Running / Politics

I like to write about running because it’s a subject I know a lot about, and it’s easy. It’s intuitive and fascinating, in a nerd out kinda way, but moreso, it’s also a break from devoting time to subjects that inhabit more complexity and involve more brainpower. Writing about running is something of an escape from the things that really matter in life, but quite often I feel guilty devoting so much time to something as selfish and irrelevant as running, when so many other issues need a powerful voice. I wrestle with this dynamic and after so much hemming and hawing and emotional frustration, tend to settle on the irrelevance of my effect anyways. Words are just words. But I know that’s not true. The words of others have shaped my life deeply, not just in thought, but in action, and that’s no small thing. Hence the struggle with wasting words on selfish pursuits. I could go on, but those words would definitely border on wasteful, so what follows are two subjects, as a way of balancing out this dichotomy with which I struggle.

First, Running.

The treadmill effort I’ve begun has me thinking a lot about what benefits and drawbacks there are to devoting the majority of one’s training to this immovable machine. I’m not a stranger to the treadmill at all, so I know it has it’s benefits, but the treadmill has always been a poor weather supplement to my training rather than a primary component, so it will be interesting to see how things shake out when I actually hit the road. What follows are some of my initial considerations related to training and how a treadmill helps or hurts them.

MILEAGE

I’m definitely not worried about accumulating mileage on a treadmill. There is really no obstacle to running miles on a treadmill versus outdoors, as long as you can find a gym that doesn’t put a limit on your time or has impatient runners waiting for their turn. The only confusion I have is how it actually measures mileage. Running outside involves moving your body over a defined, measurable physical space, but when you’re running in place, how does the treadmill know you’ve actually covered a proper mile? Is it an equation of treadmill rubber and speed or am I overthinking this?

INJURY

I definitely think the treadmill has considerable more give to each footfall impact, so when the mileage builds and the workouts get harder, the risk of impact injury should be lessened. I certainly have a history of having breakthrough workouts in my training only to be followed by overuse injuries, so it will be interesting to see if treadmill workouts reduce some of that pattern. On the other hand, running outside allows one to intuitively regulate muscle strain through speed adjustments according to the terrain, where on the treadmill you are essentially trying to keep up with the rubber, or even have the rubber keep up with you. It will be an effort to find that sweet spot and manually adjust the pace rather than just having the body adjust for me, lest I let the rubber overwork my muscles because i don’t want to concede to dropping the speed. Finally, running in one direction will build strength in certain muscles, but the muscles involved in turns, whether soft or abrupt, will go neglected. I wonder if lateral muscle strength will be compromised and cause issues down the line or during a race.

PSYCHOLOGY

Running is equally a mental game as it is physical, and in this regard I think the treadmill has the upperhand in building psychological strength, if through the suffering of time standing still anyways. It can be a real struggle to find a story in your head to keep you from looking at the mileage barely ticking by, recreating the watched pot never boiling scenario. If you can find your way through multiple 20 milers on a treadmill, than anything during race situations will be cake.

LIFE OBSTACLES

Running in poor weather is hard. Not to say running on a treadmill is always a party, but at the very least it’s always available, no matter the weather or the time of day. The siren call of excuses is always deadened when a strip of rubber in a temperature controlled environment sits dormant, just waiting for you to hit “GO”. Then again, running through adversity, especially when you don’t feel up to it, has it’s own psychological benefits and the treadmill just acts as a happy medium.

WORKOUTS

Workouts on a treadmill are going to involve a bit of tweaking. Running outdoor workouts can involve a lot of speed variability and intuitive adjustments. Workouts on a treadmill are going to involve speed variability, but with less immediate adjustments, such as quick intervals. Getting up to 800 pace will take longer than if done outside and backing out of it will take some time too. I imagine creating workouts that are a little longer in duration to compensate for increasing speed. On the other hand, extreme hill workouts will be easy to create in a topography as flat as the Midwest! I’ve always benefitted greatly from hill workouts, so it will be fun to crank that elevation up and mix in some speed.

OVERALL EXPERIENCE

Training for a race is best done in a way that simulates the race you’ll be running, and that will just not be possible on a treadmill, unless someone sets up a treadmill marathon…any takers? The overall experience of running indoors, in place, will ultimately, but temporarily, deaden the running experience in monotony, if I let it. The challenge to this experience will be finding the excitement and novelty of this absurd training regimen. And in the end, I’m hoping the challenges of running on a treadmill have a sort of more difficult, and therefore more beneficial, stress on the body, which will translate into a new (post-diagnosis) marathon PR.


And now, Politics.

Like, “what the fuck.” But also, “of course.”

