Friday, 15 June 2012

Come back! We can campaign about trees together!

I've been critical before of political groups and movements whose entire platform basically boils down to "we're not the Conservatives". They avoid setting out principles as much as possible to attract a broad audience - "a united left", or whatever - which works fine right up until they actually try to do anything.

The result is usually a group which is run by and for default people, and often one viewing political power as an end rather than as a means.

I bring this up now because there was [content note: heterosexism, especially in comments] a fine example yesterday of the intellectual knots one can get oneself into when attempting to run a campaigning organisation without reference to any underlying principles1.


The membership's desire to take action in favour2 of non-default people was a clear but not unanimous majority. This was hard to interpret, so we resolved to only take late, ineffective and partial action on the subject.

Despite the considered ineffectuality of our response, approximately 0.1% of the recipients of our call to action found it too much for them, and delivered us a series of insults, or even cancelled their subscriptions. Please tell us what you think. Should we have made our action even weaker, or not done it at all?

We don't want to lose important people over this! Please come back... We can campaign about trees together. We won't do it again...

Another example of why I strongly prefer campaigns which both start from and stick with their principles, then.

Footnotes and rambling digressions

1 Yes, I'm aware they claim to have underlying principles. Under both "defend fairness" and "protect rights" this one should have been fairly obvious (though see next footnote too).

2 There is of course a principled argument that marriage - either in its current form as a concept or in all forms - is itself harmful, and therefore to extend it to more people is to go in completely the wrong direction; instead, heterosexual marriage should be abolished. I very much doubt any of the objections received were along those lines.

Certainly, I would agree that in so far as the state needs to have a means of registering relationships between individuals, the model of "marriage", even opened up so that it does not require particular genders of the participants, is massively insufficient. Relationships between more than two people, relationships which desire some but not all of the legal statuses attached to "marriage", and so on, are not well-served by the current set up. This should not be considered the end of the reform process, though with the exception of those religions which would like to run religious ceremonies for marriages, it probably will be for quite some time.

I can also envisage societies in which the "state" either has no need to register relationships at all, or does not exist in such a form that the concept even makes sense. At least some of these social models would, for me, also be preferable to the current system.

Nevertheless, I think even if the long-term plan is to get rid of the concept of state recognised marriage (and remember that this digression is irrelevant to the main post, where that clearly is not the long-term plan!), the current concept has so many flaws that refusing to fix them in the short term is the wrong approach.

(See also: Andy's Miscellany: Marriage Equality and Primogeniture for a different analysis)