I consider myself to be an activist. Not really in the true sense of the word. The root is clearly “active” and I am not the chain-myself-to-a-tree type. I am much more of a passive activist (passactivist?). I like to have conversations with people about their beliefs and lead by example. Some would argue that if I’m going to make any real change in the world that I need to be out holding the picket sign and gathering signatures on a petition. Sure, those people are necessary, but that’s not how I work to change the world. The other side may call me lazy, but I believe that my approach may be less abrasive and more likely to garner sympathy from my “opponents”.
That being said….
No matter why type of activist you may consider yourself to be, we will almost always get pulled into that “us versus them” mentality. It is inevitable, but not very helpful. I try to see both side of any issue, but there are a few areas in which I cannot: nutrition and vaccination are two hot-button issues that get my hackles up because of all the cock-a-mamey ideas out there. See, right there, language that can immediately shut down any sort of open dialogue. I am acutely aware of the types of words that allow people to speak freely and those that do not, thanks to my time as a social worker, but I fall into the shut-down habits pretty frequently; especially when I’m on the internet. Admit it, you do it too. And we all know that the first step to recovery is admission.
If any of us truly plan to change hearts and minds, we have to move away from shutting down conversation. It is hard not to simply tell people they are being stupid, but that will not open up anyone to our message. This is a difficult habit to break because, let’s face it, there are many stupid people out there. Remember: relapse is part of recovery. So if you snap and say, “You are a dumb ass, look at the clear evidence,” apologize, and let the person know that you are a recovering shut-down addict.
Now, I’m not sure how serious I am about moving towards a more “open dialogue” way of being, because it can be SO MUCH FUN to laugh and poke fun at all the dumb shit on Facebook, Twitter, and the internet-at-large, but I do need to think seriously about it. I do want to influence others to think my way; who doesn’t? I also value there being a plethora of ways to approach all aspects of the human experience. With both of these values, it is important that I do try to pay more than just lip-service to fostering open dialogue. Ugh, but sarcasm is so great, too.
One caveat to all of this “open-dialogue-will-show-them-the-way” talk, is that there is ample scientific evidence to show that even when confronted with clear evidence to the contrary of a personally held belief, the individual still will not change their viewpoint.
This is a torn woman writing to you folks. I’m sure we’ve all experienced this at some point in our lives so share your struggles with us here!