An "Open Letter" to assholes who do NOTHING and complain about those who do the work
You've seen the posts. Usually they're comments after a demo, or in response to report-backs from some killer action or other. They go like this: "You shouldn't be doing x, you should be doing y instead." As in, "How dare you work to help animals when so many babies are dying," and "how come you're fighting police brutality when there is a war going on" and "why would you talk about going vegan when there are so many more important things" and etc. Not coincidentally, a disproportionate number of these vapid criticisms have to do with animal rights. And, also not coincidentally, they are ALWAYS posted by people who turn out to have never lifted a single finger, either for the cause they are disparaging, or for the cause they claim that others "should be" paying attention to instead.
I pretty much assume these posts are meant to leave people feeling dispirited and disempowered. It's never possible to do the right thing for these kinds of critics. No matter what you're doing, there is always something else you "should have" been doing instead. Recently, I read a post on this site purporting to be "an open letter" to an animal sanctuary, which the author claimed should not be working to save medically needy dogs, but should instead be working to save "all the healthy dogs and cats." The poster insisted that resources should not be "wasted" on animals who will need a lot of medical treatment, or animals who will need to be transported. He claimed that the sanctuary was at fault for taking in "hard cases" rather than "easy ones," and that more dogs and cats could be saved if the shelter did not waste time caring for sick animals when they could be adopting out healthy ones.
There was a long string of comments, both from workers at the sanctuary and from others, attempting to explain to the person that ALL animals deserve to be saved, not just those whom the author thinks other people should be out there saving. Someone pointed out that "all the healthy animals" are being put to death for lack of homes and not because a sanctuary is helping needy dogs rather than bringing in and adopting out the "easy ones," as the author suggested they "should be" doing. Someone else pointed out that a sanctuary is precisely for those so-called "hard cases" that the author felt no one should be bothering to take in, because it takes resources away from the "easy ones." Many pointed out that sanctuaries are about taking in last chance animals who have no other options, not for taking in easily adoptable animals. And sanctuary workers themselves, several times, explained that the sanctuary takes in "easy" AND "hard" cases, in fact they take in all the animals that they can. But the author continued to post inane comments about how it is the fault of the sanctuary workers that so many animals die in shelters.
It later turned out, in the original author's own words, that he has never lifted a single finger to save *ANY* animals, that he has never worked in any sanctuary or shelter, that he doesn't do anything at all about the millions of dogs and cats who die in shelters every year. Ironically, he also informed readers that, while he felt that spending resources on one needy dog was wrong because that money "should have" been used for a lot of other animals instead, he himself had accepted "millions of dollars in healthcare" for some condition which had afflicted him. Odd that he could not make the leap - millions to him while millions of babies die for lack of food, clean water, and medicine is acceptable while a couple thousand for a needed surgery to save a dog is not?
Usually, we do not get this kind of information from the people who post the "you shouldn't be doing x you should be doing y" critiques, but we might as well. In this case, it was just a little more blatant and transparent than usual that the person doesn't mean to help but only to criticize. But it always comes out between the lines that the person offering up the "shoulds" isn't doing shit himself. So much easier to say than to do, even if the saying is more damaging than doing nothing.
Later in the thread, this same author explains that, while he has never done any animal rescue work, he feels his letter will "help." Because, as we all know, sitting on the side lines and telling other people how to do their work is just as valuable and useful as actually getting up and DOING some of that work, right? Oh, no wait. It's not. Not by a long shot. Instead, sitting on the sidelines and doing nothing, while telling people with years of experience what they "should" be doing and how they "should" be doing it is arrogant, useless, disruptive, and often actually destructive. It saps the strength and energy of people who need all of it that they can get. And doling out false criticisms, no matter how far off base they may be, is damaging to good people and good work. It plants seeds of doubt in others, who may otherwise have helped but may now feel excused from doing so based on the baseless criticism of an armchair critic who knows nothing.
That article was sad to me, because it wasn't just mean spirited, ignorant, and arrogant. In addition, the person actually has the delusion (or so they say) that their obtuse haranguing from the sidelines might be useful and productive work! Un-fucking-believable. But you see, this is the pattern. And it runs rampant through any effort to save animals from the oppression and death meted out by humans. "Why do you care about monkeys and rats in a laboratory, when you should be caring about dying babies instead!" "Why are you trying to save sea lions when you should care about salmon?" "Why would you bother to protest a chicken butchering workshop when there are real issues in the world?"
I cannot even tell you how many times I've read such stupid comments on this site, and elsewhere. Or how many useless conversations I have listened to from work colleagues or neighbors, who can always figure out what other people "should" be doing with their energy and resources, but who can never figure out how to motivate themselves to actually get up off their asses and do something useful in the world. Why is that? Are we really so petty and lazy that we would rather tear down the efforts of others than to go to any efforts ourselves? Do we really believe we can excuse ourselves from ever having to take an action just by making up false criticisms of the actions of others? Why do we shrink from helping animals based on ridiculous, made up excuses like this?
It's not just animals. I've read plenty of criticisms telling police accountability activists that they "should" be concentrating on the wars overseas and vice versa, and a good number of posts criticizing people who support political prisoners for using their energy to help people behind bars rather than using it to [fill in surrogate cause here]. But it does seem that an inordinate number of these posts have to do with the crime of helping non-human animals rather than humans, or - a little less blatantly - helping one group of animals rather than another. Without exception, these posts ALWAYS come from people who don't do shit, either for people or for other animals. (And as a corollary to that, they are never motivated by a real concern for the cause being discussed, but only some inexplicable urge to tear other people down in order to build up oneself. Or, equally insidiously, in order to just disrupt that cause.)
We should keep this in mind when we hear the "you shouldn't be doing x you should be doing y" rants, and politely ask the authors to check themselves. I know that I, for one, am getting really tired of reading this stuff. Am I the only one? Or are you as tired of this as I am?
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