I can't think of an activist who isn't familiar with overload, burnout, compassion fatigue and despair. And as pattrice jones writes in Aftershock these are matters not to be ignored. We're supposed to do what heals us so we can fight another day. And so that's what I've been doing for a whole summer's worth of days. I took an unplanned sabbatical that began with the routine opening of my email to click through the roll-call of victims. As had happened everyday for years, the sorrow for them was the first thing I put on in the morning. But this particular morning something inside me pleaded for a reprieve from the stories of abused cows, tortured pigs, slaughtered whales, imprisoned bears, and horribly treated birds. These stories piled on top of another so much that it began to smother me... I had forgotten what made me happy. What made me have hope... I could be of no use to myself or any cause in such a state... And so that's how my long disappearance from the web began.
I have much catching up to do not only on my own blog but others as well. I appreciate the efforts some have made in contacting me to ask "is everything ok?". In the near future I intend to answer those queries either personally or here - If anyone is reading still. (?)
For just this day as an ice-breaker, I want to recap an observation I made while embarking on this self-prescribed hiatus from the virtual world. Because so much of my activism was on-line I had to remember (if possible), how to communicate with this "real world". No - Better still, I had to discover what was "real" in the world and what was real in me.
Through blog posts, stories, campaigns, petitions, memes and so on, the virtual world is the headquarters for animal related information. And so this cyber-world set the tone of my mood everyday for years... For me the question became what is the "real world"? Could I still "fit in"? Could I "pass" as someone unaware and/or uncaring? What is it they do that gets them by? These are the people I'm supposed to influence and persuade... But I had forgotten who they are in the "real world". Forgive me for the use of the generic pronouns "they" and "them" as I have no choice because of the divide from what I've come to know as "us" or "we", or "me" who are cognizant and concerned.
And so I refrained from the news of the massacre. I thought for sure this was a good way to re-experience the "real world". Their "RW".
I initially set out for a two week experiment that turned into a months long examination. I changed my routines so I'd have a chance to interact more with the neighbors I knew and those I'd yet to meet. I deliberately began my day "untainted" by animal troubles and the tolls in the "virtual world".
Conversations of weather and flowers became the norm. It was just small talk that I didn't and wouldn't search for opportunities to interject one of the three pillars of veganism into. There were no stories of health improvements due to a vegetable diet... No remarks about how the environment could improve by eating animal-free, and certainly no stories of the millions of lives taken during our short conversations... Just pleasantries. Just their "real world".
This is what I saw in my 100+ days of the "RW": They walk about isolated and blissful. All forms of nonhuman exploitation is totally devoid from their sphere of knowing. I never brought up the subject of the unseen blood-baths and neither did they. Not once. Ever. Even those who knew me... Those who I had prior conversations with - Neither "friends", family or strangers ever brought up the topic of the animal slaves and murders. Never once.
Yet the leather shoes are real. The toiletries and chemicals tested on animals are real. The cellophane-wrapped blood-products are real. So where was the evidence of all these real victims in the "real" world? Invisible. That's the "magic" of the RW. The fast food jingles reinforce the ruse. The bombardments of ads and commercialization let them hide from who was bound, stabbed, blinded, used-and-done for these consumables.
I didn't really need four months to figure this out... But I'll admit the allure of their inside-out, up-side-down "RW" is intoxicating. The fantasy of forgetting. Or not knowing -at all, is hypnotic. It's a privilege of pretense we are all born into. It's where silence is an armor and blindness a gift. As schemed, I never shattered their illusions. I thought for certain something, some incident, some truth would slip out on it's own. But it never did. Not once.
And so everything in their RW was exactly as I remembered from years ago: Sheltered and in dumb denial, this works great for them. The unspoken pact to remain quiet keeps everyone content. It's the perfect tonic of not knowing. If you want to escape the facts that millions of our fellow beings are trapped, seized, raped, caged, shot, and eviscerated everyday, every second - Then the "real world" offers that script! :/
This different RW perspective taught me many things, at least how to bite my lip and still smile... But more importantly it's convinced me that if not "me", "we" and "us" to tell "them" of what's missing - Of what's been corrupted --- Then who? And when?
I did a lot of thinking in the last few months... I untangled lots of knots and took mental notes of the process. I'm eager to escape back to the "virtual-world" to tell of them.