Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Do It My Way

Activists make for poor negotiators. They also make for poor partners to negotiators, as delegates to International Whaling Commission talks are finding out. If you've ever tried to compromise with someone who feels that they have objective Right on their side, I suspect you're familiar with the problem. It's like haggling with a police officer. Agreeing to quit committing grand larceny in favor of petty theft is unlikely to get you anywhere - the officer is still going to arrest you. But the officer has the force of law behind him. All anti-whaling activists have is their love for creatures that they consider to be too majestic and intelligent to be eaten. It's not quite the same.

I suspect that unless the anti-whaling nations kick their activists to the curb, the organization is either a) going to remain a joke or b) become a club of nations that wring their hands about the activities of non-member nations. Australian environment minister Peter Garrett can say that the people of the world's voices against whaling needed to be heard all he wants - but I can hear someone's objections to my doing something, and even listen to them quite carefully - and then go and do it anyway. Worldwide direct democracy, where minority viewpoints are only allowed into the political arena at the sufferance of the majority, doesn't exist - and likely never will. For the simple reason that every group of people on Earth understands that as soon as they cede sovereignty to the populace at large, they place themselves at the mercy of others - who have often shown themselves willing to throw those not sufficiently like them under the bus for their own ends.

This isn't to say that EVERYTHING should be open to negotiations where both sides express a willingness to give something to get something. But if you're unwilling to compromise, you'd better be willing to use whatever means of coercion are at hand. That's why the police don't have to compromise - they can use force to subdue perpetrators if they need to (and sometimes when they don't, but that's for another time). Anti whaling activists are unlikely to get anyone to go to war, trade or shooting, to save the whales. Compromise is the only tool they have.

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