Poking the Bear

SeleenaK_2011-10-21-14.38.17Yep, there are more than a few metaphors that warn of the same hazard. My grandma used to say that “if you play with the bull, you’ll get the horns”.  And there’s lots of truth in that.

I’ve blogged in the past about how “indifference” is our friend, and how backing someone into a corner to where they’re forced to take a side is rarely a good idea. But feel compelled to rehash the same old story.

It’s been said that 80% of the world thinks similarly about the basics of life. Ten percent think on each of the extreme ends of the spectrum. And they’re, of course, the most vocal. I tend to believe the ratio is more like 90-5-5.

And we, as social creatures, tend to like to feel part of a group and therefore are easily coaxed onto a bandwagon. Push something … anything .. in our faces and we feel the need to react, and the bandwagon seems safe.

I’ll give an example. Many of us eat meat yet prefer to remain blind to how that meat is produced. To us, meat just magically appears at the grocery store and we’re happy with that. Yes, we have an distant idea how the animal was raised, how it was slaughtered, it’s “feelings” or lack thereof … and we’re content. Some choose to avoid animal products and others are content using or eating them, and this issue isn’t stressing society.

But force us spend some time on a ranch or at a slaughterhouse and our feelings will likely change. We’ll either be more appreciative of the meat on our plate or we’ll be repulsed by it. But we’ll almost certainly move from the comfortable 80 percent.

I think the same thing applies to sexual orientation and gender identity.  And yes, I do know they’re not connected.

Should two guys be allowed to get married? The 80 percent would say “whatever works for them” but force someone to watch romantic displays of affection or that couple’s private sexual moments and most would fall out of the 80 percent. Some would say “it’s sexy and beautiful!” and would become proponents while others would find it repulsive.

In my opinion, the same is true with issues of race, religion and trans issues, to name a few.

But, contrary to the approach most of my activist friends are taking, I believe it’s important to keep that 80 percent right where they are .. in the zone of indifference. They don’t embrace but they are tolerant. Yet we get on the bandwagon at very opportunity to push our issues to the forefront. The latest move in this direction is the Planet Fitness story, and it’s damaging and further polarizing society.

It was an isolated incident at an isolated location, and was dealt with however that particular company chose to deal with it. It didn’t deserve a national spotlight. But pushing it there was like poking the bear. People who would have happily existed in the indifferent 80% are now referring to us as “freakazoids” and worse. And we are belittling them for it.

Can anyone suggest a single occasion where belittling an opponent has won a battle? Does this foster the “live and let live” atmosphere that’s so important to our safety?

But the biggest problem I have with this is that the bullshit that’s rampant in other parts of the world is now starting to infiltrate my beloved Canada. For many decades we have been very tolerant and forward-thinking, even though most of our US friends would never acknowledge this.

We have a reasonable,welcoming immigration policy, healthcare for all and have acknowledged same sex marriages federally for more than a decade. Our “red necks” are barely pink. Yet we now have a senator who has proposed an amendment to a non-discrimination bill (Bill C-279) that would, in fact, discriminate against trans women (not trans guys.. only trans women) as it relates to bathroom usage.  And the proposed bill didn’t die immediately.

This would not be happening if we took better care of the 80 percent.  Nor would it have happened ever 5 years ago.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  First you change the culture and then you introduce legislation to protect that culture.

Damn you, America, and damn you, activists! By attacking and belittling those who don’t yet understand, you’re setting us up for a battle we can’t possibly win, and you’re making the world a more hateful place by drawing a line in the sand.

Forget about changing society for a moment.  Think small.  Think about your own family and friends.  You want and need their acceptance, yes?  So how do you go about gaining that?  Do you quote legislation?  Do you impose new ules?  Do you call them bigots?  Do you belittle them?  Do you call them intolerant?

One last quote from grandma .. “you’ll catch more bees with honey than you will with vinegar”. Yet y’all continue to spew vinegar and continue to poke the bear.

I just hope it bites your tranny ass and not mine.

8 thoughts on “Poking the Bear”

  1. Activists can achieve a lot when they focus correctly on the goals. The problems occur when activism slides into fanaticism.

    Fanatics certainly tend to create more enemies than friends. They inevitably end up ‘preaching to the already converted’ but they also have a tendency to create a new wave of opponents. As you say Seleena, those new opponents are likely to have been pushed across from the 80% who previously had no strong views either way.

    Let us have our champions and our activists who can promote a cause with compassion, tolerance and understanding – the sort of things we expect others to show for us. Spare us from the fanatics who are ‘holier than all’.

