Do you struggle with identity?

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Amarillyde
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Do you struggle with identity?

Post by Amarillyde » Sun May 26, 2019 6:40 pm

I am curious about people's sense of having a "vegan identity": was it easy for you to make veganism part of your identity, or not? Have you always had a clear sense of who you are, or did veganism tap into a need of defining yourself in a moral way (especially for atheists out there)?
I personally struggle to strongly identify with anything, and I consider this (unfortunate) tendency one of the reasons that prevent me from deciding to fully commit to a vegan lifestyle.

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Post by Red » Sun May 26, 2019 6:58 pm

We have a thread about ideologies and making things part of your identity:
viewtopic.php?f=17&t=4463
(near the end Z and I just went in circles)

I do not think it is a good idea to make something as part of your identity; as I explained in the thread, it starts to morph into ideology, which can lead to dogmatic thinking, which doesn't lead to very good things. I do not view veganism as an ideology, rather as a useful mechanism in order to achieve a large amount of good (which is how I view a lot of politics. I would not label myself as certain ideologies, but I will support ideas touted by them, since they do much good, such as Democracy).

There's a fine line between something being a lifestyle and/or moral action, and it being a part of your identity, and I know how tempting it can be, especially in regards to something as important as veganism, but if we are to be rational activists for veganism, we must not label it as an ideology. Separating yourself from the idea you support is not easy.

In regards to your question, I think most people who go vegan start out making veganism a part of their identity (and I think it's justified; seeing veganism as the only real moral option is quite disillusioning), but I doubt it's a necessary part of transitioning to veganism. What about all the people who do it for health and dieting reasons? The best advice I can give you is just to forget making it a part of your identity, and adopt the vegan way if life, since you are a person who just wants to do the most good.

If you are going to label yourself as anything, it should altruistic consequentialist, someone who has desires to do the most good for humanity and other sentient life on Earth, even at your own expense.

(sorry for wordiness, just trying to get my thoughts out before they leave my head)
Learning never exhausts the mind.
-Leonardo da Vinci

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Post by Amarillyde » Tue May 28, 2019 8:58 am

I fully agree that veganism should not be viewed as an ideology, and that we should stay away from the illusion of moral perfection, which is certainly *not* to be attached to veganism. However, I think it is necessary to establish certain internal rules for the type of person that you want to be, or you want to think of yourself as, to implement change in your life. For example, if I do not establish the rule 'I am the kind of person who does not see animals as food or property', or 'I am the kind of person who does not buy animal products', it will be very hard for me to implement such things in my life, because every time that I am, say, about to buy something in the grocery store, I would have to make a decision. Having rules about the kind of person you are – or, in other words, identifying with something, making something part of your identity – is what allows you to change your actions.
In the same way, you might not need to call yourself a democrat or a republican, but you still need to think of yourself as, for instance, 'the kind of person who supports LGBTQ+ rights', or 'the kind of person who would like to avoid war with Iraq", and vote accordingly.

Furthermore, vagueness of identity works towards the elimination of the sense of guilt and self-betrayal that occurs when you do something which is not aligned with the kind of person who think you are, and the bugbear of that guilt is much needed for vegans who want to stay vegan.
I think it would be hard for me, and for the majority of people, to think 'I will never ever again be able to eat food x', and I find that avoiding to put the matter in those terms is incredibly liberating. To me, the idea that if I ever found myself in an exceptional circumstance (most likely a social one) I would be able to eat something that contains an animal product is ultimately what makes it perfectly fine for me to eat vegan 99% of the time. And I truly believe this is the only way to persuade other people to approach veganism, because this idea of 'eternally missing out' can really become crippling, and it's scary for most.
However, this view does not allow me to set up the above mentioned 'internal rules' which contribute to the creation of an identity. And without those, I feel shaky in my ability to keep improving my choices, because instead of subscribing to something greater than me that works as a rule-giver to guide my actions (veganism), I have to repeat the "right" choice time and time again, which is a difficult method and prone to errors. I guess that's the tradeoff for the above mentioned sense of freedom that comes from labelling yourself as a 'reducetarian' rather than a 'vegan'.

As I said originally, I think this has to do with my reluctancy to fully embrace anything as part of my identity, and I was curious whether other atheists might have experienced similar problems when it comes to veganism.

