Maybe I was wrong about introverted activists.
“Moses led the Jews from Egypt, provided for them in the desert for the next forty years, and brought the Ten Commandments down from Mount Sinai. And he did all of this using strengths that are classically associated with introversion” — Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (2012)
In a previous post—“Activists”—I argued that introverts simply aren’t cut out for the demanding public life of an activist:
“If you often lack confidence, if you’re exceptionally humble, if you’re continuously second-guessing yourself . . . public life isn’t for you. But don’t get me wrong, you’ll probably make a stellar spouse, an excellent parent, and, for what it’s worth, an exceptionally conscientious roommate—but you really shouldn’t attempt to change the world. The activist’s life is a hard life, a warrior’s life. And it’s not for you. You just don’t have the temperament for it.”
Alas, I’ve since changed my mind about this, largely because of one book: Susan Cain’s Quiet (2012).
I have a long commute each day. We’re talking three to four hours each day. One of the fringe benefits of this essentially shitty situation is that I have ample time to read in a blissfully uninterrupted fashion. Though I’m a surprisingly slow reader, I nevertheless manage—because of this daily commute—to read, on average, about one or two serious books every week. Even so, few books have changed my mind more than Cain’s delightfully eye-opening tome. Seriously, I really can’t praise this book enough. Reading it initiated a number of once-I-was-blind-but-now-I-see moments. Among them was the realization that what I said in my last book about activists and extroversion was wrong. As Cain makes clear, with a wealth of examples, the history of activism is replete with introverted characters. Indeed, many of the most famous activists—such as Mahatma Gandhi and Rosa Parks—were introverts. What’s more—and this is where she really sparkles—Cain argues (persuasively) that these introverted activists were effective not in spite of their introversion, but precisely because of their introversion.
—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2015)
Originally published at Committing Sociology. Reprinted with permission.
Photo courtesy of author.