On Manners and Chauvinism

Last week, a newspaper advertisement in Italy invited hostess/escorts to attend an anonymous hosted party, promising cash payments and gifts to attend. After about 200 women showed up and waited for about an hour, comedian-tyrant Colonel Gaddafi of Libya popped in, lectured for 45 minutes on Islam, gave each woman a copy of the Koran and his little Green Book that outlines his philosophy, and then the party was over. Apparently one woman accepted the invitation to travel to Libya to check out Islam, but most were reportedly offended by some of the mad colonel’s comments on Christianity. And of course, the reverse of what Gaddafi did — to preach Christianity in Libya — is outlawed.

The same week saw the publication of former US vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin publish a memoir that had this gem:

If any vegans came over for dinner, I could whip them up a salad, then explain my philosophy on being a carnivore: If God had not intended us to eat animals, how come He made them out of meat? … I love animals–right next to the mashed potatoes.

Avoiding all the obvious flaws in logic displayed there — people and babies are also animals; does Palin also eat her pet dogs and hampsters? etc., etc. — Sarah’s actual thoughts on this mirror my own, or as Roy of MutantFrog once said to me in a private discussion on vegetarianism, “but animals are so tasty!” But do I say this to my vegetarian and vegan friends? Certainly not using those words, no — besides winning a few cheap chuckles, that type of argument would not win anyone over.

As it happens, I believe a lot of outlandish things, and in the right situation won’t hesitate to advocate them. But I can’t even begin to imagine all the information I would have failed to learn if I’d followed the Gaddafi-Palin strategy of bull-in-China-shop-style preaching, regardless of the audience. When I sat at the dinner table of a Soviet-Afghan war veteran in Kazakhstan and heard his story of fighting, I did not chime in with my support for the US invasion of Afghanistan after he loudly criticized it. When I visit the homes of Buddhists in Japan, I don’t explain to them my philosophy on being Christian. Now living in a Muslim country, I’m doing all I can to learn about the theology and culture of the region, acting as an explorer and adventurer but certainly not as a missionary. Doing this broadens my horizons and improves me as a person, all while strengthening some of my core beliefs and values — as Kipling said, “What can one know of England he who only England knows?”

Rational arguments, reason, even emotional appeal can be effective in promoting your viewpoints, but what do Gaddafi and Palin think they’re doing with their methods of promoting their views besides alienating people and impressing upon them their own chauvinism and lack of class? I think the ratio of success would be pretty close to what Gaddafi experienced — one person out of 200 showed some interest, while most of the rest are indifferent or angry.

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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20 Responses to On Manners and Chauvinism

  1. Carl says:

    Curzon please don’t compare yourself to either person. One is barking mad and the other is beyond stupid.

  2. James says:

    I can enjoy Gaddafi’s loony antics because few people take him seriously.

    Palin, on the other hand….

  3. Roy Berman says:

    I like how Palin phrased it as a hypothetical, making it clear that she has never actually HAD any vegans over for dinner.

  4. Adrian says:

    I can’t wait for Palin to come over to my house for dinner so I can cook up my fantastic Alaskan rogue stew!


  5. Pensans says:

    Well, you are surely a much more significant political leader than Palin and Gaddafi. They have so much to learn from you.

    For example, your misreading of Palin’s joke as an argument convinced me that you lack either basic critical skills or honesty. You are very effective.

  6. cartophiliac says:

    Willful ignorance.

  7. bob says:

    That was a pretty dumb analogy. You compare one real world madman lecture to a hypothetical throw away line in a book. We can see that these are not alike, right? One is an actual patronizing lecture face to face to people tricked into attending — the other a single line in a book that nobody is forced to read.

  8. tdaxp says:

    Anthony Bordain has made the great point that, apart from religionists, Vegans tend to be cultural imperialists with little respect for the cultures of the countries in which they eat.

  9. Certainly, Gadaffi is funny – unless you are a Bulgarian nurse, that is.

  10. Anthony Bordain could be a culinary version of Robert Kaplan. One of the few things I miss about cable is his excellent “No Reservations.” As far as Vegan’s go, whatever floats your boat but human beings have physically evolved to be omnivores. There’s a biological reason for why your teeth are shaped the way they are and your digestive system (yes, you only get one stomach) is as resilient as it is.

  11. J. Owens says:

    The vast majority of people who espouse veganism on moral grounds would also agree that humans are animals. I have never understood their rationale that it is OK for other animals to eat other animals, but not for human beings to. That said, those who are vegans based on some kind of spiritual or dietary ideal are generally more rational and less apt to try and agressively convince others to follow suit.

