Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Myth of the Unified Strategy

Greg Cunningham of CBR was quoted as saying:
A fear of confrontation, a business mentality and refusal to be “prophetic” are crippling the effectiveness of the pro-life movement around the world, a US based pro-life pioneer told last month. The pro-life movement as a whole is suffering from a lack of a unified strategy based on the fearless assertion of the horrific realities of abortion, said Gregg Cunningham, the founder and director of the Center for Bioethical Reform (CBR), at a private meeting of pro-life leaders in Rome.

Sometimes I wonder if pro-lifers know what a successful social movement looks like.

There's no unified strategy to any successful social movement.

You just get enough activists and people of clout in every sphere of life who influence enough people to change their minds.

That's all it is.

You want to know what a successful social movement looks like?

Turn on the t.v.. Go to a magazine rack. Survey textbooks. Look at the music hit list for the last five years.

Do you see the influence of your social movement, yes or no?

With pro-lifers, the main answer is no. We're doing better than we were, but there's still a huge way to go.

Do you think that people involved in a successful social movement are somehow led by some kind of "unified strategy?"


That's not to say there should be no strategy.

But I get the impression that people seem to think there's a silver bullet to all this.

It is true that there is a fear of being confrontational.

But do you know why?

Some of it is cowardice, but a lot of it has to do with the strategy of the 1980s.

Which was highly confrontational. And highly-non-successful.

Because we didn't have the cultural clout to pull it off.

And the pastoral approach, you might call it, was a means to build the clout we needed to be heard.

So yes, being liked became very important, and being disliked became anathema.

The average person's mental tableau of the abortion debate in the 1980s was two opposing protesters screaming past each other in ear-piercing screams.

Now I'm not saying CBR does that. Quite the opposite.

I'm just trying to contextualize why the pro-life movement tries to be more pastoral.

That's not to say we shouldn't be more prophetic.

But in order for the prophetic to work, there needs to be context that will make it successful.

Let me give you an example. Suppose a bunch of Hindu preachers came out of the woodwork and started preaching against Bad Karma.

Would that accomplish a lot?

No. Even if they show pics of cows being slaughtered, people like their hamburgers.

Because their preaching is foreign to their values.

I think we take for granted that the rest of the world accepts the humanity of the unborn.

Just yesterday, I was debunking, yet again, the "it's a blob of tissue" argument.

You'd think that one would have died by now, but no.

And even when you show a 12-week dismembered fetus, people do not believe in the child's humanity.

They think there's some kind of photoshop trickery involved. Those pictures are often "too good to be true" for the pro-life movement.

And then there's the phenomenon of overexposure.

People become so inured to these campaigns that they don't even care any more.

These prophetic campaigns have to have a context in order to function.

My fear is that one day, nobody will care any more. Precisely because we have not educated enouch and sufficiently emphasized the humanity of the unborn.

And not by another argument. I am all for arguments and facts. They help. Keep pushing them.

But have you ever noticed that successful social movements don't need facts and arguments any more? You don't have to argue them. They become part of the zeitgeist.

So you don't have to write the news anchor to tell him that a fetus is a baby, or that abortion kills a human being. The news anchor would automatically know that.

Replace the news anchor with the artist, the pundit, the historian, etc.

When values become accepted, you don't have to argue any more.

So here's what I'm trying to get at.

The way to get people to accept your values is to enter their intellectual, emotional and cultural space.

What do I mean by that?

I mean someone needs to found the Journal of the History of the Unborn Child.

And found arts collective devoted to pro-life art.

And found theatre groups that tell our pro-life stories, not just of abortion, but of activism, of confrontation, personal relationships etc. And create movies about that. And short stories.

The fight for the unborn child cannot only be about exposing abortion.

Because you can expose abortion, but if there's no cultural context for that, nobody will get outraged about it.

I want you to stop again and think about successful social movements.

They do exactly that.

Gays did not obtain gay marriage by talking about sodomy. They talked about love. They created narratives. Sure they argued. But they mostly worked on people's consciousness at other levels.

Same thing with feminists. Same thing with anti-racists.

I get the impression pro-lifers think that all we have to do is find the right leaders and we can win this thing.

It's not like that.

But what I find is that pro-lifers only want to do abortion.

Like doesn't anyone find the unborn child interesting in himself?

Does no one have any curiosity about the history of the unborn?

Does no one want to read or write stories about our ourselves, our activism, our political experiences, etc?

If our movement and what we are advancing is not interesting to ourselves, why should it be interesting to anyone else.

Now Greg also said:

Pro-lifers tend to prefer tactics to strategy,” he said, “and the tactics they prefer are those that are low risk, low cost, that they find either enjoyable or at least not off-putting.

Well a social movement has to be enjoyable. I want to believe that we're all saints, but the reality of human nature is that nobody is going to do this day in and day out without some kind of emotional pay off.

I don't want to slag Greg. He has some good points.

All I want to say is: there's more to this than exposing abortion.

There can be no real unified strategy. There can only be a sea-change.

This sea change does not come from changing public opinion alone.

In Canada, most people support the death penalty but there is zero chance of that becoming an issue right now.

Because even though public opinion supports it, there's nothing in our culture that pushes for that changes. It's not an interesting issue. If a Canadian politician were to introduce a bill to re-introduce the death penalty, it would face so much opposition from cultural leaders, that it would never make it past second reading because the cultural support for it is absent.

What we need to do, besides change public opinion is prepare the terrain, to borrow a French expression.

To not only establish the unborn child as a human being in the public sphere, but to influence all our institutions.

This is ultimately what will lead to the creation of fetal rights.