These have been my internal reactions to the recent news that Alabama and various states have made progress on criminalizing abortion. This is fucking absurd, but it’s only fucking absurd because I surround myself in a bubble of intelligent people, radicals, rational thinkers, and generally good people. When I am forced out of that sphere of intelligence, the whole charade is like, “Duh, of course this is happening.” But that doesn’t mean it’s any less enraging.

I struggled with saying anything about this issue, if only because the way social media works, everyone wants to jump on an issue and make some flippant statement to 1. Get catharsis and 2. state which side of the issue they’re on. I get it, I have that impulse too, but I hate that these cathartic expressions are the end of it. There is a tide of response that crests into a flood, then expression fatigue takes over and everyone moves on. Very little is done except for some donations thrown to various organizations, which is good, but also very temporary. The control over our lives demands more than just a bit of cathartic expression, appeal to vote, and then back to Netflix. This is why I even struggle to write this, knowing that it’s part of this wave of cathartic release in place of actually doing anything about the issue. But for what it’s worth, hear me out.

I DO want more than cathartic expression. I want resistance, but not in the trump-era sort of resistance liberals feign to project, nor the Handmaiden’s tale cos play sort of resistance the same liberals with a more dystopian outlook take part. I’m talking genuine resistance, whether it be full scale occupations of government buildings, ceaseless home demonstrations of politicians, and/or attacks on “pro-life” centers posing as abortion service providers. This escalation to social war is the appropriate response to the democratic process and control over our lives, period. This is not hyperbole.

It’s frustrating as hell that the majority of people still cling to their romantic notions of democracy’s sanctity, as if the outcome of every election is going to turn inherently liberal because democracy itself is “good.” Democracy is a tool, in the hands of whoever wants to wield it, with no moral compass, period. It does not rest comfortably in the notion that humans are inherently good. It rests in the context of survival, cooperation, and power grabs, and the victims are everyone. Hence, “Of course.”

Of course this is happening because the populace continues to uphold democracy as an untouchable procedure, and happily hand over their ability to make decisions for themselves into a class of people who seek to make decisions for everyone else. And all the liberals cry, “you’re not helping the people!” while the people who elected them rest content. Every so often the power struggle flips, but then flips back, and meanwhile no one takes the time to see that no matter the party in power, power is in power. Control wins. Servitude is solidified. And everyone handed them the chains. You can’t cry out that politicians are taking control over your bodies when you uphold the process that gives them the ability to take control over your bodies. You give them permission every time you cast your vote, hoping the chips fall in your favor.

If I must be labeled, I guess I’m in the anarchist camp, though I’m uncomfortable with that association. Still, the Circle A argument is pro-choice, because choice rests in trusting the agency and freedom of the individual, but it goes deeper than that, because we reject the ability to control at all. It can be an uncomfortable position, rife with privilege and various convenient comforts, but we resist the democratic process and all those involved precisely because it enables these situations to arise, where politicians of the Christofascist sort are given the ability to destroy our lives, psychologically and physically. All the rational and reason in the world doesn’t matter to them. Their decisions are less about the issue itself (or at least the nuances of it) and more about using the issue as one more lever of control, to both restrict their enemies and build bonds with their allies. Our lives are pawns in their game.

So yes, this specific issue is infuriating, that they are criminalizing women who are raped, that they are compelling women to commit suicide in order to avoid going to prison, that they are imprisoning women, men, and children into lives of misery due to any variety of circumstances and stresses that modern life puts upon those who are in lesser economic status, all due to our natural, biological drives. They are creating a dynamic for abusive men to rape and impregnate women as yet another tool to keep them in their own twisted servitude. All of this…It’s fucking insane, and also, of course.

We can’t rest on the democratic process to “fix” this. We have to reject the democratic process wholesale. It has ALLOWED this to happen. It’s part and parcel of it’s very existence.

Look, it’s extreme, in the way people want to view the world, but we live in a context of us vs them and the social war has been raging for quite some time. Y’all have been in the middle of it, whether you knew it or not. Despite the borders of this country and the idea of a melting pot and the flag y’all salute (you think that ritual is about pride and not social control? Psssshhhh), we are naturally divided. There are political classes against people. There are the have and the have nots. There are the frightened and the free. There are the safe and the seeking safety. It’s all a big battle and the worst trick is they have you playing their game with the elections and the courts and the “coffee with a cop” and all that bullshit they throw at you to make you think you’re part of this grand human project, so that when this kind of shit happens and they ruin your lives, that you’ll just eat it up and wait your turn to vote them out of office…that doesn’t always work. So then what?

