Alexander Fufaev
My name is Alexander FufaeV and here I write about:

2015-2019: My First Relationship and the Transformation to Vegetarianism

In the winter semester of 2015, I successfully completed the first semester, recharged with fresh energy and thanks to the collaboration and exchange with my fellow students, and passed all my exams at the first attempt.

The highlight of the semester was an evening lecture by Harald Lesch at our university. Back in the sixth form, I used to watch Alpha Centauri at lunch after school, where Mr. Lesch presented lots of exciting facts about the origin of the universe and the cosmos. I was a big fan of his, so I was all the more pleased to be able to experience him live for the first time. His lecture gave me a boost of motivation for the next semester.

I also passed all the required modules in the second semester. Of course, it was very stressful having to hand in several challenging exercise sheets every week. But I also met up diligently with the others in the second semester to master the tasks together. Working in a team at university was the key to my success.

Future learning from restarting my studies: If I were to start studying physics or a similarly demanding subject from scratch, I would always team up with other students to survive the foundation course.

No more BAföG

Summer semester 2015. During the summer semester break, I received a letter from the student union saying that I would no longer receive BAföG because I had not completed all the necessary coursework within the first four semesters. I was very upset by this news because I was dependent on BAföG to pay for my coursework, books and other university expenses. I therefore wrote a letter to the administrator to explain to her that I had been in a difficult phase of my life in the first two semesters and was therefore unable to pass any modules. I asked her not to cancel the BAföG because I didn't want to stop studying physics because of this. But, as the case worker told me, my letter was useless without an official certificate from the doctor. From the next month, I no longer received BAföG.

In order to be able to pay the upcoming tuition fee of four hundred euros for the coming semester, I called on visitors to my website to help me. In the meantime, I had converted my website into a pure physics website and added a lot of new physics content. As a result, I reached an average of eighty thousand visitors a month from Google alone, while my YouTube channel had over ten thousand subscribers.

In a diary entry, I reflected on my situation: what if I hadn't had the support from the previous donations? What if I hadn't been allowed to live with my mother during my studies? Then I would have been forced to work at the supermarket checkout alongside my studies or create websites for other people. For some subjects, you would certainly have time for that on the side. But how could I have managed such a demanding subject as physics if I had to spend half my day earning money to study and survive? I certainly wasn't in a position to do so.

One thing was certain: in order to receive BAföG, my parents had to earn a little. My mother was already doing that. But I also had to be emotionally stable and do everything right from the start in order to complete the benefits on time. I had probably failed on this point. If I wasn't able to get the money for the tuition fees together in time, I would be exmatriculated in the middle of my studies.

The worry of not being able to pay the next tuition fee and thus being de-registered made me invest more time in my website in order to hopefully increase the income from donations. I definitely didn't want to work at the supermarket checkout or stock shelves there, even though it would have been very helpful financially at the time. I wanted to do work that I wasn't just doing to earn money, but that also seemed meaningful to me. And my work on the website felt very meaningful because I was helping thousands of students. Many physics teachers also wrote me emails and asked me if they could use my self-drawn illustrations in class, for example. Unfortunately, their gratitude was not enough for me to lead a financially carefree life.

Then I continued the situation in a diary entry with a thought experiment: Imagine a world in which all footballers disappeared from one day to the next. In this world, people would now have to entertain themselves with other things, with basketball, books or television. Now imagine another world in which all refuse collectors boycotted their work from one day to the next. All the streets would be flooded with garbage because no one would dispose of it. All the big cities would descend into chaos.

The work of a garbage collector is more essential to the existence of our civilization than the work of a professional footballer. However, a professional footballer is paid millions, while a garbage collector earns many orders of magnitude less, even though he performs work that is more relevant to society than a footballer. Even if the garbage collector worked twenty-four hours a day without breaks, he would not even come close to the salary of a good footballer.

So there was little point in working twenty-four hours a day on the website during the semester break, creating free and ad-free content. Even if, according to the emails and comments, I was doing important work, it was not directly linked to a leap into a financially carefree life, as in the case of a garbage collector.

This realization led me to go against my principle of "free, ad-free knowledge for all" and place ads on my website in order to generate revenue to pay for my tuition fees.

Physics is no longer fun

Winter semester 2015 / 16. The first four successfully completed semesters made me very tired, so much so that I sometimes didn't enjoy physics at all. I liked to play truant from time to time and work on my website instead. But I couldn't afford to miss many days, because even a single absence felt like I had reached the event horizon of a black hole, and another absence from the lecture would inevitably and irreversibly plunge me into this black hole.

