One of my favourite boardgames is Dominion. It has all the hallmarks of a great game: unlike Poker or Monopoly, the game ends at the same time for everyone, so you’re not left twiddling your thumbs if you’re one of the first knocked out. It has a fairly low barrier to entry, in that the rules are easy to explain, and there’s no huge advantage to keeping your hand of cards private, which means seasoned players can help new players if necessary. The thing I probably love most about Dominion, however, is the fact that the names of the cards are so apt. The names of the cards fit the action of the cards so well.
Take the card Tactician, for example. If you play a Tactician during your turn, you immediately discard your entire hand and do nothing else for the rest of your turn. Sounds like a terrible card, right? Wrong! Because on your next turn, you get to draw twice the number of cards and do twice the number of things. Tactician allows you to bide your time, and allows you to turn a poor hand this turn into a dynamite hand next turn. The fact that Tactician is such a powerful card is reflected in what it costs to buy it – it costs five, which is a lot, trust me – the most expensive card in that whole set is six.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Tactician since I read The Scout Mindset, by Julia Galef. In The Scout Mindset, Galef outlines two ways of thinking about the world: soldier mindset and scout mindset. Galef argues that most of us are soldiers, people who want to dig in and fight to defend our ideas and our point of view, whereas actually we should seek to be scouts: people who want to gather information and draw an accurate map of the world, someone who seeks to see the world how it is rather than how they’d like it to be. She summarises her analogy in this Tedx talk.
I think the pro-life movement probably has a lot more soldiers than it needs, and could do with some more scouts. But what I think the pro-life movement really needs is tacticians. In the Tedx talk above, Galef asks the audience “What do you most yearn for? Do you yearn to defend your own beliefs? Or do you yearn to see the world as clearly as you possibly can?”. What if there’s a third option: one that involves helping everyone to see the world as clearly as they possibly can? This requires the open-mindedness of a scout, who can question their beliefs and learn from people who disagree with them, and the zeal of a soldier, who can defend their position against those who disagree. It requires someone who can use the information gathered by scouts, and use it to decide the best way to help others see and understand that information. It requires tacticians.
A pro-life soldier thinks highlighting the evil of abortion is incredibly important. A pro-life soldier thinks the unborn’s right to life obviously trumps all other considerations, including a woman’s right to bodily autonomy. A pro-life soldier thinks that one’s opposition to abortion should define the company they keep, the charities they donate to, the politicians they vote for, the social media accounts they follow. A pro-life soldier thinks it’s important to point out pro-choice hypocrisy whenever they get a chance: by highlighting the inconsistency of a pro-choice person who opposes the death penalty, or is a vegetarian, or campaigns against smoking during pregnancy. A pro-life soldier thinks anything less than the above is taking a “softly, softly” approach that clearly hasn’t worked. We’ve tried being nice and it got us nowhere, so now is the time to be strong.
A pro-life tactician, on the other hand, takes a different view. They see and share the zeal of pro-life soldiers. They are deeply upset by the injustice of abortion, and they want to fight it. They are frustrated at the dreadful light in which pro-life people are painted in the public eye. They feel silenced by the media hostility to their position and they feel sickened every time they are in a group of people that clearly assumes that they, like “everyone else”, is pro-choice.
But pro-life tacticians think that most pro-choice people are mistaken about the issue of abortion. They don’t think that most people think unborn babies are simply worthless, but they do think most people don’t appreciate the best way to balance the competing rights of unborn babies and other people, particularly pregnant women and mothers. Pro-life tacticians have used their scout mindsets to really understand the pro-choice position, and they hold back on their soldier like tendencies to go in all guns blazing and fight the other side. Instead, they try to figure out the best way to change people’s minds on abortion. They try to figure out what small increments they can make in reducing the abortion rate, even or perhaps especially if that means working with pro-choice people in some areas. Pro-life tacticians understand the importance of building common ground, showing pro-choice people what we really have in common, and always hoping that we can change their minds in the process.
We at the Minimise Project are pretty clear on our desire to be pro-life tacticians, but we can’t do it alone. If you can, try to dial down the soldier mindset and help us in scouting and adjusting our way forward. We need all the help we can get.