We Live Through Dark Times, Until We Die

I recommend reading this entire thread by Alisa Lynn Lynn Valdés about SARS2 on Twitter.

These are the two tweets I’m replying to:

This reminds me of Marla Rose’s essay “On Accountability, Reckoning with Indifference and Using Shame as a Tactic.” Since that’s behind a paywall, I’ll summarize the main point: the mass indifference to the covid pandemic doesn’t surprise vegans because we’re used to mass indifference. To quote Marla Rose:

Vegans could have predicted that there would be some people who wouldn’t care about containing this virus. Why? Because we have been trying to get people to give a shit about other species and our planet for years and we have been largely mocked, ignored and dismissed.

We have shown the public the statistics on the direct links from animal agribusiness to irrevocable climate change, massive water waste and pollution, clearcutting the rainforests and more and we have been told “It’s my personal choice to eat meat” as if one’s fleeting dietary choice is the greater good against the crushing weight of all that irreversible harm.

I’ve been vegan since 2008, so I have a lot of experience with discussing these matters with evidence and logic while the non-vegans resort to bad, illogical arguments because they simply don’t care. I have experience of living among people with moral principles different from mine. So far, I have lived through that.

On physical survival of our bodies… some people will die of covid no matter how cautious they are. Some people cannot avoid exposure to the virus, and some portion of those people will die much sooner than they would’ve in the virus’s absence. To protect the most lives, we need a coordinated, society-wide response, like in China. The United States of America has abandoned that course. Coordination at the household level can also save lives, albeit fewer. For individuals… if you are concerned about covid, you already know what material measures you can take: N95 or better respirators, high indoor air quality, avoiding indoor crowds, testing, isolation, vaccines… many people can’t implement all these measures as individuals, but if you can’t, you know you can’t.

I don’t think Valdés is just asking about the physical survival of our bodies. After all, “lack of equity” and “marginalizations” also cause people to die who otherwise would’ve lived.

The answer is: you just live, until physical death.

When I went vegan in 2008, I never imagined it would be practice for living through a pandemic when so many people show indifference to mass disability and death. Yet it has been good practice. If I hadn’t been vegan for over a decade, I’d struggle more with this situation, like Valdés.

Being vegan isn’t the only experience like that, far from it. It’s just what I have the most direct experience with.

Do what you can, and then let go. Yes, I know it’s hard to let go, even today it’s still hard for me to let go sometimes. Yet I’m much better at it than I was when I was younger.

With regards to covid, that means using the prevention methods you believe are effective (while also taking into consideration the tradeoffs, sometimes the cost of a prevention measure isn’t worth it), and encouraging the people who will listen to you to do the same (because a collective, even a small collective, can do more than an individual). Once your decisions are made, stop fussing over them.

It’s also important to remember that people who engage in mass indifference are not evil. That will allow you to engage with others in the most helpful way. If you’ve mentally labeled someone as ‘evil’ you cut off your empathy with them, and without empathy your ability to negotiate with them will be impaired.

I’m not saying you need to be empathetic with everyone all the time—sometimes cutting off empathy protects you, and you need the protection. However, when there is such indifference on a mass scale, it’s not so much the fault of the individuals as something larger than the individuals.

Remember what is good in this world. That’s not a call to engage in denial. You can be aware of what’s wrong in the world and what’s right at the same time.

Jin Yong’s novels have helped me. He lived through dark times, and his characters live through dark times as well. Sometimes they find a happy ending by withdrawing from society to a beautiful place. Sometimes they sacrifice their lives for the greater good, a greater good which lasts for a generation, perhaps two. They never achieve the greater good for society and live happily ever as a full member of society. Yet, despite that, they experience much goodness.

2 thoughts on “We Live Through Dark Times, Until We Die

  1. There is wisdom here. Being immunocompromised, being vegan . . . being trans (or having a trans kid), being a bicycle commuter, being mobility impaired: these (and many more) will teach any perceptive person that we live among others who, apparently, actively suppress their empathy.
    A very good psychologist once suggested, regarding analogous situations in relationships, that one should speak with love and savvy, then accept what happens next. Which seems quite similar to what you’re saying here: “savvy” was Terry Real’s way of suggesting we bring our empathy and insight to bear as we speak. Acceptance of what comes next might mean disconnecting, or it might mean continuing that work in order to build on whatever progress you’ve made before.
    As I age, I am continually struck by how principles from individual psychology are applicable to society as a whole. This is one example.

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