Saturday, July 07, 2007

Reflections on The Great Canadian Wish List

Well, I'm back from vacation. I just wanted to reflect on the CBC's The Great Canadian Wish List.

Here is the coverage on the Friday before Canada Day:

Here is the coverage for the end of the contest:

H/T: Rootleweb for the videos.

I thought Marivel Taruc's intro was interesting, because she called the issue a debate about the unborn. Interesting tip of the hat to pro-life frameworking and phraseology.

I am amazed at how much coverage this contest got. I was expecting the CBC to cover it-- of course-- maybe an article in the Globe and Mail. This contest was the object of at least two dozen articles and mentions, both in the MSM, and in the "alternative" right-wing/social conservative press.

When I set out to rally for votes, I simply wanted to raise the issue of the rights of unborn children, and make people appreciate that there are still many people who strongly believe in fetal rights, even if mainstream media and politicians ignore them.

So: mission accomplished.

I think this has been a big morale booster, and I think it shows that we can be successful-- if we put in the effort.

I feel that there is a danger that pro-lifers may overstate the meaning of this contest. I think it was meaningful, especially to pro-lifers as a movement. It was an important psychological victory, in a movement that has not known a lot of success.

But it would be a mistake to exaggerate its importance.

In order for pro-lifers to be successful in the political arena, they must be able to accurately analyze the significance of an event. We must go beyond the rhetoric and truly understand what went on.

What occurred is that 9000+ pro-lifers were persuaded to sign up for a facebook account (if they didn't already have one), and make some mouse clicks to vote in an online contest.

That's 9000 out of population of 32 millions, including approximately 10 million pro-lifers.

This was a small event. We won it-- no doubt about it-- but let's keep its size in perspective. There were over 9 million pro-lifers who didn't participate.

Why is that? How come there are aren't, say, a million pro-lifers already hooked up and connected enough to vote in a contest at a drop of a hat?

Do pro-lifers want this badly enough?

I think what this shows is that for the first time in decades, pro-lifers want this story, this debate, this issue to come to the fore badly enough. I cannot tell you of how people worked on getting those votes-- me and others.

We very much wanted to win this contest. We wanted people to know that this issue is still important, and we're willing to stand up for the unborn.

I think this effort is largely due to a new generation of pro-lifers. Based purely on my interactions with pro-lifers of various ages, the older pro-lifers-- 50 and older-- have largely given up. The proof? The issue stays dormant. There are ten million pro-lifers in Canada--and they can't raise the issue?

They gave up. There's no other explanation.

I think the under forty crowd is much more adamant. It's true that there were voters who were over 40 on facebook, but they got on due to the UNDER 40 crowd. And even then, many didn't vote. It's all too complicated for them-- we all want to go to heaven, but no one wants to die.

I think the under 40 crowd has managed to create a network of pro-lifers that was cohesive enough, that, with enough effort, it was able to scrape together 9000 votes to win this contest.

We scraped together the votes. I ran out of people to email long before the end of the contest, and so did others I knew.

We had a functional network. This was the secret. If there is one thing I would like pro-lifers to learn from this contest it's this: keep a list of pro-life contacts.

What allowed us to win was the network and the desire to win, that spurred us on to innovative ideas.

But then there's the other side of the story.

There are about 20 million Canadians who favour legalized abortion.

Legalized abortion is upheld by a VAST network of people in various groups, structures and institutions: Schools, parties, unions, all manner of left-wing activist groups, websites, etc etc etc. I am virtually certain they have WAY more email lists, websites, blogs, etc.

Not only could they not "scrape" together the votes for a victory, but not enough of them cared to even bother voting.

It wasn't an important enough issue for them to get themselves worked up about it, even though it would mean their precious CBC would otherwise portray Canada as veering more social conservative.

In terms strictly of numbers and organization: pro-lifers should have been trounced. If one believes the rhetoric about Canada's commitment to legalized abortion, Canadians should have been all over this contest, denouncing anyone who would dare suggest that unborn children might have a right to life.

