As a “cultural” Jain, seeing the green social movement move away from vegetarianism is rather upsetting. I am vegetarian not for for fluffy reasons of “save the animals” or of environmental sustainability, but for the simple fact that I was brought up to see animals as akin to humans. Therefore destroying life unnecessarily is clearly unjust.
So while making friends with other activists who were vegetarian meant I did not feel Othered for my food ‘choices’. I felt like I was part of something, and suddenly, not quite alone. This was a far cry from my childhood, where being vegetarian was pretty much one of the many reasons I was bullied. Vegetarianism was a route to feeling like I belonged in a society where I was clearly in the minority.By: Billy Wilson
Yet, oddly enough, the fact that I am an activist ostracises me from my own Jain community. Being an activist means rejecting the protective conservatism that runs through the Asian population who, in many ways, still feel insecure as being People of Colour. This kind of conservatism is a key reason on why Asians will try to educate their children, encourage them to take financially secure jobs, and ensure that they marry into the same community (or if not – at least someone who is financially secure).
So a person who rejects that upbringing is seen as volatile, unstable and potentially a pollutant – all of which are images I see myself trying to promote. In many ways I would see my role as trying to normalise being different, and at the same time, I would feel utterly alone for being so.
I have often wondered why I have such contradictions in my sense of belonging. Is it because of my upbringing across different nations? Is it because of the split I have between family and “public” life? Part of me believes it is a way of asserting myself across different groups – wanting to be different, but not too different.
Yet, my trajectory into finding meaning/purpose is founded on trying to find security. I feel constantly that I am standing on an edge, ready to fall over in an unknown abyss. The risk gives me a thrill, but it terrifies me also. I am a constant paradox, a conundrum of being.
Is this the postcolonial condition?