July 28, 2007

Driving Sideways

Posted in animal advocacy at 1:13 pm by nevavegan

Driving sideways, taken in by the scenery, as you’re propelled along
And your companion, refuses to navigate, for fear she may be wrong.

This song always got under my skin. Aimee Mann knows how to round up all my demons and put them in a beautiful package and stick a bow on top.

The thing about driving sideways is that there are times in life where we realize there’s so much wrong, but those demons I mentioned come out in force and keep us locked into a non-productive path. Where do the demons come from? Well, let me tell you.

Growing up was hard for me, as I’ve mentioned many times. My mother liked to be right. She liked to be right so much that she couldn’t tolerate anyone telling her otherwise, so if on the rare occasion I found my voice and said something (and it was always from fear, a wrong turn is one thing, but if it looked like a wrong turn off of a cliff then I got worried) the reaction was swift and punishing. I’ll always remember the rebukes “You don’t tell ME what to do!” or “I’m not going to let some smart-mouthed little girl dictate to me!”

In retrospect I really don’t believe that I was smart-mouthed, just now and then fear helped me find my voice. I remember once I went to school and we had health class and the entire time they put up slides of dead and disabled babies saying “all of this was caused by women drinking while they were pregnant.” I went home and at 2:30 in the afternoon my pregnant mother poured herself a glass of sherry. With tears in my eyes I said that I’d just been told at school that drinking is really bad for unborn babies. She could have lied and reassured me, she could have said she’d never heard that, instead she punished me for opening my mouth.

Years and years later I ended up in a relationship with a really unpleasant guy, this time driving sideways was really about driving, among other things. But if we were in the car and I said “ok, we need to turn right at the next light” I’d get the raging response of “I’m not a moron! Shut up! I know where to turn! Stop treating me like I’m stupid.” If I thought we’d made a wrong turn it was “I know what I’m f—ing doing!” So I learned to keep my mouth shut, though happily I did finally grow a spine and get out of that horrible relationship.

Part of being an adult and trying to put past baggage where it belongs is learning that if the driver makes a wrong turn that is going to cost us an extra forty minutes of travel time, then I should probably actually say something. Good, normal, adult people don’t rage at others for saying things like that. But when you grow up with it, it can be hard to relearn.

Recently I posted to my blog and on an email list some of my concerns about some of the larger animal charities. I was turned off by certain fundraising methods and moreover concerned that as a movement we’re “driving sideways.” The response was of course swift and punishing. I’ve been told I’m too angry. I’ve been told I must be trying to work against animals and must in fact hate animals. I’ve been told I’m just trying to tear down good people who dedicate their lives to helping animals. One person went so far as to attempt to psychoanalyze me and said that I’m projecting other issues from my life onto excellent groups because I have psychological problems I’m unwilling to deal with.

I dunno. Sometimes bad fundraising tactics are just bad fundraising tactics. Sometimes if I say “hey, where is this car going?” I really mean “hey, where is this car going?”

I’m not perfect. I’ve worked on a lot of stuff. I have more to work on. I always thought maybe at least it’s an advantage that I can often identify what’s wrong and why—it’s a start at least.

I feel like I’m back in the car being told to shut up. I don’t feel like shutting up just yet. I do make an effort not to vilify individual people. I think that the people who work for and support these groups do so out of absolute sincerity. I just think that somehow group-think has from time to time maybe resulted in a couple bad decisions, a wrong turn now and then.



  1. Canaduck said,

    For what it’s worth, I thought your blog posts about ineffective fundraising were quite reasonable. While I can’t say that I agreed with everything you said, I think that overall you really had the right idea.

  2. bazu said,

    Don’t let people discourage you. I have found that there are some vegan and AR sites where I feel more confident and secure voicing my opinions than others. I might not agree with what you say 100%, but I learn something from every one of your posts! Keep it up, keep voicing your thoughts and beliefs.

  3. Vincent Guihan said,

    I wouldn’t take it personally. If anything, it’s a sign of the emotional poverty of ‘the movement’ that disagreement and constructive criticism is so frequently met with hostility. In fact, it’s probably beneficial to animals to have disagreement between activists. Absolute agreement only increases our chances of being absolutely wrong.

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