Boosting the skepticism movement’s immune system
The current incarnation of the skeptical/secularist movement is quite young. Like all new movements, or new babies, it was immediately set upon by opportunist pathogens and parasites. For the movement, the pathogens are people or groups which exploit the resources to further their own interests without adding much, if anything, of value. Like a baby, the young movement is vulnerable and must suffer many infections in order to adapt to the threats that are in the local environment, to build resistance.
Some of the turmoil we see these days is just that sort of development. While the infections can be nasty, the processes are expected and, in a certain sense, healthy. Antigens developed now may serve the movement’s good health for many years to come.
Identifying pathogens and parasites
Pathogenic elements are endemic to our social environments. They have been able to infect and take root because of the relative vulnerability of the movement which has yet to produce a strong defense system against invader species. Even sophisticated T-cells can have trouble identifying pathogens, at times confusing them with normal body cells. How can pathogen-like elements be detected in our movement? They have some or all of these features:
- A pathogen’s primary activity is intended to benefit themselves far more than any other entity or purpose
- They are often deleterious to all surrounding elements not of their specific kind
- They may produce little to nothing of value to the movement corpus
- They co-opt and/or disrupt healthy functions. Constructive efforts and discussions may be displaced with needless or pointless selfish versions
Fighting movement infection is not pretty. In the human body, a fever is an immunoresponse designed to kill invading pathogens— and it works extremely well. Sometimes we must also turn up the heat to fight off the infections in our movements. It can be very unpleasant, and it can even feel self-destructive. Fevers can be very dangerous, after all. But if we don’t, then we won’t survive, at least not in any form that we should wish to.
Like the immune system, we must learn from the harmful elements we encounter. We must develop strategies to remove or neutralize them. Subsequently, we must always remember what we have learned and apply it with severe vigilance. There will always, always, always be more parasites trying to get in and live off of the hard work and good will produced by so many in this community. Now, the bloodstream is a battlefield, but the effectiveness of the front-line immune system allows the rest of the body to function properly. In the past year we’ve seen the very core of some of our institutions weaken and crack at the seams. They did not fail us, it is we who have failed them.
All for one
The human immune system is not a small group of heroic cells bravely charging the invader. It is a vast assemblage consisting of several kinds of elements, each important to defense: T-cells, macrophages, antibodies, helper cells, histamines. They have different parts to play, each critical, and they work together united in a common goal. An effective immune system for the skeptico-secular movement similarly can’t succeed when composed merely of a handful of stalwart combatants. We can only succeed by fostering and generating a membership consisting of women and men of conscience. People who will play their part, as their constitution dictates, to stem the infections and resist the parasites and to promote healthy growth and development. The sort that will do this because they care deeply about the goals of skepticism and secularism and because they understand that that is necessary to secure them. It is the way of all successful social movements. Good people, we must all work together. Not just because that is how all of this can be saved, but because that is how we make sure it continues to be worth saving.
What you can do
- Think carefully about the list above, and whether or not it applies to those you might have chosen to support, endorse, or listen to.
- Speak out when you know something happening is wrong, even if it comes from a person or group that is/has been a friend or political ally or that has done some good work in the past.
- If you find active participation in conflict unsuitable, focus your efforts on constructive matters & positive, productive discussions while sometimes taking a moment to appreciate those who do engage in necessary unpleasantness.
- Pay careful attention to the producers. The people and groups that are doing the work and building the movement rather than merely building their own brand and fanclub: activists, writers, educators, investigators, and leaders. Parcel your respect out accordingly.