I love the idea of the Co-op. Not the place where we buy our books, but the place where 30 or so students live as a community: cooking together, cleaning together, and sharing a happy progressive experience. The atmosphere is warm and fuzzy. The people are nice and friendly. The cost is cheaper than living in the dorms. There’s only one problem. No meat.
Technically, you are allowed to have and cook meat at Dudley Co-op, but according to their website, “food at the Co-op is almost entirely vegetarian.” If I lived there, I would starve. I’m one of those people who eats meat at every lunch and dinner. In my opinion, and here I borrow a turn of phrase from University President Lawrence H. Summers, vegetarianism amounts to anti-Semitism in effect if not in intent, for as an ideology, it frowns upon those who love pastrami.
Eating meat is intrinsic to my identity. About a year ago, I decided to go on a quest to turn my stomach into a sort of Noah’s ark: I want to eat every species of animal (hey, it’s important to have goals). My theory is that if something was once warm and fuzzy, it will go well with A-1 sauce. Safe to say, some of my more radical friends did not approve of my carnivorous interpretation of the flood story.
In all seriousness, I would love to be able to live in communal housing of the variety the Co-op provides, but I am given no such opportunity because of their dietary policy.
The problem, of course, extends beyond Harvard housing and into the broader realm of progressive politics. It seems like in the good old days, to be a liberal meant that one supported things like the working class, the pro-choice movement, and justice in the third world. Somewhere down the road, however, animal rights got thrown into the mix. Now, it seems that the vegetarians have established themselves as the “liberal elite,” leaving us progressive carnivores to dine elsewhere.
Animal rights should be respected. But there are limits, and many activists have long surpassed them. When People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) launched its campaign comparing animal slaughterhouses to Nazi concentration camps that was the last straw. I have proudly joined the “I Hate PETA” facebook group and never looked back.
Some may doubt the sincerity of my arguments, thinking I am simply a hedonist motivated only by the taste of the Big Mac. But I think that the Big Mac is a useful example here, when we think of the oft-heard geo-political quip that no two countries with a McDonalds have ever gone to war. The Golden Arches have replaced the circled, upside-down Y with a line in the middle as the symbol of peace. Once the electricity is running in Baghdad, I think someone should open a Mickey-Dees.
Meat can serve as a great uniting force, as people black and white, rich and poor can come together around the barbeque for some delicious hot dogs and burgers. As it stands, the Co-op’s vegetarianism alienates those liberals like me whose support of a progressive agenda does not discount their love of hearty sausage. We want to have our steak and eat it too.
And what did the granddaddy of left-wing ideology, Karl Marx have to say on this issue? In his communist utopia, man could “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon [and] rear cattle in the evening.” Sounds like a pretty darn good life to me, and something tells me they wouldn’t be hunting tofu.
After Dubya’s re-election victory last November, it became clear that liberal politics in this country are suffering a great deal. Those on the radical left have become utterly disempowered. The solution, it seems to me, is to have a large tent, not a small one. And there’s room in that tent for some baby-back ribs.
In my ideal progressive living arrangement, there would be a vegetarian and vegan option at every meal, along with kosher and hallal options and alternatives for any other foreseeable dietary restrictions. But there would also be a George Foreman grill, and not just for grilled cheese sandwiches, but for burgers and chicken and steaks. In the springtime, we would smother our meats in savory sauces and celebrate the glory of humankind at the barbeque, all the while basking in the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from devouring delicious, dead animals.
David Weinfeld ’05 is a history concentrator in Quincy House. His column appears on alternate Thursdays.