I’ve been curious lately, about the language being used in media about shifting ideology around what we eat, collectively. There is a palpable new push toward a plant-based diet. It is tempting to want to be happy about this, since I believe plant-based is the healthiest way for humans to eat. Yet I feel queasy about the ways in which it is being promoted now, by powerful corporate interests. And I wonder if ‘veganism’ is becoming contaminated and re-contextualized in a less than constructive way, while putting ‘profits before people.’
There appears to be a multi-faceted campaign to coerce people into eating less meat, dairy, and eggs, by making these foods unaffordable and less available, and by weaving shame about eating them into a narrative around climate change and personal carbon footprints. Whatever the truth may be about the climate, and carbon, using tactics of control and fear to have ‘authorities’ tell people what they can’t eat, or what they now have to eat, all while corporate interests continue to rake in massive new profits at our expense, is not the best way to bring about real and lasting positive change and harmony, and an empowered, inspired people.
I’ve been thinking about this in the context of society, and also in the individual. The way I see it, coercion belongs in the same camp as rewards-and-punishments. These methods of influencing behavior can certainly bring about compliance and obedience, feelings of tribal affiliation, and even a brand of discipline, along with the result of accomplishing something desired (at least by the one using these tactics). At first glance it appears to sort of work…..but it depends on what is really wanted.
The Miriam Webster Dictionary definition of coercion is “pressure…the use of power to impose one’s will on another; a promise obtained by coercion is never binding.” I interpret that last part to mean that behavior obtained by pressurizing and imposing, will not be reliable (binding) since it did not arise intrinsically from the person doing the behavior.
Rewards and punishments are a form of coercion. Recall the many creative financial and other incentives offered around the covid shots - false incentives, since receiving money, a car, college tuition, lottery tickets, concert tickets, a donut or french fries, shopping discounts, a beer, marijuana (these were all actually offered) in exchange for taking the shot had nothing whatsoever to do with protecting or promoting health, which is what the shot was purported to be about. It’s a sneaky backdoor way to get someone to do something they don’t actually want to do. And there were punishments for not complying, such as losing your job, or access to family, healthcare, travel or other societal benefits and even necessities. People had a variety of considered reasons for not wanting to get these experimental shots, some of which were because they didn’t believe it would be helpful, or because they believed it could harm them.
The coercion begins early in life, with parents often using reward and punishment tactics with their children, to get them to behave the way they want them to, or the way they believe they need them to. Many parents cannot bear the tension that arises within themselves if their child will not readily go along with what would be most comfortable, or immediately convenient or beneficial, for the parent. When my children were young, I was influenced by a very powerful little gem of a book called “with consent: parenting for all to win,” based on “a rational philosophy that replaces coercion with common preferences - that is, solutions which everyone prefers.” It offers another definition of coercion as: “anything that causes a person to enact one theory whilst another theory is still current in their mind.”
The book proposes that there is always a ‘win-win’ solution in parenting, if parents will only take the time and attention to listen and negotiate. It requires treating our children with the same level of respect that we would like for ourselves. “In a world of sacrifice, martyrdom and enforced distress, the idea is as extraordinary as it is practical: we can get what we want, parents and children; we can all win and learn from doing so.” This certainly prevailed in our homeschooling environment. Why couldn’t this apply in society at large, as well, if we were all inspired to do the work? And why wouldn’t we be inspired, if we were convinced of the abundant natural rewards and benefits?!
Many of the families who were forced into homeschooling during the lockdowns were understandably stressed and resentful about it, both because they were unprepared, and because most were not making an inspired, heart-centered, voluntary choice to homeschool their children. I homeschooled my children (long before the lockdowns) because I deeply believed it was the best choice for all of us. It was an empowered, inspired personal decision, and we happily arranged our life around it, and navigated the inherent challenges with wholehearted purpose.
Empowered people do things because they truly believe in them. Any kind of pressurizing, force, or coercion is ultimately disempowering, and it robs those who fall prey to it of their autonomy and sovereignty. I don’t imagine most people are excited or enthusiastic about the idea of living in a society of disempowered, uninspired people.
Imagine applying these ideas from the parenting with consent book, to our larger society, of government and the people: “Rational thinking is about having the space to engage genuinely in a search for the truth. To achieve this, there must be the possibility of refutation as well as conjecture, and openness to criticism both from oneself and from the theories of others. If parents cut short their children’s searches and experiments by asserting that they have superior authority or experience, then the rational process is interrupted. Parents who have information or opinions on a subject should be able to contribute to the rational argument; if their arguments fail to convince, perhaps they should be willing to give way to new and better theories.”
And this: “Children [people] cannot trust that they have moved into a non-coercive environment or that it is in their interests to join in with the process of finding solutions if they know that the bottom line is that the parent [government] reserves the right to coerce.” Consent involves engagement, and information and trust keep children and adults safer than rules. Rules get in the way of discovery, and of exercising intrinsically motivated decisions about personal safety and needs. As I am always saying, people are innately good, compassionate, and self-governing, if this natural human unfoldment is not interfered with so much that it is nearly destroyed.
Long before ‘inspiration’ was used to refer to breath, it had a theological meaning in English, referring to a divine influence upon a person, or a sacred revelation. Whether seen as coming from within, or as being received from a divine source, to me it is one and the same thing, since I believe that it is by going within that we gain access to the universal field of true divine wisdom. Coercion, force, arbitrary rules, rewards and punishments - all of these tactics distract and impede our ability as sovereign divine beings to know, trust, and adhere to our deepest, most sacred inner knowing and wisdom. We are encouraged to put our faith in external ‘authorities’ and ‘experts,’ without questioning for ourselves, and many people no longer seem to realize their own power and authority over their lives.
So many facets of our lives are being encroached upon now, often with unelected authorities dictating our choices and boundaries, while aggressively shutting down the space for real dialogue and due process of their unilateral theories and plans for us. To me, a vegan lifestyle, a healthy natural immune system, and parenting and governing with consent, are all natural outcomes of living in love, and drawing sustenance and clarity from inspiration and wholehearted purpose.
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Well said and read!
Excellent points, Ellen! Thanks for taking time to raise awareness and make connections!!!