Wednesday 4 September 2013

on 'invisible communities'

Doing and talking are not the same thing. Talk is cheap and so is sympathy. You are not special and your thoughts don't mean a thing if they aren't actually put into action at some point.

I recently got into a fight on a friend's animal welfare organisation's Facebook page. My friend stated that the two cat shelters she runs are completely full up. Due to the lack of fosters and the slow rate of adoption, she is not taking in any more cats. She will continue to look after the existing shelter population, seek adoption for them and so forth, but she cannot accept any more requests to take in more cats.

Someone commented to the effect that she would love to help, but with her 3 house cats and 4 ferals she can't take on any more. While this is probably true, it's irrelevant. My friend has taken on far more than this woman ever has, and has received far too little help and support. It's in poor taste to cite your 7 moggies against the couple of hundred my friend shelters. My friend's organisation has reached a point where it can no longer do one of the things it set out to do - take in abandoned pets or ferals in need of shelter - because there just aren't enough people to share the burden. WE ALREADY KNOW THIS.

I told the commenter that, unless she could help, I didn't see the need in her posting at all. This led to a bit of a flamewar with people telling me my comments were wasting time and that I did not realise there was an 'invisible community of cat lovers' who may not be able to help this organisation, but who all do their part, presumably by being there in spirit and in online comment threads.

To which my only reply is: fuck you. You're not doing your part. If you were, people like my friend and myself wouldn't be the only ones everyone calls when they find a lost kitten or an injured feral or want to abandon their pets. There would be people like you in every community, every social circle, waiting to step in and help. There would be more shelters and more support for the shelters we have.

Instead, there are a few people stuck with growing populations of cats in need, three or four dependable fosters, maybe a handful of kittens adopted a month and no larger community of cat lovers, invisible or not, to rely on.

What it boils down to is: there are people who love animals, who feel compelled to work for their welfare, but not at the cost of their own comfort. I don't grudge them the choice - really I don't. I just wish they would realise that they're just play-acting, which is alright, I guess, and stick to looking after their handful of pets - which is the one thing they're doing right, hopefully - and Shut. The. Fuck. Up. when the grown-ups are talking.

Because I've learned that large collectives of sympathisers don't actually solve problems. Just a few committed individuals do, no matter what all the hype over online activism and the power of communities will tell you. Awareness means nothing and sympathy is just wankery. If you can't help, then keep your thoughts to yourself. Don't waste the time of the few people who actually spend most of their lives trying to get things done. Don't be white noise, it's okay not to have your say and add your voice. Everything isn't a chorus. This dialogue isn't about you, it's about achieving actual results.

Still want to join in? The be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty, because making a difference in the real world isn't just about rhetoric and debate and discussion. It isn't about community and communication and the wisdom of the mob. It's about doing. 

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