Thanks Amber and titotal for engaging with this conversation and for being honest about where you’re coming from! Some follow-up questions and thoughts:
In terms of effectiveness, I agree that there is no guarantee that a letter to an MP would be effective. It is very likely that a lot of the letters we send to our MPs don’t lead to any change, but if the volume of these letters is large and the reach to the number of MPs is broad, we may be able to move at least some MPs to act. Perhaps a parallel here with EAs working on high risk high reward projects (i.e., while some of them will have little or no impact, the best could have a very large impact)? When emailing MPs, I used a template I found through the Australian Palestine Advocacy Network, which I then edited. This gave me a starting point for my email and had all the email addresses ready to go, which saved a lot of time. I actually did receive a few responses from the MPs as well, which I then took some time to respond to. You’re right, this did take a while to write up (~20 minutes).
That’s so interesting! I was keen to hear more about your thinking here, so thanks for responding to titotal’s comment on this. a. Is there something about commonly-held perspectives that come across as “going with the flow”, rather than being something people genuinely believe in? Like just saying X to fit in? b. I totally understand that feeling of not being heard; it can genuinely be quite demotivating as oftentimes there is little to no change. In line with titotal’s comment about critical mass, I recently came across this paper, which suggests that the tipping point for social change is 25% (“When minority groups reached the critical mass—that is, the critical group size for initiating social change—they were consistently able to overturn the established behavior”). Would this be a case for persisting, especially with causes that we find meaningful/important?
That’s fair. I’ve tried to follow people on social media with opposing views to make sure I have as balanced a perspective as I can (though to be completely honest, it’s so easy/automatic to dismiss contrary viewpoints. I have noticed it takes conscious choice for me to cognitively engage with posts I don’t immediately agree with), and to double check claims using different sources. Again, as you pointed out, this does take some investment. I find I’m quite emotionally invested in this issue though, so I naturally gravitate towards wanting to spend time learning about it. I understand that this is not the case for everyone, just as I am spending more time learning about this compared to other humanitarian issues.
That’s an excellent point. It’s certainly why I have tried to point people towards EA principles.
Thanks again for your comments. Not only have they helped me understand your perspectives, but they have also made me reflect upon why I hold my own views.
Thanks Marcus. I would appreciate if you could please expand on your points, so I can better understand your perspective? Particularly, why do you say that the Israeli government is “in the right”, especially as it relates to the way in which they are carrying out the attack on Hamas. I have heard that the IDF has highly sophisticated intelligence capabilities. If this is true, would it follow that they would be able to avoid killing civilians while still attacking Hamas? I guess we shall see how the next few days play out, with the temporary pause that has recently been announced.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Marcus.
My biggest concern is the way in which the Israeli government is trying to counter Hamas. What do you think about imposing sanctions/restrictions on how the Israeli government carries out their actions?
Thank you so much for your thoughtful and honest response, Luzia. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts.
Did you get a response from the German MP you emailed?
I have felt much the same in terms of feeling the urge to do something, but not being sure of the best course of action. The footage and information from the ground in Gaza seems to get more and more horrific each day, making me feel more and more helpless. But at the same time, makes the urge for me to do something even stronger. My main reason for reaching out to MPs to call for a ceasefire and sanctions on the Israeli government is that I don’t think the way in which the Israeli government is conducting itself is acceptable.
There is absolutely no justification for what happened on October 7th. It was truly horrific and should never happen again. It should not be condoned. It makes me sad to see the number of people who are justifying what happened. The presence of reasons for acting in a certain way doesn’t automatically make it acceptable to act in that way.
There is also no justification for the killing of innocent civilians in Gaza, and it bothers me that there doesn’t seem to be this parallel drawn for the Israeli government’s actions (at least to the same extent in mainstream media). I have heard a lot about Israel having the right to defend itself. While that may be true, I think the way in which it chooses to do so is paramount. Perhaps this won’t be accomplished by an outright ceasefire, but by sanctions on the IDF (which have also been part of my emails to MPs). I have also read that the IDF has highly sophisticated intelligence capabilities, which makes me wonder why indiscriminate killing is even necessary (let alone morally permissible)?
I have also felt similarly in terms of the protests and will be completely honest and say that I have not yet attended one. Perhaps people like us, who think along the lines you have mentioned (supporting civilians in Gaza and criticising actions of the Israeli government), need to be louder? It might be worth trying to figure out as a collective what the best course of action might be. I am open to suggestions on how we could do something like this!