Just Two Lessons Learned for Today
I've decided that 20 lessons is a good number to stop at, and today I'll discuss what are probably the two most controversial ones, about the animal rights movement.
The Appeal of Cliques
The first six Lessons Learned from 4 Years of Animal Person and numbers 7-10 hinted about cliques, but only the negative aspects. For me, preaching to the choir wasn't satisfying and also became ugly and time consuming because I positioned myself to be part of a clique and that didn't work well for me.
There's tremendous appeal in cliques. Particularly when vegans and animal rights advocates are a tiny percentage of the population, some find it necessary and desirable to go to a place where they are among friends (for the most part). There is comfort in a place where everyone is on the same page and uses the same language and the context is the same (more or less). Where the work of one or a couple of people is followed and promoted. I think it's great, given how hostile the world is to our minority opinions and lifestyle, that there are safe places, even if those safe places have ranting as their modus operandi. If that's what makes the people in that particular insider group happy, that's fine. To finally feel like you're among friends when most of the world–even people within the movement you belong to–appear to be on a different team, fighting a different cause, is a relief, and there's a place for that.
My only words of caution are about the image etched in the minds of the rest of the "movement" or the rest of the world, depending on the tone of the site. There's a substantial downside to creating a space characterized by bullying or venom. That downside is that it hurts the rest of the movement (which I suppose is the intention).
I bring this up because these are lessons I've learned about the way I did things and what I would change.
Don't talk about the future as if you know for sure what's going to happen.
We humans can't even agree on what happened in the past. To talk about the future as if we know what theory or strategy will lead to our goal doesn't make sense. I guess this is more about definitive statements. Saying that only nonviolence of a certain definition will lead to your goal isn't accurate. Maybe what you mean is: This is what I am willing to do in the service of this goal. And that's fine. But say that.
Also, as the mutual fund industry disclaimer says, "Past performance is no guarantee of future results." Things don't have to happen the way they did in the past, even given similarities of circumstances or tactics. We don't know whether further generations of welfare reforms might lead to us not using animals. We don't know that militant direct action (particularly given the national security climate) will lead us to not using animals. Again, all we can say is: This is what I'm willing to get behind because I believe in it and think it's the best thing for the animals (or whatever other cause).
I've come to a place where I don't want to spend my time talking about how other vegans aren't doing things the right way when billions of animals are dying.
After all, these are my lessons. And they'll conclude tomorrow . . .