The Vietnam Strategy

July 28, 2019

 

I check in on Christopher Nolan, Alex Garland and Darren Aronofsky often. Despite not knowing them personally, I can’t help but trust them in the way you can’t help but trust talented people in Hollywood -  with all my heart, no holds barred. 

 

Some directors make you feel safe by showing you more of the same. They recycle the familiar, even original ideas are presented with a heavy dose of nostalgia. Other directors, a small handful, make you feel safe by challenging you and exposing you to new worlds. Watching something thoughtful and wholly original is an intimate and rare experience and it inspires trust.

 

Winning Hearts and Minds

 

This might be why the “winning hearts and minds” concept never evolved into a winning strategy. It’s been fairly successful at raising climate awareness but that’s where it stops short. Somewhere at the intersection of inspiration and motivation, it seemingly loses all oomph and doesn’t materialise into purposeful, sustained action.  As a strategy it’s also confusing and impossible to intellectualise because it’s so ambitious and so ambiguous. So much so that it’s a hop, skip and a jump away from morphing into apathy. 

 

The bigger question was always  what game plan do we implement post mobilisation? What are the global objectives we need to be conscious of separate from the choices we make on a daily basis  to structure and orchestrate a proportionate response to an existential problem?

 

The reason so many of us still aren’t asking those questions, is because the severity of the problem still isn't being communicated. And it unnerves me to think that the last 15 years have been squandered in the interest of not exposing people to realities they will inevitably have to face.  

 

Because so much is eluded to in the ‘’winning hearts and minds” approach, so much is lost. You can’t cultivate trust without presenting someone with the kind of hard, unflinching facts that seem to elude most corporate conferences, press releases and feel good ‘we care enough to try to try’ social media campaigns.

 

Having produced one such conference, it’s clear to me that when we decided to sell climate change as a survivable event and infer that the internet of things would somehow deliver ecological redemption, we disengaged from the issue altogether. 

 

As a military strategy, the business of winning hearts and minds did not work in Vietnam either, nor it did not work in Afghanistan and it certainly did not work in Iraq. 

 

As a philosophy, it sounds terribly romantic and moral but as a strategy it’s vague and sluggish. Climate change is best approached as a national project and unfortunately, this progressive experiment isn't well suited to national and international campaigns. 

 

Respecting your Audience

 

We can not afford to numb our audience or give them false hope. We can not afford to control the narrative by telling people how they should feel. And we can not afford to shame critics who are wary of ideas that don't work.

 

The powers that be (in their wisdom, ignorance or short sightedness) thought they were being parental by shielding us from the worst climate science had to offer. But if anything this long standing dynamic is more reminiscent of a London landlord-tenant relationship than it is of a responsible parent protecting a child. Everything might seem fine until the day it isn’t and you’re blindsided by an extortionate increase in rent. Your landlord might also decide to rent your broom cupboard out to his business partner and you might come home early one day to find that they're both running their one of a kind business venture -  a juice stand, out of your lounge. 

 

Literally or metaphorically, this is not a situation you want to find yourself in.

 

 

 

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