A More Humane Advocacy: Some suggestions

Recent posts on this blog have suggested that there are problems with the way we try to advocate.   Specifically we spend so much time attacking each other, spend so much time consumed with how much we can’t stand each other that what we stand for comes in a very poor second place.   I have used metaphors like a circular firing squad and cannibalism to describe what appears to me as a movement bent on self destruction.

The post linked below was posted a couple of weeks ago and the response has been loud and far reaching. The concerns I shared are shared by many. If you have not read “Surviving Yourself….” I urge you to do so before you go further with this post.

On surviving yourself: the challenge of advocacy

Here are some of my suggestions towards a more humane advocacy:

A humane advocacy is based on 4 things being true.

1. People believe there is something in it for them. This can be many things. It may be involvement in a cause that matters but is also much more than that. It may offer recognition. It may offer a chance to grow and develop. It may offer a chance to belong, to make a difference, to matter. Maybe at some point it offers little more than a chance to be listened to. Regardless, in some way, in some sense people get something from involvement.

2. There is something they can give. People believe they make a difference and many times the feeling of meaningful contribution is more important than anything they get. People buy into things, they persist in things when they feel like what they do matters. You dont keep doing what doesn’t matter.

3. People believe it is safe. They may face problems. What they do may be difficult but that is not what I mean by safe. There is a degree of trust in the people you are involved with. There is an expectation that you do not need to fear them or be on guard. It is safe to think, to say and to do. Without that you quickly lose sense in the integrity of the cause you are advocating for.

4. They believe someone cares. What happens to them is as important as what they advocate for. They are liked, respected and honored.

The problem with this movement is too often people come to believe there is nothing in it for them, there is nothing meaningful for them to contribute, it is not safe and in the end no one really cares about them. And they burnout, withdraw, and leave. And the question remains can a movement which kills it’s own survive and make any kind of real difference? Or is it destined for impotence and irrelevancy?

The simple answer is we must convince people we matter, that they matter, that being involved is safe and that people care about them.

The hard answer is how.

I don’t claim to have any great answers but I think it starts with safety. The most common feedback I heard from earlier posts was this. It isn’t safe. It hasn’t been safe for a while. And it is getting less and less safe.

We spend more time fighting about what separates us and we are becoming more divided. We spend less time on what connects us and are less connected. We take disagreements personal and make disagreements personal. We want people to understand where we are coming from but are too often intolerant of those who expect the same from us.

I wonder how many people in this movement feel there are safe places in it? I wonder how many feel this is at times far too much a competitive sport and far too little a cooperative or cohesive venture? I really do wonder. Do you?

Something to get. Make it matter.

Something to give make us matter.

Make it safe.

Know that someone cares. I am valued as a person. I am listened too.

Between 1 and 10 with 1 being never true and 10 being always true how would you rate yourself on these questions?

Is it even worthwhile to even consider a more humane advocacy? Is it making something about nothing?

I would be okay with being wrong. But should not people who advocate for a more humane and person respecting system not be able to model that same behavior with the people who share their concerns and commitments.


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