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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Unexpected Side Effects of the Red Pill

Remember in the Matrix, when Neo was shown the red pill and the blue pill? You remember: if he chose the blue one, he could live in blissful ignorance; if he chose the red one, he would have to face the depressing, stark reality of the matrix.

As vegans, that's what we all did. We took the red pill.

Now we live in a highly conscious state. And as most of you know, it didn't just stop with your choice of food. Suddenly, you were conscious of other things too. Quickly, you realized - if you didn't from the beginning - that your clothes and product choices were also important. Not only did most of them contain animal products some of them were tested on animals or contained insane amounts of chemicals that could hurt you or the environment.

Other words began to seep into your daily life: natural, fair trade, organic, sustainable, etc.

Before you know it, your entire perspective on consumerism changed. If you were like me, previous to swallowing the red pill, you spent money la-di-dah, not thinking about it at all. Now each purchase seems crucial, sometimes requiring research. Shampoo? Not as easy as it once was. If you don't have much money or access to a health food store, you might find yourself online trying to find a mainstream brand that is cheap as well as both cruelty-free and natural. (White Rain is the answer to that puzzle, by the way) The once mindless choice, of which the most difficult aspect was picking the one that smells the best, now becomes an agonizing, time-consuming ordeal that could require research and an internal struggle.

Not to say that any of this is bad. In fact, it's good. More people should take that red pill and think about what they are buying. The world would be a better place.

It just becomes a little tiring is all, or more appropriately, it becomes a little overwhelming. It seems like the world is so full of injustices. It almost makes you want to give away everything you own, go live naked in the woods, and eat nuts and berries so you don't contribute to additional suffering.

This morning, I was reading VegNews, not expecting the red pill that awaited me. I started reading the article "Food, Inc.," and was smacked in the face with news that the banana I ate this morning as probably stained with the blood of South Americans; the chocolate bar I recently bought might have been brought to me by child labor in Africa; and the jasmine rice I'll be eating at lunch today might be tainted by the cruel rice market in Asia.

Needless to say, I was horrified.

The answer, of course, is to look for the fair trade symbol and be more conscious of what I'm buying: all of which I will do to the best of my ability, and most of which I already do for the most part.

All of us have to take things one thing at a time, moment by moment. It is imperative to be informed, but it is overwhelming to sit at my computer and think of the injustices in South America, Asia, and Africa. Not only is it overwhelming, it's counterproductive because it makes me feel so helpless. It's not quite as overwhelming to choose the fair trade chocolate, or (cringe) no chocolate, when I'm at the grocery store. I think it's also important to remember that we can only do the best we can. Our choices make an impact and it's up to us what that impact is. Hopefully, the choices I make will make that red pill go down easier.

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