The only way to win an argument is to avoid it.
Dale Carnegie said that, and he probably knew more about how to influence the thoughts of another person than 99.9999% of people who have ever lived.
Knowing this, I am a bit distressed by some of the social activism happening in the streets of Portland.
Portland has recently seen many protests against things ranging from skyrocketing rent to racial discrimination. Portland is one of the fastest changing cities in the country- and the country’s political dialogue feels a little insane. It says a lot about the competency of our citizens to have people demonstrating. Now- if only we could be more effective.
Before I go on- I know little about racial discrimination. I’m just a young white dude with relatively little experience. I’m going to talk about it here because the issue has become impossible to ignore. And regardless, I can firmly say that racism is bullshit, and I am willing to put myself in the way of criticism to stop it. Not to reverse it, or retaliate for it, but stop it.
Nobody enjoys being told that they’re wrong. When anyone does this, it strengthens the resistance of their opponents. Sometimes, this is a bad idea.
If demonstrating is done in with violence or in poor taste, it can earn criticism from neutral bystanders and create further opposition.
For an extreme example of ineffective resistance: when a black man shot and killed multiple police officers earlier this year in retaliation for the black lives lost at the hands of officers, he did not help anyone. The painful racial divide was only widened. Those previously not engaged in discussions of race may have concluded that black activism is violent in general. Some people who were angered by police brutality may have felt better for an instant- but like scratching an itch, lots of things that feel good do not actually help.
If only more of us knew the Tao, we would cease to push the pendulum that comes back to crush us.
An example of effective activism came on my news feed yesterday. Here’s the video:
Seeing a young black man hug an officer in riot gear is a powerful image that has the power to heal racial tension. It reminds us that not every cop is a racist, and not every young black guy is violent. This was an act of love that not only inspires- it overwrites the programming of negative, stereotyped images.
Some didn’t seem to be helped, including those in the video essentially calling him a traitor. But did the hugs cause this pain, or uncover what was already there?
Like many others, this man took a stand for justice, and was criticised for it. Yet he did it with an act of love.
Is that not what Martin Luther King Jr taught us? Has any other method proven to be as effective?