Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Like Nicotine Patches. Except for Meat.

Honestly, I'm all for becoming a vegetarian.

Not because I'm opposed to killing for food, mind you. I acknowledge that humans are naturally omnivorous, and agree that killing and eating other animals isn't an evil of modern society any more than reproducing is. It's not the idea that doesn't rest well with me -- it's the way we carry that idea out.

For example:
  • Mass meat production is environmentally unsustainable. Animal wastes from factory farms cause huge amounts of pollution, and the meat industry is actually the number one producer of greenhouse gases.
  • Eating meat is less efficient than eating plant-derived food. Biology tells us that energy transfers from one trophic level to the next is far from 100% efficient -- which basically means that if you take a field and plant it with grain for bread, you can feed many more people than you can if you take a field, plant it with grain, feed that grain to cows, and then kill and eat the cows.
  • Have you ever seen a picture or video of a factory farm? 'Nuff said.
Yeah, so, becoming vegetarian? Sounds like a good deal to me.

But there's one problem: I don't think I could give up meat.

I like meat. Though I don't eat much of it, but I would definitely miss it if I gave it up. Chicken and turkey I could probably do away with. Ham and pork might be hard, but I'd get over it. But hamburgers? How could I give up ground beef? And fish? Forget it! Never going to happen.

I'm pretty sure I'm not alone here. I'm sure that there've got to be more people -- quite a good number of people, I'd suspect -- who have all these reasons to become vegetarian and that one big but standing in their way.

So! I've come up with a simple and brilliant solution that will probably be ridiculed from here to somewhere very far away: demi-vegetarianism.

Ah, I hear scoffs already. Bona fide vegetarians are always looked at with this sort of... I dunno, contempt. What, you're too good for meat or something? Why're you trying to fight how humans naturally are? You're just looking for attention, aren't you? I can't imagine the kind of harsh judgement a demi-vegetarian would be subjected to.

But hear me out here. If you can't bear to give up meat entirely, why can't you just cut back? Maybe have weeks during which you do eat meat, and weeks during which you don't. Or stop eating the kinds of meat you can live without. Or even just make an active effort to choose alternative foods.

But wouldn't this be horribly hypocritical? Sure, if your sole reason for being vegetarians was a moral thing. If you say "It's wrong to eat animals!" and then go around eating animals, you're not going to garner yourself any sympathy. But what if you object to the meat industry? Or you'd like to be vegetarian for health reasons? If you can't give up meat entirely, wouldn't it be better to just cut back?

And who knows? Maybe you'll find that you don't miss meat as much as you thought, and decide to go all out. Demi-vegetarianism could either be a lifestyle choice on its own, or like training wheels for the real thing.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is this: do you have to never use an electrical appliance again in order to conserve energy? No! Do you have to refuse sweets forever in order to eat healthily? No! In my opinion, the only reason why vegetarianism is "all or nothing" is because vegetarians are stereotyped as either fanatical or only doing it for the attention -- therefore, any deviation from leafy green orthodoxy is mocked.

I think, after Thanksgiving, I might try being a demi-vegetarian for awhile and see how it works out.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Because Buckets are Classy

I shall now bestow upon my blog a post regarding one of my very favorite subjects, which incredibly has somehow not yet shown up. This subject is, of course, language.


So, a couple weeks ago I found myself at the public library, and I decided it'd be a fun idea to raid the shelf of language learning books. Recently, I've been going on a bit of a Germanic languages trip, so I left with one book on German, one on Norwegian, one on Danish, and one on good ol' English grammar.

Turns out the German book, though useful, is really a grammar guide aimed at people who already have a base in the language. And so, though German is very high on my "Languages To Learn" list, for now it'll have to wait.

The Danish and Norwegian books have been much, much better. I've learned much of the basics of both languages -- though I fear at some point I'll have to choose one or the other, because they're so similar that I'm bound to get confused. Until then, though... jeg laerer norsk og dansk!

Anyways, this particular anecdote is about Danish. I was reading one of the dialogue transcriptions in the book, despite the fact that I was at school and so couldn't exactly follow along with the CD. The dialogue in question involved shopping at the florist's.

The Danish word for 'bouquet' is 'buket.' As I read the dialogue, I could not stop mentally interpreting the word 'buket' as 'bucket.' Which would make the dialogue go something like this:

"I would like a bucket of flowers, please. How much does the bucket of roses cost?"
"The big bucket with 10 roses is 60 kr."
"That's a bit expensive. How much does the small bucket cost?"
"The small bucket of tulips and daffodils costs 15 kr."
"That's cheap. I would like that bucket, please."

I began to laugh at the mental image of a guy bringing his date a bucket of flowers. Because nothing's classier than a bucket, right?