We are the victims of these people and they get away with whatever they want, because our misery doesn’t affect them. Hell, it enables them. We HAVE to stop asking them to be nicer. We have to ruin their lives. They need to be uncomfortable. They need to not sleep. They need to live in fear. They need their privileges stripped away. Home demonstrations. Screaming them out of public places. Gluing the locks of fake abortion providers that are fronts for christofascist moralism. Fuck em, fuck em all. They bring fear and misery and suffering upon our lives with the “civility” of democracy, which is just the prettied facade covering the ugliness of physical force (police, military, scared white men).

If this ability to prevent us from living out our inherent biological freedom is to stop, we need to stop playing the game we didn’t invent. We need to stop furthering the system of control we were simply born beneath. We need to see this social war for what it is, a struggle for our lives, and one that isn’t accomplished through niceties. Right now they’re winning because they got us believing were all on the same team. Break ranks. Find your friends. Draw a line in the sand.

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Treadfulfilled

I’m doing this thing, on a treadmill. I’m not entirely sure where the motivation came from, but one day it wasn’t there and the next it was. Everything felt right and I’ve learned over the years to kick the door open when it starts to crack.

I haven’t felt much motivation to run, let alone train, for anything in particular, in part because I’ve been so consumed by a job that is both deeply rewarding and deeply time consuming. Although my days are supposed to end at 3:30, I never knew if I would be staying until 4, 5, or even 8. Running in the midst of such irregularity is a problem for me. “Run like a clock” the saying goes, and as soon as my scheduled time to be out the door passes I’m like a balloon popped and deflated. For months I would get out every so often, sometimes a few times a week, sometimes only on Saturdays, sometimes not at all…for weeks at a time. The thought of leaving work and changing into running clothes and running some lonely pathway in the winter dark sounded like the most psychologically torturous idea ever. Even if I could find the excitement to run for a day or so, the idea of doing that continuously, non-stop, like the old days, wasn’t even a humorous consideration. But as things go, I couldn’t stop running entirely.

Then for whatever reason, the idea of getting a Y membership and running on a treadmill came to me. It was as simple as that. Just get the membership and then you have a place to run, around others, no matter the hour, no matter the weather. And I couldn’t find the excuse not to. I didn’t want to find the excuse honestly. I always did think it would be hilarious, and interesting, to train for a distance race solely on a treadmill, just to see how it would translate. With that idea in mind, I found myself on an endless stretch of rubber, throwing sweat on people dumb enough to run next to me, staring down a wall of TV’s, figuring out how I was going to psychologically pass the time so I didn’t keep looking at the mileage. And it worked. One week at 5 miles a day, then another week at 6 miles a day and now into the third week at 8 miles a day and I’m still looking forward to getting back to a base of 10er’s and begin throwing in speedwork.

I don’t have a race I’m training for yet as I’m still enjoying the buildup, but I’m sure the impetus to throw down on the streets will hit me as my fitness increases. I’m not trying to look too far ahead though, because I’m trying not to get too invested in the excitement of finding this training passion again. I don’t know what to expect really, being out of the competitive mindset for so long, and putting all my training on a machine, but maybe that unknown is all part of this excitement. A decade of running can get a little monotonous,  and you’ll see runners often try to switch things up to keep that initial excitement going. So I guess this treadmill thing is my way of switching it up, and although it’s ridiculous, that’s where I thrive. Like running in freezing rain, or 39 miles on my 39th birthday, or any number of absurd things I’ve done with my running just to keep things interesting.

So here I am on a spinning strip of rubber, throwing sweat on anything nearby, and loving it. The full parameters I’ve set are that I have to run at least 4 days a week on the treadmill, specifically the two speed workouts and long run, but I allowed some wiggle room for running with friends or hitting the trails. Otherwise it’s putting in serious work and getting nowhere, literally.

I haven’t ever wanted the fire to die down, and even when I tried to snuff it out it remained persistent. I think this last time I really thought running might fade into the distance, too far out of reach, disappeared in the shadow of a job that fulfilled me every day, but that lack of warmth was only temporary, like a trick birthday candle. Before I knew it the heat was under me again and this new attempt to find accomplishment took over yet again. And, of course, the reward still remains more fulfilling than anything I’ve ever taken on. I love my job and I love everything going on in my life, but still, nothing replaced how running makes me feel. I’m just psyched this is all coming together again, and for what seems like forever, I’m back to days filled with little more than the duality of work and running and work and running and work and running. I haven’t been here in quite sometime and I’m glad the fire didn’t just stay warm, but got hot.

Let’s go press that start button.

