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E-M:/ "Preaching To The Choir"

Enviro-Mich message from Wjkramarz@aol.com

Here's an excellent essay by Jackie Giuliano on this topic.    

"Depression, confusion, and feelings that they are living double lives are 
rampant among people who are trying to be socially responsible. Every part of 
mainstream society works hard to make them feel alone, outcast, weak, and 
wrong. "

Is Preaching to the Choir a Waste of Time?

With the onset of the New Year, it is important to examine and reassess our 
activities. After 180 Healing Our World commentaries, it is important for me 
to examine what I have been doing for the last five years with these 

A comment from a reader of my weekly thoughts who has enjoyed Healing Our 
World recently expressed a concern that helped me focus on why I do what I 
do. He feared that I might be "preaching to the choir," a phrase used to 
suggest that only those who already hold my views are part of the audience. 
This phrase is, I think, an oversimplification. There may not be  nor may 
there ever have been  a choir to preach to. 

Understanding these social dynamics is important for environmental and social 
activists, a people who are challenged every day to promote a viewpoint that 
is in direct conflict with the economic motives of Western society. 

I personally do not subscribe to the idea that speaking to those agree with 
you is somehow a waste of time. That whole concept is based on a fallacious 
assumption - that people think all one way and agree with one another on all 

Anyone who has had any contact with activists on any issue will have noticed 
that among 50 people who are working on an issue, many will have divergent 
views on 1) the reasons why they are doing the work, 2) how their beliefs fit 
into the matrix of their lives and society, and 3) what they hope the outcome 
of their actions will be. 

Many will also have divergent views on eating habits, lifestyle choices, and 
about what in society needs changing. Some will wear sweatshirts and tennis 
shoes and be unaware, or unconcerned, that child labor sweatshops produce 
most of the apparel, while others eat no animal products nor do they wear 

I have worked on environmental issues with folks who smoke tobacco, eat meat, 
and wear clothing sewn by child labor. I have worked with vegans who couldn't 
give a hoot about consumerism. There is no choir on any issue. I don't think 
there ever has been. 

People opposed to redefining their social and personal values often cling to 
familiar ways because they are laboring under some very false assumptions 
about their relationships to other people and about the way the world works. 

My messages are about challenging the assumptions that we all hold dear and 
trying, in a very small way, to provide a foundational framework from which 
everyone could proceed. That framework is based on a reverence for life. 
Period. End of story. I maintain in all my commentaries that if we all 
started from that basic premise, the world would change overnight. 

The reader who wrote me about preaching to the choir was also legitimately 
concerned that my direct and sometimes harsh reports would not get past the 
protective filters and programming of some people. I do not, however, worry 
about filters. Filters are part of the human condition. Everybody has filters 
based on their upbringing and subsequent assumptions and life experiences. 
Filters are the first reaction to anything. Whether that reaction generates 
initial agreement or disagreement is irrelevant. 

When people have read the commentary, they will have been exposed to the 
point of view and it will be present in their minds. If they completely 
disagree, they may talk about how bad it was to their friends, not all of 
whom will agree with them. The more they talk about it, the more their minds 
will have a chance to process it and when they see other information that 
corroborates my ideas - which they always will - then they may ultimately 
begin questioning their assumptions. 

Right wing, conservative, anti-environmental groups will often post my 
commentaries at their websites, accompanied with a biting diatribe condemning 
my conclusions. They will usually include a link to the original article, 
which I think is wonderful! In this way, many thousands of people who would 
never have been exposed to those views will have the opportunity to see that 
some people believe that there is another way.

For those who have already done some thinking about an issue, the 
commentaries may also be of value. Few people have figured out how to be 
totally consistent in their lives, nor have they explored the complete 
ramifications of the idea that we are all deeply interconnected. Few have 
even taken the time to understand what their own personal core values are. 

Depression, confusion, and feelings that they are living double lives are 
rampant among people who are trying to be socially responsible. Every part of 
mainstream society works hard to make them feel alone, outcast, weak, and 

I hope that by reading my commentaries, such folks will find assistance in 1) 
creating consistency in their lives, 2) seeing that it is OK to believe in 
what may not be popular, 3) creating ideas about what their core values could 
be, 4) seeing that it is OK to be angry when injustice is done, 5) believing 
that having a respect for all life is not an extreme point of view, and 6) 
believing that their individual voice matters and that millions of people are 
trying to do these things every day. 

So, with these assumptions about my audience, I feel it is quite acceptable 
to be direct and blunt, wherever I can. I have no problem calling crop 
dusting bioterrorism or saying that pesticide poisoning is industry and 
government sanctioned murder. I firmly believe that the beginning of wisdom 
is calling things by their right names. 

Other people can be the mediators, the peacemakers, and the arbitrators. I am 
not. My messages are strong and reflect the urgency I feel about the 
condition of the world and the condition of our own personal values. There 
are too many committees, task forces, research studies, and data collection 
projects in the world. We just need to stop hurting anyone of any species 

As always, anyone is welcome to use that delete key or surf to another site. 
However, I have found over the years that folks with many different beliefs 
and values have found the commentaries of interest, and that the commentaries 
have challenged them to think in a way they had not before considered. 

Most people have open minds that are searching for answers to the questions 
that plague our lives. Less than three percent of the population is motivated 
only by greed and selfishness. We only hear about them on the evening news, 
instilling a hopelessness that feels overwhelming. 

But if we work together to hear the sound of the Earth crying, open our eyes 
to the suffering caused by that greed and indifference, and call things by 
their right name, then maybe together we can heal our world. 

1. Polish your activist skills with the Protest.net Activist Handbook at: 
2. Follow the actions of industry with Corporate Watch at: 
3. Learn about scores of activist opportunities at: 
4. Use your dollar as a potent activist tool. Check out Coop America's 
Boycott Action News at: http://www.coopamerica.org/boycotts/index.html 
5. Keep an eye on the conservative efforts to undo the progress that has been 
made from the Conservative Caucus website at: http://www.conservativeusa.org/ 
6. Stay involved with the organic food movement at: 
7. Keep track of corporate abuses through Corporate Watch at: 
8. Make sure the Bush administration doesn't weaken the Environmental 
Protection Agency's Environmental Justice program. Watch it at: 
9. Filter your media intake through Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting at: 
10. Change your food choices with the help of EarthSave at: 
11. Find out who your Congressional representatives are and e-mail them. 
Demand that they stay strong and work harder to protect our health, the 
environment and animal rights. If you know your Zip code, you can find them 
at: http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/ziptoit.html 
{Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D. is a writer and teacher in Seattle. He can be 
found trying to stay optimistic in a world cloaked in suffering. Please send 
your thoughts, comments, and visions to him at jackie@healingourworld.com and 
visit his website at: http://www.healingourworld.com

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