The Power of Naïvety

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to watch part of a documentary on Freedom Summer. One woman, who had worked as an organizer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), had an interesting reflection on the experience (paraphrased here):

People think we were brave. The truth is, we weren’t brave. We were young and stupid and we didn’t fully understand the danger we were in.

In the discussion that followed, many in the room picked up on this theme. Some argued that the organizer was being too humble – that those involved in the movement truly were brave.

Others argued that participant’s so-called lack of knowledge was a benefit, that too often activists are stuck by “analysis paralysis,” or simply don’t act because “know” that there’s a small probability of success.

Finally, some combined the two ideas, arguing that it was their naivety which made them brave.

I don’t know which of these interpretations is the most accurate representation of reality – if indeed there is a general reality which could be accurately interpreted.

But however you interpret this statement, it raises an interesting question – is there a power in naïvety and should we encourage that?


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