abilities, religion, race, gender, sexuality, social status or so on. I now know, of course, that racists are created when stupidity and ignorance intersect, and there is little point in trying to figure it out any more than that, because there is no excuse, there is no reason, there is no justification for being racist.
As a child, my understanding of the world was rather black and white: there were good people and bad people. Good people had little to worry about because they were good. And bad people had to worry about the police, and judges, and going to prison. In my eyes, MLK was a good person, so I had no concept of why anyone would want to hurt him when he had only campaigned to do good things. Again, it didn’t make sense to me. I couldn’t comprehend it.
Using encyclopedias (yes, they really did exist) and the limited internet available in school, I learned all I could about MLK for my project and composed my report. I remember one kid in my class, I can’t remember who though, making some sort of remark about my project topic. It wasn’t very nice, and I remember feeling sad at time because it was the first time in my life I had witnessed someone I know, in real life, making a racist remark.
Before starting my research, I really only knew the line of MLK’s “I have a dream” speech that everybody else knew. I read the whole speech for that project. I was mesmerized by the language used, the intellect, the passion, and have been ever since.
MLK was a true leader, and one who knew that pacifism was the route by which he would achieve the change he was seeking. A few parts of that speech stood out to me as a child. The first was this paragraph from his speech:
“But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”
That stood out in my mind, in particular the last sentence. Here was a man who was facing state-sanctioned segregation and discrimination. A man whose community had been brutalized by police for, essentially, the crime of protesting while black, and had water-cannons turned on them and he was telling these people: don’t be bitter or hate-filled. The strength of this man’s moral-character was stunning to me as a child, and remains to me today.
The second thing that stood-out in my mind was his reference to the little black boys and black girls joining hands with all the little white boys and white girls; it was the first time I really began to understand what racial segregation was, what it meant, and what it caused. I was startled to learn that, not too long before that, in the USA, white people and black people used different drinking fountains, different schools, and were governed by very different rules of engagement in social situations.
As early as the mid-1950s, King had received death threats as a result of his prominence in the Civil Rights Movement. He had confronted the risk of death numerous times in his life, including an almost fatal stabbing in 1958. He taught that murder could not stop the struggle for equal rights. After the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, King told his wife Coretta: "This is what is going to happen to me also. I keep telling you, this is a sick society." King was prescient in his prediction.
On April 4, 1968, at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, King was shot. He was rushed to St Joseph's Hospital, and was pronounced dead at 7:05 pm. James Earl Ray, a fugitive from the Missouri State Penitentiary, was arrested on June 8, 1968, in London at Heathrow Airport, he was extradited to the United States, and charged with the crime. On March 10, 1969, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 99-years in the Tennessee State Penitentiary.
Reading about MLK’s assassination, I’ve been trying to come to terms with the fact that he knew it was coming, maybe he didn’t know exactly when, but he knew that it was coming. He knew that he was going to be killed because racism ran deep in some people in his “sick society” and his peaceful means of social rebellion were being all too effective. But he kept campaigning, he kept going, undeterred by serious threats of violence and death. My innocent child’s mind thought at that time - how bad were things in America, at that time, that he was willing to die for the cause of equality and freedom? I mean, this Baptist Minister from Atlanta, Georgia, inspired black people and white people to stand up together against the state, to ensure all people had the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
He didn’t derogate or deride those who opposed his views, he was smarter than that. He didn’t threaten them, or oppress them, because he knew what it was to be threatened and oppressed. He tried to inspire them to see the error of their ways and educate them of the fundamental rights which should be inherent in all people, to quote Dr King: “God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics”, it didn’t matter, because they were all human beings.
MLK inspired me as a child, and his legacy continues to inspire me today. I hope his legacy can also inspire activists fighting for various causes today, to not rely on violence and slurs in order to support their points of view. I hope his legacy can inspire todays activists to use the intellect in their heads and not the threats of their fists, to achieve their goals.
They will call it Leftism, they will call it Socialism, they will even call it Democratic-socialism but it is time we called it by its real name...
They walk among us and they are working under the guise of virtue and altruism. They are working to take control of you and everything you hold dear. They are not all bad people, they are, many of them, misguided and intellectually deficient. But some of them are bad people, very bad people, with a very bad agenda. They want the state to seize the means of production and they hate private businesses and the concept of the individual. Most ordinary people, like you and I, might refer to these people in passing as hippies, or headbangers, or loons, or some other disparaging, ambiguous noun. But I think it is time we give them their proper title, the title they don’t want you to use because it describes them too well. I think it is time we called them what they are - Communists.
These people are dangerous, and are a serious threat to our country and our freedom. They are secular theologians who compulsively force their opinions and beliefs on others, because they think they know what is best for everyone. They believe they are so virtuous that they could not possibly be wrong. They have no faith in individuals to do what is right, and therefore believe individuals must be controlled. If they could, they would police your thoughts.
