Angry Activists; Selective Empathy; Conditional Compassion
23 Jul 2017
Anger, hatred and vilification have become the hallmarks of activism today, despite these qualities scuppering the very change the activists are seeking. Real change requires an emphasis on compassion and empathy.
HUMANS ARE EVIL! she typed, followed by a long diatribe on the impending destruction of civilisation as humans express what she regarded as their innate psychopathy. ‘She’ was a vegan managing a popular vegan online forum, an activist incensed by the mass-murder of animals.
I told her that she would be “even more effective” getting her message across to meat-eaters if she stopped hating them so much, and that labelling everyone as psychopaths is an admission of failure as psychopathy is not curable. But such responses got me labelled by her as an “ineffective and smiling, love and light” vegan putting out “BS philosophy”. I quickly found myself banned from the forum and my posts deleted. (It is bizarre to dislike “love and light” approaches so much that you feel the need to obliterate all traces of it on your web page!)
Such responses are actually quite common in the vegan world at the moment. It would seem that the public face of the vegan movement has been hijacked by individuals with strong anger issues, so that rage and hatred have become the defining emotions for modern veganism. (This of course brings into question the belief that a peaceful diet promotes peaceful behaviour!)
But I think what is happening is that the angriest and most mentally unstable vegans are the ones who make the loudest noise and end up defining a movement. What is concerning is that they put themselves in the position of being able to set the emotional agenda for the whole movement. So that new vegans soon learn that hatred is part of their "compassion".
For me, avoiding animal products has allowed me to thrive on many levels, but most importantly it is a direct expression of my empathy and compassion to other beings, and in that way it is very much a part of my spiritual practice and outlook. So whilst it is true that I could well be classified as a “love and light” vegan, I question why being a “love and light” anything would automatically make one ineffective at influencing others. Have we really reached a stage where abject hatred has become the only recognised currency for activism? If history is anything to go by, hatred makes people more resistant to change, not less.
This is not to say that hatred is not understandable. I have personally experienced the outrage that triggers these sorts of sentiments. When one sees the deplorable abuse and cruelty perpetrated by some humans on defenceless animals, often nonchalantly and without any concern for the infliction of pain whatsoever, it is a natural response to feel anger (even rage) towards the perpetrators. And this anger is easily compounded by much of this abuse being sanctioned by our social and legal systems. On top of this, there is the frustration of spending time trying to educate people on the horrific consequences of their dietary and sartorial choices, only to have the vast majority continue to make the same choices out of habit.
But we are not just automatons lost in reaction. We are here to bypass our reactive reflexes and find real consciousness. After all, it is reactive reflexes that cause many people to be using animal products in the first place, and to continue using them despite being informed of the suffering involved. Unthinking reaction or unconsciousness is the problem, not the solution.
We cannot berate people for unconsciously making bad choices if our good choices are also being made unconsciously as a means to express our dysfunction. Their unconscious choices are certainly producing undesirable outcomes (in this case, especially for the animals), but our unconscious choices of anger and hatred in response to their unconscious choices can also cause undesirable outcomes (such as increased social disharmony which deepens obduracy — which is not in the interest of animals either).
So it is not a question of just being right, it is a question of being conscious within the whole process. And this can only happen when we have compassion for BOTH the victim and the perpetrator.
The etymology of the word “compassion” involves “com” meaning together and “pati” meaning to suffer. When we feel compassion towards another we suffer what they suffer; we feel what they feel, to the best of our ability. So compassion is very much rooted in empathy. So when some of us see an animal suffering, that suffering is mirrored inside many of us. And as a consequence of this empathy with other species, we avoid animal products because of the abominable cruelty and suffering involved in their production.
But empathy towards those who eat animals and wear their skins is also important, for it maintains (or builds) a rapport with those who perpetrate animal suffering, and this must never be underestimated. Without that rapport, a division is maintained between us — who we invariably label as the “good guys”, and them — who we invariably label as the “bad guys”. And this division encourages the “bad guys” to defend their choices rather than consider them, and it also encourages us to attack poor choices rather than persuade for better choices.
