While his latest work is no Blink (one of Galdwell's earlier books), it is good. I was particularly struck by his writings related to the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. He outlines the strategies Martin Luther King, Fred Shuttleworth, and Wyatt Walker used in Birmingham, AL, likening it to the activities of Brer Rabbit. Some of their techniques, such as encouraging school-aged children to participate in their demonstrations were criticized by others and couched as wrong.
But--and this is what really draws me to the author--Gladwell challenges these notions. He writes:
But we need to remember that our definition of what is right is, as often as not, simply the way that people in positions of privilege close the door on those on the outside.Those in positions of power and privilege--in this case, the Whites in Birmingham and in particular, the police chief Bull Connor--produce and reproduce norms, values, and systems that protect what they have. Notions of what is right or what is wrong are oftentimes created as a way to promote the interests of those in power and to subjugate those without it. And because these perspectives are so deeply enmeshed into our cultural fabric, challenging them is difficult, to say the least.
The same deeply embedded and accepted norms that cast the fight for racial equality in the 60's as wrong are alive today. They portray questioning and striving against income inequality as a socialist (re: un-American) activity; they paint the quest to end prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals as contrary to "traditional" values; they cast efforts to ensure all have access to healthcare as ludicrous and bad for business. The list goes on.
It is what challenging these norms--or to use Gladwell's words, "battling giants"--so important. Without questioning and sometimes going against what is considered "right", the taken-for-granted norms are reinforced and status quo maintained. I am thankful leaders like King, Walker, and Shuttleworth engaged in such fights.