They are theocratic in their beliefs and come to every debate looking to convert the other side, and if they cannot convert, they seek to silence, they will never accept the possibility they could be wrong.
They don’t want open debate and discussion. They don’t want free speech. They are constantly looking for excuses to silence views which differ from theirs and opinions they disagree with. They think free speech should be limited, and that they should be the moral-arbiters who decide the limits of speech for others. They do this because they believe they know what is best for everyone and that their virtue is all that matters.
They are ideologically blinded by their own virtue, and many of them do not believe what the ultimate result of their efforts will be. They don’t believe it, in the main, because they do not want to believe it. It’s like trying to tell someone their favourite restaurant has rats, deep down they know eating there will make them sick, but the spaghetti tastes so damn good in the moment. To abuse a cliché, they knowingly “drink the Kool-aid.”
The best friend the communists have are politicians who, as a result of their own lack of intellect, see no issue in allowing government over-reach. These politicians lack the moral-fibre required to shout stop! They lack this moral-fibre because they lack the knowledge of the dangers of what they do. Because they are generally good people, who themselves would not abuse the over-reach they advocate, they fail to understand that not all people are as virtuous as they believe themselves to be. This is the junction at which legality and morality go separate routes.
Just because the law says something, does not mean it is morally right. In Nazi Germany, the state murdered millions of Jews, among other minority groups. In the USSR, despite Soviet Union authorities and leaders officially condemning nationalism and proclaiming internationalism, including the right of nations and peoples to self-determination, in practice they executed completely opposing policies including but not limited to; systematic large-scale cleansing of ethnic minorities, political repression, and various forms of ethnic and social discrimination, including state-enforced Anti-semitism and Polonophobia. But no doubt our modern-day comrades will say – “That wasn’t real Communism.”
And there-in lies the problem. It wasn’t real Communism, and there never will be “real Communism”. When you cede unbridled power to the organs of the state, the result is always, always, always, always, always, that the power is abused. It never happens over-night, and it is almost always too late to stop it when the problem is realised by most people. Like climate change, Communism creeps up on society, and before it is realised, it’s too late. Ireland is on that slippery slope, have no doubt. This vocal, violent, and vile grouping are doing all they can to stifle debate and silence those who disagree with their world view.
This week saw The Democrat came into the firing line of these “thought-nazis”, because we espouse the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and freedom of association. Because we refuse to silence those with whom we disagree, these people attack us with vile slurs and threaten to lobby our advertisers to withdraw their support for this publication. They want us to quiver and backdown, they want to distract us, they want us to apologize for defending their rights, and the rights of every citizen.
We will never stifle debate or silence those with whom we disagree. That is what those asserting these slurs want. We will continue to facilitate honest, open, and fair debate. We want those who disagree with us and with whom we disagree, as well as those who share our views, to continue to debate in an open and intellectually honest manner. We will not censor fair comment or opinion, nor will we decide what is free speech and what is not. We encourage those who disagree with us to do so publicly and this publication will defend to the death the rights of everyone to freedom of expression, even if we may disagree with what they are saying. Communists wouldn’t do that, Communists would seize the opportunity to silence their intellectual opponents, and end a debate before it even starts. We will not cower and we will not be silenced by this fanatical mob.
Remember, people have a right to be stupid, as long as they don’t hurt anyone else. So, while I rail against these modern-day-Communists, I would fight to the death to defend their right to exist. I would find it unjust if they were silenced. I would be abhorred if they were censored. I would be sick at the thought of them being oppressed by the State. Unfortunately, they do not extend the same fundamental respect to me. They would be happier if I were wiped from the face of the planet and if they want me to be silent, that is what they will have to do.
No doubt they will get behind their keyboards and take aim at this opinion piece on the internet. But don’t be fooled, that is one of their favourite tactics: label all and any reasonable criticism of their ideas as; crazy, alarmist, hateful, desperate, sad etc. Again, I say, don’t be fooled.
There is a concerted effort afoot, whether you want to believe it or not, to erode your individual freedoms. The campaign to put an end to pesky freedoms, which ensure you are not ruled by a powerful minority, has been carefully crafted by the governing classes. Governments across the world have offered their populations “security” in exchange for these freedoms, absolving the people of their personal responsibilities, which many people happily relinquish in search of a simpler and easier life. More often than not the erosion of your freedoms are subtle, sometimes the efforts even appear sensible. Therefore, it is rarely noticed.
What governments absolutely know, and people seem to not realize, is that governments want you to blame them for your problems. They want you complaining about them not doing enough. They want you moaning about their lack of intervention. They want it because it gives them an excuse to get bigger and more bloated. They don’t want you knowing the truth.
The truth is, that governments are only looking for excuses to take more of your money, more of your property, and more of your freedoms. So, what you end up with is a vicious cycle of government doing things really badly, and then having to do more things badly to fix the things they’ve previously done badly, and they repeat the process over and over and over. Eventually, governments become too bloated for their own good, before war or recession, or both, reset the clock.
