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People seek connection and community, so it makes sense that people connect themselves to ideas in order to form bonds with others.

The problem is that when you identify with an idea, that is to say you are an -ist, you outsource your thinking to other members and leaders of those -isms.

Some examples:

  • All religions
  • Socialism (Socialist)
  • Conservatism (Conservative)
  • Feminism (Feminist) – and whatever the male equivalent is.
  • Activism (Activist)

… and so on.

So if I say I am a socialist, it compels me to buy into a lot of other ideas that people who self-identity with that ideology also buy into: welfare, social responsibility, regulation and state run utilities. This is regardless of what is the most effective or useful position on any of these topics, which almost certainly don’t conform to your ideology (the right thing to do with regards to immigration may not politically conform with what the right thing is to do about regulating big banks).

Massive and wide-reaching public expression is available to just about everyone (your phone gives you more reach than the most powerful media company in the world had in 1980, and at a fraction of the cost). So when the mainstream belief in your particular -ism is being broadcast everywhere, what do you do when you disagree?

When you identify with an ideology you wrap your ego up in a set of beliefs, it makes it harder to then make honest assessments of what is the most effective way to behave and build our society. You find yourself having to back up ideas than you either disagree with or haven’t thought about very much, just because it is your -ism’s slogan of the day.

The alternative is to take the time to understand a topic before weighing in. There’s nothing wrong with saying “I don’t think I know enough about this to comment.” Actually it may be the most honest and respectable answer.