My daughter tells me that there’s a high school age young woman declaring herself on her social media to be proudly feminist, vegan, egalitarian, environmentalist, spiritual person (the latter evidenced by owning a tapestry). Further she states her intention to “unfriend” those who disagree with her. With a click of a button, of course, per that definition of friendship. Others, my daughter says, have similar posts with all the correct views in likeable, sharable bytes.
We shake our heads, laugh sourly at the ways people choose to try–if that’s what it is–to influence others. As if, we agreed, anyone would be convinced by such tactics. But, no, I guess many are, in that sense of blind following, or group conversion for practical reasons, which of course has been going on for millennia. Majority rules, the crowd mimics the most dominant members. I flatter myself that I’m not prone to such weakness, but the fact is, it’s only those who lack subtlety that I can consistently resist. Soft words can break bones (Proverbs 25:15). I guess that kind of flag waving isn’t really about influencing others after all, but what? Some kind of stab at creating a self identity around labels and slogans?
I went to a David Suzuki talk last week with my husband–I already agreed with most of Suzuki’s views, and it was more a last tribute to him as he nears his final years–my father’s age. I was disappointed in some ways–the talk was a rehash, and a lot of reading from his newest book, half of which I had already read. And even though it was supposedly the meditations of an elder, and was pretty much to believers, it still sounded shrill. I didn’t need to go to that talk, should have chosen something outside my realm of experience or awareness, so I could learn something new. At least I invited my husband, whose readings and activities and interests never bring him around those ideas much. But it wasn’t the kind of talk to influence him, either.
What if, I ruminated, someone set up two lectures by speakers with opposing views in the same venue, and when folks came in through the gates they were asked they already agreed with the speaker’s views, and if yes, whether they would ever, by the way, go hear someone with different views than their own. If they said yes to that, they would be sent to the wrong lecture (with a ticket stub explaining the switch, and the option to hear the more ear-tickling lecture later. A kind of “who moved my cheese” experience for everyone. Of course the speakers would need to know in advance so they would be ready for a lively discussion, and refrain from using sarcastic or derogatory comments about the opposition or resorting to lingo and assumptions. Would people actually learn something new?