Sunday, December 8, 2019

Against "Movement Building"

As I've mentioned before many times, despite enormous progress for humanity, there is just an unfathomable amount of suffering in the world right now. You could tell basically endless absolutely heartbreaking stories of suffering, both human and non-human.

But in my experience, we don't do the most good in the world by reacting to what story is most salient and compelling to us.

Similarly, just because someone is "learned" and can cite a bunch of other intellectuals doesn't mean they're right. I have talked with very well-spoken, highly-educated, dedicated, and compelling communists, socialists, libertarians, deep ecologists, climate deniers, 9-11 truthers, anti-vaxxers and anti-GMOers. I have heard "we have to smash the system," "we are raising awareness," "we are building the movement" for over 30 years. Reading through history, I see that these platitudes have been used to justify all sorts of actions that can, in the emotion of the moment, seem very compelling.

I rail against this because I was guilty of it. For many years, I promoted the quote attributed to Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has." Finally, someone pointed out to me that countless crazed lunatics (including white nationalists and other hateful fringe folks) have also cited this as their motivation.

So please, if you care about reducing suffering, don't tell me about your plans to overthrow the system or even "build a movement." There is just too much suffering to waste time on fantasies, no matter how compelling they seem and no matter how "dedicated" you are.

And now, to brighten the mood:

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