Friday, July 25, 2014

How not to fight your way through an open door

Every profession, every vocation, has its intellectual traps, and campaigning is not immune from them. 

Saying yes, yes, yes to campaigning - especially if you don't have enough of a hinterland of other ties and passions to balance it out - is also saying no, no, no to other possibilities. And too much campaigning - like too much of anything - petrifies thought and habit.

For campaigning is not always the appropriate response to every situation. Scepticism, a refusal to back down, a iron faith in your own correctness, the simplification of for and against: these tools and others may be useful or not depending on the matter at hand.

At our best. I've witnessed campaigners take a seemingly helpless situation and carry all before them. At our worst, I've seen us turn an amicable discussion into a squabble, undermine our own stated desire for a win-win situation; all because we couldn't switch off the instinct that has served us so well at other times.

This is one of the reasons why I think mindfulness should be a core part of our training as campaigners and organisers. We throw ourselves into the cause all too often without a moment's hesitation, before even considering how and whether the battle needs to be fought.

Somewhere in the hardening of the instincts the fight can be lost before we've even opened our mouths.

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