The sustainably-minded community is an incredible one to be a part of. For the most part, people I encounter are open-minded, health-conscious, eco-passionate and possess a strong sense of ethics. There is a depth to our conversations in this community that I find lacking in others.
In addition, I feel safe, understood and supported by its members. These people 'get' me and I in turn 'get' them. Our ages, backgrounds and professions may be different but we have one thing in common:
We are all striving to minimise our personal environmental impact and help raise the level of human consciousness.
Some of us - like myself - are going a step further and are using digital platforms and other tools at our disposal to educate the public to increase the rate of 'eco' adoption in our communities. Education as we know plays a crucial role in changing behaviour and is vital if we want to move society as a whole away from our destructive and wasteful consumer habits towards sustainable living and where all humans have a chance to flourish.
Now over the last couple of years I've noticed that the 'eco' community has grown - there are more individuals, as well as blogs, publications and websites devoted to the 'green' subject - which has been wonderfully exciting to watch. It is evidence that more people are 'waking up' to the world's environmental and social problems and are seeking solutions to help reduce negative impact and make their lives, workplaces and communities more sustainable.
But with this growth, I have also noticed something else: the community has become rather 'cliquey'. In and of itself is not a bad thing. Humans are not islands and we need each other's support, particularly when we are still outnumbered by the mainstream population who are not, shall we say, mindful.
Nevertheless, the 'us' and 'them' mentality is at odds with me. Taking the ethical high road as an individual is one thing, but acting morally superior and coming across as a know-it-all is not the way to ingratiate yourself with 'non-conscious' people, especially if you want to influence them.
What happened between Ben and another vegan is a perfect illustration of what we shouldn't do as conscious people.
If you prefer to listen to this in audio format, just click 'play':
Audio Broadcast - Why the Conscious Community Should Avoid Moral Superiority - Part I
Audio Broadcast - Why the Conscious Community Should Avoid Moral Superiority - Part II
What happened on YouTube.
If you open up our latest YouTube video "Going Vegan. His Thoughts on my Veganism" (in which my fiance Ben explains how he feels about my going vegan) you will see a comment below it from a rather passionate vegan who openly challenges Ben on his beliefs.
It doesn't take a genius to work out the intention behind the comment was not to teach and educate, but rather to shame and ridicule. Of course the comment rubbed Ben up the wrong way. My normally laid-back, jovial man turned into someone almost unrecognisable, responding in a way that can be described as defensive at best, combative at worst.
Unsurprisingly, the outcome of this exchange was not one of mutual understanding, but one of anger and frustration. It was not a win-win but a lose-lose situation. I could hear Ben muttering under his breath about the pomposity of some vegans and I'm almost certain that the commenter went away mentally condemning Ben's ignorance around animal cruelty.
As for me? I felt stuck.
I understood where the commenter was coming from, but I could also see where Ben was coming from. So I chose the most diplomatic option I could find in this situation: I kept my mouth shut.
Communication is key to growing the 'conscious' movement.
This type of heated exchange is commonplace amongst people who have different beliefs, and the relative anonymity of the internet means people feel comfortable to vocalise their opinions, no matter how misinformed.
But it's not just in the online world that heated exchanges can occur. From within the family home to workplaces, friendship circles to protest marches, cities and countries, people fight over their beliefs. And one sure way to get into a verbal war, physical altercation, and even blocked and reported on social media - is to attack someone's set of beliefs.
As a person raised in a politically active household, I am not one to shy away from a good discussion or healthy debate. Being open-minded is essential to evolving as a human being, and listening to opinions that differ from our own is a mark of maturity. So I have no real issues making friends with people whose beliefs and opinions are in stark contrast to my own.
When I reflect on my circle of close friends particularly, I am not ashamed to admit that many of them are far from environmentalists and I wouldn't even describe them as conscious consumers (don't worry, I'm working on it!). Some even sit in one or more of the following categories:
- maximalist consumerist,
- non-carbon offsetting jet-setter,
- fast-fashion disciple,
- trash magazine junkie
- I-don't-care-how-my-food-was-grown-and-where-my-meat-came-from omnivores
As I count many eco 'outsiders' as my best friends and - before my own awakening, would easily have slotted into some of these categories myself - it is natural that I would want an inclusive community, not a community that acts exclusive.
In fact, even when I started the blog, building inclusivity was a high priority:
I hope this blog will help you learn and grow and inspire you to start critically thinking and motivates you to take action to make this world a better place.
If it does, then I have achieved what I set out to achieve. Enjoy!
So my aim when I started my blog was to educate, inform, inspire and influence. And I personally think that if we as conscious people want our ideas to spread, not only must we lead by example, but we also need to venture out of the 'conscious clique' and strike up meaningful, open conversation with people outside of our 'safe' environment in a way that respects them and their beliefs but engages them in a logical, rational way.
Behaving morally superior will get us nowhere (neither does preaching to the converted). Let's start by bringing consciousness into our communications approach.
At the very least, conscious or not, let's remember to treat people the way we ourselves would like to be treated.
Have you ever been in the firing line of a person acting morally superior? Or have you ever been accused of moral superiority? Feel free to share your story in the comments below.