Is it possible to be passionate about a cause and keep a sense of humor about it?
While you ponder that with your own passionate beliefs, here’s our story. Jenni and I are both vegan. We care about things like animals being tortured and our water being polluted. While we’re at it, we’d love to see every person in the world have enough to eat.
Our efforts toward these causes are serious and dedicated. For example, here are just a few things we do:
- We eat a plant-based diet.
- We use environmentally-friendly products and practices in our screen print shop.
- We buy from companies that support our values and ideals
- We get involved with events and organizations that support the causes we believe in
In all of these activities, we interact with people who care about the same things we do. Some of these people are serious, too. Very serious. Very… very serious.
Here’s a quick self-check guide to see if you’re getting a little too serious about your cause:
- Have you ever thrown red paint on anyone (frat parties don’t count)?
- Have you ever crawled into a grocery store meat case and snuggled the packages, whispering, “You didn’t have to die for us?”
- Do you have any tattoos of Al Gore’s face? Anywhere?
- Have you angrily shouted the words “bone char” or “fracking” more than once this week?
- Do you get tweets from Alec Baldwin telling you to lighten up?
If you said “yes” to more than one of these, you may be too serious. And, you may actually be hurting the causes you’re trying to promote. For example, there’s nothing wrong with being passionate about rescuing animals from slaughter. If your end goal is to convince someone that slaughtering animals is wrong, getting up in their business with a few choice accusations probably isn’t going to do it. And they’ll go away convinced of only one thing: Those damn animal lovers are freaks, man. Message lost, mission unaccomplished.
I read somewhere that if you can get people to laugh, you have their attention. I read a lot of things “somewhere” and then forget the source. It sure sounds like somebody said it. Lucille Ball? Dale Carnegie? Hannibal Lecter? Let’s say I made this up and move along.
Sometimes when people find out I’m vegan, I instantly become a target for teasing and animal rights jokes – not to mention dissecting my whole way of eating and thinking. I get it, I’m weird. If people realized truly how weird, they would forget about my diet. So it’s good that I have that to distract them.
In those situations where people are testing me, it would be easy to get angry and put up my dukes to defend myself and my cause. I could get all huffy (or Schwinn) and whine, “You just don’t understand the kind of evil the meat industry perpetrates! Your food is shit! You are gonna die! You’re assisting in the mass slaughter of cuddly critters and the careless destruction of the Earth, you non-caring animal-wearing meat whore!”
Instead, I answer questions and deflect “testing me” questions with humor. Then I let it go. It’s not that I’ve changed my beliefs or even hinted at agreeing with them. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. And yes, I just advocated the use of honey for catching flies. Double-bad vegan-whammy to me on that one.
Surprisingly, what typically happens is that those testing people approach me when I’m alone and start asking more earnest questions about how to make vegan meals (which I then hand over to Jenni because I never remember how to cook anything).
When we decided to launch a line of vegan t-shirts and totes, it took a few months to sort out what the designs would be. My initial sketches all had some sort of serious “We are all one world” kind of message. Which is fine. I’m not knocking the sentiment. But jeez looweez, don’t we see that everywhere? After a while we get desensitized to the ubiquitous messages of love all, serve all. We start branding people who sport those messages by saying, “Those damn hippies again.” I’m guilty of this myself.
So we went the other way. We went the weird cartoon humor route by creating some goofy t-shirts. In fact, we even have a bacon shirt (a bacon-destroying video game). Plus, we’ve got more vegan and non-cause-related t-shirt designs on the drawing board. See? We’re so serious about our health, animals, and the Earth that we can’t help smiling about it.