Cui Bono

St. Sebastian by Jose de Ribera
St. Sebastian by Jose de Ribera


This was going to be a post about why you’re wrong.

It was glorious. It had respected journals as sources, quotes from important people…it even had a chart. A chart.

I was proud of my anger and how well-informed it was. I was going to rock your world, to prove to you once and for all that you were being ridiculous and paranoid and utterly, totally wrong. I was going to win the internet.

And then, as I sat in my library and savored the moment when I would publish my furious masterpiece…I saw my husband’s battered copy of “Wheelock’s Latin” sitting beside me. I was mindful of Athena’s shrine behind me. I heard the words “Cui bono?” and I knew I would not make that post.

“Cui bono?”, for the curious, is a Latin phrase which means “to whose benefit?” This is typically used when people are trying to figure out who stands to gain the most when a crime has been committed. Today, it didn’t come to me with an urging to point a finger. Instead, I found myself wondering what good it would do anyone for me to beat a war drum.

A bit of knowledge for you…If nothing you’ve said in an argument or discussion has at all altered the beliefs of another person, continued attempts will avail you naught. Facts will do no good, either. NPR has a great segment on how “misinformed people rarely change their minds when presented with the facts — and often become even more attached to their beliefs.” This is called backfiring, and seems to be happening because a person has attached some essential part of themselves to the supposition that they’re right…when you challenge their opinion on something, a deep part of their brain perceives you as somehow challenging their whole being.

Psychology Today suggests that in these circumstances, a person is only likely to change their mind if they are first made to feel good about themselves. If they’ve developed a persecution complex or have deep anger problems …well, good luck getting them to budge. They’re more likely to fight to hold onto these beliefs, especially if they’re associating with a group of people that reinforce those beliefs.

I realized that, despite how angry I’d become over the issue, I wasn’t terribly invested in proving you wrong. What you believe (however wrong it might be) ultimately has no bearing on my life unless I chose to allow it to do so. It is doubtful that, outside of the internet, we will ever meet, and there seems to be a staggering amount of merchants online that make products similar to yours. Instead, I’ve taken the energy I would have spent preparing for Round 3 of our heated exchange and applied it to art, writing, and gardening…pursuits of which, I believe, may ultimately be of some good to somebody.

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