No it’s not like that. I can’t automatically persuade people of anything. What I can do is get them to pay attention, think and evaluate. A lot of times, that’s enough.
People can have ideas in their heads, wrong ideas, hateful ideas and these destructive thoughts may guide their actions. But not always. People can be reached, can open their minds when you catch their eyes, look into their eyes, and get them to look back. I’m simply better at it than most.
That’s how I got that oil company CEO to change his views on global warming. It was a shareholder meeting. I bought five shares just for the occasion, to get in. I asked a question and locked eyes. I had his full attention.
“Since 97% of scientists confirm that global warming, caused largely by fossil fuels, will permanently degrade the planet and threaten the continued existence of our species, do you feel comfortable destroying the lives of your children and grandchildren?”
I could see he was automatically answering. “There is no consensus among scientists and our own scientists dispute that conclusion…” He trailed off, lowered his head and rubbed his brow. The pause was uncomfortably long.
When at last he raised his head, his eyes were red and cheeks were wet. “You are right. This can’t go on. We must change this now.”
Of course, the board immediately deposed the CEO but the fact is I reached him.
Since then, I’ve caused a tobacco CEO to disavow his carcinogenic products and a military supplier to come out against weapons of war. Both are now, of course, involuntarily retired.
I am no longer allowed to attend any shareholder meetings. By anyone.
But that tobacco situation continued to gnaw at me. I’m a smoker. I’ve got a wife and kids and I should behave like a responsible adult. I should know better. So, right now, I’m standing in front of a mirror, talking to myself and studying my eyes.