The Functional Gimmick

We walked into our local running store, checking out the new location and browsing the current stock. I haven’t been inside running stores frequently, but the formula had been set awhile ago, so no trends or gimmicks dominated the shelves like recent years past. The trickling offerings of maximalist or minimalist shoes are just that, tricklings, reshaped to conform to the middle ground of cushion and support. The massage sticks are still the same pieces of plastic twisted into a new shape for the neophilias, but are still just about self-flaggelation during Netflix binges. Clothing is still technical and the women’s style is always more diverse and appealing than the men’s (which is bullshit). Even the nutrition bars and powders have pretty much remained the same, because how different can some oats and sugars really be? All the gimmicks have become absorbed and cannibalized by the market, while the tried and true remain tried and true.

But then there are the socks.

The wall of socks was a bit absurd, with something like 30 different offerings, all posing some sort of benefit related to performance or fit. Arch support, heel cushion, aeration, etc. It’s all ridiculous, but suckers love a gimmick. I, however, was actually searching for a gimmick this time, a gimmick of recent days past, hoping someone had pulled it from the box of bad ideas and realized, hey, this actually ISN’T a bad idea.

I was looking for toes. Toe socks. The prince to the king of one time gimmicks – the Vibram five finger shoes that were all a rage when Born To Run hit the market, but became quickly dethroned as the injuries and lawsuits mounted. Suckers gonna suck, but can you believe they got paid for being gullible? Anyways, those shoes (silly socks as we called them) were a damn joke and everyone with a touch of rational thinking in their body knew it, but as it turns out, what wasn’t a joke were the socks that were made to go along with the shoes. The socks with individual toe slots, which at first seemed ridiculous, but necessary, lined the shelves along with all the “shoes” as the jelly to the peanut butter. Good on the retailers who couldn’t sell a pair of shoes without the socks to go with them. Two for the price of two! You have no choice! And woe to the consumer who bought the shoes and went to put them on without thinking about the sock engineering component.

The problem, of course, is when the shoe gimmick disappeared (along with all those stupid injuries people gave themselves), the socks went too. Not enough runners picked up on the value of those socks outside of pairing them with the shoes. Here’s the thing though, those socks are awesome. I’ll admit, I was hesitant at first. Honestly, I don’t even remember why I got them in the first place. It might have been suggested that they prevent blisters, which I was struggling with during chemotherapy treatments, and so I tried them out. Getting them on was definitely a bit more work, having to situate each toe, deformed from countless miles of squishing and pounding and rubbing, into each subsequent hole, but once they got in there…man, it was nice! Like when you pull on a snug fitting glove and you somehow feel protected and badass and want to grab something or punch someone…it kinda felt like that. Like you could grab the ground with each individual toe and just tear forward. Sort of.

Then, yes, they DID help prevent blisters, and that’s the whole point of this story. They WORKED. The sweaty skin of each toe was prevented from rubbing onto it’s neighbor and therefore the blister build up was eliminated, or at least kept to a minimum. After using these a handful of times, it’s all I wanted to use, and I felt vulnerable putting on any other socks.

So imagination my frustration when I went to buy more pairs at the running store, of which I don’t do very often, and I’m told “We don’t sell those anymore, no one really does.” Like, damnit, someone makes a gimmick that turns out not to be a gimmick at all, and y’all don’t sell em? I mean, I guess I can get them online, but I’m not that kind of soulless person…the kind that buys stuff, especially clothing, sight unseen. And on principle, I shouldn’t have to dig into the dark web just to track down some socks when every running store in the city should be carrying products that work. But yeah, I know, capitalism and the market and the fickle interests of the neophilic consumer base who want to buy identity more than functional products. But damnit, I just want some socks that work the best.

Now, I’ll be fine. Socks are just socks. I’ve performed in apparel that is supposed to be sacriligeous. Hell, I won a 10k in racing flats 5 years past their market date and dead to hell from over a thousand miles of wear and tear. So I’ll get by in normal ass socks, but again, on principle, running stores should carry toe socks. If there is any hope for our future, it’s not in socio-economic equality, decentralized eco-villages, or the eradication of all gender standards….it’s in the re-emergence of toe socks in the running community. If running retailers can set aside their method of pushing gimmicks until the wallets run dry, and actually keep what works – getting rid of the baby and keeping the bathwater – then I think rational minds will have won out and we can expect the ills of society to follow.

Or maybe I’ll just be able to buy more toe socks. That’s all I humbly ask. Until then, I’ll make do with regular ass socks and the periodic blister, or just wait another decade until the trend comes full circle and I can rejoice in the comfort of toes snug like pigs in a blanket.

Immeasurable

Back in the early days of my veganism (and most of my friends) – that’s the mid to late 90’s to be specific – we adopted the practice of the ethos because we knew it was the right thing to do. It helped that we were integrated into a culture that professed veganism almost to the point of demanding it, even when the rest of dominant culture had no idea what we were plotting beneath its floorboards. We knew veganism was the right choice to make for our objectives of animal liberation, earth liberation, and anti-authoritarianism, though I can’t say any of us actually believed we were having any measurable effect upon dominant culture. Sometimes you just do things against the odds, against hope, against reality, and against knowing that no one is listening, changing, or caring about others beings aside from their selfish circles. It’s also why you break laws and give animals their freedom back anyways.

