Why Fight Against Your Interests?

False consciousness: any belief or view that prevents a person from being able to understand the true nature of a situation.

False consciousness: a belief that prevents understanding the true nature of a situation.

Why would anyone fight against their own interests?

Some folks have filed suit because it is soooo horrible that they are being offered a tax subsidy that would make health insurance affordable for them. (Supreme Court decision due this month).


But wait, There’s more:

  • I saw a Tea Partier get on a bus to push legislation that would help the billionaire Koch brothers, but hurt his middle-class family. He forlornly said that it had to be done.

  • Here are food stamp recipients who are against food stamps:

I could go on.

Why do so many people fight against their own interests?

That’s what I wondered as I grew up watching women in my church fight against equal rights for women, priesthood for women, and even battered women’s shelters.

I had never understood it until I found myself in graduate school learning how much control the powerful have over ideas.

Seeing the world through the eyes of the powerful

Men, whites, straight people and the rich aren’t bad people. In fact, I fit into a few of those categories and I don’t think I’m a bad person. But their ideas are a lot more likely to get out into the world via media and the political and religious pulpits.

Don't pull the curtain from your eyes!

Don’t pull the curtain from your eyes!

And when you hear an idea over and over again — and without an equally powerful critique — it can become embedded in your brain, both consciously and subconsciously. Their thoughts can become yours.

Knowing this, powerful players pay smart people to sell ideas in ways that will align you with their interests instead of your own:

Lazy people want to take your hard-earned tax money. We need tax cuts! (For the rich, anyway. Quietly raise them for everyone else.)

And don’t listen to alternative perspectives!

And then we’re told: Don’t listen to anyone else’s ideas:

  • Don’t listen to outside media! (aka “liberal media”)
  • Don’t listen to anyone outside of our church!
  • Don’t listen to people who don’t think like you and me!

A lot of us follow that advice, keeping the wizard hidden safely behind the curtain.

Related Posts on BroadBlogs

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on June 12, 2015, in feminism, politics/class inequality, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 33 Comments.

  1. Clearly, this all seems that this is all just a matter of interest! in which the strong will always be in favor. It makes me think as if almost politicians don’t want to deal with people’s problems because they rather take the easy route, leaving the minority stuck in the shadows.

  2. It’s unfair why are they doing that? Instead of rich paying for taxes, poor are asked to pay with the little money they have. Rich keep getting richer and poor keep getting more poor. It’s very sad

  3. I was raised in a conservative family that taught me that there ways were the correct and only way of life. While growing up I thought that the way of living in my household was the way each American household should be like. Never have I thought that there were other beliefs out there besides what my parents taught me. I took my first Sociology class back in San Diego and that help me see the Macro perspective of our lives. How institutions, corporations and the government has held many people back. For example how our jail system here is for the majority obtaining minorities that have a non-violent drug charge and get sentenced at times more than a rapist, murderer and child molester.Because of this I as well a republican because of my parents, but lately I have been seeing myself leaving the GOP and currently searching for a new party.

  4. Spot on again! It’s just so unbelievable to witness that so many people embrace the arguments of the “elite” that will undeniably hurt their own interests in the long run. As far as I remember something like 80 percent of the -entire planets- resources are now in the hands of 1 – one percent of the worlds population. I’m not saying elitisism is the sole reason, but politics that suits the interests of the wealthy is a contributing factor.

    • Well, the elete do have a megaphone to spread their ideas. And a lot of smart people are well paid to make poor people think that an interest of the elite is in their own interest.

      A lot of the elite are against putting money into higher education. And educated people are less likely to fall into the trap. So that is probably why.

  5. This reminds me of a joke i saw posted somewhere

    The CEO of McDonalds, a McDonalds cashier, and a Republican politician sit down at restaurant to discuss raising the minimum wage. The waiter brings them three cookies. The CEO immediately stuffs all three cookies in his jacket. He then hands the politician some crumbs as he whispers ‘watch out, that fucker is trying to steal our cookies’. The CEO and politician dine and dash, leaving the cashier with the tab.

  6. Read this great book in college by Edward Said called The Crusade Through Arab Eyes. And how the reason we think the crusades played out the way they did is because of who was telling them- typically, the white/Euro perspective. Tell the story from that of the conquered and its a whole different experience.I know not directly related to what you said but I do feel that there is a connection. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all reference inward to make our choices and form opinions rather than going with the voices that have the easiest access.

  7. Human beings are bizarre aren’t they? So many take a short cut to thinking and just follow the party line, whatever their party might be.

  8. Here’s an interesting perspective on overcoming the mindset you describe. http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/06/overcoming-the-extraction-mindset.html

  9. I suppose this is where a lack of representation is so very apparent. One voice being louder than all others generally seems to mean that only one message will be heard. To me it seems that isolation, education (or lack thereof) and fear plays a role here. From what I’ve experienced the people who support conservativism when it is against their personal interests either don’t have access to varied ideas, feel that there is an obligation to ignore all ‘outsiders’ or critical thinking has never been truly fostered within them. Really in order to change people’s minds you simply have to open them up to more ideas though personal discussion. I find that many people have very weak arguments that support their ideas. The best weapon is a calmly thought through discussion that is backed up by credible sources. Of course some people will still completely refuse to engage, this is probably why I would think that a close friend/family member etc is the best person to start such a discussion.

