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Dynamics of Social Activism


One of the serious liabilities of wind power speculation is that it divides communities that were once quite united. People find themselves in two “camps” arguing for and defending their positions, even when evidence is presented that would otherwise persuade them to change their minds. I recently read an article by Denny Wayman in Light & Life Magazine (exerpted below) that sheds some light on the subject.

“It should not be surprising to learn that social action comes from our social (or group) identity. In primal neurological ways, each of us identifies with a specific group. In fact, this is so primary that group membership, like gender and age, 'is encoded in memory quickly, involuntarily and persistently.’ We have 'specialized neural circuitry to process’ group characteristics and group membership (Sean McLennan, March 2003).

“This biological, neurological, psychological aptitude for belonging to our group means that we share at a deep level the group’s social ideals and definitions. We will 'quickly, involuntarily and persistently’ identify with our group’s view. This psychology works well when we identify with a 'healthy, biblical community.’ However, if our identity becomes defined by a disordered group, then we will share their disordered views.

“It should also come as no surprise that we are most able to bring about change in a group when we are perceived as belonging to it. Since group identity is reinforced by both positive and negative descriptions, a group can become more solidified when a member of another group tries to change something that even the original group considers harmful. A member within the group will be far more effective in bringing about that change.”


Observations like these help explain why members of the YES group are so eager to label those who disagree with them as “outsiders” who don't share the Town's values. Characterizing us in this way helps insulate them from receiving constructive input from people who otherwise would have been received as intelligent and helpful neighbors. By identifying themselves with UPC Wind (“Yes! Wind Power for Cohocton is a group of concerned citizens who support the UPC Wind Turbine Project proposed for our community”), this group has chosen to adopt the developer's views as its own. But what if the developer's views are disordered?

We need to be praying for one another for wisdom, unity, and the ability to open our ears to hear the truth together once again.

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