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Life Arts

There Is Still Hope

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In response to the gloomy economic times we are in, I am re-posting 3 pieces  [edited slightly to fit the times].

Each of our Individual Voices Is More Important Than We've Realized

I just read a study which says that even one dissenting voice can give people permission to think for themselves. Specifically:
Solomon Asch, with experiments originally carried out in the 1950s and well-replicated since, highlighted a phenomenon now known as "conformity". In the classic experiment, a subject sees a puzzle like the one in the nearby diagram: Which of the lines A, B, and C is the same size as the line X? Take a moment to determine your own answer...

The gotcha is that the subject is seated alongside a number of other people looking at the diagram - seemingly other subjects, actually confederates of the experimenter. The other "subjects" in the experiment, one after the other, say that line C seems to be the same size as X. The real subject is seated next-to-last. How many people, placed in this situation, would say "C" - giving an obviously incorrect answer that agrees with the unanimous answer of the other subjects? What do you think the percentage would be?

Three-quarters of the subjects in Asch's experiment gave a "conforming" answer at least once. A third of the subjects conformed more than half the time.

Get it so far? People tend to defer to what the herd thinks.

But here's the good news:
Adding a single dissenter - just one other person who gives the correct answer, or even an incorrect answer that's different from the group's incorrect answer - reduces conformity very sharply, down to 5-10%.
Why is this important? Well, it means that one person who publicly speaks the truth can sway a group of people away from group-think.

If a group of people is leaning towards believing the government's version of events, a single person who speaks the truth can help snap the group out of its trance.
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There is an important point here regarding the web, as well. The above-cited article states that:
when subjects can respond in a way that will not be seen by the group, conformity also drops.
What does that mean? Well, on the web, many people post anonymously. The anonymity gives people permission to "respond in a way that will not be seen by the group". But most Americans still don't get their news from the web, or only go to mainstream corporate news sites.

Away from the keyboard, we are not very anonymous. So that is where the conformity dynamic -- and the need for courageous dissent -- is vital. It is doubly important that we apply the same hard-hitting truthtelling we do on the Internet in our face-to-face interactions; because it is there that dissent is urgently needed.

Bottom line: Each person's voice has the power to snap entire groups out of their coma of irrational group-think. So go forth and be a light of rationality and truth among the sleeping masses.

Hope In a Time of Hopelessness

Several long-time activists have told me recently they are overwhelmed, worried, and think that we may be losing the struggle ....
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One very smart friend asked me if there is any basis for hope.

But hope is an act of will, not a passive mood. Admittedly, things are easier when circumstances bring hope to us, and we can just receive the hopeful and inspiring news.

But if we care about winning, we have to be able to decide to have hope even when outer circumstances aren't so positive.

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George Washington


As a political activist for decades, I have rejoiced in victories for the people and mourned in defeats. I chose the pen name "George Washington" because - as Washington's biographies show - he wasn't a (more...)
 

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Thank you for reminding all of us to focus on the ... by Julie Worley on Friday, Mar 20, 2009 at 9:09:51 AM
about criminality at the top is the helplessnes... by Nick van Nes on Friday, Mar 20, 2009 at 10:15:46 AM
I thought we got a full dose of that "Hope&qu... by William Whitten on Friday, Mar 20, 2009 at 3:49:29 PM