Irish Shooting Politics

March 19, 2009

The grass roots

Filed under: Politics — Mark Dennehy @ 12:37 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

One of the results of the suboptimal communications between Governing Bodies and their members which we spoke of earlier, is that when certain events are announced, such as the proposed upcoming meeting we mentioned previously here, the ordinary shooter is none the wiser as to the reasons, if there are any, why such events might be considered by any informed right-thinking person to be at best a poor idea, and at worst a cynical one.

Perhaps here we could address that in a manner which we cannot – and on balance, should not – elsewhere.

The announcement of this event makes several assertions – we would ask that the reader’s patience indulge us in examining them one post at a time for the sake of combining clarity with brevity as best can be managed in this medium and under this degree of scrutiny.

The first assertion made,  by the very creation of this new proposed body, is that there is a need for a new “grassroots organisation” to represent the “common man” of shooting. Leaving aside the statistical argument that the most common “common man” of shooting is represented quite adequately by the Irish Farmers Association at present, consider the nature of a “grassroots organisation”. The “grassroots” of any sport are, by definition, not organised. A “grassroots protest”, such as the one which effected a reversal in a past Government’s decision to increase firearms licence fees, is a collection of actions taken by individual people without oversight or direction by a central group. It is less comparable to a military unit marching on the parade ground and more comparable to the flocking of birds, an emergent phenomenon in the technical jargon of such things.

To try to create a “grassroots organisation” therefore, can be seen as making a mockery of the true power of grassroots movements and those who participate in them. It is possible to faciliate a grassroots movement, certainly –’s discussion forums demonstrate that on a daily basis on a wide range of topics, and demonstrated it for shooting during the protest against the increase in firearms licence fees. But that is done by providing tools and mechanisms, not by providing policy. It is even possible in a grassroots movement to inspire, to set an example – but he who would try to lead such a movement would be well advised to study the nature of stampedes and what happens to those who try to lead them.

It is possible that the attempt to create such an organisation might not be an exercise in cynical mockery. We should note that for fairness. It is possible even that the proponents of this idea might be innocently naieve as to the insult their actions can be interpreted as providing. It might well be the case that they are simply not well versed in the nature of the thing they seek to organise, and thus control. This would however, while absolving them from the sin of cynical manipulation, not reflect well on them in the eyes of many with regard to their suitability for representation of their fellow shooters. Indeed the notion of seeking to control those fellow shooters is not one which should be supported. Even the notion of one shooter representing the interests of his or her fellow shooters is meant to be considered as a necessary evil and mitigated at every opportunity through procedures which permit those represented to direct the actions of their representatives. Control over someone else is not a concept to be encouraged as an organisational element in a sport.

The very idea of a “grassroots organisation” is one which is therefore at best on very shaky ground, if it is not an outright oxymoron. There is even a term for grassroots movements which have such organising elements. It was coined from the American sports world where artifical grass is needed for sporting events. So one question which this proposed meeting should be asked to address is whether we want to take on the risk that the undeniably powerfull grassroots of shooting in Ireland would be dismissed by their detractors as “astroturf”?


1 Comment

  1. […] that role is fulfilled already and has been for some decades now) or to organise them (which, as I noted earlier, is not a well-thought-out approach), should probably pause before limiting its membership to three […]

    Pingback by Constitutions and focus « Irish Shooting Politics — March 27, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

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