At Our Core

Originally published in VegNews Magazine, September 2008

By Will Tuttle, Ph.D.

I have discovered that we are all born into a culture that has a hidden core. The core I’m referring to is a certain mentality that is the unrecognized driving force behind the suffering we cause each other and ourselves, such as environmental devastation, war, inequity, oppression, and mental and physical disease. It is taboo to discuss this hidden core because it is forced on all of us by every institution in our culture, and because of the remorse we naturally feel in looking at it. This core is invisible and pervasive, and it is ritually injected into all of us through our most intimate, powerful, and routine social bonding experiences: our daily meals.

In essence, the concealed core mentality of our culture is an attitude of reductionism. We are all indoctrinated into the ongoing practice of reducing beings to things. We are forcibly taught to see and treat certain beings as mere objects—commodities that are routinely bought, sold, confined, mutilated, stabbed, and eaten. It’s a mentality of exclusion as well. We practice excluding certain beings from the sphere of our compassion with every meal. It’s also a mentality of hierarchical privilege, and of elitism, because the subtext pervading every meal is that certain beings have no purpose other than to be dominated and used by us inherently superior beings. And it’s a mentality of disconnectedness because we are taught to continually disconnect the reality that is on our plates from the reality required to get it on our plates.

From this, we see that the living core of our culture is a mentality of domination, exploitation, predation, and oppression that we’re all forced to participate in and actually instigate through the meals mandated by all our culture’s institutions: the family, education, religion, medicine, science, government, and the media. The hidden, driving fury behind our inability to fulfill our potential for wisdom, peace, freedom, kindness, and awareness is right under our noses daily at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The remorse we feel for being forced from infancy by our culture to be agents of death and torture at every meal makes it easier for us to be controlled while crushing our awareness and spiritual sensitivity. A natural result is that we become numb and fixate on consuming. Our innate wisdom and compassion have been hijacked by our culture’s meals.

Contained within the understanding I am articulating is the enormous and benevolent social revolution that we all know our culture longs for—the revolution where peace, justice, sustainability, caring, and abundance are actually possible. Contained in it is the realization that we are, essentially, free, benevolent, and wise. We have been forced, though, by our culture, through its meals, to participate in rituals of cruelty and exclusion that reduce our intelligence as they reduce animals, the Earth, and ourselves to mere commodities in a heartless, contrived system. When we realize that we’ve all been given the gift of bodies that require no nutrients we cannot get from plant sources, we can become, ourselves, the change we want to see in the world. This is the heart and soul of the vegan revolution of love, joy, and peace that is beckoning and to which we are all called to contribute.

There is no greater act of love and freedom than to question the core of violence and disconnectedness churning unrecognized in the belly of our culture, and to switch to a plant-based diet because of compassion for the countless animals, humans, and future generations to whom we are related. All life is interconnected, and as we bless others, we are blessed. As we allow others to be free and healthy, we become free and healthy. Each and every one of us makes our world. Question everything this culture says, throw off the chains of harming and stealing from fish, birds, and other mammals, and join the vegan celebration!

We will love this world and each other so deeply that we will all be transformed.

Will Tuttle, Ph.D., composer, pianist, Zen priest, and author of The World Peace Diet, is cofounder of Karuna Music & Art and of the Prayer Circle for Animals and Circle of Compassion ministry.


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