The Social Barometer (click here to learn that tool first!) can be a difficult tool to introduce in a training without a specific case study to help understand the different places on the Barometer and the different strategies employed to move people from one position to the next. We have found that the Bible study about Mordecai and Esther in Esther 4 is a useful tool for getting a handle on the Social Barometer before apply the Barometer to contemporary conflicts and struggles.
At the beginning of Esther 4 work with the training group to place the various characters and groups on the Social Barometer. Mordecai is the Leading Activist. Haman is the Leading Opponent. The Jews are Passive Allies. The King is an Active Opponent. The Persian Court are Passive Opponents. Esther is Neutral, totally oblivious to the impending genocide.
Mordecai’s first action is a public nonviolent action that connects to Esther. Her first response, sending clothes to Mordecai, shows how oblivious she is. But now that Mordecai has built a relationship with her he educates her about the issue. Esther moves one slot, from Neutral to a Passive Ally (she talks about how she can’t do anything now). Mordecai changes is actions now. He increases her identification with the at-risk community, gives her a big vision, and makes a direct challenge to her. Esther now shifts from Passive Ally to a Leading Activist; she now takes the initiative for the further actions.
Esther first approaches the rest of the Jewish community giving them a specific action they can take, moving them from Passive Allies to Active Allies. Using the relationships she had built with the Persian Court she enlists them to pray and fast for her, moving them from Passive Opponents to Active Allies. Now the social pressure has shifted dramatically to Mordecai and Esther’s side. After all that groundwork is laid Esther approaches the King. She uses her relationship, is soft on the person but hard on the issue, exposes the motives of Haman and arouses doubts in the King. When she gives the King an opportunity to act he shifts from and Active Opponent to and Active Ally. Now the Leading Opponent, Haman, is completely alone.
The Esther story gives us a wide cast of characters along the Social Barometer. It shows us the different strategies employed to connect to people and encourage their movement. It shows us how a situation changed dramatically as a result of steps taken beginning by one person taking action from a position of extreme risk and marginality.