Friday, May 22, 2009

The Revolution

On the same day that tea-baggers across America offered their lilly white sacks to the national meat-grinder, a popular buddhist magazine, Shambhala Sun, ran an online poll on their audience's dietary practices and preferences. This was announced on Twitter at 11:26 on April 15th in the following manner;

Meat or veg? Which is best for a spiritual practitioner? Vote here:

- where six options appeared.

1. Do you eat meat?
2. No. In fact, I'm vegan.

3. No. I'm not vegan but I am strictly vegetarian.
4. I try not to but I might have a little from time to time.
5. Yes. But I don't eat red meat.
6. Yes. Call me what you want, just don't call me late for the BBQ.

My impulse to respond was motivated in part by the importance of this issue but also by the ridiculous way the question was put. Which is best? As if there is an objectively superior way for all spiritual practitioners. So I went to the site, voted and left a comment.

"Buddhists and their rationalizations; I vow to ignore them all. When it came out that eating animals is a bigger contributor to global-warming than automobiles I thought, high time for the environmental movement to get on board, ain't it?"

I checked the box to let me know if anyone responds and then went back a few minutes later to see if it posted and noticed that someone had given my comment a 'thumbs-up'. Yay! Narcissist that I am, I immediately reloaded the page and noticed that my comment had been removed altogether. Anyone with any experience on the net knows that flakey moderators are as common as Nigerian heiresses. My first response was to tweet a query to @shambhalasun simultaneously sharing it with the 600+ who receive updates from the Sun via Twitter, as well as to my personal mandala of Tweeters (83 at the time) who are only on board for items of interest and this was definitely one.

11:43 @shamabhalasun: went to your meat or veg survey: my comments were censored. Why?

My second comment went out a few minutes later to the same audience.

11:46 I voted, commented & was censored: comments removed -WTF? RT@shamabhalasun: Meat or veg?

I waited a few minutes, got no reply and then decided to ask for some feedback from other tweeters about the nature of my post. I typed out my original comments and then asked -

11:55 How offensive was that?

Dirk Johnson (@dirkjohnson) in northern California replied: 'wildly offensive, man, wildly offensive. LMAO'

I tried to generate some compassion for the poor fellow who undoubtedly felt he was just doing his job. I could imagine the Sun's web-master reading the first sentence in my post and assuming I was a non-buddhist troll. Mr. Sperry who had posted the poll, also left comments to the effect that his own metabolism demanded a retreat from vegetarianism. I got a strong hint of the same defensiveness I expect to hear from most carnivores who could care less about this issue and have taught me to do the same in their company, but I had not initiated this diagloue which was presented in the context of the sangha. I thought I might get under the radar by indicating that their hyper-vigilant defensiveness suggested lack of good humor, so crucial to buddhist practice. They had simply mistaken my sense of humor, my lead sentence echoing the solemnity of buddhist vows in an attempt to cut through what is too often an endless defense of sensory attachments. Still no answer forthcoming; maybe they were having a late lunch.
12:20 @shambhalasun surely you ready these msgs. Why was my post deleted? No free speech on yr. site? No sense of humor? You asked for comments....
A few of my tweet buddies were miffed by all of this and passed the word to their own followers to see if they could elicit a response through some complex logarithm of degrees of separation. It probably drove some traffic to the poll as well as getting the attention of a Twitterer who tracks censorship issues of all kinds. Every time your name is typed anywhere on Twitter, when preceded by an '@' symbol (a well-established convention in the Twitterverse) you receive notification. So the web-master @shambhalasun was aware that this conversation was afoot over the next few hours.

Before the clock struck 4 (CT) my post magically reappeared in the queue on the Sun Space website. This got me high because I felt, if even in the most basic way, not only had I been able to ask for and promptly receive relatively informed opinions from my peers but I was encouraged by the even more amazing fact that those opinions had a certain weight and actually made a difference in changing the situation. Reflecting on our prowess after this triumph, fellow buddhist guerilla 'RyderJaphy' (@ryderjaphy) tweeting out of Chicago offered, "....just give the word and I'll hot wire the CAT P_M-565B parked down the block, I'm ready to roll."

The revolution, solidarity and all that...

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