      1. Hi Seleena, Boy, is this ever a hot potato, (sorry Girl). It seems that Senator Plett is a Menonite and if he supported the bil he would be in deep doo-doo with his church. Now, I personnally do not support the practice of religion in any way, but I do support a persons right to practice what ever religion he or she chooses.The but here, is as long as they don’t try and push this on me. So this is where Sen. Plett and I part company. So, if i understand your point in your blog correctly, you are talking about all the fuss that is being made about the bathroom section of the bill. Which is probably causing Sen’ Plett to stick his heels in and taking a firm stand. if on the other hand, and again if I understand you correctly, we soft pedal our issue we might get him the abstain. The alternative is to get the bill put to one side. No law is better than a bad law. (read abortion). In the long run it wouldn’t affect any of us much. It only applies to Federally controlled bathrooms so what are the chances of one of us creating a disturbance and the consequential scene. I believe that most we could get charged with is trespassing unless we do something silly with sexual overtones.

        1. Hi Pauline,

          We’re thinking along the same lines. Although I think the senate amendment to that Bill is somewhat small in the big scheme, you understood where I was going perfectly.

          Demonizing people for their beliefs … calling them monsters and worse … only makes them dig their heels in and take an even firmer stand. It’s human nature. Yet treating someone respectfully, even when their beliefs are polar opposites to our, goes a long way to soften their stand.

          We just saw it happen in the US. Before Obama there was no Tea Party. Or dare I say, there was no need for the Tea Party. Tea Party folks were the same intolerant extremists they are today and had the same beliefs they have now but didn’t dig their heels in because they didn’t feel threatened.

          Senator Plett has been in that senate position for five or six years. And during that time, the was no anti-discrimination bill .. no opportunity to take a stand .. but then we poked the bear. And every time we say a disrespectful word about either Plett, the religious right or even the Conservative Party of Canada, we’re poking the majority of Canadians. Maybe not the majority of your friends or mine, and likely not the majority of the friends and associates of our trans activist sisters, but, according to the polls, a majority of Canadians.

          Yet we keep preaching to the choir, as Jane (above) so eloquently mentioned.

          God help us all if the Liberal Party wins the next federal election here. It doesn’t seem possible to convince the trans world that this would be a bad thing but you can be sure that every conservative from coast to coast will dig their heels in to some degree.

          And that isn’t good for us. Now is the time, under a right-leaning government to be respectful and to make friends with those who don’t understand by finding some common ground on which to build a tolerant relationship. But when the left-leaning media starts shitting all over the right and pushing it in their faces (as they’re doing when they give Senator Plett’s amendment more face time than it warrants or when they’re all over the Planet Fitness non-event), any hope for compassion goes out the window. And the bear gets grouchy.

          Sorry for my rant! Hugs, sweet lady.

          1. Hey, no need to apologise. Your points of view are alway interesting..
            Back to the issue. I think ,like Samantha P. ,that these battles will be won with evolution not revolution. If we jump up and down and make a noise we do not attract the type of attention we need. The World needs to see us as resposible caring human beings not some form of weird group that is crying out for attention. The Gays did it very successfully and most people accept them without question. Educate, educate, and inform inform and inform. When you hear staements like “, I don’t want these people going into women’s wash rooms and raping my young daughter,” you realise we have a lot of work to do and a clause in bill of rights legislation is not going to do it.

  2. Even in my short time in the community, I have seen enough to solidly bear witness to what you are saying, Seleena. I think when one focuses on our rights, our own worldview shrinks, and we ourselves become just as closed-minded as those who may not support us. Time after time I have seen people who could be allies pushed into fear or distate by those “just trying to assert my rights”, and then belittling those they offend. How silly would it be to say “I’ll make you like me…I’ll make you accept me”? And yet such is the intent of many.
    I think of my dad, in the years before he died. A very conservative person, he knew little to nothing of the GLBT community, except, I’m sure, for a few jokes he had heard at the office before he retired. One day he called and said…”I think some LESBIANS bought the house on the corner”… A few weeks later, when those “lesbians” helped him to pick Mom up from the driveway where she had fallen…he called to tell me about the incident and said “those nice LESBIANS helped us out…” (Thank God he couldn’t see me laughing…..). In a very short time, he would mention his neighbors Amy and Chris, no longer wearing a label…because they were real persons. He helped them fix their snowblower, and would visit their home’s boiler occasionally when it needed attention. And when we were caring for Dad as he was dying, they and their 2 daughters were the last people he talked to before he passed. At his funeral, I said…”Dad didn’t realize it, but he was a big supporter of the GLBT community. He just called it being a good neighbor.”

    1. Dea, thank you sooooo much for sharing the story about your dad. This is a fabulous real-world example of how the vast majority think and behave. And it made me cry. But prior to his experiences with Amy and Chris, the community might have considered your dad to be a bad person .. a hater .. a ‘labeller.’
      It’s all about positive experiences and activist behavior rarely appears positive.

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