Reason is the advance guard

I take this language from my studies of C.Wright Mills, the sociologist who wrote about the interaction of facts and reason, noting that although facts are important, reason plays a key role in the development of any theories.

And, what, you may ask does this pretentious beginning have to do with disability? First of all, if you’re interested in disability advocacy or activism, I suggest you take a look at C.Wright Mill’s quotes and writings, if for no other reason than he amassed a huge amount of material on the issues of the relations between a. the elite (or as he put it the ‘top clique’), b. those who matter and c. the rest of us. Simply put, his writings help in understanding the dynamics behind our society, the role of power and ways to develop your own skills in key areas.

His exhortation that reason is key strikes me as “right on”. At some point, when we’ve collected the facts and examined the data to any social issue or problem or conflict, we need to recognize that our lead line has to be based upon reason. It does no good to propose theories that aren’t based upon reason.

Yet, as obvious as that seems, it happens. We all read about groups who make demands or take positions that are not based upon reason vis a vis their cause. This is a quick way to be catapulted into the box of ‘Lost causes’, similar to a Lost and Found box.

That’s the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve when advocating. I’ve learned (and a few times the hard way) to pick my way carefully among the things to support, the times to speak up and the issues to address. I’ve watched others do the same and learned by their example.

Are there exceptions? It can be tempting when the facts are so heinous or so emotionally charged to make them. However, taking both a historical and sociological view of the events surrounding issues as well as the most effective way to approach them will often dampen down an initial temptation to act without reason. Sometimes, as hard as this pill may be to swallow, the best thing to do is nothing – at that time. This doesn’t rule out later action.

But there’s always the possibility of undermining your cause more than helping it if you ignore the fact that reason is the advance guard. And that, in the end, does more harm than good.

Copyright 2007 Ruth Harrigan

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