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Post by Red » Tue May 28, 2019 4:32 pm

Amarillyde wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 8:58 am
For example, if I do not establish the rule 'I am the kind of person who does not see animals as food or property', or 'I am the kind of person who does not buy animal products', it will be very hard for me to implement such things in my life, because every time that I am, say, about to buy something in the grocery store, I would have to make a decision.
Well, why would you not be the person to do that? Like I said, view yourself doing the things you do out of a moral reason. So instead of making it a 'rule,' you can rephrase it like:
'I am the kind of person who does not see animals as food or property, because it is an unnecessary and very immoral action, and I am a moral person.'

Would something like that work for you?
Amarillyde wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 8:58 am
Having rules about the kind of person you are – or, in other words, identifying with something, making something part of your identity – is what allows you to change your actions.
I wouldn't establish anything as 'rules,' since it can lead to Deontological thinking, which is a pretty damn useless and unproductive moral system. Saying 'I will never use animal products under any circumstances,' is an example of this; granted, there probably will never be a case where using the animal products, but would you adhere to this rule if the situation were life or death, where eating meat would save your life, or someone else's?

It's like Batman's 'rule' of never killing, so he always leaves the Joker alive. To a consequentialist, it would make more sense to kill the Joker since after Batman defeats him, he goes back to crime. If there was somehow a way to reprogram the Joker's brain to make him a good guy, that would be the best consequence, but we also need to be practical here. ;)
Amarillyde wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 8:58 am
In the same way, you might not need to call yourself a democrat or a republican, but you still need to think of yourself as, for instance, 'the kind of person who supports LGBTQ+ rights', or 'the kind of person who would like to avoid war with Iraq", and vote accordingly.
Again though, why would you support them? You would support gay rights because you are a good person and want to see people of different sexual orientation enjoy the same rights as others; you are against the war because you are a good person who doesn't want to see an unnecessary war break out, killing thousands and wasting money and resources.
Amarillyde wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 8:58 am
Furthermore, vagueness of identity works towards the elimination of the sense of guilt and self-betrayal that occurs when you do something which is not aligned with the kind of person who think you are, and the bugbear of that guilt is much needed for vegans who want to stay vegan.
I am not quite sure what you're getting at here. Can you elaborate so I don't fuck up what you're saying (I have a pretty good idea, I just want to be sure)?
Amarillyde wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 8:58 am
And I truly believe this is the only way to persuade other people to approach veganism, because this idea of 'eternally missing out' can really become crippling, and it's scary for most.
Once you transition, the crave for meat and such persists, but it gradually fades away.
Learning never exhausts the mind.
-Leonardo da Vinci

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Post by Minos » Thu May 30, 2019 8:30 am

For example, if I do not establish the rule 'I am the kind of person who does not see animals as food or property', or 'I am the kind of person who does not buy animal products', it will be very hard for me to implement such things in my life, because every time that I am, say, about to buy something in the grocery store, I would have to make a decision.
For me personally it's the other way. The process of decision and the outcome are important. When I make a good decision (leaving animal products in grocery store), I feel good about it. When make bad one (e.g. buying meat) I feel bad. It's helping me do good decision more often. Making rules for myself doesn't work, because as I created the rule, I can decide to break it anytime (with no punishment).

I'd rather identify myself as a "person who is constantly trying to make good (or at least better) decisions" about my health, the environment, animal welfare etc. than as a "vegan person".
...veganism should not be viewed as an ideology...
I've been vegan for 3 years viewed it as an ideology - set of rules and things I should or should not do (and failed). It was Unnatural vegan, who brought the idea of making better decisions as a goal to my life (I think it was her video about new year resolutions) and I found myself in that.

It's also interesting to look at it from moral point of view, which is used in religion vs. atheism debates. Who is better person? Someone who don't murder people because there are rules against it (religion). Or person who don't murder people because he believes it's wrong and decides not to do it?

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Thu May 30, 2019 8:56 pm

Using identity to keep yourself from doing something can have limited success, but it's also a crutch and it can backfire. If that crutch breaks, then having leaned on it for so long you fall hard and can rarely catch yourself.

Those who are vegan due to identity have a tendency to throw it all out and give up if they have one moment of weak will. You'll even see them going carnivore as the next thing weeks later.

Instead it's better to have a robust foundation of sound reasoning that supports making vegan choices 99.99% of the time.

