Causes can be a great rallying point for humanity. When people band together around an ideal there is scope for them to achieve a lot and overcome some pretty large odds. In fact causes are an opportunity for people to work together to change prevailing circumstances or attitudes.
There are times, however when this can go spectacularly wrong and in my experience this is usually when logic is abandoned in favour of fanatical idealism. Idealism without the fanatical aspect is a good thing because it allows us to imagine how things don’t need to stay as they are and could in fact be much better. However it is always important to overlay a certain logical template on your idealism to ensure it has not become, to use the current term du jour, a dopey idea.
I have been watching the unfolding or rather the unravelling of what would have begun as an earnest and worthy cause lately that is just such an example.
All causes have their wacky end of the spectrum and therein lies a dilemma for those more level headed members of the cause. Namely who do you let in and who do you run a mile from? There will be times when this will be a hard call to make; but if you care about your cause there are times when you will have to make it.
The reality is that extremists tend to marginalise your cause and give it a generally unacceptable public face. Nobody knows this better than the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand. Like many groups dedicated to social change they began by accepting all sorts into their organisation. But because most of their policies were outside the existing mainstream this meant they attracted a lot of fringe dwellers and (let’s face it) a fairly good sprinkling of loonies as well. Although having said that; in the current climate it would be hard to imagine that we thought some of those Green Party members that were, shall we say; less helpful to their cause were actually loonies when you compare them to some of this current Government’s support parties.
However the point is that the Green Party grew up a bit and a more savvy leadership emerged that knows and understands that to win a cause you have to win popular support. This does not mean you have to pander; it simply means you have to find less scary and flaky ways of making your point. It also helps if you can keep your cool and remain firmly placed up there on the moral high ground. I used to be involved with a fairly feisty and effective community organisation a few years back and we always worked on the principle that you achieve far being firm and not backing down from your cause but by remaining calm and reasonable you would leave a far better and more effective impression than a screaming rabble ever does.
It is this realisation that accounts for the outstanding electoral performance by the Green Party in the 2011 elections. Their policies have always been more mainstream than most people realised but many couldn’t see that because of some of the loopier characters who hogged the limelight and diverted attention by their very fringe-dwelling status away from the real issues. The wacky extremists became the darlings of the media who too often like to print something a bit salacious and ‘oo-er’ rather than something of substance.
What actually brought this subject to mind was an incident this week involving two causes that I think both need to get a bit more organised and define themselves better so they don’t become defined only by their loonier supporters. The two causes are veganism and animal rights. Both are worthy causes – I am a supporter of animal rights and I have been a vegetarian (although not vegan) for almost 40 years - but both are heavily promoted by some of their more fanatical supporters. Some of these people are by their conduct simply alienating the majority of the public through their strident aggression with the result that the validity of their cause is being lost.
I have been watching with increasing dismay a series of postings on both subjects that are little more than hatred against a large group of people. If the object of their spleen was women, disabled people, gays or a specific religious or racial group they would be prosecuted for stirring up such hatred against those groups. It is one thing to disagree with someone, or to mock them or even severely criticise or chastise them; but it is counter-productive to your cause to simply heap abuse upon them. That only results in the wider public viewing you and your followers as a bunch of uncouth hooligans and your cause as a lunatic fringe thing that no normal person would want anything to do with.
Another thing I have lately has been serious disconnect between the stated aims of some of these ‘activists’ and their behaviours. For example it seems rather stupid to post every single peace clip you can find while spewing vile spleen upon everyone who doesn’t subscribe to your viewpoint. That is hardly the stuff of a caring sentient being. But what gave me the idea for this blog this week was the last in a series of really bizarre contradictions I have been observing from someone who claims to be a fervent (or is that fevered) supporter of animal welfare. I had seen postings about how much they cared and so I was a bit puzzled a while ago when I learned this person had ‘rescued’ a couple of mice that had entered their house. The animals weren’t injured; it was just that the rescuer didn’t want to release them to be eaten by a cat or dog or actually dispatch them themselves. Rescuing mice is a rather odd concept in my opinion to start with, but there were more surprises in store for me when I learned this person was keeping said mice in a cage and running around a little wheel. I am pretty certain the mice were not consulted before being thrust into this pointless existence, which tends to look like their rights didn’t get a look in that time.
But what really blew my mind this week was when I saw a posting championing a vegan diet for dogs as being the best and most natural way to feed them. Duhhh! I drew the poster’s considerable ire when I pointed out the stupidity of this claim. I got ‘dumped’ for suggesting that to feed a dog on a vegan diet was actually animal abuse as they are not designed for that.
Oh well such are the slings and arrows of Outrageous Fortune or some other Westie programme. I suppose I could have been more direct and said if I found somebody forcing their dog onto a vegan diet I’d take them prisoner and force feed them on some equally inappropriate diet but hey, them’s the words of loonies. (Shutup in the back)