"Here you go, darling! A bucket of flowers just for you!"
"Oh George, how lovely! And when they wilt, I can use the bucket to store the toilet plunger!"

I dunno. Maybe that was funnier in my head, but you have to admit that buckets are the least romantic container out there.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Magical Metamorphosis of Opinions

Whether or not you agree with their opinions, you gotta feel bad for politicians from time to time. The media constantly digs up dirt from their past lives and throws in their faces, as though what they did when they were sixteen should affect whether or not people vote for them.

Is it fair to expect politicians to have led perfect, exemplary lives? Is it fair to expect that they knew their platform and have had their current values since they were children? I don't think so. Opinions change all the time - especially as teenagers, we explore different points of view. I, at least, would rather have someone in office who considered issues from different perspectives and then decided which one was best than someone who has been set in their ways all their life. How do they know that their opinions are best, if they've never tried anything else?

Since posting what I did last night, I've been thinking about the ramifications of saying controversial things in public places. In twenty years, I might be a writer, and make a living by asking difficult questions. Or in twenty years, I might have job at the UN, or as a diplomat.

I hope someday I can do both. But are they mutually exclusive? Do I have to give up my right to ask controversial questions in order to be liked and successful?

Everything I say, by the way, is a question. However I word things, I do not mean them to be statements of absolute truth. I'm sharing my current opinion with you, and inviting you to challenge me. There are very, very few things that I have concrete beliefs about, and I'm always open to new ideas.

If you don't like what I say, don't hate me for it. Stand up and change my mind. It's open.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Of Free Speech and Pedophiles

Warning: potentially weird/offensive/controversial subject matter ahead. Proceed with caution. Bring lots of chocolate.


For those of you who are too lazy to read the news article (it's only a few paragraphs! C'mon!) I'll provide a little summary. Basically, a book called The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover's Code of Conduct is up for sale on Amazon. As you can imagine, this book isn't being published by a company - rather, the author is using Amazon's self-publishing service, which allows writers to sell their books on Amazon and and share the profits. As you can also imagine, there are a number of people who are quite unhappy that the book is being made available. Amazon does have a policy against obscene materials, but it doesn't define 'obscene.'

This is Amazon's statement on the matter:

"Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions."

This is a comment posted by an Amazon user:

"I have seen first hand the harm that people like the author of the book, and potential readers, do to children and to see a book like this on Amazon's 'shelves', so to speak, is very troubling to me."

This the view of the book's author:

"The author, listed as Philip R Greaves II, argues that paedophiles are misunderstood and purports to offer advice to help them abide by the law."


So, what's the deal with all this? Well, it reminded me of our lesson on free speech in Government class today. In the United States, according to the First Amendment's free speech clause, words cannot be censored before they are spoken and deemed to be harmful. If words are censored before they are expressed, the law would be making an assumption in regards to exactly what the content of those words would be.

Obviously, seeing a book proclaiming itself to be a guide for pedophiles rests well with no one. The word 'pedophile' automatically brings this image of a creepy forty-year-old man stealing children away from playgrounds, or twisted day care workers abusing their positions for their own pleasure. But are we making assumptions?

The definition of 'pedophile' is "someone who is sexually attracted to children.' Is there contained anywhere within that definition 'someone who rapes children?' Or 'someone who takes indecent pictures of children?' Or 'someone who exploits children for their own pleasure?'

Human sexuality is quite possibly the most demented and incomprehensible thing that ever existed. I, at least, firmly believe that none of us can help who or what turns us on, and that there's not a thing in the world that doesn't turn someone on. (Rule 34, my friends.) Can you imagine being a perfectly good and honest person, and one day realizing that you're sexually attracted to children? You haven't done anything - you haven't harmed a child in any way - but already, you're a monster in society's eyes, because the actions of other people like you have driven us to feel immense disgust towards all of your kind.

Now, of course, there are pedophiles out there who've done horrible, horrible things to children. Please don't misunderstand me - I'm not denying that. All I'm saying is that we, as humans, do tend to make assumptions. I'm sure that there are quite a few pedophiles out there who have never acted on that impulse, and are therefore perfectly respectable people.

Is it right for us to assume that this book up on Amazon is written by and for cruel, demented people who act on their pedophilia? What if this book has been written, as the author claims, for the people who know they have this urge, but want desperately not to act on it? Then, wouldn't allowing them access to advice on how to control their feelings make children safer?

I have no idea what the content of this book is - I haven't read it and never will. All I'm saying is, before these people who are threatening to boycott Amazon criticize, they should at least read the damn thing they're protesting against. There are things in life like escargot - they sound like a terrible idea, but if you look closer, hey, they might actually not be so bad.

Bottom line: Torches and pitchforks are fun and sometimes necessary, but let's get informed and think through all the possibilities before we reach for them.