It may be good to identify as vegan in the sense that it can support the social aspect and common goal... like wearing your team colors. That goes even if it's just aspirational rather than perfection. However, it's better to understand that as a consequence of a deeper identity of being a good person who tries to do the right thing... vegan just happens to be the right thing to do, so we identify with other people doing the same.

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Post by Amarillyde » Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:50 am

@Red sorry for the belated answer.
Well, why would you not be the person to do that? Like I said, view yourself doing the things you do out of a moral reason. So instead of making it a 'rule,' you can rephrase it like:
'I am the kind of person who does not see animals as food or property, because it is an unnecessary and very immoral action, and I am a moral person.'
I mean, yes, sure, but I will still have to actively choose to define myself that way, to establish that rule – even if attaching a reasons to it might ease the process of attaching that label to myself, I still struggle with the idea of definitively defining myself in the first place.
I wouldn't establish anything as 'rules,' since it can lead to Deontological thinking, which is a pretty damn useless and unproductive moral system. Saying 'I will never use animal products under any circumstances,' is an example of this; granted, there probably will never be a case where using the animal products, but would you adhere to this rule if the situation were life or death, where eating meat would save your life, or someone else's?

It's like Batman's 'rule' of never killing, so he always leaves the Joker alive. To a consequentialist, it would make more sense to kill the Joker since after Batman defeats him, he goes back to crime. If there was somehow a way to reprogram the Joker's brain to make him a good guy, that would be the best consequence, but we also need to be practical here.
That's true, but I suspect for me it's even too easy to consider it obvious that in life or death, or even just "unpractical" circumstances, I would be willing to make an exception. That's because I have not interiorised "me= vegan" :P This has partly to do with the perceive weight of my efforts compared to our historical moment. Even though one way to view the problem is that, of course, every time you avoid eating an animal or an animal product you are in fact "saving" a number of lives, on the one hand, not eating animal products in a world where veganism is the exception is not the same as doing that in a world where veganism is the norm. Essentially I am not interested in feeling "morally virtuous" because I am not eating animal products and I'm not contributing to animal exploitation, while at the same time that exploitation continues on a massive scale. Now, if veganism were closer to the tipping edge of shutting down all enterprises which exploit animal, partaking or not in veganism would feel much more meaningful. Every form of reductionism is already doing a great difference if compared to the average person's lifestyle, or in other words, even though the average person is doing so little, it is not with its small numbers that veganism can hope to make a difference... but at the same time if individuals don't change, vegan numbers won't grow.
I'm aware that this is basically the voter's dilemma – even if your vote counts only one, and technically it does not have any power to influence the result of the elections, at the same time not voting is not the solution, because if nobody did vote [or if "no vegan voted" ;)] the resulting situation would be even worse. But unlike the voter's dilemma, the "vegan dilemma" comes with an infinity of degrees – every time you eat you are either contributing or not to animal exploitation, so there are as many degrees of commitment to the cause as meals in your life. Is veganism the same as a political situation of 3 times a day elections? I'm not sure.
But certainly not making a decision that qualifies my alliance in some way makes it harder for me to make sure that I'll consistently make the best choice, even though it guarantees the avoidance of the very dangerous "sense of moral superiority" that some vegans (mistakenly) have.
Amarillyde wrote: ↑Tue May 28, 2019 2:58 pm
Furthermore, vagueness of identity works towards the elimination of the sense of guilt and self-betrayal that occurs when you do something which is not aligned with the kind of person who think you are, and the bugbear of that guilt is much needed for vegans who want to stay vegan.
I am not quite sure what you're getting at here. Can you elaborate so I don't fuck up what you're saying (I have a pretty good idea, I just want to be sure)?
I meant that if I do not identify as a vegan I will not feel guilty every time I happen to eat dairy, whereas if I do lean towards the vegan identification, I *will* feel guilty if I eat dairy, even though I might have not made the change completely yet. If I give up and identify as a vegetarian, for instance (I don't think I will ever be okay with that, but just as an example) I will have accepted a certain status that involves that eating dairy is okay, so I will probably eat more of it than I'd do otherwise. I think reducetarianism works a little better in this sense because you are trying to reduce all animal products, so you are aware of all of them as problematic, potentially. But it still leaves you in a situation when occasionally you feel like they're okay.
Once you transition, the crave for meat and such persists, but it gradually fades away.
I totally agree, but people who have never tried don't know that and tend to be very skeptical about that. I think that by leaving them the choice and making them aware of the problem with animal products you leave them the freedom to inform themselves more and gradually make better choices. I think everybody would at least consider 'reducing' the amount of animal products they eat, while if faced with a black or white approach they would respond with immediate rejection.

