23 July 2014

Go home, zealots. You're drunk.

It is difficult to avoid defining people by the labels that invariably end up being put upon them based on certain lifestyles.  Someone who recycles is an environmentalist.  Someone who breastfeeds is a lactivist.  Someone who takes great pride in their career is a workaholic.  Someone who travels a lot is rich.  Someone who takes pride in their appearance is shallow.  You get cross-labelling too - someone who is a vegan must be an environmentalist, someone who breastfeeds must be a homeschooler, someone who works lots is a bad parent...  you get the idea.  It's equally difficult to avoid being defined, and subsequently judged.  I'm a bicycle-commuting, meat-eating, atheist, working, legally married mother of a large blended family who recycles, blogs, and wants to live on a bus.  I do all of these things passionately, without being militant.  I don't need to change your mind.  I just need you to accept me the way I am, the same way I accept you the way you are.  Warts and all.

I shared our plans to move onto a bus recently and while most people are supportive even if they don't think they could personally do it, they're generally supportive.  Have less, do more.  Then every once in a while someone says something that catches me completely off guard.  To paraphrase... "Well, I don't feel guilty for my money or my things and just because you don't have enough money to live like we do doesn't mean you should try and make me feel bad."

WTF?!  Did I miss the part where I said that I was morally superior to everyone else.

So today I stumbled across this letter to angry vegans.  There are vegetarians and vegans who can be vegetarians and vegans without trying to feed their cat a cabbage-based diet.  There are people who quietly breastfeed their babies without once making a sound about bottle feeders.  There are people who drive a Prius but have no intention of strapping themselves to an oil rig.  There are homeschoolers who don't shun the public school system.  There are people who buy recycled paper who won't ever participate in a hunger strike in the crotch of a tree.  There are atheists who think religion provides an important social function.  And there are people who live in tiny houses who don't give a flying rat's ass about where anyone else chooses to live.

  1. a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their religious, political, or other ideals.
    synonyms:fanaticenthusiastextremistradical, young Turk, diehard, true believer,activist, militantMore

Extremists who operate exclusively in absolutes can give everyone who shares the same opinion a bad name, sometimes bordering on dangerous.  There's a line between someone holding an opinion - even a strong one - and someone who actually believes they possess inherent moral superiority to those who do not share their viewpoint.  Most of us can't define exactly where this line is until it has been crossed and at that point, we seem to develop a distaste or aversion to that viewpoint.  People who insist you walk the walk if you're going to talk the talk eliminate our ability to indulge our human curiosity, to learn about what makes us different, and to find common ground.

The way I figure it, we all want to enjoy life on our own terms.  Some of us will measure that enjoyment by how much we have, while others by how much we do, and as far as I can tell, the only surefire way to fail miserably is to spend too much time worrying about what everyone else is doing.  I don't begrudge people who enjoy gardening and home maintenance.  I don't think people who spend money on things are evil.  I don't want to convert everyone to living on a bus.  And I certainly don't have any intent whatsoever to make anyone feel guilty or ashamed about their lifestyle choices.  If someone feels guilty because I say I want to live on a bus... I'm fairly confident that's something going on inside of them that has nothing to do with me.

Ultimately, we need to measure our successes individually, based on our own values and goals.  In a consumer society, we often hear the message that more is more.  More is generally measured in cash and possessions.  Having the most stuff is the ultimate goal.  Work lots, spend lots, have lots.  The currency I prefer to operate in is time.  If I wanted more stuff I'd need more money.  If I wanted more money I'd need to work more.  To work more I'd have to use more time.  My solution then is to have less so I can do more.  Less is more.  Have less do more.  Success for me will therefore obviously not look the same as someone who wishes to own a boat, several quads, take elaborate holidays...  I don't want those things, but it doesn't mean I don't want other people to have them.  I don't get you, but until and unless you are hurting me personally I actually don't care how you live your life or what your personal life goals are.

Go home zealots.  You're drunk.

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