  10. I don’t know much about Obamacare but i know it takes a man and a woman to create a baby. Just based on that alone, means there are 2 responsible parties. Having sex even when on birth control or using protection does not mean that the woman won’t get pregnant regardless if it’s planned or not. TK’s post had a great point about being power hungry and making it seem as though it’s the woman’s fault and she should have to pay more for the child which to me is absolutely ridiculous. That’s basically saying it’s okay to go around and get women pregnant and have no financial responsibility to make sure during pregnancy and afterward that the child has medical insurance. That is a serious power trip. Would the people brainwashing others and putting these agendas into effect want their daughter’s and wives to have to pay more for medical costs or pregnancy and labor? I’m scared to find out the honest truth to that question. Be aware of before siding with anyone about any issues effecting ones self and others. Children are not asked to be born and as parents, it’s your duty to provide for the child financially and emotionally.

  11. Most of the conservatives I’ve known are good people who are friendly, more than willing to be helpful, and make excellent neighbors….yet seemingly have blinders on when it comes to the issues you mention. Realizing that they’re not going to change (as I did from being raised a dutiful Catholic) because of any arguments I make, I simply live and let live, and let them see that their way isn’t the only way. Hopefully there’s something to be said for being a “good example.

    • Your first sentence accurately describes both my dad and Ronald Reagan. But I don’t believe that it’s impossible to affect how people see things.

      I used to be a Republican. My husband used to be a Republican. My parents are getting less and less Republican from my discussions with them. So I think it’s important to have these discussions.

  12. I love that you talk about how the people in power who indoctrinate other people into this type of agenda use a rhetoric of isolation and exclusion to maintain their power. I believe that this is crucial and can be something that we can use as a signal of ignorance or abuse. Free thinking institutions have nothing to fear from other information because people would be able to differentiate for themselves whether or not the information is correct. Meanwhile, the people in power have a lot to fear from people who can think for themselves. One thing that I always want to emphasize is awareness. People have to be aware of all the agendas being pushed to them, by media, companies and people. And what people of privilege can be doing as well, is to highlight the voices of the marginalized and the oppressed. By hearing sides of the stories we don’t often hear, we can really understand the full situation.

  13. I was commenting on a Yahoo news story in a similar fashion. People vote for these conservative republican men yet these men only care about limiting rights for people. They are fighting abortion, trying to lower foodstamps, and they are trying to get rid of healthcare. Meanwhile, they want to give money to companies that outsource American jobs overseas, care about the interests of banks, and want to use tax money to fund war instead of prosperity in the US. I mentioned on my news comment to the woman who was arrested for having a 20 week abortion in Georgia why they care to vote in these GOP idiots who are just kicking the same Roe vs. Wade dead horse of yesteryear? Seriously, a lot of these Southern states have bigger issues like a growing population of obese people. some of the worse education performance nationwide, and a growing population of the poor on government programs like foodstamps. Why doesn’t the GOP instead focus on US job growth, making more safety nets, education, and healthy lifestyles? Simply, it doesn’t want to. It wants a stupid population of poor voters so it can preach good “morals” and the “religious American way” to them. The South has for too long held back this country and now we are fighting the abortion fight and the fight for women’s rights all over again in this country and we have bigger fish out there we need to fry. We can’t be silent about the idiocy going on in this country and we need people to get away from these “moral” liars called the republican party!

  14. Just keep expressing your informed opinions. We all lose if silence reigns. Whatever the flavor of the cause that is dear to your heart, make it verbal. Be an information and education champion to your issues. It’s what we can do.

  15. It’s the failure of cognitive dissonance. We are supposed to experience stress when are internal beliefs are challenged by new facts. It’s the trigger to engage critical thinking. Where has that trigger gone? Why do so many people I know shrug, and turn back to the television. This absence of critical thinking results in voting against one’s own interests. It’s also threatening the survival of the planet.

    • Yeah, hurricanes and tornadoes are getting worse, weather is getting more Extreme: drought in the west and long, hard winters in the East. As Arctic ice melts the oceans will rise and threaten our cities and national economies.

      But the rich Koch brothers fund GOP primary opponents of anyone who votes to do anything about it. Because the Koch brothers worry more about destroying the carbon business model than destroying the planet.

      Meanwhile, they are very good at planting doubt via funding think tanks that disseminate misinformation via Rush Limbaugh and FOXNews …

  16. There are a lot of people who will vote for conservatives because of perceived moral obligations to vote for the “socially” conservative candidate. Most of them are shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to fiscal issues.

    • And yet they often don’t “get” that they are shooting themselves in the foot fiscally because they believe the rhetoric they hear: “I don’t want lazy people taking my hard earned money” instead of realizing that rich interests are the ones benefiting from it all.

      The middle class and poor would be hurt by attempts to balance the budget by getting rid of Social Security, Medicare and things like that to pay for the tax cuts that go to the rich and not them. Or they support “right to work (for less)” legislation and are against raising the minimum wage. Even though supporting those things pressures surrounding businesses to raise wages.

      As it is, nearly all of the productivity gains since the late 70s have gone to the richest 1% because of policies like these.

  17. It is unbelievable how normally intelligent people fall for the spin and propaganda, I despair!

    • And this court case is such an obvious farce. Yet it wouldn’t surprise me if the Supreme Court ruled “in favor” of these fools.

      • I think you’re probably right, I’m becoming increasingly cynical at the political neutrality of the just use system!

      • Unfortunately, because of money in politics, rich interest tend to get there way more often than not. The only way to get politicians to listen to the people instead of their funders (legalized bribery) is for the people to start complaining. Because as it is they don’t pay attention to politics, and vote based on the political ads they get in the mail or see while they’re watching TV. So the politicians care more about what their funders want and what their constituents want.

Thoughts? (Comments will appear after moderation)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: