Values and Resolutions

New year’s resolutions are odd to me. No one ever seems to follow through on them, and they’re often forgotten within a few weeks of making them. Often they look like preening or attention-grabbing. However I do think that it’s a good idea to periodically take a good long look at your life and structure some goals or ideas to aim towards. Things have been a bit on the change-heavy side in my life lately, so this feels like a good time to assess and to try to understand why I set the goals that I do and how those goals fit into my values.

 

As I was working on writing my resolutions for this year, I really found myself struggling with what I felt were the resolutions I “should” be writing. It’s been obvious to me for a while that many times resolutions are a way for people to beat up on themselves about not doing enough, but in this case it felt more like a conflict of what my values were: did I really want to resolve to work harder to overcome my eating disorder this year, or did I want to resolve to lose some weight this year? This, in my mind is the important thing about resolutions: they force you to take stock of your values and then ask you how you can actually live out those values in concrete ways. I’ve had a very hard time with values, with identifying my own values, with truly committing to any set of values, for a long time, so this year for my resolutions I’m going to start each resolution with a value that I am choosing to commit to this year.

 

  1. Family: run a 5k with my dad for his birthday.
  2. Social justice and animal welfare: be better about my vegetarianism. No meat that is not produced ethically. Do not seek out meat.
  3. Intelligence/knowledge/curiosity: read more. This means taking some time out of each day to read a real book, not just blogs.
  4. Purpose and commitment: make a decision about what I’m going to do after I finish AmeriCorps. Commit fully to it. Actively work not to feel guilty or to continue revisiting the options I did not choose.
  5. Community/friends: be more social. Get to know more people. Actively reach out to the friends I do have.
  6. Self-reflection and creation: finish a draft of my book.
  7. Work, self-improvement: learn to accept criticisms without tailspinning emotionally. Work to incorporate criticisms actively into work.
  8. Life (yes life is a value that I have to commit to and it’s one I find difficult): find things that make me happy and excited. Engage in them often.
  9. Humility: spend some real time thinking about what it actually means to be humble in a positive way. Rethink the idea that self-flagellation is humility.
  10. Self-care: eat more cake. Both metaphorically and literally.

An Argument for Meat Eating

Ooof. I just got done reading an article about how ‘happy meat’ doesn’t count as actually caring for animal rights, and the only way to care for animal rights is to be completely vegan. I’ve heard this argument before, and I still don’t buy it. First of all, I rarely hear any argument that really sinks in about why killing or eating an animal is inherently wrong.

It seems to me that things that are harmful are: things that cause pain, either to an individual or group, or things that keep another individual from attaining their goals. This is adapted from Peter Singer, a secular philosopher. The reason it’s wrong to kill a human being is because they have an interest and a preference for remaining alive. Animals don’t have that forward thinking (or at least most of them don’t. I don’t advocate killing dolphins or octopuses or chimps or elephants or other highly intelligent animals). So really the major harm in killing animals is potentially in cause emotional or physical pain to other animals, or in the pain that the individual feels as they are dying.

Now most of the animals that we eat are not highly aware or conscious. Obviously they can feel pain, but there is little evidence that cows form personal attachments to each other, or that they worry about death. So the most important thing to worry about with the death of most mammals is whether it is a painful death and whether they are raised in a kind, happy way. That is the whole essence of happy meat: ensuring that these requirements are met. So far as I can tell, there is no residual harm if those pieces are met.

That said, there may be some other considerations such as environmental factors, but those are a whole different ballgame because meat does not inherently mean less environmentally friendly. I’m strictly arguing for the morality of eating meat as such.

At its root, my whole position on meat eating stems from a notion that will probably freak some people out: life in and of itself has no inherent value. The value of life comes from the experiences within it: positive feelings, pleasurable sensations, kindness, compassion and connection with others, or a sense of fulfillment. I do not believe a life without any of these things has value. Of course I also believe that no human life is truly without any of these things, and so I believe that removing the possibility of those future good things from someone who anticipates them and has a vested interest in them is wrong. Animals do not necessarily look forward to those things in the same way, so if we can ensure them while the animal is alive, we have done all we can be expected to do. All of that said, I am highly pacifistic, a vegetarian most of the time (I only eat happy meat), and in favor of huge reforms of the meat and farming industries.

Also stay away from octopuses. Because octopuses are geniuses. Don’t hurt the octopuses. I mean seriously, look at that little cutie up there.