The Definition of Having an Agenda

Picture the situation. I am talking to someone inside the Haredi establishment about some case of abuse. I advocate some action. They agree that the abuser is terrible but claim they can’t do anything. I say, let’s involve activist X or activist Y. They demur because X or Y “Has an agenda.” I have learned the hard way that the moment they say those magical words, nothing productive will ensue.

agendaOh, I have occasionally pressed the other party to clarify what they meant. Suddenly, very articulate people went dumb. They stuttered, “You know what I mean,” or “They are not nice,” or “She/he upsets people,” etc. When I pressed them about whether these agenda-laden folks were truthful, competent and honest, the answer is usually, “Yes, but …… !” Occasionally, I point out that any purposeful human being has an agenda, and the only important question is: “What sort of agenda?” That question has also never gotten me very far.

At some point I came to realize that “Having an agenda” is a code word for someone who ruffles feathers because he or she doesn’t accede to the ultra orthodox’s establishment in its persistent attempts to shield most abusers from the full brunt of the criminal justice system.

Let me be more charitable to my conversational partners. They want to do the right thing. But they do not want to pay the essential price of confronting the powers that be. They want to “Work within the system.” That is an admirable trait and style if you can do it without compromising your core principles or the safety of children.”

Those that want to work within the system are caught in a painful dilemma. The system espouses beautiful values of, truth, kindness, sexual purity, etc. As we all know, reality clashes with those values. Doing the right thing can sometimes be accomplished smoothly. But often it can’t. When this happens you have to pick sides. Wanting to get along with others is an admirable trait until it inhibits you from doing the right thing.

I believe that many resist defining “Having an agenda” because it would force them acknowledge that they are hemmed in by shiduchim, yeshiva admissions, livelihood, and other social pressures to the point where they are inhibited from doing the right thing.

It is time for the discussion of agendas to move up to a higher level of specificity. Everyone has an agenda whether noble or ignoble, whether self-protective or altruistic. The only question worth answering is: What is the agenda?

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4 thoughts on “The Definition of Having an Agenda

  1. I understand that these posts come from England. Is that correct? If so, can you explain how it is that they arrived at 7:48 p.m., which is 5:48 p.m. in London, when Shabbos came in at 4:18 in London this week?

    Judith Weil

    • I am assuming your are referring to a different post and I am not sure which post your are referring to. The documents from london I referenced on Friday were all posted on or before 2:46 pm, London time. Please raise this question in the correct post and identify the link to which you are referring.

      I see no indications that the sources I referenced violated Shabbat. However, as a matter of good journalism, my decision to use a source is based on my determinations of credibility including some sources that I know not to be Shabbat observant. For example, like the rest of the Jewish world, my reference material on sunset for determining the start and end of Shabbat comes from secular, and probably not even Jewish institutions.

      I have never inquired specifically whether or not Miriam Shaviv is or is not Shabbat observant but my impression is that she is modern orthodox. But what I definitely know is that she is a very capable and trustworthy journalist.

      Above all we need the truth and that is what I look for.

    • Frankly, I am more than appalled that this is an issue that Weil D&J choose to be upset about,. The Shabbos police is always on guard waiting for an opportunity to pounce on those less “dos”.
      or perhaps not “dos” at all. YL is under no obligation to lock up the site on Shabbos, and he does not moderate all comments, such that some “goyim” might manage, Chas’v’shalom to enter a comment not consistent with your world clock.
      elohim elohim, with all of the child sexual abuse, and other abuses, fraud, and corruption in the Orthodox community, this is what keeps the Weil’s awake at night? I suggest that those who are upset by such things (omg, do you really check the time stamp on every comment??), Gveret Weil? take a look at your priorities. I strongly suggest that you worry about your own soul and your own afterlife, and at the same time, worry about the souls of our abused children. I am also willing to wager that there is food in your house with a hekscher that other charedim would find pasul.
      I don’t know if YL agrees with me, but i do not believe that this exemplary blog which has accomplished so much in the fight against CSA, needs a “Shabbos Police”.

      • The most discouraging thing about weil D&J is that he cant even correctly calculate time differences to appreciate that the comment was not posted on shabbat when the author was in London. Secondly, Weill D&J perfectly illustrates the point of my post about attacking comments for reasons unrelated to their content. What about the comment would be less true if the source was not shomer Shabbat?

        Just for the record, i do not do blog posting or comment moderating on shabbat. however, it is open for others, and after shabbat i moderate all that came in over shabbat.

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