Bearing Witness: The Effects of the Red Pill in The Meatrix

I don’t like to be uncomfortable. I think it’s safe to say nobody does. But I also don’t think anybody would deny that discomfort is very often the agent of change.

The discomfort that a lot of us felt watching the video of George Floyd being murdered by a police officer in broad daylight caused a chain reaction that shifted people’s consciousness – including mine – about what they believed to be true about systemic racism in America. This led to protests, which led to even more public police atrocities, which ultimately lead to police and other social reform. We’ve got a long, long way to go with racism in America and throughout the world, but ultimately, I think the discomfort of facing that evil was worth it.

In spite of all the discomfort, suffering, injury, and death that were either a direct or indirect result of the watching of George Floyd’s murder, and in spite of the fact that we have not yet eradicated the atrocities of racism, I cannot help but be inspired by the fact that the discomfort of witnessing and awakening to the truth about violence against BIPOC by a white supremacist country led to change, both on a personal level and on a global level. I think it clearly shows hope for humanity, and the power of bearing witness.

I continue to believe that people who haven't seen it should watch that footage – White people, that is. I have the feeling that BIPOC grow up knowing this reality. That said, anybody who thinks they know the kind of violence that has been normalized against BIPOC in this country but has not actually born witness to this violence, I don’t believe you really know. People can tell you all kinds of things that you may believe to be true, but there is a universe of difference between hearing about it and seeing it. You cannot truly confront evil without looking it in the face.

Sadly, the murder of George Floyd is merely the tip of the iceberg of centuries of violence against BIPOC in America. But it was also a tipping point. For many – including me – it was the first time we actually really personally owned that that level of violence and casual disregard for Black lives exists in America. It was our red pill. That true awareness sparked an international phenomenon in which thousands of people all over the world took to the streets chanting George Floyd’s dying words.

Black Lives Matter. Period. The small-minded and counterproductive reactionaries to this truth and movement chanting “All Lives Matter” create more sadness in me than I can fully express – especially because a lot of that chanting is coming from people who aren’t actually talking about all lives. Regardless of how you may feel about the value of human animal lives verses non-human animal lives, the parallel to be drawn here is the mindset that normalizes and institutionalizes violence, exploitation, and oppression in our society. Be careful, however, because “all violence is wrong” is a similarly counterproductive declaration if it similarly deflects attention away from those who are the perpetual, daily victims of violence.

The very least we can do as compassionate people is not participate in violence against others, and we are all compassionate people.

I am a vegan as of March, 2020, and although the dietary element of vegan was the easiest change I’ve ever made in my life, the awareness of cruelty against animals has not been easy for me, to say the least. I will never unsee the footage of George Floyd’s murder by the police; I will also never unsee the footage I’ve witnessed of violence against animals. Each of these brutal moments is available in my mind for instant replay in high-definition Technicolor.

These PTSD-like symptoms that occur to me on occasion also plague many others vegans. So many, in fact, that vegan psychologist Clare Mann coined the term vystopia to describe the “...normal response any feeling human being should have after discovering the nature and extent of society’s systematised animal abuse. It’s fueled by the trance-like collusion of non-vegans with a dystopian world they’ve not yet realised they’re part of.

I’m sorry if any of that definition makes you feel uncomfortable, and I implore you to bear with me and read on.

It was indeed most definitely my decision to become vegan. It was not my choice to have vystopia. But I still wouldn’t have taken the blue pill even if I had known what was in store for me. The truth is far too important.

I think the reason my articles and other shares may seem so full of negativity around the idea of omnivorism (read: shaming, if you will) is because, after seeing what I have seen, I can only ever see the tremendous suffering caused by animal agribusiness, and it’s impossible for me to understand how otherwise compassionate people can participate in that suffering, knowing that it exists. This leads me to believe one of two things: either they don’t really know what they think they know, or the paradigm of omnivorism has been so ingrained in them that no amount of atrocity witnessing will convince them to not participate.

I need to believe it’s the former.

One of the movies that I have been recommending is the brilliant 2018 documentary called Dominion. No single movie I’ve watched to date better illustrates my number one reason for being vegan and wanting others to make this choice: I love animals, and animal agribusiness is a daily, global holocaust of those whom I love. Admittedly, before beginning this article, I had avoided watching this movie in its entirety because I couldn’t even make it through the trailer.

This morning I realized that I cannot in good conscience recommend something that I have not experienced myself. Further, I came to realize that, if this movie really does have the potential to wake people up, as it has already done for many, and if having watched it myself lends credibility to my recommending it with others, thereby causing them to watch it, and if even just one of them, in watching it, decides to go vegan, my personal two hours of trauma is worth it.

After everything I've written and researched, above and beyond the myriad of terrific reasons to go vegan, it really all comes down to this: I am not okay with the normalization of violence against anyone. And if I'm gonna tell people to watch Dominion, I have to watch it. I have to know exactly what I'm recommending.

And so I have now watched it.

If veganism makes you uncomfortable, is it possible that at least part of your discomfort is a sign that something inside you feels the need to make this change? If there’s even the slightest possibility that this is true, I implore you watch Dominion to explore the possibility that I may be right about everything I’ve been so negatively, arguably carelessly, and maybe even shamingly, screaming about. If Dominion isn’t your red pill, then I’ve wasted 2 hours of your time, you can tell me I’m full of shit, and hopefully you will feel a bit more comfortable in living with what you currently believe to be true. I will also gladly and humbly watch 2 hours of anything you think I should watch about the benefits of omivorism, the pitfalls of veganism, you name it.

In advance, I thank you, so very, very, much for watching Dominion, even if you don’t go vegan from it. If you do decide to make that change, hit me up for resources to do so. I'm happy to help!

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