Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

I wrote a blog post today about how I see the problem of the exploitation of others as one that will not be solved in my lifetime. I don't think of myself as a pessimist, but as a realist. The reality seems to me to be that the kind of radical change our movement seeks can only happen by way of a sweeping cultural awakening. Individuals making changes in their own lives are obviously a huge part of the solution, but the very understanding of what it means to be human - and what it means to be other than human - is going to have to change. I think it's more like what the change might have felt like when people realized that the earth was not a stationary object in the center of the universe. Everything was different after that. Tellingly, some people still think the earth is unmoving and at the center of all things. Even big changes in how we think escape some people's grasp.

 

So what's the title of this post mean? Frustration in Action.

 

In my off-line life I am part of a little local group of advocates and activists who are trying to make an actual difference in the world. Certainly, I think there is much value in the work I do online, I hope that others find value in it too. But, it is good to meet with real people face-to-face, hand out literature, offer free vegan food samples, arrange for folks to visit sanctuaries, and just meet in person with other like-minded folks.


What the title to this post means is that most of us probably can't understand why everybody else in the world just doesn't get it. What could be simpler than not causing harm? What could easier than refusing to kill those who are most vulnerable? Not much, it seems to us. Why don't other people get it? More frustrating than that is why lots of people who do seem to get it don't seem to think that there's any reason to do much about it.


I've been thinkng about how group dynamics work, and I figure that groups follow the 80/20 rule. 80% of the people who join a group will not be active in the group and the remaining 20% will do the bulk of the work. Not very good numbers for a small group with only 5 members - one person will be left holding the bag!!


So, the frustration is really Frustration at INaction. Why would people join a group and then not do anything in it?A sociologist might be able to answer this question better than I, but I think that the 80% is doing something, and it something important.


They are doing whatever they can to say: I stand with you, I believe in your cause.

 

Not everyone can write blog posts, not everyone can hand out pamphlets, not everyone can demonstrate outside a circus. Lots of people don't see themselves as the kind of person who "makes waves". So they join a group, knowing that there are people willing to do those things they can't do. And by joining they gain strength. Perhaps being part of a group gives them the strength to speak to people at work, or to stick with the changes they’ve made in their own lives in the face of pressures, or to one day show up at a potluck with a vegan dessert. Just as we can’t really know which of the words we say or the things we do will help someone become vegan, we can’t really know what might inspire them to become more visibly active.


Rather than being frustrated at their inaction, we need to appreciate the action they have taken. They have identified themselves with a movement that has been ridiculed, marginalized, ostracized and now, even, criminalized. There is strength in numbers, they count themselves among our number and for that we should be grateful, as frustrating as it all might be.

 

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Comment by Patty Mark on May 28, 2011 at 13:45
Yes, thanks so much for this post tim and ditto to all the good comments.  Frustration is putting it mildly! But like tim points out, each and every supporter in the animal movement has their part to play even if it's solidarity - standing shoulder to shoulder.   We must never underestimate solidarity and the added strength this gives us all to keep moving forward.   for animals!
Comment by Sharron Woodward on May 27, 2011 at 8:13

I should just say 'ditto' to what Barbara has said.  I am with an organisation that has local branches that I am involved with.  There is so much frustration in only a handful of us being active whilst the others bring food & talk about vegan food during the monthly meetings.  We are not a vegan group we are an animal activists group. I am often cranky about the lack of action by some so this has come at a good time.  Sometimes I think belonging to the group is more of a status symbol than anything else. Now I will try to consider that what they are doing is valuable & perhaps all they can offer at this time. Glass half full I believe.......

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