Essay:Efforts bearing fruit

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A teacher once said, in response to inquiries about whether she would be interested in getting involved in activism, that it would depend on whether the efforts could bear fruit. She had tried activism that did not produce results, and become tired of banging her head against a wall.

Perhaps, continuing the horticultural analogy, one could compare it to cannabis cultivation. One can choose to either prevent or allow pollination of the plants. Preventing it increases yield of the product, but allowing it increases yield of seeds. The seeds are not worthless, since they can be used to grow more plants, but are not a consumer good capable of immediately producing satisfaction.

Likewise, in activism, one can either pursue short-term or long-term effects. The person whose focus is on the short term will look for immediate opportunities for incremental reforms. Thus, anything that does not bear immediate fruit will be rejected.

The person with a long-term view focuses on raising awareness. The failure to, say, get legislation enacted does not deter him because his goal is to stimulate dialog that he can use to build support that, someday in the future, will eventually culminate in legislation being passed. This approach is controversial because some people think that to try and fail to win an election or get legislation enacted is a rejection that causes one to lose face. As a practical matter, many candidates and proposals that were eventually enacted required several failed attempts first, classic examples being Abraham Lincoln and ballot measures concerning cannabis legalization.

On the other hand, some activist activities are like cannabis cultivation that results in seeds that cannot be immediately planted because there is nowhere to plant them, or it's not the right season. Suppose, for instance, you support a cause (e.g. abolishing Medicare) that is so unpopular that there is no way to even start the process of propagating the idea more widely. If you post an essay to Facebook or the like, it won't spread virally because of lack of interest or support. All that results are some archived news reports, essays, and such that may be useful sometime in the future. In such cases, it is important to preserve that information so that it won't have been a total waste of time.