Back in my youth, I spent a while -- only a short while, thank somebody -- selling encyclopedia. I wasn't a salesman, but I didn't really need to be: We had a finely-crafted, psychologically-constructed pitch we were taught. If we could get past the door and deliver it, chances of a sale were between one-in-three and half the folks we saw.
The guys who were good at it? Seven, eight of ten, week in, week out. These guys drove new Cadillacs every year.
These were not cheap encyclopedia, my friends, they were Americana, and in today's dollars? Probably a couple grand, U.S. (Except today, you can get online and do better, faster, and waaay cheaper.)
How the pitch worked was simple: If a salesman could get the sucker -- er, customer -- to answer "yes" to the first question he asked, then they were pretty much nailed into answering "yes" to every question that followed. It was a classic example of "Slippery Slope Sales," and once a customer lost his or her footing, they would slide on their ass all the way to a commission in the salesman's pocket.
The first question? "If I gave you these books, for free, would you use them?"
Anything but "No," the sales guys were playing with a stacked deck and somewhere between a third and half of the people upon whom they ran the grift -- ah, made their sales pitch -- would be writing them a check before they left.
Couldn't do it today. Many, of not most states, have a no-questions-asked-you-can-void-the-contract period of three days or longer for such transactions, and rightfully so.
It was a con. Once I got past the ends-justifies-the-means -- hey, it's a great product! they are getting their money's worth! -- I quit, and it didn't take long. Because the next bit started out, "Okay, we are looking for folks to showcase our product in your neighborhood, and so we are going to give them to you for free ..."
After the hook, the catch, which was that the encyclopedia were free, but you had to agree to keep them current by buying a year book for ten years -- at a mere forty bucks a year, and since that was a pittance, why wouldn't you do that ... ?
Of course, you don't want to drag it out for ten years, so you can, you know, just pay it off up front ...
And if the sales guy couldn't get that to happen, he wrote it up, and later somebody from the company would call and allow as how the salesman had made an error and the deal was off.
Now back then I was just out of high school and into college and not wise in the ways of the law, but any way you slice it, that is fraud.
Draw the curtain over the young man so broke he needed to sell encyclopedia to make ends meet, but not so broke he would keep doing it at the cost of his soul. (And if you ever get a chance to see Tin Men, with Richard Dreyfus, Danny Devito, and Barbara Hershey, about aluminum siding salesmen, do so. It was pretty much just like that.)
You can also do it the other way, using a negative response. Say "no," and the slope turns to icy mud beneath your feet.
Which brings us to becoming a vegetarian.
How on Earth, you ask, is he going to make that segue?
Attend -- but forewarned -- you might not like where you wind up:
Most people in a relatively-civilized society don't practice cannibalism. Ask yourself, would you eat long pig? If you would, that pretty much makes you a monster anywhere outside a plane crash in the Andes, so probably most of you don't eat it now, and wouldn't, given a choice of it or shrimp at your neighbor's barbecue. (If you do eat people, I don't want to hear about it. Nor about your neighbor. Go away.)
Now, what other creatures would you have trouble broiling and keeping down? Chimp? Dog? Cat? At least in this country, such diets would be, um, frowned upon, and if you did it, you'd probably not be bringing it up in polite company. (If you do it, go away -- maybe the cannibals will have you, or you can get your own show on The Travel Channel: Eating Weird Shit.)
At some point, when I had German Shepherd Dogs, I looked at them and realized that they were not people in dog suits, but certainly sentient enough that I saw them as individual beings.
They had feelings. They were loyal. They were nicer to be around than a whole lot of people I knew, and I considered them my furry children. They were smart. Watch a herding competition or agility or rally. There's one border collie so bright that when asked to fetch a toy that had never been named before, figured out it by the process of elimination -- he knew the names of all the other toys, and what they wanted wasn't them, so that's what he fetched. I know people who wouldn't figure that out.
They dreamed. I could watch them running in their sleep, barking softly as they went.
I could not conceive of killing and eating one of my dogs even if I were starving. I drew the line there. If you love your dogs and accept them as I did mine, then you understand this. If you don't, I feel sorry for you.
If my dogs were sentient and intelligent critters I wouldn't eat, then I found myself in a place where I couldn't really kill and eat somebody else's dog, either. Not for them, but for the sake of the dog.
Okay, so that's fine, dog-people are still with me, probably cat-people are: We don't eat Tabby and Fido, so what? Where are we going with this?
Ah. But then we come to pigs. Pigs are as smart as some of the primates, some research contends, and as bright as a three-year-old human child, other studies offer. Easily as swift as dogs, and maybe smarter.
Pigs, like dogs, dream.
Well. If I can't eat a dog because I am of the mind that killing something relatively sentient and eating it is, well, not something I feel good about, then how can I continue to chow down on ham and bacon? They don't spring full-born from the aisles of Safeway in a shrink-wrapped plastic tray, but from animals that were shot in the head and then cut up. They aren't as cuddly as Jude and Layla and Ballou, though the pot-bellied ones are cute, but probably as smart and, uh ...
Slope. Slippery. Sliding.
Hmm. What about ... cattle? Do cows dream? Do they feel pain? Care for their young? Not up there in the IQ bracket with pigs, but warm-blooded, bearing their calves alive, suckling them, and probably not thrilled to be herded into the slaughterhouse ...
Yeah, pork chops and sirloin steak and all, and I love them, but all of a sudden, if you start thinking about shit like this, the slope, slope, holy crap, I'm sliding ...
Turkey? Chickens? Fish? The most holy of delicacies ... shrimp?
Well, okay, there the line is a little fuzzier. Having been around turkeys and chickens, we aren't talking about African Grey Parrots here, poultry are not the Einsteins of the avian world. Brain power is dim at best. I don't know if it is true that a turkey can drown looking up at the rain, but certainly the domestic versions of those and chickens are ot-nay oo-tay ight-bray.
Fish? Don't seem too swift. Shrimp. C'mon, they are good-tasting bugs, but I can see that once you start down that path, each step can lead to the next, and pretty soon you are to the don't-eat-nothing-with-a-face-on-it stage.
Which is to say, i.e., a vegetarian.
And, it gets worse. If you believe the way animals are treated to produce eggs, cheese, butter, milk, all like that is passing terrible and you don't want to support it -- and outside free-range critters, the industry is pretty damned awful, and we all know this but don't like to think about it, then you slide right on along to:
And it's the Thanksgiving Tofurkey ...
It's a disturbing path, I warrant you, and most of us stop after people, dogs, cats, and Tarzan's sidekick, Cheetah.
Where you draw the line is, of course, your own business. But it is -- pardon me, but I have to say it -- food for thought. And while Socrates allowed that the unexamined life is not worth living, in some cases the examined life is probably not going to taste as good.
You want fries with that?