There’s a new word that is supposedly creating a buz within the vegan community.
A word that has been created to describe a ‘phase’ of being vegan.
That word is “vystopia”
The creator of that word has written a book titled, “Vystopia. The anguish of being vegan in a non-vegan world”.
Before we get too far down this rabbit hole, we need to understand what “vystopia” is.
What Is Vystopia?
According to the website vystopia.com, “vystopia” is:
Existential crisis experienced by vegans, arising out of an awareness of the trance-like collusion with a dystopian world.
Awareness of the greed, ubiquitous animal exploitation, and speciesism in a modern dystopia.
Notice how many big words are in this definition?
Still trying to figure out whether it is deliberately meant to be classist and elitist, or simply done to be “wankerish” to point out how great the creator is. Mind you, I would guess that 90% of the vegans who use the term won’t have a clue what the words mean.
Do We Need Another Word?
Before we get all excited about the creation of the word, the question that should have been asked is do we really need it?
What is wrong with simply saying that a vegan is angry about the non-vegan status of the world?
Much like Melanie Joy’s 2009 creation of carnism, vystopia appears to have been created, not so much as to help the community as it has been to promote the creator.
There was a podcast episode where Clare Mann, did say that she hoped other medical professionals would recognise this “crisis” in people. Whether that results in referrals to her and her trademarked training programs is unknown, and remains to be seen.
Can “Vystopia” Be Avoided?
How much of this increase in anger, depression, and misanthropy that is being labelled as “vystopia” could have been avoided in the first place?
For example, a recent post by “Vystopia” creator, Clare Mann, encourages people to watch the movie Dominion to be in the running to win a free copy of her book.
Yet the movie Dominion is one that is known to cause depression, despair, anger, and misanthropy in those who watch it.
I am sure we all remember the story of James Aspey shedding a tear at the end of the premier screening that made the rounds of the tabloid online vegan “media”.
We also have the regular “cubes” where people wearing masks show footage of how other animals are treated, in the hopes of getting people to “consider veganism more seriously”.
Would these feelings of “vystopia” be reduced if vegans weren’t watching movies like Dominion, going to “cubes” and sharing all the gruesome clips that they do?
Will The ‘Animal Groups’ Shoulder The Blame?
The other thing that needs to be considered is how much of this increase of vegans self-diagnosing with “vystopia” is a result of the promises made by the “animal protection” groups in Australia?
For example, they all use as part of their emotive “call to action”, that “with your help”, they can end “x”, “y” or “z”.
Yet, the reality is, that “x”, “y”, and “z”, are no closer to being “ended” than they were prior to the “call to arms”.
For example, greyhound racing is further away from being banned permanently in NSW than it ever was before the “welfare” campaign started. (For those who came in late, legislation was passed banning it, then reversed by the NSW government).
How many groups have a genuine “debrief” session after their campaigns, petitions, etc. to those who assisted or participated in the event?
How many of them offer counselling sessions to those who attend their “vigils”, or protests?
Is There An Underlying Reason?
While this is a new word, and one that only applies to a certain number of vegans, we should be asking if there is another reason for it’s creation.
As will be discussed shortly, I believe that “vystopia” only applies to vegans at a particular stage in their vegan journey.
If it only applies to one particular segment of vegans, why are they being targeted?
Now, to make it clear I am not saying that the book was written as a recruiting tool for any particular faction of veganism. Though from my perspective, it does seem a coincidence that those who are more likely to self diagnose with vystopia are the same ones who would volunteer for a particular faction.
The Vegan Journey
Based on my own personal experience, and from observing others when the choose the vegan lifestyle.
It is also worth keeping in mind that a new vegan may progress though these stages as listed, skip a stage, or revert back to a previous one.
It all varies, depending on the vegan’s peer group, emotional and intellectual support, personality type, and so on.
Usually when a person begins their vegan journey, the phase they go through is the evangelical phase.
This is when the new vegan jumps in the deep end of veganism, and want other to hear and believe in the vegan message.
They usually talk to everyone about veganism, and want to share their new found knowledge with anyone who will listen.
This is also the most fragile stage of the new vegans journey.
The biggest “threat” to the new vegan are comments from their family, friends and peers.
Without the right support and mentoring, they can easily fall off the “vegan wagon”, and go back to consuming animal products.
The time spent in this phase ranges from 6 to 12 months, depending on the personality of the person and the support/mentoring they get from other vegans.
This is something that long term vegans have been speaking about for decades. In fact Colleen Patrick-Goudreau spoke about it way back in a 2013 AR Zone podcast interview.