So it’s pretty crazy to watch the rapid changes parts of our culture are undergoing towards veganism and the general cultural awareness and acceptance of the ethos. We were told it was a phase we’d grow out of and now those same people are coming at us asking for books, recipes, and telling us about positive life changes. Our fast food, factory farm upholding enemies are adding vegan items to their menus and advertising them outright. Almost every restaurant is expanding their vegan options or adding dedicated vegan menus. Cities are banning fur. Celebrities, athletes, and intellectuals are adopting the ethos and promoting it like it’s a brand sponsor. And even my skeptical self doesn’t see any slowing down of the vegan ethic in popular culture coming any time soon. Even the absurdities that have festered their way to the surface tend to dissipate over time and the value of veganism has still remained.

Who knew, man, I mean, who knew? We were just a bunch of part angry, part compassionate, part radical kids just doing what we thought was right, against the odds, but we continued at it. And then something tipped the scales, but it started with all of us taking action against any semblance of possibility. And we took action on the backs of those who pushed the ethos before us, with even more absurd odds. If someone at the time asked how we could measure the progress we were seeking to create, I’m not sure anyone could have even come up with a system. It seemed like there was no progress to even measure.

Admittedly, even now, I have no way to measure the effect of my actions or the actions of those around me trying to push the boundaries of our culture to consider the lives of animals. But that doesn’t mean an effect isn’t taking place. Looking back, it was obvious that certain animal liberation campaigns and actions were having an effect on culture and industry, because the FBI was trying to chase us down. Maybe subconsciously, that was part of our measuring stick. When they followed our cars, knocked on our doors, tapped our phones, arrested our friends…those were measures that we were having an effect. It was unclear whether our effect was good or bad though. Then again, “Every life saved is a victory”, so there is that.

Again, I never know what effect I have (individually or collectively) towards advancing veganism, but a change has taken place in that I now realize changes are happening even without a definitive measurement. I’ve become more hopeful, more positive, more excited about the resonance of our actions.

This past weekend I took part in another Ragnar relay with three other vegan teams, our 5th Adirondacks area relay since the first in 2013. In it’s own way, it has become an interesting measurement since our first relay involved 12 runners and 2 drivers and now we consistently bring 4 to 5 teams, drivers, and add new teammates every time. Moreso, our consistency and presence has become more than recognized at these races. We act as something of a force and although we can’t really measure how we affect the people around us, I now believe we resonate much further than we realize. This is the message I shared to the ultra team of which I was a part. Individually, we may have just been a team of 6 runners and 2 drivers doing our best to throw down and win the race (almost!), repping veganism with our apparel, but I can almost guarantee we continue to be talked about, respected, and even admired, with veganism as a foundational part of that conversation. This can only be good for our objectives of animal liberation.

Sometimes the darkness of futility can hang overhead when it seems that change isn’t coming fast enough. I recently read that we expect change to come at the pace of humans when really it comes at the pace of trees. As true as this may be, it’s hard to to absorb when the time for animals can’t wait another second. Despite that pace of change, it does come, is coming, when we continue to take action in whatever form suits your circumstance. And when they drag their feet going to unlock the cages, shutting down the factory farms, and releasing the animals from the labs…it’s ok to beat them to it. No measurement of the outcome is needed.

A lady after Ragnar spoke to our table as she walked by. “You all are amazing. Truly, you’re an inspiration for what you just did.” She may have been talking about our running, but I’m positive she’s considering the value of veganism now as well. I can’t measure the effect of our actions, but that doesn’t mean I have to accept they don’t exist. Surely, they resonate more than measure.

Don’t ever give up on your small actions. The liberation of us all depends upon them.

Go vegan.


Race Stats

ADK RAGNAR RELAY
200ish mile relay
Team Ultra Militants
(preliminary results)
2nd Place (Ultra category) / 3rd Place (Overall)
23 hours, 26 minutes, 16 seconds (14 minutes behind first place)

My Leg Performances
6.3 miles – 36:42 (5:49 pace)
4.5 miles – 26:00 (5:46 pace)
5.8 miles – 33:17 (5:44 pace)
10.2 miles – 1:03:30 (6:13 pace)
5.6 miles – 36:24 (6:30 pace)
4.8 miles – 30:23 (6:19 pace)
37.2 miles total

 

