It's my favorite line from one of my favorite films of all time, The Wizard of Oz. This line from the end of the movie is said by Glinda, the good Witch, to Dorothy who has so desperately been trying to get home to Kansas.
Dorothy: "Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?"
Glinda: "You don't need to be helped any longer. You always had the power to go back to Kansas."
Dorothy: "I have??"
Scarecrow: "Then, why didn't you tell her before?"
Glinda: "Because, she wouldn't have believed me. She had to learn it for herself."
I think of this more and more often as I get older. When challenges amass and seem insurmountable, I think to myself, "You can do this, Ethan. You always had the power." I think of it when I'm facing enormous odds against success of one sort or another. I think of it when the task at hand feels overwhelming and too hard to even start. I admit, though, that the part about having to learn it for herself always confused me. I think I understand it, now.
As a vegan who dedicates himself to the cause of justice and equality for our non-human brothers and sisters on this planet, I find that it's sometimes hard to be patient for everyone to "wake up" and for the world to change. It can be hard to remain hopeful while the ruthless exploitation of non-human Earthlings continues. 55 Billion land animals (and unknowable, uncounted billions of sea animals) each year are confined, tortured, murdered in viciously cruel ways so that their rotting corpses may be devoured for human palate-pleasure while polluting our bodies and the planet. How can we surmount these numbers? How can we vegans crack through the seemingly impenetrable shroud of carnism that facilitates this burgeoning holocaust of non-humans so we can reach people and they can "get it"?
I think the answer is very simple; one by one. Each of us, as vegans, "had to learn it for [ourselves]" as Glinda said. We've always had the power to change things, but we didn't know we had that power. Going vegan can be a significant step in recognizing that we, as individuals, have the power to make our lives and our world what we want it to be. All we need to to is make up our minds, act on our decision and that change happens. One meal at a time. One person at a time. It all adds up. After all, I was a meat-loving, omnivore grandson from a long family line of butchers. If I could "wake up", reject violence and go vegan then anyone can. But we can't make others wake up. We can help educate others but, in the end, we all need to learn these lessons for ourselves.
So in 2013, I rededicate myself to helping the cause of animal liberation by bringing information to others and educating them. I will speak and educate others unreservedly about the atrocities being committed on their behalf so they may continue to eat non-humans; about the effects on our health and our planet; about speciesism and the dangerously slippery slope it inhabits with its friends heterosexism, racism, ageism and sexism; and I will gladly share my firsthand experiences with the sustainable, life-supporting, compassionate and delicious diet that we vegans enjoy. And then, I will remind myself and those I speak to, that we have the power to change. We have the power to change everything if we want to. We've always had the power.
We just needed to learn this for ourselves.