Imagine that you’re at a dinner party and someone asks you what your interests are. You reply that you’re a nuclear weapons activist. You briefly describe your project, and then ask them if they’re concerned about nuclear weapons.
If your conversation partner says no, you politely change the subject to their interests.
The One Dollar Question
If the person you’re chatting with says they are concerned, you then ask if they would be willing to donate $1 a year to a marketing fund which will help the public understand how they can help make nuclear disarmament a reality.
One of three things happens next.
1) If the person you’re talking with says they’ve already signed up for a yearly donation to the fund, you shake hands, embrace, and enjoy a new friend who gets what you’re about.
2) If they say yes, you whip out your phone and show them the sign up page, and close the deal on the spot. And then the handshake and embrace.
3) If they say no thanks, you cheerfully reply, “Ok, no problem” and change the subject.
This last person is the most interesting. They said that they are concerned about nuclear weapons, but are not ready to act on that concern, even in the most modest manner possible. This describes most people on the planet.
The last thing we want to do here is start a debate.
If the other person starts a debate, we hear them out, give them respect, and then let it drop. The primary thing that happens in any debate is that each debater winds up clinging more passionately to whatever position they started with. Once anyone has publicly stated a position, their ego typically becomes attached to that position, and push back will typically be experienced as an attack upon their self image, each human being’s most prized possession.
Instead of debate, we accept their decision, which they have every right to, and then, wait…
Planting The Seed
After some period of time this person may very well start wondering why they aren’t willing to spend a single dollar to help save the world from nuclear war. By asking them for the dollar you’ve planted a seed in their mind which may spring from the soil of their concern at the right moment.
It took me a couple of years after watching Countdown To Zero to finally make the leap from concern to some modest action. Every nuclear weapons activist probably knew about the horrors of nuclear war for years before they decided to take action.
The main reason any of us delayed taking action on nuclear weapons is that we didn’t know what just one person could do about such an enormous problem.
It should be the job of activists to give everyone concerned person something they can do right now to make a difference. By asking for just a dollar we’re doing everything we can to make the leap from concern to action as easy as possible.
And if someone isn’t ready to act just yet, even in the smallest way, we’ve given them something to think about. Like the patient farmer, we’ve planted the seed.