Wednesday, July 09, 2008

On pro-life strategy

Dorothy Cummings, aka the Seraphic Single, wrote an op-ed in the National Post today on the tactic of using pictures of aborted babies.

I think that if the only strategy pro-lifers used were the dead baby pictures, she would have a point.

The truth is that in order for the fetal rights cause to triumph, pro-lifers must change the collective zeitgeist.

And you do not do that with one strategy.

She says that dead baby pictures "don't work".

Dead baby pictures do convert a few people.

But it's obviously "not enough".

Just like other tactics work on a certain number of people. And by themselves, they are not enough.

There is no silver bullet. There is no one tactic that will massively convert people to the pro-life cause.

People will be swayed by a variety of tactics, experiences and situations.

Pro-life strategy has to be multi-pronged. That is what has been missing in the pro-life movement in Canada.

I do not say this to put down traditional pro-life leaders. The fact of the matter is, the grassroots-- the average pro-lifer-- is who has let down the pro-life movement. Pro-life leaders have tried to do a lot with not a whole lot of help from the grassroots. The average pro-lifer is happy just to remain on the sidelines and not do much for the cause, for whatever reason.

One of the reasons for this is that average pro-lifers do not have a strong activist culture. Pro-lifers are usually regular folk. Their involvement in politics or other causes is limited to very traditional, non-controversial activities. Whereas on the left, activism is the heart and soul of the socialist movement. They know how to organize, mobilize, protest, petition and generally make a lot of noise for their movements in relatively effective ways.

Pro-lifers are not like that. Left-wingers play off the dynamism of various causes and movements. That's why they're able to mobilize so effectively. Pro-lifers are often isolated, not involved, not generally activist savvy.

And as a result, they don't know how to organize. They don't have the same sense of initiative. Where do you go to learn how to be an activist in this country? Luckily, I got some taste of it when I was in the NDP. I'm not saying I was especially good at it, but I saw how things happened. You certainly don't go to the Liberals or the Conservatives to be an activist, and you sure as heck don't learn it in the Catholic Church or other churches. If you're a pro-lifer who wants to get active and do something significant, you're on your own.

And that "being on one's own" is the tough part.

It's that isolation, that inability or unwillingness to try something different, to learn how to play the game that has been the Achilles Heel of the pro-life movement. I'm not saying this in a spirit of condemnation-- furthering a movement when you're an individual on your own, with perhaps 2 or 3 like-minded souls in your circle of friends is just not obvious.

That doesn't mean it doesn't need to be be corrected.

We need to learn to be activists and cultural leaders in order to change the zeitgeist. Once we change that zeitgeist, we can then look forward to the prospect of fetal rights legislation.

So to get back to the original article: it's not about one strategy. The dead baby pictures are not the real issue, in my mind.

The real issue is the ability of pro-lifers to network and to develop their own community and culture, to better able to appeal to the greater society and attract people to our cause.

What does that mean?

Besides becoming better activists, besides getting savvier at politics, it means creating our own culture and identity. It means creating our own music, literature, happenings, academic research, etc.

It means developing a pro-life everything.

Look at how other groups managed to further their agendas. They didn't just do it with protests, or slogans, or debates, or arguments. They did it with music, academia, movies, etc.

We're starting to do this, a little. But it will take a heck of a lot more than a Bella and The Passion of the Christ to do this.

The reality is that the pro-life movement will see success when a lot of fetal rights advocates take the intiative and create their own sort of pro-life effort. We will still need people in the "traditional" areas of activity: activism, politics, education, prayer, outreach to pregnant moms. But we need more people doing the cultural/academic thing as well.

When we reach a certain threshold of activity in all these spheres, we will begin to see a change in the zeitgeist. We will create the necessary momentum and form the necessary elites to push through the fetal rights agenda.

This is all very do-able, if grassroots pro-lifers decide that they want it badly enough and are willing to dedicate themselves to this task in the long-term.

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