I feel an unstated agreement among disparate civil society that one shouldn’t preach. Breaching the preaching rule quickly looks like hypocrisy, because everyone has more work to do on themselves.
Easier Said than Done
Someone - usually young - preaching about veganism, trans-rights, the effects of aeroplanes on climate change, feels the rightness of their cause, and begins to lecture, then soon switches to practically ordering people how they should eat, speak, and travel. The one cause should obviously bind us, and if people could only be rational, we could all - easily - solve this one issue in a short time.
A second cause becomes a strain. Switching our language to be more sensitive ‘won’t kill anyone’, but if we add travel on top of that, it’s easy to notice how much of a burden this becomes. When leaning learning more on a subject, we start to notice that ’not flying’, can’t solve even the travel-related problems of global warming, and going fully vegan can stretch some people a lot more than others.
Once we add a third position, and decide to lean fully, and properly into the area we want to fix, things become hopeless. They want me to eat ethically? Okay, and which phone have they selected? This energetic young person doesn’t need a phone, and even if they did, you can buy one without slave labour involved, but after using the fruits of slave-labour, they’ve decided to preach about someone’s language. Or if their phone-purchasing preferences seem in order, we could ask about their choice of software, and whether or not they take all their friends’ personal information, and feed it into Google and Facebook.
When people say this leads them to pessimism, it sounds like pure cowardice to me. But when they don’t consider their own shortcomings before preaching, it sounds like petulant whinging. Many people have causes they care about, but if each of them spent their time complaining about everyone, we’d eventually have to lock them in a metal box and throw them in the ocean. Well, we wouldn’t have to, but by definition, ‘we’ here are the unethical lot, so we probably would.
Anyway, nobody can realistically do everything which they ought to do. Such a morally perfect creature would run Parabola on their computer, eat home-grown vegan food, travel rarely, never perpetuate stereotypes, and use whatever spare time remained after their gardening and work to feed the homeless (and what work could they possibly have?). I can barely imagine a human with the strength to perform these actions, and if such a creature existed, nobody would invite them to parties.
Moralizing perfect morality leads to strange behaviour, and moralizing your own special causes shows a deep lack of perspective.
And Yet I Say Unto Thee
I’m making this prolonged acknowledgement so I don’t seem ignorant (even if this remains distasteful), when I say ‘I will continue to preach’.
Here are my circumstances, and my excuses:
When someone spends more energy complaining about a problem than it would take to solve it, then I prefer to insist they fix the problem, or shusht.
- When someone reads and shares Facebook posts about how evil Facebook is, it won’t be long before they could just sign up to Mastodon in less time than they used complaining.
- When someone complains they cannot take yet another messaging app on their phone, then inevitably installs Viber/ Telegram/ Facebook chat anyway, they may as well have just signed up to yax.im, rather than making everyone’s problem worse.
- I can only hear so much about Adobe reader’s interface, about Unity over-charging developers, and Windows 11 putting random ads inside the user’s files (ridiculous hyperbole, or plain prophecy?) before I have to hand them a USB stick with Linux Mint.
Presumably similar circumstances exist for people more interested in veganism, and undoubtedly they end up sounding ‘preachy’ when an enthusiastic meat-eater starts complaining about health problems, or climate change, which could clearly be solved by adding a few soy-based meals to their standard meals.