Woohoo! Received Nick Cooney's Change of Heart: What Psychology Can Teach Us About Spreading Social Change in the mail Friday and after only one chapter I already think it'll be invaluable. Not only is it interesting reading (although I'm biased towards the social sciences), but I feel it will help us to become more effective activists. I like how the title is Change of Heart as opposed to Change of Mind because while facts, logic and reasoning are certainly part of the activist's arsenal, facts by themselves are not enough. Compassion is more a matter of the heart, and hearts have to be opened before information can settle in.
Chapter One is called Looking Inward and it deals partly with the relationship between self-identity and activism. Cooney reminds us that because we're so strongly and emotionally invested in our cause, we tend to believe that our own advocacy methods are the right ones and that any criticism of them can feel like criticism of us. That in turn can make it hard to abandon them if it's shown they're flawed.
He also suggests that negative aspects of self-identity (like ego, jealousy and insecurity) need to be kept in reign if we want to be effective, and asks the following:
Are we as activists willing to keep our anger and passion in check so that we're directing them rather than they directing us? Are we willing to put those we hope to help ahead of our desires for self-expression, for standing up for ourselves, and for loudly proclaiming what we believe regardless of how others will respond? Are we willing to go beyond the comfortable boundaries of our current self-identity in order to be as effective as possible? (p.15)
All good questions. (And it makes me wonder what HE thinks of the VegNews scandal, snort. My own take on it is expressed in a comment I left at The Discerning Brute, but check out the excellent post Vegan Feminist Agitator has written on the matter.)
So I'm looking forward to the next chapters, and if any of you are interested I may share bits in the future that resonate with me. Or, if you don't want to wait, you can read a complete interview posted by Vegan Outreach to get a sense of what's in store.
Better yet, buy the book! :)