    Roy Berman,
    I’ve never had vegans over for dinner either. I’ve met them, but they are few and far between. Is that supposed to say something about our character? I’m sure the opportunity for the 2 vegans in Alaska to dine with the Palins just hasn’t come up.
    I will never understand the type fo knee-jerk vitriol that so many spew in regards to Sarah Palin and George W. Bush. I am no fan of Mrs. Palin, but I am likewise no fan of Nancy Pelosi. And yet I don’t find myself using her as an example of everything wrong in the world on a daily basis (though some might..)
    It is quite interesting to see the OBSSESSION people have with her (and Bush)

  12. King Missile says:

    You had me at first but then you lost me.

  13. Roy Berman says:

    J. Owens: The fact that she has never had a vegan over for dinner doesn’t bother me in any way. What I found odd is that she went out of her way to spin a hypothetical scenario about having a vegan acquaintance not in, say, an interview or something where you can excuse a certain amount of oddness due to spontaneity, but in a book that she “wrote” and published.

    @Munro: I’m not remotely vegan, or even vegetarian, but you can’t dismiss their arguments entirely just by saying “we evolved to eat meat and therefore we should.” We can also survive perfectly well on a vegetarian, or even vegan diet, if properly composed-unlike many animals that have evolved to ONLY survive by eating one another.

  14. spandrell says:

    Not eating meat has worked so nicely for Indians. They just get invaded every 100 years or so.

  15. M Brueschke says:

    Not sure what the point of the comparison is. Palin said she’d make them a salad and then remark about animals are meat and meat is good. Not at all similar to what Gaddafi did, he was trolling for chicks with the Green Book and Islam.

    Yea, Palin isn’t the brightest candle in the menorah, but celebrities and politicians say stupid stuff all the time and they don’t get compared contrasted to Gaddafi. If we ignore her, she’ll go away, back to Wasilia and then we’ll only see her the Costco on DeBarr in Anchorage.

  16. @ Roy, the key qualifier being “if properly composed.” Yeah, given the incredibly diverse and complex systemic nature of the 1st world’s supermarket infrastructure. Have a look at any of the remaining hunter gathering societies (the Hadza come to mind) on the planet and you’ll find that they’re omnivores. Whatever the personal decisions of “civilized man” concerning what he eats, he is, in the end, an omnivore. Put a vegan into a primitive, hunter gatherer society and I suspect they’ll either abandon their principles or suffer malnutrition.

  17. Roy Berman says:

    Munro, of course (most) vegans plopped in the middle of the jungle, or a post-apocalyptic wilderness are going to revert to omnivorism, but that doesn’t have any relation whatsoever to the choices we make on how to eat in a modern industrial society. But as Spandrell suggested, there are hundreds of millions of Hindus and Buddhists in South, East, and Southeast Asia that eat entirely vegetarian and seem to do fine-although the extreme of veganism as far as I know never existed before the 20th, or at least late 19th century. But to carry the logic of logic example to a further extreme, cannibalism is considered a universal barbarism today, and yet it is also grudgingly accepted to consume human flesh in the most extreme of situations, like in the movie “Alive”, or a city under siege. The fact that we are biologically omnivores just means we have a choice, it does not mean that we have an obligation to eat meat-any more than we have an obligation to eat our own dead just because they are a potential source of nutrition.

    Animal ethics aside, it is undeniable that raising meat is a fundamentally inefficient use of food energy, and ruminants (i.e. cattle) produce huge amounts of methane, which is by volume a far stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and the combination of deforestation for ranching (especially in the Amazon, these days) and methane emissions from the cattle themselves are a major source of carbon emissions.

    As I said above, I like meat and do eat it with no appreciable guilt- but I also worry that we may have to cut back our production eventually for environmental reasons, and I also find it very conceivable that in the future people will look back on meat eating in general as a barbaric custom in much the way we look at cannibalism today.

    But on the other hand, meat is delicious, and I look forward to the day when we can just grow it in tanks without that ethically and environmentally messy animal to have to worry about. See the following article: http://hplusmagazine.com/articles/bio/eight-ways-vitro-meat-will-change-our-lives

  18. Thomas says:

    There is a class of people that feel earnestness and volume equate to persuasiveness.

    These are the same kind of people that stand on corners and try to tell me about Jesus as if I had never heard of the guy.

  19. If you are a Conservative populist, do you lose any votes by gently mocking Vegans? I think not. Playing to the base, and making fun of food-obsessed people who would never vote for you anyway is not necessarily stupid.