Skillful Means: One Avenue to Effective Activism
From Animal Rights/Vegan Activist Strategies Articles Archive

FROM Mike Shaw

Skillful means is a term used by Buddhists when they want to teach  people who are at a different level of understanding from their own. Let me give you an example.

Many years ago, I hooked up with a fellow I had known for quite some time in the Jiu-Jitsu and Karate world and we started a business together. He (Andy) had heard through the grapevine that I was a vegetarian and animal rights activist. Andy told me never to talk to him about it. He informed me that he was a steak and potato kind of guy and an avid fisherman. Well, I had no intention of talking to him about my beliefs. I seldom share my beliefs with acquaintances unless we are out eating and they ask why I am not eating a hamburger or some other flesh product.

Anyway, Andy started asking me questions about vegetarianism and some of you folks already know this story. Andy became a hard core vegan and protester of the circus, the zoos, hunters and fisherman. He is till going strong, last I heard.

That was skillful means... I did not confront Andy. Rather, I lived my happy life and ate, proudly, my vegetarian meals. You see, one of the fears that Andy had was that being a vegetarian was not manly. Seeing me as a longtime black belt and former champion of martial arts, he thought, "Well, if Mike can do it, so can I..."

Interestingly, some folks that I know the other night asked me questions about vegetarianism. They assured me they were just curious and had NO intentions of becoming vegetarians themselves. I told them what happened to Andy and there was a look of shock on their faces and perhaps a bit of fear. They almost looked as though they were afraid to ask any more questions for fear they would somehow get infected with a vegetarian virus... it was cute. Ah, but they did ask for some literature... Who knows?

I have found that the best skillful means is to use the no-sell approach with friends. Yes, I love to put up booths, put on veggie days at the church, but I never get confrontational with folks. We vegetarians are outnumbered about 98 to 2 and if we appear like loose canons, then folks will be afraid to join us, even if they want to at some level. Thus, I believe that skillful means, is the best way.

Mike can be reached by email or through his Ministry listing.

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