I have a son who is a vegetarian. He eats dairy products and vegetables, grains, and fruit only. I have a friend who is vegan; and she eats only foods of the plant families of living things.
I understand the motivations – especially those which rest in an appalled sensitivity to the plight and fate of animals bred or hunted for food by humanity.
I see such iron wills not to partake as being wills belonging to persons better than myself in these regards.
There arises for me a question about such self-imposed restrictions on one’s diet. It has to do with beliefs and commitments to actions based on those beliefs; such as a vegan or a vegetarian acts on their beliefs.
I am not interested much in the vegan/vegetarian who restricts his diet solely so as to be or feel healthy; and in a hope of living longer than he otherwise would have done. There’s no principle here; other than self-interest; which is not my consideration here.
A person whom one sees and who maintains he is a vegetarian, and who is vegetarian because of his tenderness towards animal life; and yet he has no religious belief – I want to investigate whether his tenderness towards animals might be called valid still and be held by him as valid still; regardless of there being no belief in an Ultimate Value in his life.
By belief in an Ultimate Value I mean a belief in anything, anyone, who or which provides him with a basis of Absolute Value, upon which he might arrange and rest for security his common day to day values; as things which he has devolved or derived from this Absolute.
For such an Ultimate Value one might, like myself, look no further than Jesus Christ and His Law of Love and Grace; but I do accept that there are other manifestations of belief in other established modes of Ultimate Value.
It seems to me that a person has in real terms a choice only between all value and none; that a person who professes no belief in any Ultimate Value – when he has been challenged to lay out his hand of cards and together one goes through the hand with him – he is in the final instance caught in a cleft stick and he has either to choose to reform his opinion or else to embrace nihilism. All or nothing.
There seems to me to be no way of upholding value of any kind unless there is what might be termed a metaphysical basis of Absolute Value on which to rest any subsidiary values. I claim this to be the case in practice as well as it being the case in theory; this is to say, that philosophical investigation leads us to a conclusion that value must be for all or for nothing; and also likewise and practically, in the nature of things and over time – as we are seeing happening inch by inch in our times before our eyes – the general processes of society and its belief systems drift ever more towards an out-and-out embrace of nihilism; and, as we are also seeing, this embrace and its drift are shown in, and are made obvious by, the actions of ordinary people who prefer the ‘short term temporal utility’ of chasing nihilism.
To be brief here: the history books have it all already clearly mapped out: that attack on religious value made by The Philosophes of The Enlightenment during the early 18th century in Europe began a corrosion of belief in metaphysical value in Europe, and in America; and thereafter spreading; this corrosion during the course of two or three centuries moved across the world and has now become the de facto Credo of Capital and Consumerism; via what is termed today ‘globalisation’.
Just as The British Empire was excused by its apologists as being a means to convert the heathen of many lands to Christianity (which conversions in fact The British Empire did allow to occur but not as its reason-for-being) the ‘globalisation’ of Consumerist Capital has successfully propagated as its means of growth and extension, of hegemony and dominion, a groundwork absolutely necessary to it, which exploits, and abuses, values of all and every kind, including Ultimate Values.
This groundwork is comprised of articles such as the advertising and marketing industries – which support and encourage production, sales and consumption, and like these advertising and marketing industries, all these articles of Consumer Capital depend in a parasitic destructive relationship on ‘milking’ a general belief in human values, and also on ‘milking’ belief in Ultimate values. Other such articles of Consumer Capital which are parasitic on belief in values (which in the final instance are always dependant upon Ultimate Value), or else are parasitic articles on belief in Ultimate Value itself are:
- The (pristine) Company Image wherein everything finds its place and there exists a place for everything; not a hair out of place in the presentation of a Commercial Public Face to the world; this is the deliberate illusion of perfection.
- Another is the hype of business life; executive and board member kudos; the whole power trip, which aims to have all eyes upon it and many camp-followers and would-be high-flyers; it being posited as a role model to schools and to children; yet all of these big businessmen to a man and woman, are tainted with a tarnish of self-aggrandisement, vanity, pride and avarice – all the devil’s attributes.
- Another is the disingenuous hand with fingers in many pies; often working in a form of would-be do-gooding, but in fact acting out, going through the motions of cynical ploys, which have been brewed up by ‘creatives’ in huge factories where goes on campaign-formatting, so as to get the best public image for The Company over above competitors.
There are other such articles of Commercial Capital but they all have an essential feature in common; The Primacy of The Company in of its Success in the Marketplace. Thus it is an all out war between Eastman Kodak (now deceased I believe?) and Fuji; between Apple and Microsoft; between Wells Fargo and Morgan Chase; war which is waged remorselessly behind any facades these giants might like to use to hide their mutual attritions made for the sake of an overriding supremacy.
Amongst these doyens of Consumerist Capital all human feeling is front and wallpaper – window dressing; what matters to them only and all is that they use and abuse every common sympathy and human feeling, which items are the very items which make humanity special and human, and are also those things on which our cherished beliefs and values depend for all their sustenance. These predators use and abuse them all for the sake of their base ulterior motives of selling yet more and growing bigger and earning yet more.
There is more joy in Glaxo when one money spinner makes gains, and, lo, a host of goodwill suffers mauling.
