a naive cruelty

I'm working at a job now that offers free lunch everyday, and one day the selection consisted of loads and loads of barbecued meat. Trays of pulled pork stunk up the room, while everybody rushed to line up for their share of the flesh. I stood next to one of the (apparently) few vegetarians in the office, and we remarked about how the options were limited for us. A couple of her coworkers near her poked fun, saying "you know that pork is a vegetable, right?", talked about how tasty the meat looked, and said they couldn't wait to dig in. Obviously they were trying to get a rise out of their coworker.

The incident struck me for a few reasons. First, it's been so long since I'd heard such ignorant joking, but I remember hearing those same kinds of remarks when I was younger. Guilty people ridicule those who make different choices. They can't stand to be reminded of their cruelty, if only by contrast.

Second, these guys seemed so distant from and disrespectful of their food. I didn't say anything at the time, but I wanted to tell them that if they had met some pigs, and spent some time with them, I don't think they'd be so blasé about gulping down a bowl of pulled pork. What heartless person could really look into the eyes of a pig and then go on to consume it as if it were any other item from the factory market? This attitude is a toxic combination of naivety, entitlement, and insecurity, and it's something I had forgotten about, having been away from the typical working/socializing world for quite some time.

In the typical American lifestyle, there's no reverence for food. (There's no reverence for anything except perhaps sports teams or favorite TV shows) We want more and more, regardless of the cost to life and ecosystems. Sure, there are trends in a different direction, but even they seem driven by style and image over substance.

Those guys in line can't be blamed for their ignorance -- they are strapped to a giant, endlessly turning wheel, invisible to them, for now. Here I am, deciding to engage with the wheel, in order to earn some money to afford less dubious activity. How corrupting it all can be! Money, free lunch, oblivious people. If you aren't careful, that wheel will roll right over you.