Saturday, December 8, 2007

If not you, who?

There's a scene in the 1984 classic "Repo Man" where Otto Maddox (unforgettably played by the esteemed Emilio Estevez) is in this bar and there's some punk rock music playing, and he says "I can't believe I used to listen to this."

Emilio, we all make mistakes. Mine was the four years in high school that I spent as a "straightedge vegan." A quick backgrounder: Straightedge was this odd cultural phenomenon that emerged in the mid 1990s, where mostly bored white kids were upset that they had nothing to be upset about, so to fight the system we would draw X's on our hands with markers and pledge not to have anything to do with alcohol, drugs or cigarettes.

Crappy hardcore bands that played in VFW halls was also a part of it, and I recall something in there about not having sex - never really figured that one out. If you've heard Minor Threat's "In my eyes," you've pretty much got it.

As they say, once the pendulum gets going one way it's hard to stop it, and before I knew it my fellow revolutionaries were admiring wackos like the Earth Liberation Front, who as far as I can tell are people who have cast themselves as freedom fighters in whatever movie they're starring in, and think the best way to save the planet is to key a neighbor's Hummer. They also set fires.

So I get it. I've done the tofu, the textured vegetable protein and the soy milk and memorized endless statistics about grain/beef ratios and how livestock flatulence causes global warming (a true argument). God bless all of you and this big beautiful country.

But the fact is that I was a jerk, just like the ALF (Animal liberaton front) and ELF are a bunch of punks, and that so much of this Great Struggle is really just used as a fashionable ego trip, like when regular vegetarians go after vegetarians who still eat fish. And that's a shame, because there are dedicated, intelligent and passionate people in this thing, but you won't find them pelting old women with paint baloons because madame is wearing fur.

At least in my day, animal rights groups also tend to have a heavy membership in the "hot but smart and environmentally-conscious girl" demographic. So not too bad.

Anyway, that's where we're at. Over 10 years later I'm stuffing myself with Rubens and White Castle, have what some might - unfairly - consider to be a minor alcohol problem and am addicted to nicotine (although we're trying to quit; even I manage to at least try and keep up with the times). On more than one occasion this year I've eaten a large quanitity of steaks du Salisbury in one sitting, apparently because I hate myself. I joined this thing as a favor to some friends, and hope to write some reviews, news of the day, etc.

You know what the straightedgers always used to say: "If you're not now, you never were." Fair enough. I went on a once-in-a-lifetime canoe trip in the Adirondacks during this phase and didn't even bring a fishing pole. So thanks a lot, veganism.

-phil helsel

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