What this tells me is that if pro-lifers would DEVOTE themselves to networking and DECIDED that they wanted rights for unborn children more than anything else, they could move this issue forward.

It didn't take hundreds of thousands of Canadians. Just thousands in this case. A few thousand to decide that they were going to want unborn rights MORE than the other side wanted abortion rights.

The networking and the desire (and therefore the action) is what created success.

I feel that for too long, pro-lifers have waited for "someone" to "do something" about this issue. It's the typical Canadian mentality: wait for the elites to take the lead.

That's not how it's going to work. First, you, the individual pro-lifer must decide that more than anything in this world, short of your personal salvation, you want unborn children to have rights.

Then you will connect with others who think the same, and find innovative ways to promote those rights and lobby for them.

I know that the people who helped rally the voters are some of the most dedicated pro-lifers in Canada. It's the dedication and the know-how that led to victory-- in spite of the odds.

We won this little contest when we should have lost. But what's going to happen when the stakes are higher, like an actual vote? The opposition is not just going to sit there. They will also set into gear their mechanisms. We don't have to be more numerous-- it's clear that there is a lot of apathy on the legalized abortion side. And we know that a lot of that support is lip service based on the dominant political climate. But they have a lot of money and structures behind them.

So the lesson is: let's get more connected. Join facebook, Free Dominion, other websites and email lists. Start one. Heck, email me if you need help. Find like-minded people. Then DO something-- put out a blog, pro-life info, debate, etc.

Get the wheels turning. It is this connectivity, zeal and action that will win our cause in the end. We have to stop waiting for the Church and all the pro-life groups to do it for us. They can't.

I cannot underscore how important it is to want it badly. When two teams compete with one another, and they're about equal, it's the team that wants it more badly-- the one that is willing to do what it takes-- that will win. Even underdog teams will win if they are more ardent.

Among the reasons why abortion is legal in Canada, is that Henry Morgentaler was willing to go to jail for it. He wanted it so badly, he was willing to suffer jailtime to get what he wanted.

I'm not advocating you all break the law. I'm just trying to show how badly you have to want something in order to get it when you're up against a formidable opposition (and the opposition to Morgentaler wasn't THAT deep). If we can't want it AT LEAST as badly as he did, and aren't willing to suffer more and longer than the pro-aborts, we won't get what we want.

For too long, we've used too many excuses. But the truth is undeniable: if we want to win, we have to start putting the pro-life issue on a higher priority list in our lives and DO something. If we do not change our ways, then the issue will never be solved. The problem for too long is that when society closed a door, we didn't open a window. We didn't dig a tunnel or blow a hole through a wall. When the MSM shut us out, we basically twiddled our thumbs (except for Lifesite and a few other publications). When the Conservatives didn't want to have a fetal rights policy, we collectively sat on our hands. When we couldn't get in the schools, we didn't leaflet on the streets.

We let circumstances dictate our results, instead of changing our circumstances and taking things into our own hands. That's what desire does: it propels you to do what is different to arrive at your objective.

Getting back to the older topic: I think that we really want this contest to mean more than it means because we're looking for an easy victory. Understand that this contest was important for us, and it revealed many lessons. But we can't reduce the whole abortion debate and Canadian public opinion to this one contest. We can't be so hung up on this one contest, that we simply extrapolate favourable conclusions because it's easier than doing something about it. This is a very tiny, tiny step. This contest put the abortion debate on the radar for a small period of time. But this has done very little concretely to change the political landscape-- it's merely shown that abortion is important enough for us that we're willing to vote in a contest.

If we want a significantly more concrete result than this WishList contest, then we have to put in the corresponding amount of effort. The bad news is that we have a long ways to go. The good news is that this contest has shown that we can do it. I know what some are thinking: but the goal is so far away.

Again: the real factor that will decide whether pro-lifers win unborn rights is that we want this objective badly enough, on a collective level. If we use as an excuse that we can't win as an excuse not to try, we will produce a self-fulfilling prophecy. But if we want it badly enough, and we do those things to MOBILIZE and INFLUENCE public opinion, this facebook contest shows that WE CAN WIN.

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