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John Morlino: Gentle Advocate

October 20, 2014

It was a pleasure to be in the presence of John Morlino and to hear him speak last night.  The take away message: it takes more than reason to get someone to understand a system of cruelty.

“Without a spark of emotion it is almost impossible to ignite someone to change.” J. Morlino

Vegan advocacy provides enormous challenge.  Someone who is vegan is in touch with their own emotions about the suffering of others.  When confronted with indifference or statements which seem to condone suffering a tremendous pain is experienced by someone who is an advocate for those who suffer.  Sometimes the instinct is to become angry, frustrated, to argue, or even to experience hate.  But these things are a part of the problems in the world and some of the very things veganism seeks to overcome.

The Philosophy of Vegan Values by Stan and Roda Sapon states that veganism understands peace is not a product of contention or conflict and acknowledges the value of all life.  To treat humans with contempt is  contradictory of vegan principles.

The intention of this statement is inline with nondiscrimination.  Veganism is part of a philosophy of nondiscrimination.  Therefore to treat anyone with contempt is not part of the vegan philosophy.  This is where vegan advocacy and those that seem to condone cruelty collide.  What to do?  How to overcome our own painful emotions in order to leave the best impression upon someone who appears indifferent to cruelty? This requires overcoming the ego or what someone might call the ‘vego’.  (Click here to read about overcoming the ego/vego)

Some words of advice from John Morlino:

Facts often fall flat and this is because they may be ignored, disputed, or dismissed.  What cannot be dismissed is your own story about what brought you to veganism.  When you tell your story you tell it from the heart, from a place of emotion. There is more chance that this story will resonate with the listener because you have made it personal to you, you have made it about you, and not about the person you are speaking to.  In this way you will not place that person on the defensive as none of us wish to be in that position.

Many of us have that one unshakeable image or moment that stands out as part of what caused us to make the ‘connection’ to veganism.  Morlino told his story of a monkey who was in a test lab.  When he saw the look of helplessness in the monkey’s eyes he put himself in the place of the monkey and realized with clarity the monkey’s situation for what it really was.

People will dispute facts, they will be indifferent, but what they cannot do is say that you, the story teller, did not have this transformational experience.  They are left with the indisputable evidence that a man can be compassionate with regard to all those who suffer. The possibility of being compassionate with regard to suffering is now evident and cannot be disputed.

The other advice given by Morlino for vegan advocacy is that each of us has only so much time on earth.  Make the best of the time that you have left.  Take opportunities to share the values that you hold so dear.  For example, if you are at a standard dining establishment and order a vegan meal let the staff know why you have ordered that item.  Declaration leads to understanding otherwise ‘your choice to order that item may be unclear or worse, invisible’ (Morlino).

Compassion has two parts:  Sympathy and Action

Without action, our sympathy benefits no one.

Morlino left us with two quotes, and a tear in his eye, from the book The Little Prince :

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.Antione de Saint-Exupery

Teachings of the Buddha:

See Yourself In Others

All beings tremble before violence

All fear death
All love life

See Yourself In Others

Then whom can you hurt?
What harm can you do?


If you would like to learn more about John Morlino please click here.

From → Journal

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