Of course, this is all easier said than done because we are so conditioned by society to condemn. Condemnation is one of our collective titillations, which is why our mass media promotes so much of it. We have been conditioned to get off on feeling that we are right and that someone else is wrong. It is the ultimate separator, and as such it gives us the ego-buzz of validation, at the expense of the other.
In this way, most activists and revolutionaries are mostly validating their egos rather than actually changing society. And their anger and vitriol are evidence for this. They think that the more anger they have, the more fire they have to change society, when in fact they do not have the psychological development to direct that fire down more constructive avenues. As a result, most humans' idea of change today is to be angry at something — to reject or take offence at someone or something.
You see it in our schools and universities where there is a growing intolerance to alternative viewpoints: speakers with outlying opinions are being shouted down; no-platform has become de rigour; and the young intelligentsia are increasingly fragile, ever searching for safe spaces from the intolerable feeling of being offended.
And these are the individuals who are becoming the new activists, and as a result, activism is evolving into something unsavoury. Most activists are now parasites to society, feeding off “good causes” to offload their emotional darkness and express their anger and intolerance. In the process, they add only darkness to society. The push for change is a charade: the conscious mind is being fooled by an unconscious motive to express anger and hatred.
There is a small minority of activists who are genuine agents for change. These are the ones who have done enough work on themselves so that the issues they support are not primarily being used for their own emotional healing. But at the moment, they seem to be few and far between as the world descends into the chaos of emotional turmoil.
The simple fact is that supporting good causes is NOT the primary work that we are here to do. Supporting good causes is not the way out of the chaos that humanity is in at the moment. Healing can only happen when we stop fooling ourselves that we can bypass the development of unconditional love and change the world with our anger. It just does not work that way.
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Angry activism is based on the lie of scientific materialism. Most angry activists that I know of are atheists. But what is an atheist really? He or she is someone who believes the scientific paradigm of reality.
Now what you have to remember is that although science itself is based on repeated observation, the scientific paradigm — like all paradigms — is NOT testable. The reason for this is that paradigms are groups of all groups… they are too all-encompassing to actually falsify. So for example, the laws of gravity can be tested and modified based on the results of those tests, but the scientific paradigm itself is not falsifiable. There is nothing to test it against. All it really offers is an overall semantic backdrop to the scientific theories.
So the scientific paradigm — which is ungodly — is no more or less testable than religious paradigms of the major religions. They are all subjective and untestable backdrops to the process of building up realitymaps. They give those maps context. (This is not to equate scientific and religious theories… ONLY the scientific and religious paradigms.
The scientific realitymap sees the world as a massive mechanism “wound up” during the miracle of the Big Bang, and left to mathematically unwind its way to entropy death. That is it. But that context of life is untestable, despite what any scientist might have you believe. In the scientific realitymap, life is just an epiphenomena of this material universe, akin to the eddies that form in a stream and then dissipate. And consciousness is just an illusion of the neuronets of our nervous systems. What arrogance to reduce the two primary aspects of reality to mere epiphenomena, and one illusory at that!
And yet, scientists are quite happy to accuse the more spiritual and/or religious minded individuals of anthropomorphic arrogance by believing in equally untestable realitymaps or paradigms! What this actually shows is only epistemological ignorance.
Why are most vegans atheists? Because they cannot accept that in a world of such suffering, destruction and chaos there is a higher intelligence orchestrating it all. They cannot accept it because, to them, any higher intelligence is autonomous and therefore should, by definition, be making better choices despite our own messed up states of mind.
But what if a higher intelligence is holographic, within each of us? What if the states of our minds are instrumental in how reality is orchestrated? What if we are directly responsible for the realitymaps that we experience, maps that show terrible suffering? If this was the case, we would have to take a long and hard look at ourselves and our own states of consciousness, with the understanding that until we heal ourselves, the world will never heal no matter how much bile we pump out to change things.
As a general rule: if a group of activists are screaming and shouting slogans — no matter what the cause or what they do to promote their message — those activists are creating hell on earth for all of us and are ultimately doing nothing for their cause. The activists that make the real difference are the ones that can put their anger aside and go about changing the world with their compassion and vision. The fire of anger must be used only as a motivator for promoting change with compassion, NOT as a means to berate or vilify people for their unconscious actions.