Vegan Self-Interest

I’ve found myself drawn towards reading about subjects related to evolution, genetics, human behavior and all topics that surround these fields of study. They help me understand the drives of human behavior so that I can understand why humans act they way they do in a variety of circumstances, but primarily they help me understand my own behavior and why I both physically and emotionally react they way I do to the same general circumstances. The book that really lifted a veil for me recently was The Origins of Virtue – Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation (Matt Ridley). I don’t intend to detail the book, but rather to summarize it’s main idea, which is that the human animal (all animals for that matter) are self-interested creatures. This may sound a little basic, but the premise is really a radical perspective in a world that wants to believe in a certain degree of selflessness and sacrificial attitude towards the betterment of others. It is radical because it says that those perspectives are not only false, but impossible. The point is that, as beings composed of genetic material, we are compelled by that same material to act in the interest of the survival and spread of said genetic material. Less robotically than it sounds, genes seek to reproduce themselves through the vessels of our bodies. This reproduction is carried out in various ways, but always such that they draw a line back to themselves. We are self-interested because we seek to survive and survival is predicated upon self-interest. It is here where everything gets more complex, in that self-interest is different than selfishness and where cooperation and altruism and empathy towards others may SEEM selfless, but again, always draw a line back to the self. The idea doesn’t go as far as supporting an Ayn Rand idea of “selfishness as a virtue”, in the cold, privileged, exploitive way she expressed it, but it also doesn’t allow for a purely selfless act. The reason I think it is important to state all this is because veganism if often perceived and expressed as a selfless virtue, in that it seemingly acts upon the behalf of others that we have little physical and emotional connection towards. Therefore, if we are to engage with veganism clearly and honestly, and effectively, we must evaluate the motivations behind our ethical stance and reconcile them with our self-interest.

A common phrase in the vegan community is “For the animals.” It has been stated this way, in part, because veganism was being interpreted as simply a diet for health or weight loss and confined to these parameters instead of its fundamentally ethical perspective related to the use of animals for human benefit. In the limited perspective of veganism, the lives of non-human animals were not part of the equation in their own right. Their bodies just happened to be a product to avoid in relation to losing weight or increasing athletic performance. Restating that veganism is “for the animals” was a way of bringing it back to its ethical roots, and yet, in the light of unavoidable and fundamental self-interest, even saying “for the animals” can be misleading because being “for the animals” is simply a way of being “for myself”. I don’t think this perspective is wrong in any way. The question we have to ask then, is WHY is being for the animals actually for oneself. This is a massively important consideration both for a sense of intellectual grounding, but also for strategy in spreading veganism.

Humans often consider why being vegan is good for oneself and the many campaigns to persuade others focus on these arguments, some of the most popular being health and environment. Athletic performance has become a recent addition to the discussion. I don’t think these arguments are necessarily false, but I also think they lack the ability to appeal directly to one’s self-interest on their merits alone. The environmental concerns of eating animals within the context of industrial civilization might be the strongest argument towards a universal human self-interest, of these options, but the immediate appeal to the individual seems to lack the sense of crisis, immediate reward, and understanding that shapes human behavior. The arguments related to health and athletic performance have a little more immediate and tangible rewards for the individual, therefore playing to their self-interest, but they also fall short when it comes to a universal self-interest. These arguments will only appeal to people who think they need to get healthy or athletes who would like to experiment. This isn’t to mention the many other diets and performance enhancers humans can utilize to seek those personal rewards. Veganism doesn’t outdo eating well as an omnivore and there have certainly never been athletic studies to determine if there is an unarguable benefit to vegan athleticism. Vegan culture tends to focus on these arguments because they think they are playing to one’s self-interest, even doing so unconsciously, but I fail to find much strength in this approach, especially over the long term in a culture of diet fads and athletic neophilia.

There are other arguments surrounding vegan practice that I also find unappealing in that they don’t apply to a universal human self-interest. The idea of caring for animals for the animals sake blatantly plays to the impossible idea of selflessness. The counter argument is “humane meat”. For all it’s painfully absurd argumentation, “humane” meat exists because it plays to the idea of consumer self-interest, in that people can care about the treatment of animals up until the point that the animal is killed, when it’s light switch of consciousness is switched off. The ability to give an animal a cared for life, devoid of pain and suffering (again, these arguments are all subjective and inconsistent and relative), then to simply end it’s life without suffering is easily absorbed by the consumer public. The need for most people to adopt veganism out of self-interest is counteracted by their ability to continue eating animals and feeling good about themselves due to the argument of humane meat. For all the ethical high ground that veganism may have over “humane” meat, the practice is humane enough to meet the standards of humanity, and in that self-interest veganism will always lose.

