Monday, April 23, 2012

Tempering My 'Enthusiasm'

Despite postings I have made on both critical thinking and avoiding fallacies of reasoning, I am well-aware that my own thinking and writing sometimes fall far short of the standards they demand. In my deep and abiding contempt for the neoconservative agenda and the simplistic, uni-dimensional thinking of its adherents, I realize that I at times resort to the same kind of demagogic tactics they employ, and while finding it hard to apologize for those lapses, I realize that little is accomplished by such outbursts other than a measure of ephemeral personal satisfaction.

I started thinking about this topic today after reading an article in this morning's Star entitled Connecting with nature is the key, activist learns. Unfortunately, the article is not on the Star's website at this time, so I will briefly summarize the salient points.

The piece, written by Stephen Bede Scharper, revolves around environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill who, in the 1990's, spent more than two years on a platform atop a thousand-year-old redwood tree in an effort to save it and some of the surrounding area from a clear-cutting operation. She ultimately succeeded in reaching a deal with the Pacific Lumber Co. that achieved her goal, but the journey to that achievement was both an arduous and instructive one.

Enduring the worst from both Mother Nature and human nature during her two-year battle atop the redwood, she went from being regarded as a kook by the workers to someone they developed a respect for. How did this happen? The turning point seems to have occurred shortly after a hail of gunfire whizzed around her platform, and Hill asked the workers if they felt better for venting their anger. This led to a discussion about how she ate and how she secured her food, after which the workers apologized for the fusillade and left.

Three weeks later they returned, this time with gifts of organic fruits and vegetables which they loaded into her rope-lifted basket. The lesson learned here? It was a seminal one for Hill: constructive engagement. Instead of being self-righteously strident, she began to see there was more value in being 'effective', i.e., learning to connect with those who opposed her.

Is this approach possible in the political battles we face in Canada against the forces of neo-conservatism? I don't know. My gut tells me there is little chance of success with that tact, but on the other hand, what are we accomplishing right now with simple denunciation and denigration, both of which, I readily admit, feel very good to practise?

Are there, indeed, better ways to try to achieve our goals?

Should this story later be posted on the Star website, I will provide a link.

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