Sometimes victory can look a lot like defeat. This week the New Zealand pro-life movement had perhaps one of its most important victories in years, but I doubt they realised it, because it looked a lot like defeat.
It came in the form of the Pro Life Club’s disaffiliation from the Auckland University Students’ Association. Not only was the club disaffiliated, but clubs with “a similar ideology” are banned from joining the association in future. That rather broad, loose wording, which might include any number of clubs, is yet to come under the steady eye of the law, so the game is not over yet.
But at this stage it is looking remarkably like the underdog came out on top, and for several reasons.
The least important is that there are over 40,000 students at Auckland University. How many of them belong to the Auckland University Students’ Association I could not find out. But only 2,700 turned out for the vote. If that is the entirety of the AUSA membership, it doesn’t say much for the Association. If it is only a small portion of the AUSA, it doesn’t say much for the members.
About 1600 turned out to vote in favour of disaffiliation, and about 1000 turned out to vote against. What happened to the other 100, heaven knows. The journalist certainly didn’t, otherwise he would have told us.
All-in-all though, the numbers surprised me. They really aren’t that bad for a club that is meant to represent ideas long-since regarded as ridiculous.
But the bigger picture is the more important one. Because, of course, the Students for Choice have finally shown that they are, in fact, not.
They are the Students Against Choice. That is because they are against those who disagree with them. And if you are against those who disagree with you, you absolutely must be against choice. After all, we only have choice when we have two or more options that really, truly differ from one another. We have a very poor choice in foods if all that lies on our plates are apples. Throw on an orange and we’ve got something different. We have got real, honest choice.
That’s the horrible thing about being pro-choice (in the truest sense of the word). It means being ‘”pro” your opponent. It means fighting for his or her rights as much as you fight for your own.
Doing in your opponent is simply not an option. It is, in fact, the underarm bowl of (in this case) student politics.
And underarm bowls don’t go down well with Joe Public. We are a tolerant nation, you see. We abide by the motto “live and let live”. Minority groups can scrap among themselves over who is right and who is wrong, but at the end of the day, what we all really want is a fair fight.
The moment one little group starts picking off the competition, they start looking mighty mean. They start looking scary, even. Worse, the victim starts looking harmless, and rather deserving of our pity and support.
That’s why the Pro Life Club, which exited dejectedly from the field this week, ought rather to be celebrating.
In the eyes of Average Joe, they have just become the victims of an underarm bowl. Even better, their opponents are the perpetrators, and are starting to look rather mean-spirited and narrow-minded in spite of their name.
And in this debate, winning over the public is far more important than winning an affiliation vote.
There is one final reason, though, why the Pro Life Club ought to celebrate: Your opponent only sends an underarm bowl your way when they really, truly believe you have a good shot at winning the game.
Like I said, sometimes defeat is a victory.
This article was originally published on Stuff.co.nz