Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

losing the anger

I was an angry vegan for a while. Mostly I am over that now, and I feel so much better. I feel more effective as well, and since that’s the goal, I’m happy that it intersects with a healthier mindset.

Logically it all makes sense – when I’m not angry, I’m more approachable. I don’t sound like the crazy person ranting, I sound like a reasonable person who might just have a point. When I’m not hating the entire world, I’m interacting with people more, which means I have more opportunities to talk to people and that means I also have the opportunity to open someone’s mind.

I still get angry sometimes, but I let it go as soon as I can. Today I was in the car with a friend, on our way to the vegan bakery here in town. We saw some police on their police horses. I was cringing inside, not realizing the anger was growing until my friend said something about how she heard they are treated so well.

I let off some steam. I pointed out that these horses were not given a choice but were forced to spend their days in a very dangerous environment, one that would be terrifying to them, and in addition they had to carry hundreds of pounds on their backs and have uncomfortable pieces of metal in their mouths. That’s treating them well, I asked? She said in a quiet voice that they had horses when she was growing up.

I didn’t really say anything to that, because what could I say at that point? I already made my views on it clear. But it did remind me to let go of the anger, no matter that it comes from my passion for justice and that my friend does understand my commitment. I took a deep breath and I explained that we tend to convince ourselves that we provide a great benefit for others, ignoring the fact that we give them no choice, we put them in situations where their lives and health are at risk, and then we pat ourselves on the back for how well we treat them. When what we really mean is we give them food and shelter and we don’t whip them bloody. They have, we decide, a pretty decent life, right up until we decide they’re no longer wanted or useful, at which point we sell them. And that selling them might be the same thing as killing them.

There was a silence. And then she said, “it sounds a bit like enslavement.”


Breathing helps.

tempest in the sun

6 responses to “losing the anger

  1. Kelvin Kao February 9, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    In many cases, people become defensive when their position is challenged. None of what you said will be effective if they’ve decided to close their ears. So being approachable definitely helps more than being angry, in terms of getting points through.

  2. Deb February 10, 2008 at 11:25 am

    yes, that’s exactly it! If I’m ranting and angry, people will get defensive. It is both the words I’ll use as well as the way I’ll say them. If I take the deep breath, I’m also more likely to be hearing what they’re really saying, I’ll understand better how to avoid putting up their defenses, how to get them to think without feeling like they’re being attacked.

  3. Ari February 16, 2008 at 10:27 am

    you’re so right, this is such a challenge, being an activist. a book that really helped me on this front was thich nhat hanh’s “creating true peace.” great post!

  4. Deb February 16, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Thanks ari, I’ll check it out! I’ve read “peace is every step” and I have another of his, but I haven’t read “creating true peace”. Sounds like something that I need to add to my pile!

  5. Kristen August 13, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    I think every vegan goes through stages and at one point gets so angry that it takes over…I am in that stage and trying really hard to get out of it. It’s hard to tone it down when lives are at stake though…yoga helps.

  6. Deb August 13, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    It is devastating to constantly think about all the lives at stake, and I’m not sure it accomplishes anything positive. Much better to concentrate on the person we’re talking to, and the best way to approach them. Being effective is our goal, and gratuitous anger doesn’t really make us more effective.

    Which isn’t to say we should deny our anger. Let it rage so you can let it go (at least a little), but don’t let it rage always, and not without an end, and maybe not even to just any audience.

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