@Minos
For me personally it's the other way. The process of decision and the outcome are important. When I make a good decision (leaving animal products in grocery store), I feel good about it. When make bad one (e.g. buying meat) I feel bad. It's helping me do good decision more often. Making rules for myself doesn't work, because as I created the rule, I can decide to break it anytime (with no punishment).

I'd rather identify myself as a "person who is constantly trying to make good (or at least better) decisions" about my health, the environment, animal welfare etc. than as a "vegan person".
that's also my story, essentially, so far. I like the positive outlook you have on it! :) I am more worried of how it's going to work long-term, especially if I'll stop being surrounded by people who are some form of vegetarian, as it might happen soon.

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Post by Red » Wed Jun 05, 2019 2:11 pm

Amarillyde wrote:
Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:50 am
@Red sorry for the belated answer.
Hey don't worry about it
Amarillyde wrote:
Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:50 am
I mean, yes, sure, but I will still have to actively choose to define myself that way, to establish that rule
Why?

I might need to read more into Psychology (which of course, varies from person to person). I don't know why you're so adamant about this concept of attaching identity, or why you think it's such a necessity for you.

Watch this clip from CGP Grey, maybe it'll help?
https://youtu.be/tlsU_YT9n_g?t=66
Amarillyde wrote:
Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:50 am
– even if attaching a reasons to it might ease the process of attaching that label to myself, I still struggle with the idea of definitively defining myself in the first place.
I'm not saying you should just attach reasons, I'm saying you can use the label of 'moral person' instead, which might be more productive.

I'm not fully against labeling yourself as Vegan even (though I may have implied that), I'm just concerned with possible consequences of attaching your identity to it.

Also, I forget to mention this, but identities can lead to a tribal mentality of 'us and them,' which definitely has benefits, but also some disadvantages. I can recommend some books on the subject if you're interested.
Amarillyde wrote:
Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:50 am
That's true, but I suspect for me it's even too easy to consider it obvious that in life or death, or even just "unpractical" circumstances, I would be willing to make an exception. That's because I have not interiorized "me= vegan"
Again, look at it from a moral standpoint. I'd be willing to kill Wilbur to save a person; I'd be more reluctant to do it, but morality always prevails.
Amarillyde wrote:
Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:50 am
This has partly to do with the perceived weight of my efforts compared to our historical moment.
Everyone counts. As they say:
"No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible."
Amarillyde wrote:
Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:50 am
Even though one way to view the problem is that, of course, every time you avoid eating an animal or an animal product you are in fact "saving" a number of lives, on the one hand, not eating animal products in a world where veganism is the exception is not the same as doing that in a world where veganism is the norm.
I don't know exactly what you're getting at.
Amarillyde wrote:
Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:50 am
Essentially I am not interested in feeling "morally virtuous" because I am not eating animal products and I'm not contributing to animal exploitation, while at the same time that exploitation continues on a massive scale.
Don't make an appeal to futility argument, like some anti-vegan on this forum.
Amarillyde wrote:
Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:50 am
Now, if veganism were closer to the tipping edge of shutting down all enterprises which exploit animal, partaking or not in veganism would feel much more meaningful.
It isn't going to happen overnight. That's why we are forced to take things slowly, and feeling as though your efforts are futile is counterproductive. Also, there have been times where movements have hurt the animal products industries, like when Mad Cow Disease broke out then celebrities like Oprah stopped eating beef, which in turn caused thousands of people to stop beef consumption, at least temporarily. Also, consider the various documentaries made in the last few decades that have had a tremendous influence on veganism (Earthlings, Cowspiracy, and even ones like Food Inc. or Supersize Me to varying degrees), as well as the literature (Animal Liberation, or the book that opened my mind to veganism, Chew On This).
Amarillyde wrote:
Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:50 am
Every form of reductionism is already doing a great difference if compared to the average person's lifestyle, or in other words, even though the average person is doing so little, it is not with its small numbers that veganism can hope to make a difference... but at the same time if individuals don't change, vegan numbers won't grow.
It is true that recidivism amongst vegans and vegetarians is extremely high (about 85% last time I checked). As practical consequenialists, even though veganism is much preferred, it's more cost effective to convince the average person of cutting down meat consumption. People would be more likely to stick to that, and thus, would lead to a massive improvement. I'd happily have 10 people reduce meat consumption than having 1 person go vegan.
Amarillyde wrote:
Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:50 am
I'm aware that this is basically the voter's dilemma – even if your vote counts only one, and technically it does not have any power to influence the result of the elections, at the same time not voting is not the solution, because if nobody did vote [or if "no vegan voted" ;)] the resulting situation would be even worse. But unlike the voter's dilemma, the "vegan dilemma" comes with an infinity of degrees – every time you eat you are either contributing or not to animal exploitation, so there are as many degrees of commitment to the cause as meals in your life. Is veganism the same as a political situation of 3 times a day elections? I'm not sure.
In principle they are.
Amarillyde wrote:
Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:50 am
But certainly not making a decision that qualifies my alliance in some way makes it harder for me to make sure that I'll consistently make the best choice, even though it guarantees the avoidance of the very dangerous "sense of moral superiority" that some vegans (mistakenly) have.
I don't know how else to respond to the former part of this claim, but I want to know, why do you think having a sense of moral superiority is dangerous, and that many vegans are mistaken in holding it?
Amarillyde wrote:
Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:50 am
I meant that if I do not identify as a vegan I will not feel guilty every time I happen to eat dairy, whereas if I do lean towards the vegan identification, I *will* feel guilty if I eat dairy, even though I might have not made the change completely yet.
You may have answered this question in another post, but summarize your answer to this question for me: Why exactly do you want to be vegan? That will help us get at the root of the matter.