The “misanthropic phase” is the most dangerous phase for the new vegan. And unfortunately for them, how misanthropic they become depends greatly on how “evangelistic” they were at the beginning of their vegan journey. The more “evangelistic” they were, the deeper in misanthropy they will go.
The misanthropy usually comes from their perceived ‘failure’ to convert people they talk to, to veganism, causing them to lose faith in the human race.
If their family haven’t gone vegan by this time, they may feel alone in their quest, and become disillusioned with the world.
This is when they are susceptible to the influence of certain ‘factions’ within the vegan “movement”, that tend to exploit vulnerable vegans.
The time spent in this phase is usually 3 to 6 months, though that does depend greatly on the other influences they have in their life. If they are exposed to a positive influence who helps them get through this phase, it won’t last a long time. Though if they fall in with the wrong crowd, there is a very good chance that the misanthropy can last longer than 12 months.
Supporters of Gary Yourofsky, ‘Anonymous For The Voiceless’, and other “humans first” type groups are a perfect example of this
The next “phase” that the vegan goes through is a period of apathy towards everything.
Usually, this is the 3rd ‘phase’ that a new vegan will go through, though I have seen a few people enter this period as their 2nd phase.
When the vegan becomes apathetic towards things, they develop the view of “what’s the point”. This is usually because they haven’t been able to get as much ‘traction’ as they wanted with their own activism, or have been let down by the animal groups who over promise and under deliver.
Depending on the personality type of the individual, at the extreme end of this phase, they could become hermitic, and withdraw from their social circles.
The feelings that the vegan are having may be made worse by the sensationalised lifestyles of the insta-famous, and how much success they tell the world they are having.
The best way to help a vegan in this phase is to talk to them about the wins that they have had, and how much things have changed. Don’t focus on what the animal groups view as a “big win”, instead turn things around, and let them know that any small wins they think they have had are actually big ones.
When the vegan reaches the final phase of their vegan journey, you will find that they have developed a more pragmatic approach.
They realise that farmers aren’t the problem or the enemy, and that there is a good chance that they are also a victim of the ‘industry’.
They realise that slaughterhouse workers are deliberately targeted to work in those facilities, and most do so because they may not have a choice.
They usually also consider getting one person to go vegan, and helping that person to talk to others about veganism to be a bigger win than talking to hundreds or thousands of people.
I am not a mental health professional, nor do I have any qualifications in sociology or any of those fields. This article is based on the ‘stages’ a person often goes through on becoming vegan.
That being said, this is something that needs to be discussed and new vegans need to be aware of. Especially when they join a group or start doing any sort of advocacy or activism.
Enter The Stockdale Paradox
In a previous podcast episode I briefly talked about the Stockdale Paradox, and how that adapting and understanding it, is a far better way to build resilience in new vegans than creating a new word.
Much has been written about it, and a simple internet search should provide you with plenty of information about it.
Dr Dennis Charney had this to say about the Stockdale Paradox
The Stockdale Paradox really defines the optimism that is most important in becoming a resilient person and that is, when you’re faced with a challenge or a trauma, you look at that challenge objectively. You might make the assessment, ‘I’m in really big trouble.’ You have a realistic assessment of what you’re facing. On the other hand, you have the attitude and the confidence to say, ‘But I will prevail. I’m in a tough spot, but I will prevail.’ That is the optimism that relates to resilience.
What Else Is There?
Before you run out and proclaim to everyone that you have “vystopia”, be mindful of where it came from.
The word was created by someone to describe the dystopia that some vegans struggle with, while also telling vegans to go and watch a two hour long graphic movie that is known to cause the very dystopia that they are profiting from by talking about.
As mentioned earlier, animal groups need to be realistic with what they are trying to, or want to achieve.
Turning up to a protest or rally will only be able to “send a message to government” if they are willing to hear it.
If they aren’t, then you may as well be knocking on the door of an empty house.
These groups need to be, no MUST be giving new vegans an “on boarding” session where they know the realities of what it is like being vegan in a world that isn’t.
They should be demanding that the new vegan have the resilience to be able to handle the set backs that come from animal advocacy BEFORE they attend their first protest.
They need to stop looking for the big high profile wins, and encourage their volunteers to view one person going vegan as a bigger win than 200 people attending a protest.
After all, if these groups aren’t looking after the new vegans, there may come a time where there aren’t any for them to recruit.
Updated: 07 October 2018. Removed third party ad code