Luckily, there was a fellow student, Jule. With her help and her extraordinarily good explanations, I also managed the next few semesters. Jule was the person I spent the most time with during my studies. She was also the one who sent me the most messages. As a result, I paid more attention to her than anyone else. She always sat next to me when working on the assignments in the group and we always handed in the exercise sheets together.

One day, we arranged to meet to work on an exercise sheet in her shared flat. She lived with Marie, who wasn't there on the day of our appointment. Sitting on the sofa in the living room, both bent over the table, I explained my solutions to Jule. After the first task was completed, I turned to her without hesitation and kissed her directly on the mouth without being asked. It was so surprising, even for me, that I didn't know how to explain the kiss once it stopped. To avoid having to explain it, we kissed for a whole hour. The next morning, I had sore muscles in my face. But instead of a slap, I got Jules' heart.

From that day on, we were more than just fellow students. I visited Jule more often. After working on the notes, we cooked together. During her free ecological year, she had to move out of her parents' house and taught herself how to cook. She was very good at it. As soon as she sautéed onions or garlic, I couldn't take my nose off the pan.

When she was eating or washing up, I liked to pester her with questions. No matter what I asked her, she could always give me an answer - whether it was a question about the household, her studies, history, philosophy or any other topic. And if, for once, she didn't have a clue, she thought up the answer so logically that it could easily pass for the right one.

From day to day, our love intensified and strengthened. Of course, there were also low points - both personally and in our relationship, which sometimes caused our love to crumble, but we got through these phases together too. Every time I felt down, Jule was able to cheer me up. I also always gave her a hug when she burst into tears because of all the stress at university. When there were low points in the relationship, we talked about the problem and were always able to get it out of the way. We stuck together in every situation and comforted each other.

One of the most important things I learned from Jule was environmental awareness. She showed me that our consumer behavior and our way of life in general were very bad for the future of the earth. I had never thought about this before, whether it was about my daily meat consumption, the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the climate or the pollution of the oceans with plastic. The impact of my behavior on the environment had never been tangible to me before: I couldn't see the CO2 in the air, it wasn't like visible smog. I couldn't see the suffering of animals in factory farms either. Instead, I was presented with fake images of happy cows in the meadow at the supermarket. The eco-terrorists lurking around in the YouTube comments section also robbed me of the motivation to look more closely at these issues and rather reinforced my conviction about meat consumption. In my eyes, many of them were total nutcases. Their offensive arguments made me feel as if they thought they were better people. There was no way I wanted to be like them.

Jule was different. She didn't frantically try to rub my nose in her point of view and convince me of her lifestyle. But more importantly, I loved Jule. That was the decisive reason why I began to broaden my horizons and want to understand my beloved. Through love, Dasha was also able to easily convince her boyfriend Tobias to become a vegetarian. Through love, Dasha, Lauri and I were also able to convince our mother to become a vegetarian. If you are of Russian descent, then you surely know how impossible it is to convince a Russian mom (or even more impossible: grandma) that pelmeni with smetana or fried chebureki with beef are neither morally nor ecologically justifiable. Only in combination with love can arguments change a person most quickly and lastingly. Dasha, Lauri and my love for our mother achieved the impossible!

People I have dealt with so far have often not been receptive to arguments when it comes to changing their identity. Even some physics students, who should be open to good arguments, were not willing to change their lifestyle. They laughed at my arguments and continued to eat currywurst with chips in the canteen. It seemed as if they were only open to arguments in one particular area, namely science, but not in other areas, especially when the arguments challenged their own lifestyle.

It is often easier to convince someone of a certain point of view by being a role model yourself and showing tolerance and love, rather than with confrontational arguments. This is true regardless of whether you want to convince someone of a vegetarian lifestyle, an alternative world view or something else. Once I realized this, I focused on making my vegetarian lifestyle attractive to others by successfully exemplifying it. I began to tolerate and respect other views and worldviews. I met everyone with understanding and over time developed the ability to learn from other lifestyles and worldviews in order to optimize my own lifestyle and worldview.

Jule also got me to finally do some sport. I attended a karate course with her at Unisport, where we even took our yellow belt exam together. She got to know my family and I got to know her family, with whom I went on vacation to Spiekeroog. Jule even met Galya, with whom we had arranged to meet in Prague during a vacation.

