I just can’t get away from these cow metaphors. I grew up in the country and worked, for a while, in a dairy. You can learn a lot from cows.
But what I’m actually trying to wrap my mind and yours around is how to deal with the difficult political situation we’re in. The question came up because of one of my earlier posts. It drew a comment, more or less, to the effect that one of the major tasks confronting progressives is re-educating or replacing our union leadership.
I Used To Be a Lot More Intelligent Than I Am Now
Long ago, I was a member of an organization that didn’t like the union leadership. In fact, I don’t think we liked any leaderships. Not in the women’s movement, not in the civil rights movement, not in the anti-war movement, not in any of the progressive movements. It’s not that we were anti-leadership anarchists, it’s just that we thought we alone knew best. We only liked one leadership, ourselves. Everybody else, everybody in leadership of any organization, was just wrong. We were the smart ones!
The result was that we almost always got into squabbles with the leadership of any organization we tried to relate to. We had a reputation for it, and knowledgeable activists didn’t look forward to our company.
Build Up Our Side, Don’t Tear it Down
I don’t think that we need, at this time, arguments with the leaders of the unions or of any progressive organization as a way for the progressive movement to go forward. I can’t say that I actually agree, point-by-point, with the leaders of any of the organizations that are doing so much and moving so many people into action right now. But I’m sure glad they are building the movement!
We should be deliriously happy to see so many people starting to get active, and we should encourage it in every way possible. When it’s appropriate, we can make our suggestions on program, on tactics, on strategy, or even on broad ideology. But we should do it in a friendly helpful cooperative way, not an argumentative or confrontational way.
Arguing and confronting are what we do to our enemies, not our friends.
How to Get Cows to the Right Place
Cows tend to meander along. It’s kind of hard to figure out why they go where they go, what influences them, who they look to for leadership, what they try to avoid. We’ve all seen the stampedes in the western movies, where some poor old cowboy gets killed while trying to “turn the herd.” Death by stomping.
It’s mighty hard for a cowboy to do it. But it’s even harder for a single cow. And in this metaphor, we aren’t cowboys. We’re cows, stampeding right along with everybody else. It would be inadvisable to get in front of a mad stampede and try to argue. We’d get stomped and maybe hurt some of the other cows, too.
We’ll be more effective if we go along with the herd and do our best to nudge one here, poke one there, moo loudly when appropriate, moo softly if it will work better, and try to get the herd over where we all need to be. That’s leadership in a cow stampede. Also in a mass movement.