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First Drafts Almost Always Suck

Yesterday, I wrote a short post about Eating Cleaner. The first draft had a completely different title -- Eating Less Meat -- and I was having enormous difficulty trying to write it.

One of the things that makes my first drafts suck is they often contain a brain dump of a lot of my fears of what could go sideways. So instead of making my point -- in this case about a simple rule of thumb for eating cleaner, which is to eat less meat (and dairy) -- I get bogged down in trying to figure out how to address a raftload of boogeymen, in this case about political stuff related to veganism, essentially.

Years ago, I read the book Diet for a Small Planet. It's an excellent book about vegetarianism but only about half of it is recipes.

The first half makes a strong case for why and how first-world bad habits, including meat-centered diets, foster starvation elsewhere. It's been a lot of years since I read it but my recollection is that there are a number of things that go on rooted in rich countries eating meat-centered diets and how this impacts poor countries.

The main thrust of the book is that she did the research and at that time there was no country incapable of raising enough food to feed their own people. Starvation was not rooted in physical inability to grow enough food. Hunger had political roots and many of those political roots were tied up in how richer and poorer countries interacted.

For one thing, poor countries end up raising beef to sell to rich countries as a means to service debts to developed countries and aid organizations and this makes it impossible to raise enough crops to adequately feed their people. Developed countries and aid organizations send in relief and it may fail to feed the people who are starving and sit rotting in a warehouse because the reason they are starving is civil war, not lack of food per se.

The same civil war that cuts them off from adequate food access in the first place also cuts them off from food aid. Sometimes that isn't happenstance. Sometimes people are starving because cutting the enemy off from supplies is a standard tactic of war, so sometimes the aid is intentionally left rotting in a warehouse.

If it does get distributed, it's usually "western" style food that is being distributed. Now poor locals who could afford a cheap vegetarian diet of locally grown traditional foods eat that and get hooked on things like hamburgers and hot dogs, which they cannot afford going forward. So this perpetuates a cycle of hunger as it changes the eating habits of the locals in a way that doesn't work well going forward.

The book Diet for a Small Planet emphasized protein complementarity as the solution to being able to eat vegetarian. There was a later book that I think was more recipe-oriented and written by her sister but had a preface by the author of Diet for a Small Planet in which she said something along the lines of she kind of regretted that because she felt like it convinced people that it was hard to eat vegetarian when it's not.

Most traditionally vegetarian diets already have the correct ratio of legumes or what not to grains or what not built-in to their recipe structure. There are some nutrients you have to really work at getting enough of if you are vegetarian, especially if you go vegan, but most people will not struggle to get enough protein if they are vegetarian. That's sort of a boogeyman and a myth.

I don't personally know any vegans currently. My main "first hand" experience with veganism is that I knew a gal online for a time who self-identified as vegan though she wasn't vegan. At best, she was kind of a part-time vegan and ate cheese when the weather turned cold so she could stay warm enough.

She was an amazingly toxic bitch who spent all her time trying to prove to everyone she was better than them and self-identifying as vegan was just another holier-than-thou tactic and excuse for pissing on people every time she opened her mouth.

I don't know if that's the norm for vegans. I do know I'm not the only one who perceives them that way.

Maybe it's like how homeless people all get smeared due to the bad behavior of a relative handful of homeless who trash everything and behave badly when that's not what most homeless people are doing. When I was homeless, people routinely mistook me for a tourist and I repeatedly saw that housed people trashed public bathrooms and what not and then some homeless person would get blamed for it and thrown out over what someone else had done.

My mother cleaned apartments when I was a teen, so I am quite convinced that housed people aren't all cleaner than homeless people. They just have the luxury of hiding their pigsty mess behind closed doors if they have terrible hygiene and homeless people can't do that.

I tried to go vegetarian in my youth and one of the reasons I did so is because I had been molested and raped as a child, so all things about my body got run through some internal filter and came up registering in my mind as "never good enough, never pure enough, some kind of sin." I suspect I'm not the only person whose reasons for wanting to be vegetarian were influenced by some kind of personal baggage driving them to want to go to extremes to "purify" themselves or "prove" something about their morality or some such.

I don't usually talk about that because I get a metric fuck ton of bullshit off of people all the damn time anyway about being a presumably judgy bitch when I'm mostly not. I'm mostly pretty live-and-let-live.

I haven't run around telling that story because I don't want people to think I'm hanging my crap on them and I also don't want vegetarians to generally be smeared when it's most likely a small percentage of people that are like that. I don't know how sustainable veganism is -- I have my doubts, but I don't know enough about it and I know those doubts are rooted in vegetarianism not working for me because of my disorder -- but vegetarianism certainly is a perfectly healthy and reasonable way to live and many people have lived that way for thousands of years.

It shouldn't be so much social drama to just not eat meat. But I know that I have been given a lot of grief by meat-and-potatoes types who hate on me because some of my meals are vegetarian even though my diet is not and I also have been given grief by people who are vegetarian because I'm not.

It's highly unlikely I will ever be vegan, so I may never have a good idea of just how much sense that makes for the human race generally, though I'm sure I'm not the only person with underlying health issues that make vegetarianism not ideal for some people. I have a genetic disorder that involves misprocessing fats and animal fats, like butter and bacon fat, help keep me off literally thousands of dollars worth of drugs on an ongoing basis.

My condition is supposed to cost up to $250,000 annually with conventional treatment. Whatever harm it does the environment for me to be a butter and bacon fiend I figure that's very much the lesser evil compared to the resources required to treat my condition conventionally AND I have much higher quality of life eating the way I do now than when I was on all kinds of drugs.

I'm all for trying to live more sustainably, including encouraging a mostly plant-centered diet more generally. Every religion that I personally know a smidgen about has long had that as their dietary standard: Eat mostly plants, most of the time, for both moral and health reasons.

In my mind the moral part of that is likely some of the stuff covered in Diet for a Small Planet: The serious knock on effects that can't be readily seen when you sit down to eat dinner but can be traced and verified as doing seriously bad stuff in the world that comes back to bite us in the butt.

Hopefully most vegans are just people trying to live right and walk the walk and the bad reputation they have for being assholes to everyone all the time is rooted in the same social dynamics that cause people to assume I'm some kind of judgy bitch. And/or the same dynamic that gets homeless people smeared, often for things they didn't even do.

I don't know how we are going to find a path forward. This polarizing bullshit is not it but I don't know if trying to talk about that is helping or is putting out the fire with gasoline.

I'm for eating more sustainably. If you are vegan and that works for you and you are just trying to live in a way that makes sense to you, more power to you and all my respect.

If you are vegan and want to tell me I need to be vegan for some reason, you and I aren't going to get along. I have some very compelling reasons for my dietary choices and I'm not going to give up the foods keeping me off of drugs and out of the ER.

I think that is not only better for me personally, it's better for the world at large for me to NOT require the high levels of medical resources my condition is supposed to require. I'm not apologizing for eating more sustainably for my condition while suffering less.

And it's bullshit like this that makes it hard for me to write good first drafts most of the time. My first drafts are often some highly defensive train wreck in the making over ridiculous levels of emotional baggage on various topics where I have been burned and don't know how to open my mouth without first going "I hate you and don't do this to me. GRRRRRR."

I'm probably not the only person who does that. Pro tip: If that's what your first draft looks like, do your brain dump, walk away and maybe sleep on it and start fresh the next day or a few hours later. Then maybe you can make a simple point about eating cleaner without writing a political screed and rant about personal baggage related to the topic.

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