November 04, 2008

Refusal to Persuade

It's quite curious how the most noticable opposition to a bright idea is often not from people who think it's inherently bad, but from people who think not enough support can be gathered.

Let's take third-party voting as it's the most obvious example.

One of the most peculiar arguments I ever heard against supporting Ron Paul was "he doesn't have a chance". There are real reasons not to support him, but is the fact that most people at the moment don't look like they would one of them? After all, that is simply a matter of convincing people. We're not always going to be able to convince people. But we don't have a chance of convincing people if we begin by assuming we can't and refusing to support something/someone on that basis.

A similar argument gets leveled at those who wish Catholics would do something about being forced to choose the lesser of two evils every time. The most common objection to the notion that we ought to make some effort to get something better is that not enough of us would be in agreement.

Let's take a third example but on a broader issue: Distributism's most common criticism is that it will simply never happen without government mandate which would be tantamount to communism. The idea that that very criticism contributes to making it harder for it to happen doesn't seem to occur to those who make it. Since they just *know* it can't happen, it's apparently better for them to minimize the number of people trying.

In all three of these cases there is a good possibility that even the best attempt to champion the cause it would fail. I'm not trying to say that it's only because people don't want to champion a seemingly lost cause that causes aren't won. But I have to question whether it's wise to cut off a cause on the basis of its seeming lost.

Of course, an obvious objection is that Christ Himself pointed out (toward the end of Luke 14) that a prudent king will before setting out to war consider whether the war is winnable and sue for peace instead if it is not. Clearly such a suggestion bears some merit. It bears merit even if one dismisses it with the fact that Christ was comparing His call to totality of conversion to that situation and that Christ did elsewhere point out that we could learn something from the prudence even of wicked men (the dishonest steward who yet is merciful to his subjects so that he will have people who are kind him when he is, well, fired), ie in short that Christ's referencing said king's prudence doesn't necessarily amount to Christ's approval of what he is referencing.

Clearly to throw ourselves into a project that we know we cannot win is a waste of energy and time. What I would question is whether we genuinely know we cannot win some efforts due to lack of popular support or whether rather we are neglecting to give it due consideration in our belief that we cannot win.

Here's my take.

Succeeding in any endeavor involving the persuasion of many people will depend greatly on whether enough people can be persuaded, of course. What seems to be overlooked is that whether enough people can be persuaded has very little to do with whether enough people at the moment are open to persuasion. I say this because persuasion of masses is not a simple matter of saying x and seeing how many people across the world respond with "Yes, x!" It's a long and multi-leveled process and self-nourishing cycle. You see, as more people are persuaded, there are more people to do the persuading. Thus it is very hard to simply look at the initial condition of the populace and say "there are not enough people who would be persuaded," for the simple reason that such saying really amounts to "there are not _yet_ enough people who would be persuaded," which says nothing about ultimate outcomes but only that the outcome will not be immediate.

Now, if we want to argue whether a system would be too dependent on persuasion even after everyone was persuaded to try adopting it, there is a point there. If we want to argue that we need to account for certain difficulties we will have in convincing a particular people -- say, overcoming the media or dispelling a prejudice -- that is most certainly to be done. Yet to dismiss the idea outright on the simple grounds that it requires persuasion for it to be adopted?

Well, I will tell you where that practice would have led us. There would be no United States. Christianity would not be legal. Whatever barbaric emperor would reign over us would have no reasonable opposition.

So for Pete's sake, let's do more discussing of how to persuade people to adopt a system and how to make the system self-surviving once it's adopted, and less dismissal of any idea that would require a lot of persuasion.

After all, most of the best ideas -- say, charity -- say, the very call of our Lord to conversion and living for God -- are lost causes at some point or another for the simple reason that man tends to get worse rather than better.

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Blogger melange said...

There are no real reasons not to support Ron Paul. He is the future of this country. After four years of Obama, every reasonable person in this country will be clamoring for him.

November 09, 2008 4:24 PM  

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