Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Gruffalo and Why it is a Primer for Social Change

I can't help myself.  I was born an activist. I know that's a weird way to describe oneself, especially with current society's prevailing view of such people as completely wild-haired or even as an adjective for someone who is doing something wrong, like in the case of "activist judges."  My friends at Merriam-Webster define it thusly:

Definition of ACTIVISM

: a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue

 In my case, it is both nature and nurture.  My father is a great man, with great ideas, all of which require significant devotion, promotion, and passion to perpetuate.  He raised me to be THAT person who would vigorously act in support of what he believes in.  That person that would keep his dreams alive.  Other people call their fathers on Father's Day.  Some spend time daily with their fathers.  Instead, I show up at public meetings and PAC meetings and advocacy meetings and protests, and... well, I just make sure that I show up.  My dad and I both know that our connection, and my calling, was work my rear end off to make sure the Great Smoky Mountains National Park -- and ALL the land around it -- would be preserved to some degree as a monument to our forefathers, to our Creator, and as a classroom to all children anywhere within spittin' distance. I don't say this lightly:  I was born for this job. And I'm really hoping not to fail!

I know people like me are annoying.  But someone has to tilt those windmills! ;-)

All that said, this should explain why my very favorite children's book is The Gruffalo.
I read it to my little son often and always think about how it is a brilliant primer on how individuals who inherited the "warrior" gene, or involved in small non-profit or political action committees (like The Raven Society, which Dad and I helped to found together) can succeed in a world that is corporation-friendly, developer-friendly, and equally devil-may-care toward its regular citizens.  It is a brilliant text for any PR or communications professional.

1. First, following the plan the main character lays out in the book, you identify yourself as an established entity (mouse), firmly networked with totally scary groups or individuals... like the Gruffalo himself!  "A Gruffalo, Fox?  I'm surprised you don't know!"  In my head, this translates as "I am the spokesman for a very large group of powerful people and I can't believe you are so clueless that you don't know who I am!"   
2.  Spend a great deal of time elaborating on the qualities of aforementioned totally scary and intimidating people/organizations that you are aligned with:  "He has terrible tusks, and terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws."

The scarier and uglier the better.  That is just who you want to be allied with if you are trying to accomplish something good in a governmental or political setting.  Especially if you hope to control a large block of voters.  Just sayin.'  Never forget to mention that ALL the people you are speaking for are diligent voters and you might want to leave the impression that they are all lawyers, too, if you think that will help. ;-)

3.  Make the other guy (the owl) feel vulnerable:  "...and his favorite food is owl ice cream."

You are communicating that "Yeah, baby!  My network's favorite thing to do is consume their opponents (you people with no scruples!) ...with glee."

4.  Then, when you meet the enemy face to face, you freak him out by making yourself seem like the scary thing.  "Good?" said the mouse.  "Don't call me good!  I'm the scariest creature in this deep dark wood.  Just walk behind me and soon you'll see, Everyone for miles is afraid of me."  A Gruffalo doesn't need to know that he is actually the scary one.

5.  Threaten things you have no intention of executing. Why not?  Life is short.  Yes, I know how that sounds.  But listen to this awesome, veiled threat!  "Well, Gruffalo," said Mouse, "don't you agree?  Everyone in the wood is afraid of me!  But now my tummy is beginning to rumble, and my favorite food is...Gruffalo crumble!"  Talk BIG, people.  If your cause is just (or you are completely desperate!), try this strategy and things might very well fall into place. 

6.  When you're "out of the woods" with the current issue, relax.  Praise the Lord!  Give God the glory for your great accomplishment.  Enjoy your success:  "Then all was quiet in the deep dark wood. The mouse found a nut and the nut was good."  Whew.  Rest.  Start working up your personal "scary" for the next battle!  They are endless in this life.  Especially for those of us who were born to be warriors.