Throwing Pebbles into the Ocean
What shapes our behavior and beliefs, more than anything
else, is the one thing that most people will not admit to being affected by:
the people around us.
But a massive body of research has proven the myth of
independence. Human beings are not
willing to believe their own eyes, if social pressure pushes them not to. Ethical
people become abusive tyrants, when the institutions around them encourage it.
And they will even kill defenseless victims, when they believe it’s expected of them by an authority figure. We are, in
other words, highly social creatures.
Focusing on individual persuasion, in the face of these
massively powerful social influences, is like throwing pebbles into the ocean,
with the hope that we can someday stop the crashing waves. What we need to
change is not just individuals, but social norms. That is, the way those
individuals INTERACT with others. (Are they silent, or do they speak out?) The
way they FEEL about animal holocaust. (Are they indifferent, or are they
outraged?) The way they ACT in the huge cauldron of social beliefs and
behaviors that we call “culture.” (Do
they speak meekly, or do they take direct action?)
By targeting interactions, feelings, and actions – rather than
personal consumer behaviors – we can create the chain reactions that will take
us down the path to liberation.