Monday, July 13, 2009

Devotion to a Cause

I'm searching for the word or phrase that describes the phenomenon where someone is devoted to one particular cause or viewpoint, and that everything they say/do relates to it. What would that be called?

For example, someone could say, "it's a beautiful day." And the person devoted to their cause - positive or negative - would say, "yes, it's a pity that people who are homeless/fundamentalist/gay/sexually abused/poor/democrats/women/fill-in-the-blank can't ever enjoy a beautiful day because of their persecution/trauma/difficulties/thought processes/fill-in-the-blank."

It's not that I am unfeeling for the plight of the less fortunate, or don't want everyone to have a fair shake in this world. I think anyone who knows me would say I'm pretty compassionate. But I can't have it be the overriding, driving force every moment of every day. And I can't have it be every interaction I have with someone.

Sometimes I just don't always agree that there's a problem. For example, I've been in the work force for a long time and I can't say being a woman has ever been an issue. I get that it was. I get that I'm to be thankful for those who came before me, and I am, but progress means to move on - to go beyond. Can we please move on now? Please? I don't want to forget. I just want to move ahead without being weighed down by having to drag the past along behind me every moment of every day.

I find myself not wanting to engage with people who have a "cause," because everything you say/do is a minefield. You can't even exchange pleasantries about the weather without having the connection between the rain and the narrow mindedness of the world with regard to rain pointed out to you. I can make up my own mind, thank you very much.

Although I know it's hard for people to fathom, just because I'm a liberal does not mean I think all republicans are evil. I can be pro choice and think of abortion as an abomination at the same time. I can feel for the abused without believing it wise to identify yourself as a "survivor." I do not believe all fundamentalists are small minded, narrow thinkers. I do not believe liberal thinkers have it all figured out. People are far more complex than to be boiled down to only one viewpoint. Except, it seems, for people who are devoted to their "cause," whatever it may be.

At the same time, I recognize this is a wonderful quality to have in an activist. I applaud the efforts, but I don't want to be involved. And this is something I think people don't get. Your blind devotion to your cause - to the exclusion of all else, making every interaction about your cause - makes me want to run away. And I'm not the only one. If I don't want to engage with you on any level, so it's going to be hard to convince me of your viewpoint.

I also always have the feeling that because I'm not willing to be actively involved in whatever the cause is means I'm viewed as an inferior, unfeeling, unintelligent human being. I just don't need that in my life.

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Jami Frazier Tracy said...

I attended a Guerrilla Girls lecture years ago. An audience member asked a question and the response from one of the Girls was "how can I answer that question when so many people are dying of Aids." There was a collective "huh?" from the audience. I always think of you as a very reasonable person, something I really appreciate!

Patsy Terrell said...

That is a prime example of what I'm talking about. I don't even know what Guerrilla Girls is and I now have no interest in finding out. I won't even bother to google them.

I'm glad you think of me as reasonable. I try to maintain some semblance of living in the real world and functioning, while having opinions at the same time.

sigerson said...

The word you're looking for is "obsession," which is never used in a healthy context.

I, too, am a liberal whose biggest arguments have generally been with people to the left of me. The people I fight tooth-and-nail at the ballot box are sometimes friends and relatives for whom I wish the best and am willing to help them find it.

You are an insightful person who sees beyond political labels to the soul beneath, but there are those who wear their views *as* their identity. It's tough to find common ground when their lives and conversation are dominated by one topic.

The anti-abortion protester might stop to help you change a tire. Being obsessively on the other side of an issue doesn't make someone a bad person, and agreeing with you on "hot-button" topics doesn't mean your kindred spirit is worthy of your trust.

This is why I avoid political talk shows in any medium: They reduce us to "us versus them" and feed the obsession.

Patsy Terrell said...

I can find no common ground with anyone, of any viewpoint, when it's extreme. Even if I may agree with the basic point, the delivery of it can completely turn me off.

I'm no longer involved with the democrats locally because I just can't muster the "correct" amount of distaste for republicans. And, frankly, it makes me uncomfortable to be around it. I don't think it's at all productive.