Last week, a newspaper advertisement in Italy invited hostess/escorts to attend an anonymous hosted party, promising cash payments and gifts to attend. After about 200 women showed up and waited for about an hour, comedian-tyrant Colonel Gaddafi of Libya popped in, lectured for 45 minutes on Islam, gave each woman a copy of the Koran and his little Green Book that outlines his philosophy, and then the party was over. Apparently one woman accepted the invitation to travel to Libya to check out Islam, but most were reportedly offended by some of the mad colonel’s comments on Christianity. And of course, the reverse of what Gaddafi did — to preach Christianity in Libya — is outlawed.
The same week saw the publication of former US vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin publish a memoir that had this gem:
If any vegans came over for dinner, I could whip them up a salad, then explain my philosophy on being a carnivore: If God had not intended us to eat animals, how come He made them out of meat? … I love animals–right next to the mashed potatoes.
Avoiding all the obvious flaws in logic displayed there — people and babies are also animals; does Palin also eat her pet dogs and hampsters? etc., etc. — Sarah’s actual thoughts on this mirror my own, or as Roy of MutantFrog once said to me in a private discussion on vegetarianism, “but animals are so tasty!” But do I say this to my vegetarian and vegan friends? Certainly not using those words, no — besides winning a few cheap chuckles, that type of argument would not win anyone over.
As it happens, I believe a lot of outlandish things, and in the right situation won’t hesitate to advocate them. But I can’t even begin to imagine all the information I would have failed to learn if I’d followed the Gaddafi-Palin strategy of bull-in-China-shop-style preaching, regardless of the audience. When I sat at the dinner table of a Soviet-Afghan war veteran in Kazakhstan and heard his story of fighting, I did not chime in with my support for the US invasion of Afghanistan after he loudly criticized it. When I visit the homes of Buddhists in Japan, I don’t explain to them my philosophy on being Christian. Now living in a Muslim country, I’m doing all I can to learn about the theology and culture of the region, acting as an explorer and adventurer but certainly not as a missionary. Doing this broadens my horizons and improves me as a person, all while strengthening some of my core beliefs and values — as Kipling said, “What can one know of England he who only England knows?”
Rational arguments, reason, even emotional appeal can be effective in promoting your viewpoints, but what do Gaddafi and Palin think they’re doing with their methods of promoting their views besides alienating people and impressing upon them their own chauvinism and lack of class? I think the ratio of success would be pretty close to what Gaddafi experienced — one person out of 200 showed some interest, while most of the rest are indifferent or angry.