There are a lot of people who think the world works best when society as a whole is put at the centre of government policy, and because people want to be seen as altruistic, the greater good fallacy tends to be used to achieve their lofty goals. According to the “greater good” fallacy, we must all sacrifice a little freedom for the greater good, and the government will adjudicate on what freedoms we must sacrifice. It is the ultimate weapon to erode individual freedoms, because it assumes that the government knows best, and would never abuse its position of trust, but we know this not to be the case.
Governments routinely over-reach and cause great harm to their populations, and almost always when they do harm it is as a result of having restricted the freedom of individuals. Restricting individual freedoms does not serve to improve the happiness of society overall, how can it? It is sold to us as “good for us”, but is it? Often it is referred to as “the price we pay for living in a civilized world.” But I ask: what is civil about the constant threat of force if you as much as step out of line on a single issue?
You see, you must not conflate absolute moral freedom with what we have in most countries today. Take for example our own island of Ireland. Are we a free people? When asked that question most people would probably say yes, but are we? Think about it. You are free so long as you obey arbitrary rules set down by various governments of varying political ideologies, over nearly 100 years.
Let us examine just how free we are: You are free to own a dog, as long as you buy a state issued license. You are free to own a TV, so long as you buy a state issued license. You are free to own a house, so long as you register the ownership with the state, pay stamp duty (tax) on its purchase, and pay property tax every 12-months – in the alternative you can build a house, and are free to do so provided you apply to the state for permission to do so, receive said permission from the state, and build the house in compliance with a litany of regulations, many of which were decided by people who live and work almost 1,000 miles away. You are free to drive a car, so long as you take state mandated lessons, pass a state mandated test, buy a state issued license, register the ownership of the vehicle with the state, pay road tax, buy insurance from a private corporation as mandated to by the state, and present the vehicle to an agent of the state at regular intervals so that its use can be approved by the state. You are free to employ someone, provided you pay them a minimum wage as set by the state, register the employment with the state, collect taxes from their wages for the state, pay additional taxes on top of their wages to the state, and report all the above to the state at regular intervals. If you fail to comply with any of the parameters set out by the state with regards to the above examples, or a plethora of other examples we could explore but won’t, you will face the very real possibility that you will no longer be “free”, and could find yourself on the receiving-end of the forces of the state. So, you tell me, just how free are we?
Critics of freedom will say that what is being described by absolute freedom is anarchy, and while in some ways that might be true, it is often used in a disingenuous way to try to argue against freedom. The reality, however, is that freedoms must be absolute, and thusly, you do not have the freedom to impede on the freedoms of others, and neither should the government – unless it is to protect the freedoms of another. The only morally acceptable role for government should be to protect freedoms, not oppress them. In that, in a truly free society, government would be responsible for protecting freedoms, with a fit and strong police force to maintain domestic freedoms and a strong, well-resourced military to defend the nations freedom from those who may seek to end it. Of course, it must also establish and ensure a free, independent judiciary to protect the fundamental freedoms of the people, not only from each other but also from the state. Outside of these fundamental duties, government should have very little power. And because as a society we have not opted to limit the power of government in any discernible way, we have started to plummet down a very slippery slope of government over—reach.
For example: If you are driving dangerously on a public road, should the state have the power to stop you? Of course, you pose a risk to others, and thus it is an effort to protect the freedoms of others. However, if you are sitting at home watching TV, the state should have no authority, whatsoever, to impede on your freedom under threat of force because you may or may not have a TV license, it is absolutely morally wrong, and does not protect the freedoms of anyone, but merely oppresses freedom.
If we want to improve societies lot, let us look at how to achieve that but from a different perspective to the one normally adopted. In order for society to achieve greater security and happiness, it must not try to solve the problems it faces with less freedom but with more. We must start the search for solutions from that stand-point, and when faced with a problem we must ask: “Can I solve this problem with more freedom instead of less,” and sometimes the answer will be no, but that is where we must start. Society desperately needs to protect the individual, individual rights and freedoms, and civil liberties. Isn’t that all anyone wants at the end of the day?
The hard part of this though, is that with rights and freedoms, come responsibilities. Responsibilities to; our fellow man; the environment; the sick; the elderly; the poor; the vulnerable; our communities; and future generations. If you want freedom, yes, you have to be prepared to live in a world where you cannot simply abdicate your responsibilities to the state. You have to be a grown up. You cannot blame the government for the problems society face, because you are a part of that society and you are responsible for fixing those problems. In our world today, it is too easy to point the finger and blame others for our problems, but in a free world, you are responsible for putting right perceived injustices. There will need to be more volunteers, more charities, and more involvement by the people in the operation of their society, but is that such a bad thing? Have we so little faith in our fellow human beings that we don’t believe they would do the right thing if required?