Why don’t I question things more? Maybe it’s because I was told from my teachers, “Don’t question it” or “It just is,” one too many times as a child. Or maybe it’s because I am too busy, so I think it’s easier to put my faith in the fact that people would have told me the important stuff if it were pertinent. Whatever the case, I have become too lazy and and have run too long on autopilot and likely, so have you. When was the last time you thought about why you think your phone is old even when the new version of it is so similar?
A goal of the Critical Thinking and Writing Class I took for the past two semesters was around becoming more aware of things, to think more critically. I came into the class a little unsure of what the point was; I had gone through years of English classes, so why did I need to do one again? Although it was hard and did remind me sometimes of my old English classes, this class was very different in one special way; it made me realize that I take things for granted too often, as the things that came up were all things that had I actually taken a minute, I would have realized before. I mean, one of the first thing we did in the class was watch the “This is Water” speech by David Foster Wallace, which made me realize how the power of thought and conscientiousness are so important.
Delving into topics like food and media, the class brought to light things that are so inconsequential in my and your daily lives, of which we are so reliant upon in general, that we really should think more about them.
The first part of this class was about food and animals. As I am planning on becoming a veterinarian, I thought the topic of animals would be interesting, but I would know a lot on it so I would be super bored.
Much to my surprise, I found out that I had overlooked and had barely any knowledge on a huge category of animals, of which are probably the most important and obvious to us as a society: farm animals. I had worked in a zoo, the Trevor Zoo at my prep school, before this class, and so was used to exotic and most common animals, but the thought of farm animals never really came up until then. Honing in on farm animals, my professor got to us, making us ask, “why?” all the time. Originally when he would ask a question I would think to myself, that that is just the way it is, but after a while, I started to see his point. I started to ask myself why all the time after that, just to see what would happen, making it into my own little experiment. After reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel, Eating Animals, my first test to this self-experiment was when I saw that Foer had asked himself, about his dog George, “I wouldn’t eat George, because she’s mine. But why wouldn’t I eat a dog I’d never met?” (Foer, 24) Startled at the thought, I realized Foer had a point there, and so I started to think off that to ask: Why do we eat chickens but not eagles, and cows instead of donkeys? Why is it taboo to eat certain animals, like horses and bears, when they have almost exactly the same nutritional value as the ones we currently eat?
These questions started my search, and at first, in my frustration, I couldn’t find anything to explain what was going on. I almost gave up and chalked it up to a bad case of a crazy teacher, but thankfully, I took a deep breath and peered around my room to find what I had missed right in front of my eyes: my stuffed animal. I was then able to connect that stuffed animals was one of the determining factors in my choice of eating the kinds of animals I eat today. But larger than that, I started looking at the world at large: What about other people?
Well, it seems that most others my age were in the same boat; I surveyed 15 students from the Santa Clara University campus, and of the male respondents, they said they had had stuffed animals that were mostly animals like sharks, turtles, sea otters, and dogs, and the female respondents stated that they, for the most part, had had animals such as horses, bears, and giraffes, most of which you certainly cannot find in a supermarket or what we would eat on any given day in the U.S.A. There was only one outlier, a female respondant who had had a cow stuffed animal and who still ate beef.
Although it gave me slight comfort to know that though I was ignorant about it, I am more educated now, the big overarching question was, again, why? Who decided to limit me to certain types of animals as stuffed animals and not others? I mean, how many times have you seen a chicken stuffed animal compared to the garden-variety teddy bear?
I have still not found and will never likely get the answer to that question, but this first investigation made me realize that I had been way to complacent and way too lazy in my views. I got a new lease on life when I had my epiphany; why don’t I ask why more? This now led me onwards to ask the question of why should you become vegetarian or vegan?
Digging led me to several revelations, such as the fact that according to a Harvard School of Public Health study, “researchers [found]…a strong association between the consumption of red meat—particularly when the meat is processed—and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.”(Dwyer). It also led me on to find out that red meat can also be a cause for cancer, as the World Health Organization stated late last year that there are “epidemiological studies showing positive associations between eating red meat and developing colorectal cancer,”(“Q&A on the Carcinogenicity of the Consumption of Red Meat and Processed Meat”) and that a European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study showed that out of 239,251 individual cases, the “findings from this meta-analysis indicate that consumption of red and/or processed meat increase[d] risk of stroke, in particular, ischemic stroke.” (G-Chen et al., 91) Even though there are tons of people and media outlets who present the fact that red meat is bad for our health, I, like so many others, have somehow tuned out, likely because we are constantly swamped with this idea that we become numb to it. As a result, through my own search and curiosity, I have now severely cut down on my red meat consumption, but it made me realize how good it is to be curious.
Although it sounds weird, my new philosophy on life is this: it’s always lighter at the end of the tunnel, you just have to keep digging. By going through the trouble of asking why each and every time, although it sometimes hurt not to have all the answers , it made the class more interesting, making it into an experience that improved my understanding of life, and made me into a more intelligent person (hopefully).
Dwyer, Marge. “Red meat linked to increased risk of type 2 diabetes.” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. News, Press Releases, August 10, 2011. Web. 15 March, 2016. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/red-meat-type-2-diabetes
Chen, G-C, et al. “Red And Processed Meat Consumption And Risk Of Stroke: A Meta-Analysis Of Prospective Cohort Studies.” European Journal Of Clinical Nutrition 67.1 (2013): 91-95. Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition. Web. 15 Mar. 2016. http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.libproxy.scu.edu/ehost/detail/detail?sid=1d17894a-54d4-4124-97d8-1dd7176288c7%40sessionmgr4003&vid=0&hid=4205&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=84649117&db=hch
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2009. Print.
Wallace, David Foster. “This is Water.” Kenyon College. 2005. Vimeo, Patrick Buckley. Web. Accessed March 15, 2016.
“Q&A on the Carcinogenicity of the Consumption of Red Meat and Processed Meat.” World Health Organization. October 2015. Web. March 15, 2016. http://www.who.int/features/qa/cancer-red-meat/en/