Social affiliation is more important to most people than almost anything else besides food, shelter, and healthcare. Certainly it matters to most people in a more immediate way than does ideology. Most of us chose to stay silent or be passive so as to maintain the social bonds that are our life force.
Social rejection hurts people more than almost anything. More even than most types of physical pain. We cannot live alone and we hate even the glancing threat of it. Avoiding it certainly means more to most of us than our ideologies.
It is not a coincidence that most whistle blowers and revolutionaries are pretty distemperate, self-loving dudes. They have the security to do so, and don’t fear alienation as acutely as most people do. It’s no surprise that most people will not spit in the face of their neighbors and forebears until they lack anything else to lose.
It’s not just revolution that I’m talking about though. It’s also confrontation. Assertiveness. The telling of painful truths. Speaking up for yourself and others. It always comes with the threat of social disapproval. And that threat always hurts. And so we are cowed.
If you care, if you really need a change, if you want your more abstract, high-minded self to survive, you must learn to stifle all of that fear. You must be willing to step in or yell or receive a chilly eye roll. Your politesse will not save you except in the most superficial of ways. Please be willing to be an inconvenient person. Please do the hard thing. I won’t leave you behind if you do. People with good values, who are kind, who are proactive in the defense of those values — they will be there, still, even when you are rough-edged, rude, honest, and harder to love.