I don't see why labeling yourself as a moral person is not sufficient enough. Morally speaking, you should always feel guilty when you do something wrong regardless of any labels.
Amarillyde wrote:
Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:50 am
If I give up and identify as a vegetarian, for instance (I don't think I will ever be okay with that, but just as an example) I will have accepted a certain status that involves that eating dairy is okay, so I will probably eat more of it than I'd do otherwise. I think reducetarianism works a little better in this sense because you are trying to reduce all animal products, so you are aware of all of them as problematic, potentially. But it still leaves you in a situation when occasionally you feel like they're okay.
Well, you'd be wrong in thinking that it's okay. It's just taking the lesser of the evils.

If people go reducitarian for ethical reasons, they'd still see that when they do eat meat it's wrong, but it's probably just that they're trying their best to make a difference since going all the way seems daunting.
Amarillyde wrote:
Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:50 am
I totally agree, but people who have never tried don't know that and tend to be very skeptical about that. I think that by leaving them the choice and making them aware of the problem with animal products you leave them the freedom to inform themselves more and gradually make better choices. I think everybody would at least consider 'reducing' the amount of animal products they eat, while if faced with a black or white approach they would respond with immediate rejection.
I generally agree, but I was just making a point.
Learning never exhausts the mind.
-Leonardo da Vinci

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Wed Jun 05, 2019 8:22 pm

Red wrote:
Wed Jun 05, 2019 2:11 pm
Amarillyde wrote:
Wed Jun 05, 2019 11:50 am
But certainly not making a decision that qualifies my alliance in some way makes it harder for me to make sure that I'll consistently make the best choice, even though it guarantees the avoidance of the very dangerous "sense of moral superiority" that some vegans (mistakenly) have.
I don't know how else to respond to the former part of this claim, but I want to know, why do you think having a sense of moral superiority is dangerous, and that many vegans are mistaken in holding it?
That is an odd claim.
@Amarillyde do you disagree that all other things being equal a person who chooses not to eat meat is more moral than a person who chooses to eat meat?

When we look at the morality of a person, obviously we have to consider context.
If we compare a person who grew up on steak and potatoes in a culture that doesn't value animals (a real cowboy/cowgirl) and is consciously reducing animal product consumption to one who grew up vegan and has done nothing to do better (just sticking with whatever he or she was raised with), obviously the former is a better person because he or she has put in effort to make positive changes and the latter is complacent and did nothing. The latter is doing less harm to the world, yes, but that's not how we judge the moral virtue of *people* since situation has so much to do with that.

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Post by Red » Thu Jun 06, 2019 7:51 am

I had a random thought that might help make my point clearer. Amaryllide, instead of thinking of it like 'I'm a moral person because I'm vegan,' switch it around to 'I'm vegan because I'm a moral person.' Maybe that helps?
Learning never exhausts the mind.
-Leonardo da Vinci

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