Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mark Steyn quote explains the problem for pro-lifers

Mark Steyn:

The United States has not just a ruling class, but a ruling monoculture. Its “truth” and “facts” and “science” permeate not just government but the culture, the media, the institutions in which we educate our children, the language of public discourse, the very societal air we breathe. That’s the problem, and just pulling the lever for a guy with an R after his name every other November isn’t going to fix it. If Hollywood’s liberal, if the newspapers are liberal, if the pop stars are liberal, if the grade schools are liberal, if the very language is liberal to the point where all the nice words have been co-opted as a painless liberal sedative, a Republican legislature isn’t going to be a shining city on a hill so much as one of those atolls in the Maldives being incrementally swallowed by Al Gore’s allegedly rising sea levels.

--Mark Steyn, After America, p. 57

Convert all the American references to the corresponding Canadian ones, and you have what pro-lifers are up against.

We should all, of course, vote pro-life. But that's not the be-all end-all of fighting for the culture of life.

In order to have a culture of life, we have to convert the culture.

We don't just need pundits. We don't just need activists.

We need to create the pro-life version of every cultural product and institution that people deal with on a daily basis, so that whatever there is out there, there are always life affirming choices. A variety of them.

Pro-life culture is small right now in Canada. Microscopic even. How many pro-life cultural figures-- non-activists-- can you think of?

If you can name any in a field, you can name all of them.

Most people aren't political. Most people change their minds through repeated exposure to the same ideas in the stories they see on television and in the movies. Most people don't like to be in the moral or political minority. Most people want to have respectable views. Most people don't give much thought to abstract ideas.

So while pro-life activism and punditry is necessary and useful, the most efficient way to transform the culture is through the mass media and entertainment.

Much easier said than done. I get that. 

What I'm trying to do is get pro-lifers to stop thinking purely in terms of activism and electoralism. I want them to be rid of the mentality that says if we only give the right arguments, if we only show the world what abortion looks like, if we only get the right politicians elected, then we can end abortion.
Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying we shouldn't debate abortion, or show aborted babies or elect pro-life politicians.

What I want people to understand is that in order for prolifism to win we need a great multitude of means to advance our ideas. Notice the word "multitude". There is nothing more stupid than pro-lifers arguing about which tactic is best or more necessary. Like the argument about whether pro-lifers should be praying at abortion clinics or debating abortion or showing abortion pics or whatever. We need them all. People change their minds through repeated exposure.

And the most efficient means of creating repeated exposure is through mass media.

People do not generally like the topic of abortion and they often don't like the debate. Stories are a means to safely explore the topic in a way that gives them a pay-off -- that of being entertained. So for instance they'll watch a cop show featuring an episode of a girl involved in an underage abortion, and they'll notice this or that detail about abortion, etc. The show wasn't about abortion, and the debate did not take place, and they really liked  the drama, but pro-life details still reached a mass audience. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Over and over.

This is how you change people's minds on a grand scale.

Canadian pro-lifers have a stupendous challenge in that regard, because our media is largely dominated by Hollywood.

 Television and movies are not the only influential cultural venues out there. Education. Literature. Community Groups. Etc. These are somewhat more accessible for the average pro-lifer.

But in order for prolifism to triumph, we have to start thinking in terms of not just making an argument or converting others-- but of creating a community and an audience out of ourselves.

One of the most difficult things about pro-life activism is the isolation of many pro-lifers. I am metaphysically certain that just about every Canadian pro-lifer aged 30 or older has, at some point in their lives, been completely isolated in their beliefs, so that they were the only person they knew who wanted to do something about abortion, and they didn't know who to turn to for help and support.

This should not happen.

In every city and community across Canada, there should be a nexus of pro-lifers who form a community to which budding activists can refer to find a social network in order to get involved and maybe be a sounding board for their ideas.

That community of pro-lifers is weak in Canada.

Please don't misunderstand, there are lots of groups. But not enough of them, and not enough of them to constitute a actual community.

In Ottawa, the pro-life community is relatively strong, but if you're not in university or a very active church, you are on your own when it comes to trying to organize anything. 

And why is this relevant to my original comment on culture?

Because the lack of that community means a lack of audience. A lack of customers, a lack of people to sign up for whatever it is you're trying to organize or sell.

And if you don't have that community of thousands of people to support local initiatives, it's pretty hard to convert the culture. If you don't have your own culture, if you're not interested in your own culture, it's pretty hard to convert the wider culture to this non-existent entity.

So the point is that if we want to take the pro-life cause to the next level, we have to start thinking in terms of community and culture, not just politics and activism as necessary as those are.

We can't just think that truth in the abstract is what will win the day. It's human nature that people need a pay off for paying attention to and ultimately converting to pro-life ideas. We have to explore the ways in which we can influence the culture without the unpleasant arguments and screaming matches of the abortion debate in the past.