One of the first questions to ask when you’ve uncovered an ideology is, “who does this benefit?” Let’s take the example from the linked post, that of activism as the only correct way to be an engaged citizen.
Who would have an interest in perpetuating the activist model of constant engagement with the news, contacting legislators, attending protests, and voting? The following comes to mind:
- News organizations and social media companies have a direct, obvious, and well-documented stake in keeping your attention on their firehose of content.
- The powers-that-be in the form of the major political parties, politicians, and the attendant legions of lobbying groups plus all the corporations that rely on their favor have an interest in maintaining citizens' belief in the central necessity of the current political arrangement. This involves encouraging the idea that contacting legislators and voting is an essential act of making your voice heard and participating in the political process.
- Similar groups have an interest in political protests. This may seem counter-intuitive on its face. When protests are held in socially approved ways, it is seen as validation for the legitimacy of the political process in which it is a part. You could see this in the ongoing arguments over the acceptability of various modes of Black Lives Matter protest. Any actions that disrupted the social order too greatly were seen as giving aid and comfort to the enemy or somehow discrediting the movement. (Not that I support the more extreme actions; I use them here as an illustration of my point.)
Again, I will point out that some of these things are not entirely bad. My concern here is to show the underlying interests of a particular ideology. Those interests may align with yours. They may not. It is my opinion, though, that questioning our various ideologies lies closer to the heart of what being an engaged citizen actually is.