Tuesday, September 23, 2008

You Ruined My Barbecue

A year and some months ago I took a odd plunge into an alternative “lifestyle.” There’s something unsettling about the word lifestyle, and I’m not entirely sure what about the word makes me uncomfortable. Perhaps it is a little too "new-agey" and weak-willed for me, giving it the inadequacy of being so general as to be almost meaningless. Lifestyle -- it just encompasses too much to where a meaningful ethical imperative can be clumped with a trivial fad. Hasidism is just as much of a lifestyle as my brief, near-religious zealotry over wearing only the most comfortable pants in the world -- sweatpants. Wearing sweatpants everyday and being a Hasidic Jew are both lifestyles, but most would say that “being a lifestyle” is the only broad, categorical relation they have. Lifestyle is a dumb and vacuous term.

Before we drown in the stupidity of that tangent, my “lifestyle” was rather a personal response to an ethical imperative that was presented to me that I had so aptly and efficiently avoided. I became vegetarian despite the extreme contradictions of how I had lived my life and what I had said for nearly 22 years. I was the first to bash vegetarians, more specifically vegans. I was by most standards an unapologetic, ferociously reactionary meatarian. How was I able to convert between such extreme and opposite positions? Though I’m sure others may psychoanalyze me differently, I believe I am and have always been a rationalist first before anything else when it comes to philosophical or political issues. Vegetarianism and its many veins provided the only sensible response to the global capitalist juggernaut that has begotten corporate farming , which blindly destroys natural resources, causes unending air, land and water pollution, breeds disease through wantonness misuse of antibiotics, causes starvation and leaves us removed from the production of food so that we have no appreciation for our food and where it comes from. If I was to live in good faith, and be a devotee to truth even in all of its terrible shapes, I had to become a vegetarian.

There are plenty of resources to hear all the juicy details of the many problems with the meat industry, so I’ll spare you the holier-than-thou layman lecture -- for now! What I’d rather focus on is the curious social situation that arise when you become vegetarian.

For one, most Americans are ardent meatarians in some shape or form, or at least, they become meatarians when you’re forced to tell them you’re vegetarian because there’s no other reason why you wouldn’t want a sloppy joe covered in bacon and ranch. Most meatarians take vegetarianism to be an outright attack on their culture, values and especially, their specific family and upbringing; however, they’re not fully conscious of this causal relation, and rather, a subconscious rage builds up and expresses itself in a controlled rage in the form of aggressive and cliched jokes about the deliciousness of meat. They also choose to harp upon some sort of strange notion of masculinity adopted from a comic-book interpretation of Vikings to try and make the vegetarian interlocutor look like a total “pussy ass bitch.” Most meatarians think that the giant, brutal and soulless capitalist machine that is the food industry is synonymous with how they live their lives. People are deeply connected to shitty cheeseburgers and chicken fingers inexplicably. An attack on the amount of energy and resources that go into the livestock to produce the meat is actually a concealed attack on their grandmother and her homemade meatloaf. Apparently, their grandmothers look a lot like hardened CEOs in suits making savy, self-interested executive decision.

These uniformed meatarians responses stem from the fact that most meatarians are completely uninformed (at best) about the political and ethical issues surrounding the meat and food industry, and the rest are not only uninformed they’re also feverishly nihilistic about truth, facts and ethical imperatives when it benefits their petty arguments and political positions. Most of their witty retorts and long-considered treatise to the issue of vegetarianism and evidence of the destructiveness of the food specifically the meat industry about the subject can be summed up with “I fucking love meat!” or “My grandfather ate meat everyday and he lived to be 87!” In summary, there are two basic emotive quips that will erupt when presented with the truth:
Response 1: [Abrupt Joke About Favorite Meat and/or Hatred of Animals Often Very Specific Animal like a Damn Whale]
Response 2: [Strange/Irrelevant Anecdote About This Dude* They Know] *Dude is usually a fat, family patriarch that may have died of a heart attack as the response is uttered by the meatarian

Finally realizing that a good argument riddled with facts that shows the benefits of reducing meat consumption is going to fall on deaf ears, I’ve decided that most discussions about vegetarianism with meatarians should just be brought to the most ridiculous, base level possible. It’s a hopeless effort, so might as well match the meatarian's emotive stupidity.

After the vicious quip on the vegetarian that makes the meatarian look like a total badass Viking and champion of free speech, and makes the vegetarian look like a sissy fascist, you wait for all the people to stop laughing and enjoying their social cohesiveness over their love of the phallic hot dog. With a deadpan seriousness you say “Well, you know if we could get down to the root of why I’m vegetarian -- I’m vegetarian because I was deeply inspired by the vegetarianism of the prominent anti-Semites Richard Wagner and Adolf Hitler! WHITE POWER!” [Screamed in a Nasally Southern Accent] You will not have won the argument, but you will be in a stalemate with the meatarian -- two equally idiotic positions clashing and battling to be the one truly audacious and pointless argument.


yatpay said...

Haha, nice ending.

I tried to go vegetarian over the summer for health and environmental reasons, but I just couldn't pull it off. This was probably just because I don't know the first thing about cooking and didn't have any kitchen gear. Maybe I'll take another shot at it this winter. Got any tips for a newbie?

Brandon The Unqualified Critic said...

You have to learn to cook in some shape or form. You have to learn about basic nutrition. Being vegetarian is not about convenience, it should be a radical opposition to convenience. Convenience is what leads people to have no connection to their food, and thus they have the uncaring values of the standard American meatarian. So go pick up a book, there are a couple that are very general that cover why you should be vegetarian and the benefits, and then, go on to provide you with information (eating habits, nutrition, recipes) on how to actually be a successful vegetarian. Eating pizza everyday is a very insincere form of vegetarianism! But I'm guilty of excessive pizza consumption, so I won't scold people about it.

Brandon The Unqualified Critic said...


Ashley owns this book. I recommend it. And remember that you need to make this shit work for you. If you don't like eggplant, don't eat eggplant. Find fruit and vegetables that you like and stick with them. Avoid any salad dressing that isn't a light oil based dressing -- no cream dressings! And eat more whole grains! Veggieburgers and veggiedogs are an easy stepping stone too. They're easy to make and significantly healthier than their meat counterparts. Just make sure you buy the ones higher in protein and lower in fat, and you should eat them on whole wheat bread/buns not highly processed white bread. Fiber and vegetable-based proteins (beans, tofu, fauxmeat, nuts) are your new idols. Worship your veggie pantheon!