Thursday, November 7, 2013

One True Cause

I find little credibility in the One True Cause argument. Someone else has probably come up with a better name for it, but a quick tour through Derailing for Dummies has left me unsatisfied. Make no mistake, I find D4D otherwise very useful and like it quite a lot! Give me a minute, and I think you will find that "One True Cause" is used frequently as a derailing and discrediting tactic.

To clear this up, I do not mean "cause" as in cause and effect, although that is also a logical fallacy. I am using "cause" in One True Cause or 1TC or OTC to mean a situation, bigotry, societal failure, civil rights issue... the sort of causes we gather around to solve, resolve, improve, remove, make better. The intent is to make your cause less worthy of time, attention, and effort than their cause.

The One True Cause is this: why are you talking about/working on/devoting time and energy to X cause when Y cause is more important, more universal, more pressing and/or more personal? The OTC shares mental real estate with the Oppression Olympics, although the person committing the logical fallacy need not believe or be touched by either cause, they just want to be done with yours.

A recent example I have seen is this paraphrase of mine: how can you talk about Glenn Greenwalt's pal getting detained and the chilling effect it may have on free speech when Greenwalt is a lying jerk and other people have been treated worse? Here, I respectfully posit that one can care about the assault on free speech via detention of loved ones no matter how much one may dislike the people in this particular story and even still care about the dishonesty and ethical questions raised by the same persons. I can think that GG looks like a lying jerk and still beat the drum of free speech.

A common OTC argument is often brought up regarding US drone bombing. We mustn't concern ourselves with the innocents murdered in the never ending search for "top Al Qaeda" operatives because that would diminish our ability to kill the "right" people in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan... over there. Except that innocents murdered in a bloody attempt to exact justice is how this all started, whether you think it started with 9/11 or the use of Afghani people as chess pieces to fight a Cold War with the USSR, or, or, or...

Admittedly, it may be hard to drag our focus from getting through our own days, fighting the oppressions heaped upon us, scraping to put what we can on the table at dinner time for our loved ones to give a damn about people exploded out of existence while doing the same damn thing over there... someplace far away, some place filled with brown people struggling the same struggles and (just like us) never earned the need to fear random death from above. 

As a disabled person raising a ruckus, I see the One True Cause fallacy all the time. How can I complain about the lack of accessibility at the local Pride Fest when that just give critics more fuel to try to shut it down? Well, I can tell you that as bisexual woman with disabilities I could not cross streets because beer booths had deliberately blocked curb cuts. How can I, a poor white lady, spend time on race issues when I should be focused on poverty? Well, my daughters go to the same schools that are neglected because there are not enough white faces in those schools for the people in power to care about them. Even if they went to lily white schools, better education for "inner city" or "deprived" schools means more skilled workers and smarter citizens which increases economic opportunity for everyone. 

Often One True Cause is used with some legitimate feeling, worry that this other cause will suffer if people are not singularly devoted to it. People and their issues can be complex, and OTC often ignores the intersections that exist in social justice, in caring about freedom and real opportunities for all peoples. But just as we can love our parents, our significant others/spouses, our children, and our friends and extended family - I believe that we can care about more than one cause with legitimate depth of feeling and commitment. Some of us must do so, whether we ever wanted to or not. Just inside our walls here at home we are directly concerned with disability, neuro-atypicality of various types, feminism, poverty, school quality/funding, the Affordable Care Act/healthcare accessibility in general, religious freedom, racism (our neighbors and our children's peers are more melanin gifted than our family), QUILTBAG rights and issues... 

OTC is just one more minor oppression. OTC is other people telling you what causes they think you should support. OTC is just one more way to exert control, but worse since is is usually done by social justice folks to other social justice folks. So it is likely to be listened to, likely to bypass the filters we put in place when we are dealing with folks that could not care less about making the US a more just place. This often comes from people we respect, trust - folks we value in some way.

So you see, we had to learn to juggle many interests and that is just a brief overview. OTC has no place in our social justice cosmology. OTC is different than picking the battles that mean something to you: I get that.  One True Cause desires to denigrate other causes (others' causes?), and that is not cricket. On a good body day, I can actually chew gum, pat my head and rub my tummy all at the same time. But do not hold your breath waiting for a good day, I have less than a handful of those a month right now. The ones I get - I know how to spend them!