Defining the Undefended

Two of the most maligned movements of recent years are homeschooling and vaccination choice. Their advocates are frequently disparaged by mainstream media. So, why do these groups get singled out?

Both movements share common characteristics with other groups that favor decentralized power. In fact, related grassroots initiatives like permaculture, self-sufficiency, new urbanism, and others, are best understood as parallel components within a larger “meta-movement.”

This leads to a revised question: why are members of the other initiatives left largely alone while the homeschooling and vaccination freedom proponents are often attacked?

An answer is provided by their adversaries. Homeschooling presents a threat to teachers unions and their allies in the Department of Education. Similarly, vaccination skeptics question products produced by pharmaceutical companies: behemoths with deep influence in the halls of power. This manifests as diametric opposition on the political circle ……

Though their situation is unpleasant, anti-vaxxers and homeschoolers might be fortunate. The big kid on the block doesn’t like them, but at least he considers them a threat. In contrast, many of the parallel movements remain largely unacknowledged by powerful forces. It might feel like a blessing to the groups being left alone. But is it really?

Mohandas Gandhi – another occupant of the circle’s lowest pole – once observed: “First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.” His quote describes a set of state changes that move a given situation, in increments, from one paradigm to another. Political energy ratchets up in each shift, until the conflict comes to a boil.

Nassim Taleb (yet another low pole member) attempts to harness this spectrum whenever he publishes a new book …… by actively antagonizing his critics. Agitated detractors then become effective marketing agents.

Charles Marohn, founder and CEO of Strong Towns, recently experienced a shift along this continuum. His organization – aligned with the new urbanist movement – has produced insightful analysis for more than a decade, much of it debunking orthodox economic doctrines like infrastructure spending and suburban sprawl.

Marohn flew under the radar for years, but was eventually noticed by powerful natural adversaries high up on the circle. They’ve now lodged formal complaints against his engineering license, not because of any lapse in professional judgement (Marohn no longer practices in the field), but because he endorses innovative approaches that could eventually threaten their entrenched financial interests.

Anti-vaxxers, homeschoolers, and Strong Towns members are further along on Gandhi’s energy continuum than their peers in the larger meta-movement. This causes an inversion of the question posed earlier. Instead of asking “why have particular citizen-empowering groups been singled out?” it would be more productive to ask what the related movements must do to get noticed.

To achieve success, the proponents of decentralized power will need to move past the “ignore you” stage of their development. “You win” might be defined as a new balance of power with centralizing forces, or as some other set of goals. Either way, change won’t arrive until conflict is confronted …… and political energy increases.

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