Alexander Fufaev in Prag 2019 auf dem Tretboot Prague 2019 with Galya and Jule

Jule also knew that my website was my favorite hobby and even helped me design a logo for it during the semester break while I taught her how to work with Illustrator.

For my birthday, she gave me a beautiful black notebook with the title: "Always keep a notebook handy. You never know when inspiration will strike." On the first page was a message from Jule:

"Whatever you need this book for - ideas, diary entries, doodles, passwords... I immediately thought of you when I saw the quote at the front. So fill the pages with a new idea - then you're sure to win the Nobel Prize! Your love of life 3"

I filled the first few pages directly with the topic that Jule was always most concerned with: environmental awareness. With a little thought experiment, I tried to explain why factory farming and the immense consumption of meat in this day and age was no longer moral:

The thought experiment on dynamic morality

As a superior species, humans claim the right to decide over the lives of animals. Why is it so easy in this society to legalize the mass production and destruction of certain types of life? This is a question of morality: Is it morally justifiable to slaughter certain animal species? Unfortunately, I can only answer this question by definition, because what is morally justifiable and what is not is determined by man himself. In the past, it was morally justifiable for most people to keep slaves - but not today. The concentration camps in Germany were also legal in Hitler's time and, from the point of view of his fanatical followers, probably also morally right. In some countries, the death penalty is morally justifiable - but not in others. From a vegetarian's point of view, factory farming is not morally justifiable, but from the point of view of many omnivores it usually is. Perhaps the vegetarian used to be an omnivore and ate the meat from factory farming because it was morally justifiable for him. Today, he may argue instead with the principle "Act as you would like to be treated". The owner of a farm, on the other hand, argues according to the principle of benefit maximization: the pig is a farm animal and can therefore be eaten. A cannibal goes even further and does not even stop at his own species.

Morality not only varies over time and across people, it also appears to be derived from different principles. It is therefore difficult to reach a global consensus on which actions are morally justifiable and which are not. Let us therefore put ourselves in the position of a farm animal in a thought experiment and try to derive a better principle that will make it easier for us to decide whether our actions are morally justifiable.

One day, highly developed aliens invade Earth. They are so highly developed in every respect that it is impossible for humans and other species to resist. Our attempt to communicate with the aliens would be like a fly trying to communicate with a human. Just as the vast majority of humans feel no empathy for a fly, the aliens feel no empathy for humans.

Humans, like other creatures on earth, serve purely as entertainment for them. They like the screams of humans. The screams of pain of humans are the most beautiful sound the aliens have ever heard. That is why they artificially breed humans and connect them to the machines, which keep the humans alive so that they can always scream. The machine repeatedly pierces the human body and causes such hellish pain that the screams of all humans can be heard all over the world. The machine then tends to the wound until it has healed to some extent. Then the drilling starts again. But not with the male species, because their screams sound inferior, which is why they are only made to scream once until they subsequently die from the bleeding. The aliens have manipulated the human genome so that humans not only grow and heal faster, but also feel pain more strongly and therefore make a more beautiful sound.

At this worst time for humanity, who would fight to end our torment? Who would fight for our right to live without torment but the aliens themselves? Only the aliens would be able to stop the systematic breeding and exploitation of the human species. But why should the aliens do this if they have no empathy? Only for the reason that it would benefit them. But there is no benefit for them to stop exploiting humans. These aliens are obviously acting to maximize the benefits within their own species, without considering the resulting disadvantages to the less evolved species. In the same way, humans try to maximize the benefits for themselves and - despite their empathy towards the farm animals - accept the resulting disadvantages for the farm animals. However, when it comes to the question of cross-species morality, the question of whether it is morally justifiable to exploit animals, the principle of benefit maximization does not get us any further. In order to ensure the moral correctness of the aliens' actions from the perspective of the exploited human species, the serious disadvantages for humans must be minimized without causing serious disadvantages for the aliens.

Only when all species behave in such a way that the greatest disadvantages of all species are minimized has the maximum cross-species moral correctness been achieved. A morality in which the sum of all disadvantages of the species is minimized enjoys the greatest possible acceptance by all species. A morality accepted by the majority of all species can be regarded as the best possible cross-species morality.

But what if two species have an equal disadvantage? Let's assume that human screaming is able to heal mentally ill aliens. So a diseased alien is at a disadvantage if he stops making the human scream. Now both the alien and the human have a disadvantage. At this point, the amount of disadvantages is not minimal - but can be minimized in two different ways.

