There have been several times in the past few years when something has happened on the provincial (I’m in Canada) or national political scene, driven by public opinion, that has completely taken me by surprise. This is not because I don’t follow the news, or because I am completely tuned out. It’s not because it’s something new for me to disagree with a lot of mainstream attitudes.
However, I have started to realize that increasingly in my life I have been surrounding myself with people who have the same kind of values as I have, and this makes me think about the world in a certain way. I don’t think it’s unusual or surprising to surround oneself with kindred spirits; most of us want to spend time with like-minded people. With social media sites just for vegans, and even vegan love-match sites, it’s easier than ever before to connect with other vegans in this non-vegan world. Great, right? Who wants to argue or feel defensive, or spend a lot of time with people they feel just might be living on a different planet?
But in reality, taken too far, that’s a very dangerous thing for the vegan movement. It’s important for vegans to have a community of people to support them – one of the most enjoyable events in my month is the vegan potlucks where people in my community come together to enjoy delicious vegan food. It’s a chance to connect with people I feel I can be open and honest with. Similarly, most of my closest friends are vegans and people who have similar world views to me. This all makes sense, but I have started to realize that I NEED more non-vegans in my life!
In order to start and have – and get good at starting and having – constructive conversations about veganism and compassionate living, we need to reach outside our circles and face those conversations with courage and grace. Though we need vegan supports in our lives, it’s important to push ourselves to step outside our own comfort zones – not just by hanging out with non-vegans, but by forcing ourselves to have those conversations. This will not only allow others to hear what we have to say about the reasons for being vegan; it will allow us to maintain a realistic view of the world, and to hopefully find more compassion for “the other side.”