“Knowledge + Attachment = Commitment”
This week I have been thinking about the connection between ‘knowledge’ and ‘attachment’ in the context of ‘commitment’ to the abolitionist movement. Not every individual who hears about the movement to end slavery in our lifetime commits to being actively engaged. Should we instinctively attribute any lack of long-term support to a general non-committal attitude, or do we as leaders in the abolitionist movement need to be proactive and intentional in nurturing the commitment required to end modern-day slavery?
knowl·edge [nol-ij] noun, acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as from study or investigation; general erudition.
This week I had my first experience of celebrating Thanksgiving. Until this week I didn’t really know what it was about – I knew that it was celebrated by Americans every year, that it came before Christmas, had something to do with pilgrims coming from England, and involved a lot of food. (Now you can be disappointed with my complete lack of general knowledge about such a significant holiday, but in my defence, there was an equally distinct lack of accurate knowledge regarding the origins of the British ‘Guy Fawkes Night’, when I insisted it should be observed earlier this month!). Anyway, my point being, it is possible to have an ‘acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles’ without actually having a comprehensive understanding of those facts, or for them to have any real personal significance. This was very evident to me this week as friends around me became increasingly more excited about the traditions surrounding the celebration of Thanksgiving, and I was mainly just enjoying watching them get excited about cranberry sauce.
at·tach·ment [uh–tach-muh nt] noun, a feeling that binds one to a person, thing, cause, ideal, or the like; devotion; regard.
The reason that they had such a great passion and excitement to celebrate Thanksgiving was that they had an attachment to the tradition of Thanksgiving and I did not. They had personal memories of Thanksgivings’ past – the whole holiday had personal significance for them. As the definition describes, they had a feeling that bound them to the occasion, whereas for me, I had no pre-existing attachment. Although I wasn’t ‘feeling’ it the same way, I could totally understand; as I mentioned, a group of us celebrated ‘Guy Fawkes Night’ earlier this month, and the same phenomenon occurred. There was a bit of confusion among our group as to why I was willing to walk half a mile across a beach in the wind, the rain, and the dark, to stand next to a half-gone-out bonfire as a form of ‘celebration’. Some were also confused – lacking this exact same personal attachment – as to why they were being dragged across the beach too!
com·mit·ment [kuh–mit-muh nt]noun, the act of committing, pledging, or engaging oneself. engagement; involvement.
The more I think about it, it seems that commitment is the product of both knowledge and attachment. Although we can take part in an enjoyable Thanksgiving meal, or have fun watching a bonfire, we don’t actually fully ‘engage’ until we have both the knowledge of ‘why’ we are doing what we are doing, and the ‘feeling’ of attachment that draws us to do it. Sometimes I think we can be quick to highlight a lack of commitment as a general noncommittal attitude, rather than taking the time to appreciate that this could actually be the result of a lack of knowledge or attachment.
I think maybe that the disconnect between knowledge and attachment is one of the contributing factors to the lack of commitment by, currently the majority, of the wider public to the abolitionist movement. Firstly, there still exists a lack of accurate knowledge about the realities of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Although in recent years, Hollywood and the media have spotlighted the issue, there is still a preconception that human trafficking is purely synonymous with sex trafficking, and that modern-day slavery is largely an exaggeration in terms. I think that this can lead to a lack of attachment because the severity of the problem remains unappreciated. It is often those who are faced with the knowledge of slavery through first-hand encounters of slavery being uncovered ‘in their own backyard’ who are the most passionate about refusing to be passive in the abolitionist movement. In the same vein, there are many passionate justice-seekers who do not have the depth of knowledge required to support this passion, which can lead to ‘dumb’ activism.
The abolitionist movement is undoubtedly in need of committed individuals who are both unwaveringly engaged and involved – long-term. I think that this type of commitment originates through the combination of possessing authentic knowledge on the issue, and a personal attachment derived through experience either directly, or indirectly, with the problem of modern-day slavery. As leaders in the abolitionist movement, it is our responsibility to foster commitment by providing appropriate knowledge to abolitionists, and aiming to cultivate their attachment to the movement.