How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
The ChangingMinds Blog!
The activist's trap
I've been researching ahead for pages for this site on activism, a general discipline that seeks to change the minds of others. I found much information out there on both reasonable and dodgy websites, ranging from civil rights to scary civil wrongs such as fascism and anarchy. It is curious how such polar opposites can find themselves in agreement at least in their need to be heard and approaches to resolving this. And getting heard is a lot of what it is first about.
Common 'be heard' activist methods include meetings, rallies and marches, in which they can declare their message at high volume. You may not agree with them, but you will hear them. Then they hope to change your mind, where a key method they use is passion. When you see how convinced they are, you must realize that there is something there worth investigating.
There's quite a lot of activist information around students, including scary detail on how to get them involved, some of which is reminiscent of cult methods, in which impressionable and lonely young people are hooked with promises of friendship and good deeds. And where better to look than a college campus at the start of term, where thousands of anxious young hopefuls, fresh from the family nest, are feeling their way in the world.
I did my bit of protesting when I was in college, though my motivations were more social than idealistic. I once travelled hundreds of miles with my girlfriend to London to take part in a mass march about something (I was never sure quite what). In solidarity with our brothers and sisters we marched in our hundreds of thousands, shoulder to shoulder. Until we got to Oxford Street, that is, when we went shopping instead. We caught up with the others later, in time to go to a pub then trek back to University, telling tales of student power and retail therapy.
Modern activists are maybe less cynical and certainly more organized. Take this relatively mild extract from a modern manual, where breaking laws and causing inconvenience to others is accepted as normal behavior:
Particularly towards the further reaches of anarchy, methods are more Machiavellian, assuming that the end justifies the means. Anarchists sadly fall into the same traps as those they seek to depose, including massive assumptive leaps and blind acceptance of strongly worded yet fallacious arguments. Never mind the logic, feel the passion!!
Another mode of activism to consider: Being. Yes, influencing others' beliefs
by your presence, how you show up, how you physically embody your beliefs and
delivering your message from this presence, enlisting the participation from
this presence. Then teaching others how to do the same thing. This is the
message of the Strozzi Institute whose workshop I recently experienced.
I couldn't agree more, Stephen. The more I experience, the more
that I believe this is the very best way to persuade. I know that with Children,
we can talk till we're blue in the face trying to advise them, based on our own
experience, but the truth is, their observation of our behavior is more powerful
than any spoken wisdom we could ever offer. My mother never told me about all of
the values of reading and learning, but I observed her love of books, and her
shelves stacked high, and the varied themes, and lo and behold, I am one of
Barnes and Noble's Best customers.