Some time back I wrote this article for WorldMag.com about defining yourself or your organization by what you are for rather than what you are against. After considering being against (or “againstness” as I’ll call it) here are some further thoughts.
Againstness is lazy. It’s the easiest way to give a label to yourself or to your organization. It’s the easiest way to position yourself. Except that it isn’t truly positioning yourself at all. It’s just floating off the shore of whatever you are against. It doesn’t land anywhere it just avoids certain people/causes/attitudes/etc. It is a pretend label that reveals very little and gives no direction as to what you are trying to be.
It is lazy because it doesn’t require work, just a little observation. All you need to do to be against something is keep an eye out for it and separate yourself from it while declaiming it as loudly as you please. This is true unless, of course, you are the more militant type of againster, in which case you follow the object of your ire around and attack whenever possible. This is no less lazy because you aren’t deciding what to do or where to go, you’re just being an unwitting follower of something or someone you reject.
It is much harder to pursue something, to set a goal and go after it. It requires serious thought to define the goal. It requires constant vigilance and judgment to determine if you are on the right course in the pursuit. It requires regular status checks to see what kind of progress is being made. It is constant motion, constant consideration, constant vigilance to be sure that nothing which you are against is deflecting you off course.
In my own life this is a constant effort. I find it so easy to just try not to be something – not be a legalist, not be a blowhard, not to be too conservative, not to be too liberal, not to be sectarian, and so on. But what am I after all that not being stuff?
. . .