Firstly, the alien could accept its situation (which would be a disadvantage for it) without causing pain to the human. This option can be compared to the father/child situation in which the father - although he is stronger - sacrifices his life to save his child. This eliminates the disadvantage for the person, as he is no longer exploited. The minimum of all disadvantages would be achieved and the alien's actions would be morally correct.

Secondly, the alien could, because it is superior in every respect, eliminate its disadvantage by exploiting the human. But this would put the human at a disadvantage. This action by the alien would also be morally correct because the minimum of disadvantages is achieved. In this case, the alien gets rid of its disadvantage, while the human's disadvantage remains. In this case, the number of disadvantages is not zero, but it is minimal.

At a later stage, the aliens have developed a machine that can perfectly mimic human screaming. If the aliens nevertheless continue to exploit the humans, cross-species morality is no longer the best morality because the minimum of all disadvantages has shifted over time. The aliens have the opportunity to eliminate the human disadvantage without creating a disadvantage of their own. If they do this, they contribute to the best possible cross-species morality.

Humans could also contribute to this best possible morality by constantly rethinking and adapting their actions. When humans are starving, they have no choice but to hunt and eat other species in order to eliminate a life-threatening disadvantage. However, when humans breed millions of animals not for the sake of survival, but for the sake of pleasure, which can now be reproduced by plant-based alternatives, they are not acting according to the best possible morality, but according to a morality that is outdated.

I remembered the time at my grandparents' house when Uncle Sascha slaughtered a pig for the barbecue on birthdays. Of course, he couldn't ask the pig whether it had a disadvantage if we ate it purely for pleasure. But the pig has a nervous system that produces a disadvantage, namely pain, as soon as Uncle Sascha plunges the knife into the pig's neck. If we kill the animal, even though it would not cause us any harm if we didn't, then we are violating cross-species morality. In the context of this morality, this would be a bad act, because we could have eaten food for our birthday that felt no pain and therefore experienced no disadvantage.

My conclusion from this was that if I had acted morally right yesterday, I was no longer acting morally right today - for example, due to the countless meat alternatives available on the market. This is because both the progress and the prosperity that I had in Germany opened up new opportunities for me to act, with which I could further minimize the cross-species disadvantages and thus, at the current time, act morally right by not eating meat.

The more I looked into the subject of meat consumption, the more convinced I was of Jule's views. Over the course of our relationship, I got into the habit of eating less meat and later, even before Jule, became a vegetarian. When I told her about it, as soon as she had used up the little meat in the fridge, she became a vegetarian too.

In the first few weeks of being a vegetarian, it was a challenge for me to change the habit of eating meat that had been ingrained for years. But in hindsight, as it has shown time and time again in my life, the effort involved in changing your personality was worth it. Only by leaving my comfort zone was I able to grow personally.

After she converted me to an environmentally conscious person, I felt even more connected to her because we now shared common views on this. Of course, I knew that by becoming vegetarian and giving up most dairy products, the suffering of animals in factory farms was far from over, but it felt good to have less to do with it.

In the course of my life as a vegetarian, I have developed empathy towards insects. I used to feel no remorse about killing a fly that flew into the house or crushing a stray bug in the house. Nowadays, I can't imagine doing that anymore. I always try to free the fly and take the bug outside. In the case of flies, I've gotten into the habit of catching them by hand, as it's often difficult to shoo them outside. This way I get annoyed less quickly and the fly stays alive. My modest contribution to reducing species extinction!

By giving up meat, I have become a person who feels more empathy for animals, even flowers and trees. I began to appreciate the lives of other species more.

Future learnings from this stage of life:
  1. I will no longer rely on financial support from the state. I will always do everything I can to become financially independent.
  2. The easiest way to build up your first passive income and increase it immeasurably is to start a blog and write regularly about your favorite topics that solve other people's problems. In this way, you can build up a readership and ask them for donations.
  3. Another easy passive source of income is to start a YouTube channel and create videos about topics that help others. Then monetize the videos and earn more and more with each additional video.
  4. The more regularly I produce unique, helpful content, the faster I achieve financial freedom.
  5. If I could restart my life, I would start building my financial freedom as early as possible, while I was still at school, without wasting my time gambling.
  6. I became a vegetarian (2018) and started to take an interest in ecological issues.
  7. I have become more empathetic towards plants and animals. I don't kill insects that have strayed into my home, but catch them and take them outside.
  8. It is not arguments that convince people to change, but role models and people we love.
  9. A cross-species, more empathetic society is a vegetarian / vegan society.