Many people talk about responding to threats or people they disagree with with empathy, compassion, treating everyone with respect. In practice, I see people doing the opposite. They don't feel, "I'm right, you're wrong." They feel "I understand reality, you don't. I have to teach you." or often they feel they have to force them. Likewise, on the environment, nearly all environments try to convince people who disagree with them through lecture, facts, figures, and charts. When that doesn't work, they resort to shame, guilt, eventually disengaging and trying to outpower them through legislation. Matthew Stevenson did the opposite. He practiced what many preach and it worked. In our first episode, which I recommend first, he shared how he worked and his mindset. The more I heard, the more fascinating I found it. More to the point, the more practical and effective I found it. The word convince, by the way, comes from the root -vince as in vanquish, to defeat. Attempts to convince generally provoke debate. After all the person was already right in their own mind before you talked to them. Maybe you're wrong. If you aren't open to it, why should they be? When was the last time someone defeated or vanquished you and you said, "Okay, now I agree with you and I'll follow you." I invited Matthew back because he shared how to do what many of us talk about and we know great historical figures practiced, but few of us know of people-on-the-street role models we can follow. Would I have predicted when starting this podcast, this effort to bring leadership to sustainability, that I would talk about a white nationalist website Storm Front with an orthodox Jew? I doubt it, but I find him one of the best role models for me. Most guests I think of as role models for listeners, experimenting sharing environmental values most of us don't, acting on them, doing what almost no one has yet so we can all learn from them. With Matthew, he's doing what I endeavor to. It's emotionally incredibly hard when I feel I know I'm right or that I understand reality but they don't to end up condescending or sounding self-righeous because I feel self-righteous, it's hard then to conjure up humility, empathize, listen, and get to a place where they're right and I'm wrong. So he's a role model for me. His strategy took a long time but it worked and the solution is enduring. Plus he laughs and jokes about it. He didn't convince, vanquish, or win. He made a friend.
Matthew is friends with the guy who built the white nationalist online community, Stormfront. He is also an observant orthodox Jew. You may have heard about him because the pair made headlines and appeared on the Daily Show and shows like that. Matthew and Derek Black made headlines because Matthew invited Derek to Shabat dinner in college. They became friends. Derek eventually disavowed his earlier beliefs, in large part because of their friendship. In our conversation, Matthew shares his side of the story. Most interviews featured Derek, which will get more ratings, but I find Matthew's initiative in leading by engaging more inspiring, especially for those of us not raised as white nationalists. I compare how the mainstream approaches people they disagree with---"punch a Nazi" or saying the others don't care---with Matthew's approach. I don't think people realize Matthew's effectiveness. I could try to describe it, but Matthew has lived it, in particular in a situation with as diametrically opposed views you can imagine. Rarely do I find myself speechless to add to what the guest said. All I can say is I learned more than I expected and I expected to learn a lot. I expect to listen to this episode many times over the years. I'll keep in touch with Matthew too and bring him back. What I'm trying to work on in leading people I disagree with, he's done for longer with more personal at stake.