The Chasm Between Any and EveryPosted by in Uncategorized
When those espousing the No Kill vision make their case, they often employ a phrase which is subtle in its linguistic misdirection. They say, “Any shelter can become No Kill,” and then list examples. This sleight of words is intended to draw your attention away from the reality you might have right in front of you and make you think that “Every shelter can become No Kill.” It is the same misdirection used by many politicians when they say, “Anyone can succeed in America,” and then list themselves as examples as a means of getting you to vote against your own interests.
There is a tremendous divide between the meaning a statement and the likelihood of it coming to be when “any” is replaced with “every”. It is telling that the examples used to prove the case of “any” tend to be singular in nature. This shelter and that shelter chose to become No Kill. Often the claim will follow that this community (itself a suspect generalization) or that community chose it but, even with the implied broadness of that word, it represents a limited profile and geography.
You don’t hear any claim that this state or this region or this nation succeeded. That would be the factored leap in outcomes which would be required to make the case that every shelter can become No Kill. Everywhere. At once.
Let me remove the spear from the spleen of some reading this by repeating my well-worn reminder that I believe half the people in sheltering should retire or be fired and half of the other half should be reprogrammed in order to allow them to do a vastly better job. Sheltering is broken, we should strive for a civilizational construct which allows for the achievement of a No Kill world (whatever that might actually mean), and I’m sure there’s something wrong with me and what I do that you can hold against me. With that out of the way….
This is not about the goal, which is noble. It’s not about the outcome, which may be possible. It’s about the language and the tactic of hiding behind extremely carefully, well-crafted phrases. We are in good company. The sides in the abortion debate didn’t choose “Pro-Life” and “Pro-Choice” by accident. Each side intends to frame the argument to its advantage and start with the words.
Yes, any shelter can become No Kill. Over time, enough of those shelters choosing to do it may reshape the needs, expectations, resources, and attention given to the entire issue. This is very much in the way of what is happening in Pennsylvania right now as more and more shelters choose to drop animal control contracts, forcing government to finally make some hard decisions.
But what No Kill advocates want is to have every shelter choose to be No Kill. OK, what if they did? Everywhere. At once. Now. I know, you know, they know it can’t actually happen everywhere, at once, now. No more than everyone, at once, now, can go to college, or choose to become a millionaire. Yes, anyone can choose to become a millionaire or go to college- and we know even these are too broad a generalization because even these aren’t true- but everyone can’t, right now, at once.
Language can certainly alter our perception of reality and what is possible. I am not willing to grant that it actually changes the physical world. Although it may make it possible, simply saying it does not make it so.
So let’s stop crafting sentences which are Olympiads of semantics. Even our friends hate to hear us descend into negotiating what the definition of “is” is. And stop telling us that if we don’t take you at your words, we “don’t get it”. We get it. You just might be saying it wrong.