7.8. Who Benefits?

7.8. Who Benefits?

Who benefits from all our bitter, divisive, ideological struggles over who’s right and who’s wrong?

One of the questions we sociologists always ask ourselves, when we’re analyzing an issue or a problem, is: who benefits?

Who benefits from things being set up the way they are?

Who benefits from all our bitter, divisive, ideological struggles over who’s right and who’s wrong?

Who benefits from all our sciences, philosophies, political parties, and religions grandiosely claiming that they have all the answers, that their belief system is better than all the other belief systems, that we should listen only to them and reject what all the other belief systems say?

Who benefits from our inability to work together to make sense of everything, and use that understanding to make the world a better place?

Who benefits when our ideologies deny, ignore, or minimize all their flaws—while simultaneously exaggerating or even fabricating all the flaws of other belief systems?

And who benefits when we’re so self-righteously arguing with each other over who’s better, smarter, and more moral that we can’t even begin to address the real suffering that batters billions of people every single day?

We certainly don’t.

Ordinary people don’t.

Our society at large doesn’t.

Genuine truth-seekers, who have the humility and courage to admit there’s much we can’t understand, and that nearly all of these ideologies are a mixed bag of virtues and limitations, don’t benefit either.

The people who benefit are the leaders and elites among all these ideological factions.

The ones everybody looks up to.

The ones who accumulate a bunch of money, power, authority, status, and glory for themselves.

The ones who encourage all their followers to become noble foot soldiers for their idea of “the truth,” and to go out onto our great, ideological battlefield, and smite their enemies.

It really doesn’t have to be this way.

We don’t have to pretend our favorite ideology has all the answers.

We don’t have to pretend all the other ideologies out there don’t have any virtues or good points to recommend them.

We don’t have to indulge this foolish fantasy that one belief system can possess or own the entire truth all by itself.

As I’ve argued in the past few videos, that’s just not how knowledge works.

There’s one quest for truth and understanding. One great, collective project of human inquiry.

Yes, we can divide it up into a bunch of topics and disciplines for convenience. But they’re still all part of the same project.

The problem is our leaders and elites use knowledge, beliefs, and ideas for their own selfish ends.

Our human quest for understanding has been sucked into our social system, which is based on competition, conflict, and fierce fighting over scarce resources.

And so all that competition, conflict, and fighting has infected what could and should be a much more peaceful, collaborative project.

There’s no easy fix for this. But in the coming videos, I’ll look at probably our two most harmful, contentious ideological struggles—science versus religion, and conservatives versus liberals—and consider how we might be able to find some common ground in those areas.


This is the 116th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.