Nuanced Debate

It is entirely possible to be supportive of a cause while being simultaneously critical of some of its methodologies. I think there are many reasonable people who are in precisely this position at the moment in regard to the Black Lives Matter campaign. On the one hand, we are appalled at ongoing instances of racism, especially when it appears to be endemic within institutions such as the police force. The black community – in fact, the WHOLE community – has a right to angered about this and is justified in demanding change. On the other hand, HOW that anger is directed and WHAT FORMS those demands take, needs to be held up to critical public scrutiny. A legitimate cause does NOT automatically justify any and every action implemented in its name.

A legitimate cause does not justify illegal, criminal behaviour, such as looting and vandalism. Someone recently wrote to me, saying, “If a few statues are pulled down to make the black population happier, is that really going to change your life?” Actually, yes it will. Because if we condone criminal vandalism for one cause, we open the door for it to be allowed for others. The law exists to ensure the maintenance of order in society and no cause, no matter how valid, is justified in placing itself above the law.

A legitimate cause is also not well-served when hysterical mob-think sets in and results in other extraneous issues being dragged into the fray which are either irrelevant or counterproductive to the cause. The call to ban certain American restaurants because of their Old American décor, with pots and pans hanging from the ceiling, is just one of many ridiculous examples which mistakenly imagines racism where none actually exists.

A legitimate cause is further devalued when other irrational applications are made. The call to sanitise our history by de-emphasizing or deleting altogether certain historical figures from public consciousness and from educational curriculums does nothing to address the issues in today’s world, and simply weakens the focus of the current cause.

What can also tend to happen when a cause gains widespread societal traction, is that other subtle agendas are appended to it. Other people and causes tend to ‘jump on the band wagon’ and can even hijack the movement altogether. I suspect a lot of what we are seeing in the current Black Lives Matter movement falls under this category. Anarchists and extremists of varying persuasions appear to have hijacked the movement and are using it to promulgate their own agendas.

This is why nuanced debate is essential. We need to critically examine the current BLM movement, discarding the dross that has become attached to it while retaining the essential purity of its legitimate concerns. And as we do this, we need to avoid the kind of simplistic judgmentalism that portrays someone who is critical of certain methodologies and excesses as being opposed to the main cause itself.

As I said in the beginning, it is entirely possible to be supportive of a cause while being simultaneously critical of some of its methodologies.