Relationships Drive Ideology

Before I get into my essay below, I just want to (futilely, quixotically) make a quick point: this essay is about any situation in which someone makes a sharp and incongruent move in ideology. It’s not just people who are joining the identity left these days, but that’s the story right now, so that’s what I’m writing about. But I think this applies any time someone’s current talk stops squaring up with their prior talk.

If you’re like me, you are experiencing some cognitive dissonance in your personal relationships these days.

If you’re reading this site there’s a decent chance you aren’t traditionally politically correct. You make jokes like: “Thinking about giving up coffee so I don’t end up woke.”

That kind of thing.

And your friends are the same.

Hopefully you’re not a jerk and you agree that broadly speaking with the overall consensus of the moment, but also you probably agree that things have just gotten … wacky?

But here’s the cognitive dissonance: people who used to be right there with you on PC culture and the nationwide chilling effect we’re under right now… those people are starting to… turn?

What’s up?

You might feel tempted to try to talk it through with them, maybe revisit some old debates that they were once with you on and now aren’t so sure. You want to do this because you want to see what’s changed in their thinking.

Go with God! It’s always good to talk, but I don’t think you’ll actually find your answer.

If they are a reasonably self aware and intelligent, they probably have a narrative that explains what insight tripped them over or why they realized that whatever is happening right now is more important than their past concerns.

And I don’t think they are lying.

But I don’t actually think that’s the true story for most people who have started virtue signaling hard in cancel campaigns.

When big ideological shifts happen among a people, the explanation is social. It’s about friendship. It’s about lovers. It’s about parties.

People want to get along with people around them. If people don’t have anyone to get along with, they join groups to have something. But when ideas become mainstream it’s definitely gotten way beyond the lonely people. The cool people have been converted.

Once the cool people are converted: good luck.

It takes either very tight smaller groups or exceptional integrity to resist joining any ideological group when the people you wish you could hang out with are joining.

Right now, woke’s got the numbers. Woke’s got the cool. Your newly caffeinated friend is following the siren song of cool. In other eras, it was civil rights or communism. Believe it or not: once upon a time it was the Enlightenment, as dated as that’s become.

When someone’s views seem to take a sharp shift: don’t ask them about what they have been reading or the data points they are looking at. They might have read some things! They might have some data points! But that’s not the story. If you want to understand what’s changed, find out about who they are hanging out with now.

People follow people, not ideas.