8.8. Self-Interests and Collective Action

We should make the path to conversion as easy and painless as possible.

The final big obstacle to acting collectively and effectively is people’s own self-interests.

The fact is, a lot of people benefit from all the messed-up things in the world.

They profit. They enjoy having a higher status than most. And they have privileges and advantages they don’t want to give up.

Yes, there are some people who just aren’t going to do the right thing, who aren’t going to listen to reason, who would rather go down fighting every step of the way than acknowledge their own role in perpetuating injustices.

But on the whole, I think we’re far too quick to point fingers and create enemies.

People don’t want to be on the side of wrong. People are capable of great changes in their thinking, in just a relatively short period of time.

But when we approach social change with a battlefield mentality, we don’t give those people a chance to change their minds with dignity.

We turn our cause into an absolute, black-and-white issue that compels them to fight back.

We back them into a corner, making it seem like only stupid and immoral people can believe what they believe—a characterization which they’re of course going to resist.

We make it so that they not only have to change their minds—they have to be humiliated in the process. They have to make a big pubic show of their guilt, and undergo the mental torment of realizing how wrong they’ve been all these years.

No wonder people aren’t willing to own up to the errors of their ways!

I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any public repentance and amends. That needs to happen, and it needs to be sincere. But that process also needs to be made as easy as possible for the people doing it.

They need to be welcomed and encouraged for becoming more “woke”—not berated or shamed for having taken so long to come around.

They need to be seen as smart, well-intentioned people who somehow went awry in their thinking, and ended up not realizing or appreciating the enormous human cost of the policies and practices they once supported.

People—even people who run major institutions that have perpetuated injustices—are capable of changing their ways. They’re capable of being extremely valuable allies, and changing those unjust institutions from the inside.

But they won’t ever do that, if the cost of repenting is being shamed as a stupid, immoral monster.

We should make the path to conversion as easy and painless as possible. Because, as I keep saying: we’re nothing without each other.

Individual people, small groups, and even large groups that have made powerful enemies that fight them every step of the way just don’t have a lot of power in today’s world.

Our greatest strength is our numbers. And yet we waste that potential every single day.

I’m not trying to tell you not to think for yourself. But when someone or some cause portrays being vengeful or emotionally violent against converts who sincerely want to change their ways as “justice”…you should be really skeptical.

Good causes need as many people onboard as possible. We should welcome—not alienate or shame—everyone who wants to be onboard.


This is the 132nd 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.

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