|"If you grab them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow."|
1) It may be a by-product of my genetic makeup, but I'm somewhat skeptical toward claims of genetic determinism. The human capacity for change, or transformation, is remarkable, yet remains largely ignored. Why? What is required for beneficial change to occur?
2) What happens when persuasion does occur? Or: when can it be rightly said that you have, in fact, been persuaded? I'm thinking now of David Mamet's recent "conversion" to right-wing conservatism. It strikes me that while the central concerns of his rhetoric may have shifted, the rhetoric itself has not. On those occasions when he bothered himself with left-wing values, he defended them with as much (or as little) skill as he does his current preoccupations. His activity remains the same: rile up an audience primed for controversy. And yet he believes he's undergone a sea-change. What, if anything, has actually changed for him? The question also applies, I think, to the late Charles Colson, who, in the early '90s, "shuddered to think" what he may have become had he not gone to prison, but who nevertheless relapsed to his earlier habit of deep political mischief.
3) I can think of political issues on which I've shifted support. I've no doubt I'll shift some more, as I age and observe and participate in democracy. I have occasionally been persuaded by an argument. But, more often than not, changes in opinion occur by experience, or encounters. Still, I rely on rhetoric to relay that encounter to others. This trait is unlikely to change.
There was a line of Stoics who mulled over the possibility of determinism (or "fate"), yet concluded that even if human existence was a web of cause and effect it still behooved the individual to make the morally acceptable choice, even if that "choice" was an illusion. The argument appeals to me (see: 1)), so to that end I forward you to this meditation on the means of persuasion, as practised by James Baldwin, when he beat William F. Buckley in debate.