How we can disarm our opponents and spread our message
I have often said, we have opponents, but no enemies. Our opponents are bad ideas, and destructive actions. The people who engage in them need to be persuaded to stop. But they are just people — like us. What they are DOING is the problem.
Of course, it’s hard to change people’s minds. And we won’t change everyone’s minds. We may feel despair, we may feel unable to change anyone’s mind.
But we can weaken the resolve of destructive people. We can make them less enthusiastic about their destructive ideas and behaviors. We can instill doubt. And, most powerful of all, we can befriend them.
This isn’t merely a tactic. It’s recognition of reality. It’s a recognition of our common humanity and our common fate here on Earth.
How can we be enemies to people whom we are trying to save from their own folly? Who we are trying to stop from destroying the life-giving biosphere of the planet that they (and we) live on? How can we be enemies of people who we try to protect from earning (and deserving) the enmity of their own children and grandchildren?
We are not enemies. We are friends of confused people. Of deluded people. Of self-destructive people. Of people who need to be stopped and woken up. It’s like trying to help a friend with a potentially fatal drinking problem.
He’s got bad behavior. He’s stuck in his ways. He cannot change easily. He can’t see or think clearly. But he’s not actually bad.
But helping people like that is hard. It’s frustrating. Admittedly, it ain’t easy.
And it’s easy to lose patience. In our current situation, we can’t afford patience. The climate is collapsing RIGHT NOW. But we must act, and we must do our best. We must be stubborn and speak out. But we must listen, too. Not because those bad ideas and actions can be justified. But because we can answer all the objections, we can discredit the foolishness, we can recognize that we all want to live, that we all want our children to live, that we want a LIVING planet, not a dead one.
Cool, Clever, Imaginative — Protesting For Results
In the 1970s, there was a protest in Philadelphia for gay rights. The protesters knew that there was a stereotype — that gay people were flamboyant and effeminate and whatever. The protesters knew that if people saw their stereotypes confirmed, they wouldn’t actually understand the protest. The message wouldn’t get through.
This protest was NOT what the public would expect. The protesters were dressed in understated and semi-formal clothing — slacks and sport jackets. Shoes, not sneakers. They marched quietly and carried nicely printed signs. They got attention BECAUSE they were so distinctively pleasant and unexpected. The point isn’t that this is the right strategy for every protest. It’s not. The point is to use imagination, to defy expectations, to be interesting so you won’t be ignored, you make news.
The public, conditioned by politicians and the media, tends to see protesters as dirty, dangerous, and violent. And, in any protest that’s big enough, some people will behave badly.
And that’s what makes the news. So, we need imagination and discipline to get our message out, to make the news. We don’t want the protesters or the protest to be the news. We want THE MESSAGE to be the news. We want to make the conversation all about discussing OUR POINT.
As climate activists, and Saners, our point is this:
We demand an immediate worldwide emergency program, led by climate scientists, to end fossil fuels, end climate abuse and repair our planet.
Think about the different ways you can deliver that message. How might this be done? Stickers? Flyers? Greeting cards? Banners from buildings?
Two people playing catch in front of City Hall wearing T-Shirts with the demand printed on them?
For now, we need tactics that can be performed by small numbers of people. By you and a friend or two. That’s where we start. And we grow from there.