This is one of the most concise descriptions of why it is so hard to create meaningful and lasting change in systems. And the more emotionally people are vested in the system, the more loyal they are, the more difficult it is to get anything to happen.
When one strongly identifies with their role in the system – when who they think they are is confused with their position in the system – they can be “immune to arguments and evidence that might challenge it.”
Political leaders are one example. Clergy are another. Educators are yet another example and the list could go on and on. But let’s stick with politics since this was the subject of Hamilton’s reference that caught my attention.
What are the “goals of the system” that politicians have internalized most faithfully? While we would all like their primary goal to be “to serve the public interest” we know that from the politician’s point-of-view the goals also include getting reelected (which includes campaign funding and serving the special interest of one’s constituency) and increasing influence (which includes committee seats, chairing committees, seniority, authoring bills, etc.). But, perhaps the most insidious of all the goals is the one that is implicit in any system in which one is invested - to maintain the status quo and resist all attempts to change it.
Gridlock in Washington and elsewhere is common. Never have so many spent so much to get so little done. In business, this would never do; enterprises displaying such abysmal performance would be declared insolvent and put out of their misery. The system is broken. And it appears unfixable. It may require a new system to be created instead of wasting more time or money, or investing more hopes and dreams in trying to fix the existing one.
As visionary inventor Buckminster Fuller once wrote: “You never change things by fighting existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”