As plain and simple people, our own wellsprings of motivation, in so far as they lie within our own sight to be assessed, are seen by those amongst us who try to be honest with themselves, to be at best ‘mixed’ and rarely if ever approaching ‘pure’. What then can one say of Consumer Capital and its Companies; whose whole raison d’etre is to be a predator ever after more power, money, sales, etc; – and too often it has been shown again and again so many times to be so, and always at any cost to others and harm to basic human values.
For example; every advertisement one is exposed to is another nail in the coffins of all the peoples of the world. Slowly but finely grind these mills. This is because the fundamental and ultimately absolutely necessary premise of advertising is flawed; this premise is that ads should convince persons to buy by using any means which are able to get past the regulator and his regulations. Any legerdemain, any lies, any deceits, any unkeepable promises, any false warmth of feeling; any fabricated conviction, any hype and/or recommendations by paid celebrities and so on.
The goods offered for sale are scarcely if at all able to match the full opulence of the advertising – there is always hidden print and conditions etc. And the whole shebang of Capital Consumerism is just like this advertising – any means – including the working of plain people, ordinary souls, like puppets to get that All-Important Result.
We stand for this abuse; we allow this degradation of good human value and feeling to be depreciated, to be degraded day upon day, slowly and surely like the death of a river, simply because we are just like the vegetarian who sticks by his non-animal diet but does not believe in any Ultimate Value – we don’t do our sums.
What I mean is as I have said: were one to get the vegetarian to lay his cards on the table and we were then to discuss his hand with him; to a point of reductio ad absurdum, it will be seen that he has no case by which to hold onto his non-meat-eating values unless he admits of a belief in an Ultimate Value under which to hold up his point of principle. But no, instead he is happy to continue as a vegetarian and to believe he holds onto a principle by so doing, whenever he has not been forced to show his hand and to discuss it to its logical conclusion. He is happy in his ignorance because the route between his supposed point of principle – which ought to be leading him towards an absolute necessity for a belief in an Ultimate Value on which to authenticate it and make certain of himself, this route is not travelled, and thus the link between the one and the other is not made by him in his mind clearly and absolutely.
He is content to rest in a muddled haze of blind presumption and to feel vindicated and justified in his vegetarianism, when he is not so in fact.
This is what I mean by we ordinary folk do not do the sums; we don’t bother to work out in our heads the costs to us of just ‘going along with’ the Consumerist Capital thing. We allow ever just one more sullying of yet another small value dear to our hearts by the Consumerist Capital machine, ever letting ‘just one’ pass by unheeded; and before we know where we are we are encroaching on belief in nothing; all our faith and sense of value has been vaporised. Each act of bad faith by Consumer Capital thus applies yet another twist of the knife in the throat of value, and so overall kills a simple honest belief by folk in any value.
But alas this ‘going along with’ doesn’t stop here for us; we not only acquiesce, we also condone, even encourage and join in; for we too see the immediate utility, the expediency, the ‘quick fast boon or buck’ for us in ‘going along with’what amounts to the effective destruction of our societies, and ultimately of our world. We espy the ‘canny buy’afar, and we are the same canny buyer who acts in the same spirit in buying as does the guy who pours his left over gloss wood paint down the street drains, so that the corporation, which is ultimately the rest of us, and himself even, have to put up with as a net increase in pollution and disorder and deterioration of our environments.
Likewise we are happy to recommend to a friend a bad deal and tell ourselves lies that it’s a good deal for him and so collect the referral fee of £100 from the bank or the insurance company into our soiled pockets; just as the guy who fly-tips nasty stuff into a lovely natural beauty areas so as to save a few pounds or dollars on refuse fees which the local council charges; he skimps rather than have his mess destroyed as cleanly as can be reasonably afforded.
All this too is us; all of us; we are all complicit and we are all to blame. That vast ocean of plastic waste floating for thousands of square miles off the coast of Japan – you and I put it there – amongst that gross mess of pollution are milk cartons and lottery tickets with our names on.
Note this too, these dreadful things we do not own up to in us, and which are done by us, we will piously give lip service to their horror and disgrace and tut tut we are so appalled; and we are the same persons who made them, who did them!
And this duplicitous self-deception of ours, of all of us; this is my best case for offering you proof of and reason sufficient for why we do have for our helper and guide an Ultimate Metaphysical Value; it is our own utter inability to look after ourselves; our own utter delinquency and our own utter insufficiency to ourselves as individuals as nations as a race of men and women. Only, – I did say only, – only when we submit ourselves firstly to admit the fact of our being a hopeless case and a lost cause, when we are standing (we think!) alone as creatures in the world; and secondly only when we submit our concerns thus, and our confessions of acquiescence and condonement and participation in the dreadful mess of things – the ocean of plastic waste – the poured paint down the sewers- the canny buy that leaves friend out of pocket etc – only then do we become able to apply to The Lord of Love Jesus Christ for His help to us, for His solution for the world, to see and experience His Love for The Creation, and to feel His forgiveness for our misadventured follies.
When the vegetarian does his sums, he finds The Creator; or else he admits himself into a nihilistic limbo where being a vegetarian is maybe yet a noble though foolish act; but yet an act which is completely demoralising because reckoned by him to be of no value; a single firecracker set off against all the voids of darkness.
Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!