Reaching Out

Fire-starting, Jewish Space Lasers?

At a recent-ish zoom meeting, a participant (S) asked something like: How do you reach people in a world where even elected officials believe there are fire-starting, Jewish space lasers? Okay, I may have added my own words but I think this is the gist of the question. Full-disclosure, it’s not often I share company with people with extreme, right-wing views so I haven’t had many conversations with them, although I have imagined many. When I do my tables, I am inviting a passerby into a conversation. It’s a fair assumption that anyone willing or curious enough to accept my invitation is at least a little receptive to my view. I assume that Marjorie Taylor-Greene would only come to my table to flip it over. Having said that, I have some ideas. Consider my Jenga model. If you’ve never played or heard of Jenga, it’s a game comprised of about 50 small, rectangular blocks that are stacked into a tower. At first, the tower is very stable but over the course of the game, as players take turns pulling out blocks, it transforms and is less and less stable until it finally collapses. In this analogy, I see the full tower as the set of mostly unconscious beliefs that support a non-vegan lifestyle. I invite people to take one of those blocks out and examine it thus bringing it out of their intuitive brain system (the part that accepts wholeheartedly without question) into their conscious, thoughtful, methodical brain system. I rarely imagine that one conversation (or one block) will result in someone going vegan (unless their tower is already mostly deconstructed) but I see our conversation as a way to at least begin the process of challenging long-held, unconscious beliefs. This process can begin even with the most structurally sound tower. Once it begins, there is a greater likelihood that the process will continue. It’s that first block that is the most challenging. Think of starting these conversations as an invitation to play Jenga. The more competent and confident we feel about having these conversations, the less novel and the more familiar veganism becomes. People are much more likely to pursue something that feels familiar to them and it’s really up to us to make our compassionate selves visible.

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