Thank you all for joining me here. For those who followed me from the FB comment section, I hope you enjoy a bit of friendly bickering and as always you are most welcome to leave a comment below. For those who come directly into this blog from your email, I will first explain what spurred this post:
A Facebook friend of mine re-posted from Memes Republic something about feeding a Vegan a real hamburger without telling them. This caused a storm of righteous indignation in general, but when I commented: “…. As far as religious reasons and other personal convictions: I find myself allergic to ideology pushers.” It focused the main thrust of the storm on me. I am glad, because this gave me a reason to explain and expand more on the issue.
We all make choices in every walk of life, and we have or should have the right to make most of those choices. The problem arises when different choices are guided by different moral values. Basically when one moral issue is pinned against another, and the choice becomes, which one do we assign a higher moral value.
Lets focus on dietary choices, because this post originated from that issue. Again I want to stress that allergies, of which I might not be aware of and some might pose a serious health risk are not what I am talking about. I want to talk about personal choices, be it being vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian, or simply watching you calories, sugar or salt intake. You should be informed of what you are about to consume. Imagine if I just wanted to avoid GMO foods, I can look at the label when I am buying it and…. Oh wait, I might need a QR reader for that, that’s if the rule ever gets implemented here in the U.S. in the first place! That’s just goes to show you that government and big corporations can hide the truth, lie to you and mislead you and we will still run to them like chickens to a feed. But I am beginning to digress.
If you choose not to eat meat, or even just a specific dish it is your choice, you do have the right to do so. After all you should be able to control what goes into your body. The problem is what happens when someone else violates your choice?
The range of emotions can vary from laughing it off to hurt and anger, possibly even hate. We even see extreme cases such as the case of Asia Bibi who is on death row in Pakistan resulting from an argument spurred by her drinking water from the same utensil as her Muslim neighbors. This is an extremist take on a simple issue.
If your friend pulls a joke on you and gives you a piece of bacon to eat, and you are a practicing orthodox Jew or a Muslim, should you jump over the table and rip their heart out? This behavior illustrates a clash between different moral choices. My moral choice between doing what I think is a harmless joke vs my moral obligation to respect his/her wishes, Also a person’s own moral choice not to eat pork vs. their moral choice not to kill.
We make choices, to which we have the right to, but should those choices be final and ultimate?
I was born and raised in a religious tradition that kept strictly to Lent. No parties (not even birthdays), no meat on Fridays and total fasting on Fridays during Lent. I was horrified at seeing people from my religious tradition in other countries, ignoring the rule. I was shocked at the younger generation blowing off this sacred and eternal law! Then I looked closer at the instructions from the church leaders and …. Boy was I shocked! I learned that the tradition is just that, nothing else. It is my personal choice and not a law. That I should follow it if I am able to, but if not, not worry, try next time. It opened my eyes that I, and only I am responsible for the choices. If I choose to be Vegan, not for any health reasons, I should let others know. If they do not respect my choice, I should let them know how important this choice is to me. I should not go ripping their heart out, but communicate in a positive and constructive way. After all, friend will make jokes at your expense occasionally, and if each time you walk away from them, you’ll end up with no friends, while they will just do it to someone else. Staying friends with them, albeit challenging, gives you the opportunity to sway them to your way of thinking. After all you choices should remain fluid and adoptable to situations. You should redirect other to see your way softly but persistently, rather than push and shove, which will result in making enemies for no reason.
As I mentioned, letting others know about your choices is solely your responsibility especially if you have restrictions for health reason. If you have peanut allergies you should let those who serve you food know. If they intentionally violate your restriction, then that’s comparable to an attempt at poisoning, but when you just tell them you are a vegetarian or a vegan, you imply a personal choice that does not reflect a potential health risk. Expect them forgetting it sometimes testing your resolve. Your friends are not perfect.
I am fat, and I am constantly trying to diet. So far of all the diets I tried, a strange one seemed to have the best effect (for as long as I stuck to it). It was suggested to me by my Muslim cardiologist. Why am I mentioning his religion? Because the diet boiled down to following Ramadan style dietary practice. No Food from dawn to dusk, and then one simple meal. Simple but effective. It worked, then I stopped.
My co-worker keeps on bringing delicious foods for the office. Cookies, donuts, cakes, chips and salsa etc. Funny that he himself is diabetic and does not eat that stuff. The temptation was too much for me to resist and I quit the diet. I thought I should go talk to him about this, but then I realized that my diet was my choice and my responsibility, not his. He could not eat this stuff but it gave him pleasure to share with his co-workers. Why should my choice, affect him and all others who benefit from it. So I decided to gain more resolve and try the diet again, knowing I will have to face this challenge by myself.
Now let me look at this issue from another perspective. People make dietary choices, what they eat and what they don’t. People choose whether to take medication or not, whether to get vaccinated or not. All the choices we make have moral implications that may or may not conflict with others, so we must always be educated. An uneducated veganism can lead to poor nutrition. I have seen that first hand with a woman juicing wheat grass and giving it to her five years old child. She has never given the kid milk, nor formula, and breast feeding was out of the question (it would flatten her boobs). The kid was at the developmental level of a eighteen month old, but she refused to see diet choice as the culprit. If we are educated about nutritional needs and fulfill them through a vegan diet, then that’s OK, but what happens when it becomes obvious that the diet choice we made is not healthy for us. Let me mention here the famous Atkins diet. It is controversial in the sense that people consume high levels of saturated fats that can lead to heart problems. The diet is their choice, but is it right for their health?
What about bulimics and anorexics? Their eating habits are their own personal choice as well, yet are classified as eating disorders. No one is crying when an anorexic is institutionalized and ‘forced’ to regain some weight. This is because some people value the life of the anorexic higher, than the anorexic values their own.
Is it morally wrong for a doctor to save a life by giving a transfusion to someone who refuses it for religious reasons? On this one I stand with the doctor.
When you contend that your choice must always and everywhere be respected, then you automatically are on a collision course with choices of others. What if I suddenly choose that my wife must always cover her body in a Burka, never speak to another male, and lower her eyes when speaking to me? After all, by some religious traditions she is my property and therefore it is my choice what I do with her and to her. Lucky, my own wife is part Puerto-Rican and if I even proposed that idea, I would face her wrath. I would suffer serious injury or at least I would find myself sleeping with the dog in the rain outside. Correction, she would let the dog in.
There are many evils in the world. Child abuse, rape, sex trafficking, incest, poverty and lack of education, to name a few. Those are the issues worth fighting for. Those are situations when someone’s heart should be ripped out of their chest. Those are some of the issues where I could see getting violent in moral defense. A personal choice made for self-improvement or a religious reason, in my humble view takes second place to these. So if I chose to feed a cheeseburger to a Jew, and to initiate a conflict of moral primacy, it should not result in my demise. My poor moral choice is not his justification to kill me.
Will his reaction be an escalation of conflict or de-escalation through constructive dialogue? That choice will be his.