This sounds like a pretty poor defense of veganism so far. The point I’m getting to though, is that veganism has at it’s roots an appeal to universal human self-interest. That doesn’t mean it’s easily adopted or of a moral totalitarian nature, but it also doesn’t mean it’s an extremist, niche of ethical consideration. Veganism exists because it appeals to human self-interest…or else no one would adopt it. The value of veganism is the value of most ethical stances, in that we seek to treat others in ways that we would like to be treated. This phrase isn’t the shallow pacifist perspective that it’s often used to uphold, but rather a flexible and literal interpretation. We treat threats to our individual survival in various ways, sometimes with a violence we would expect to receive if we posed a threat to others. Most often we seek a cooperation among others that we hope to gain in return for our own needs. Everything draws back to self-interest. Veganism meshes into this idea of treating others as we’d like to be with an easily understandable clarity.

By definition, veganism rejects the use of animals by humans, for the animal’s sake of not being used, but also because we recognize the self-interest of not wanting to be used ourselves. The permission of behavior we condone to others allows for the permission to be treated all the same. This is the universal human self-interest of veganism.

In modern industrial civilization we have found ourselves treating animals in a variety of ways, the greater number of them with tremendous exploitation. We have domesticated others, objectified them, imprisoned them, modified them, destroyed them, and eradicated them for a certain limitation of human self-interest. In the same way, we can see how we have allowed the same to be performed upon the human animal. Through wage slavery, sexual and racial objectification, the prison-industrial complex, eugenics, war, genocide, we have brought the treatment of animals upon ourselves. And for all the very self-interested reasons we reject racism, sexism, homophobia and all human specific offenses, veganism is an equal expression of that human self-interest, in that as an ethical stance it rejects the various use and exploitation of non-human animals in order to prevent the same being done to the human animals. We are doing a poor job of adopting an anti-exploitive psychology in our culture. Veganism, uniquely, extends our perspectives to see the ways we treat fellow humans as extensions of the ways we treat all animals.

In practice, veganism is an act of treating animals in the ways we would like to be treated, that is without objectification, without enslavement, without domestication, without suffering and without death. It is also an act of reacting against those that treat others with more of a selfishness than a self-interest, that is to say they preserve their sense of survival by exploiting the cooperation of others. They gain advantages by reducing the advantages of others, through economic exploitation, physical exploitation, and even psychological exploitation. Veganism is a resistance to this selfishness by rejecting the means by which those with selfish privilege exploit non-human animals and therefore human animals as well.

I have directly witnessed the end result of this psychology of exploitation under the roofs of factory farms, between the sheds of fur farms, and in the pens of slaughter houses. The suffering in the bodies of these individual animals compelled me to open cages and set them free into lives without exploitation, because to allow them to remain confined in suffering until death, is to give permission to the mechanisms that would do the same to me should the social circumstances change. The overhead visuals of factory farms and concentration camps can not be discerned from each other. The industrialization and mechanisms of efficiency that process millions of bodies of animals are the same that process millions of bodies of humans. There is no “other” when the psychology behind the exploitation is of human self-interest in a certain context.

We then have two considerations to make moving forward. In terms of every campaign and every act of persuasion, we must understand how to appeal to one’s sense of core self-interest and to understand the social context that shapes one’s self-interest. We will never compel anyone towards veganism out of the idea of selfless empathy, but rather that empathy appeals to a specific self-interest. We must draw the lines between the treatment of others and the treatment of ourselves, defining how exploitation is a threat to our individual survival. The greater challenge, however, is recognizing the context of exploitation that we have created as human animals, one that is composed of authoritarianism, hierarchy, domestication, efficiency, and all the mechanisms of industrial civilization. That context compels people who struggle for survival by achieving positions of privilege to continue exploiting others (and convincing others to exploit others) in order to retain their position of privilege. They are safe because we are unsafe.

Veganism will be mired in obscurity if it can’t adopt a perspective of appealing to universal human self-interest. The good news is that this universality is inherent in it’s definition, because the definition rejects the USE of animals, in all ways, which means that it also rejects the use of all humans. Veganism by definition rejects non-consensual relationships, because it rejects relationships between individuals, no matter how mediated, who can not consent with each other due to barriers of language and other forms of communication. This rejection of non-consensual relationships is the very dignity of humanity. It is the very premise of survival. Veganism is an ideology of human self-interest, but if we don’t view it that way, we will cut short it’s ability to liberate all animals. Vegansim IS “for the animals” because humans ARE animals.

To live and breathe

I struggle to maintain my weekly mileage, even after recently committing (then uncommitting?) to train for a new post-cancer diagnosis marathon PR. I pushed towards 80 mile weeks, began hitting them consecutively, but suddenly each week was followed by an obstacle that took a day of running away from me and I started falling off. It wasn’t that I had lost the motivation to chase 80 then 90 mile weeks, but that when getting a full day of running in the log became a challenge, I chose not to find a way. It made me question what was different in the past.

