Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Two blog posts have me thinking about the importance, in cultural activism, of reaching a wide
The first post, by a technology blogger, makes a great point, although I don't care for his opening example. (Dictatorial rule systematically usurps the reason of those subjected to it, for starters.)
Nobody ever changed anything by remaining quiet, idly standing by, or remaining part of the faceless, voiceless masses. If you ever want to effect change, in your work, in your life, you must learn to persuade others. [bold in original]These others are individuals, and change happens one mind at a time. But even the most persuasive people don't persuade everyone every time, no matter how right or just their cause. One reason for this is that some people simply are not bright enough or do not know enough to be reachable. Another is that some people are evasive (i.e., simply not open to reason).
I found an almost perfect example of evasion the other day, when reading a news story about the fallout from the Freeh Report. The Freeh Report had been commissioned by Penn State in order to determine how serial sexual predator Jerry Sandusky had been able to operate there for well over a decade after officials, including Coach Joe Paterno, had been made aware of his activities.
"I'll go to my grave believing he didn't do anything until someone shows me a video of him participating in whatever they're saying that he did," said [David] Sage, who later flashed his large ring with Paterno's name engraved on the side, the same ring he showed Joe's sons, Scott and Jay, at their father's on-campus memorial viewing in January. " . . . I think if you looked up the word integrity in the dictionary, you'd see his picture there."He might as well have added that if someone ever showed him such a video, he'd "know" it was a fake. Assuming for the sake of argument that the above remains this man's position in a year -- unless some pretty good evidence against Paterno having a role in the cover-up somehow surfaces -- this is a nearly perfect example of evasion, a refusal to think. (There is the possibility that the man is in temporary denial, too shocked to believe the evidence yet.)
Most people have no trouble deciding whether to expend more effort or give up on persuading someone who is less intelligent or informed. However, some people (including myself at times in the past) don't make this call with as much ease when someone is evasive. That's a problem, because a cultural activist cannot waste his time -- or far worse, his energy -- by investing it in attempting to persuade someone who is evasive. Aside from comment threads here, I almost never participate in on-line discussions, but when I do look at them, I usually see someone who is obviously right about something allowing someone who is obviously wrong (and being evasive) to waste his time and energy by making a reply. One clue that the person in the right is wasting his time is that he is becoming angry out of frustration.
It is far better to look for help with one's persuasiveness from people one knows to be conscientious and helpful, and then to always work to reach a broader audience than any one individual. Even in an online discussion, there is a broader audience -- lurkers and passers-by -- who might be open to the points one wants to make. It is the broader audience, and the fact that there are likely to be receptive minds there that one must remember when promoting one's cause.
Strive to be persuasive, but don't beat yourself up if persuasion doesn't work on everyone.
Today: Corrected a typo and corrected the wording in a sentence about the example of evasion.