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A Stranger Here Myself: Take baby steps to live socially responsibly

I cheated last week.

After much deliberation, I broke down and feasted on some delectable barbecue from down the street. And I’m not talking about barbecued tofu, either.

Yes, the preacher has sinned. I am a sinner. What I’m not is remorseful, though.

If I’ve gathered one smidgen of useful knowledge from my forays into conservative dietary rules, reduced-waste living, animal-rights advocacy, and pollution-bashing egotism (among other ventures), it is that perfection is impossible.

No one can do it all. No one should expect to be able to do it all. No one can properly follow every “guideline” for social responsibility. We’re fooling ourselves when we think otherwise, for it’s when we try to take on entirely new lives summarily that we flounder.

I’m guilty of trying to live immediately guilt-free myself. When the journey began some time ago, it was an all-or-nothing attitude that I adopted. The odds against the species and planet seemed astronomical at the time (they still are, really), and a radical approach seemed the only possibility.

Now, older and wiser, it’s apparent that my approach was absurd.

My initial steps are still largely in effect. Actually, if I’ve lost one or two practices, I’ve probably gained a dozen new tenets for living. (Homemade almond and rice milk, anyone?)

It’s a delicate path of balancing practical living with necessary solutions. Sometimes — OK, often — those distinctions can be indiscernible.

On top of everything, going the full monty can be just plain threatening to others, too. I tell friends about vegetarianism and veganism with a wry joke or two to explain my battleground of a diet. What I’m sure they hear, though, is: “This isn’t fun at all.”

Moderate approaches to lifestyle changes (for the better) are the proper approach, as slow and tedious as they might seem. Better to have slow progress at this point than radicalism that sees almost no results. We’ve just got to make some kind of move at this point.

So, the cautionary tale overall is this: Realize that change is difficult. We all become entrenched in ideology, tradition, our own stubbornness, skepticism, cynicism and denial every so often. Begin with those easy achievements we’ve discussed; then slip on those more difficult shoes.

Know, too, that no one person can provide every answer to the problems faced in modern society. This column certainly isn’t the place for those answers but rather an outlet for the exploration of just a handful of problems I suggest remedying.

Keep an open mind, keep learning more about yourself, and keep striving to help others so, perhaps, all we’ve struggled to achieve thus far was not in vain.

It’s not hard to change the world, but it sure isn’t easy either.

Joseph Barbaree is a graduate student studying journalism and a columnist for The Post. Send him your plans to change the world at

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