Prior to diagnosis I hit 90, 100, 110 mile weeks without fail, no matter the obstacles that came my way. It didn’t matter if I had appointments, travel, or unexpected issues pop up, running was non-negotiable. Now, I guess it IS negotiable. Back then, I also used to live and breathe running. I rarely created art, didn’t tend a garden, had no medical appointments, wasn’t chasing down jobs, etc. Running was my sole focus, and the mental energy put into considering the act of training and seeking my goals took precedence over all else. It was my reason for waking up in the morning. I know I’ve lost some of that now, and even with scaling back my non-running activities (bye garden), the idea of redlining so much energy towards running seems not only fragile, but somewhat absurd too. There is also a part of me that wishes I could get back to the point where I lived and breathed running and could enter the zen state of doing little else but putting one foot in front of the other. This is real life though and dreams don’t surmount needs.

I simply don’t live and breathe running anymore. In the past I would force runs in no matter the obstacles. If I had to leave town at 7 am to travel all day, I would get up at 4 and get a run in first. There was NO excuse. Now, although there could be no excuse, I find little reason to avoid them. I just don’t NEED to live and breathe running anymore, to get a run in every day, even if I want to.

The funny thing is, the reason I don’t necessarily need to run every day is that the act of running seems inconsequential and selfish to the bigger problems of the world, and yet, whenever I try to focus on the bigger problems of the world I find myself wanting to just bury my head in the act of running. In the face of all THAT, I WANT to live and breathe running. Then there are the necessities of daily life. A working life and managing the obligations that allow us to navigate the complexity of just getting by can’t be ignored, especially when the security and routine of work disappears and suddenly every bit of mental energy is put back into getting a paycheck yet again.

Living and breathing running to the degree that I once did also takes a support structure of others who are also living and breathing running to a similar degree. Before I was meeting twice, sometimes three times, a week to run and train with other obsessives chasing down goals always pushed out of reach. We leaned on each other, if not literally, then simply through the understanding that we were all trying desperately in the face of everything else. We lived and breathed it together. Now, I am more solitary. This has it’s own benefits, but that doesn’t mean it’s easier, just different.

Living and breathing running to the extent that competitive runners do is not easy. It takes a certain amount of leisure time, a lack of obligations, and a reliable routine that is interrupted only occasionally. It is repetition and ritual. Not being able to live and breathe running like I used to doesn’t mean it’s no longer valuable or enjoyable, but it definitely means I’m not waking at 4 am to get a run in no matter what. The part of me that refuses to get up that early to run says, “You don’t need to live and breathe running anymore, there are more important activities in life.” The part of me that tries to engage with the world, however, says, “Set your alarm. Nothing else matters.”

Time to make the coffee

Running is like making coffee. Or making coffee is like running. Take your pick.

You wake up tired and weighted. Gravity has become stronger and the kitchen is darkened by eyes that won’t open fully. You need coffee. And you know that once you have the coffee you’ll feel better. You’ll be alert and lightened and functioning, your biology will react to the chemicals and you’ll turn on, so you know you must have the coffee. But before you have the coffee, you feel terrible. You are lethargic and apathetic and the idea of making the coffee you need sounds impossible. It’s the catch 22 of every morning, that coffee will dilute your fatigue but you’re too fatigued to make the coffee that will dilute your fatigue.

Thank ingenuity for automatic coffee maker timers.

Running is rarely different when you’re emotionally struggling. You need to run, because you know it will make you feel better. You know that once the run is over you’ll feel alert and lightened and functioning, that your biology will react to the chemical release and you’ll turn on, so you need to run. The act of running, however, when you’re emotionally weighted, sounds like the most unconquerable obstacle known. You sit on the couch knowing that if you get to the end of your mileage you’ll be an emotionally stable and energetic person, but the idea of even getting to the door seems absurd. It’s the same catch 22 of making coffee. With running though, there is no automatic timer function. You have to metaphorically pour the water, grind the beans, and start the pot if you want the reward.

Still, the coffee needs to be made and the run needs to get finished, if you want to get yourself to that physical and emotional state you know lies at the bottom of the mug and the end of the mile. I have no secret insight for any of this. There are no shortcuts or, coffee makers aside, automatic timer functions. You just have to start running, knowing that it will be worth it in the end. You have to somehow transcend the temporary emotional weight of your current moment and look ahead to the transformed emotional state that will come with the act of putting one foot in front of the other. That’s it. It sucks to start, but it never sucks to finish. That’s the “secret”.

Oh, sometimes a cup of coffee can help.