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Balance and Ideology

December 2, 2014

The crazed dictator who wants “order” and issues a decree to lock you away. The greedy capitalist trying to sell you dodgy products. The raving communist who shouts for “equality!”

You can learn from these people.

Lets see how.

Where does ideology spring from?

When I think of modern ideologies, and radical extremism, the early 20th century springs to mind.

To paint in very broad brushstrokes, the early 20th century was a time of change. Empires and kings disintegrated up to and after WWI. The old social order in Europe was disappearing. The workforce was changing, along with society.

As with any collapse of a system, there is a question – what replaces it? And as with any replacement, we have to ask ourselves what problems the new system solves, and what it aspires to.

But there were many aspirations and ways of viewing the world. Broadly speaking:

Anarchism sprung out of a desire for freedom. Communism arose out of a desire for equality. Capitalism for prosperity. Later came fascism, to impose order.

Freedom, equality, prosperity, order.

These are ideals to cherish. These are ideals to fight and die for. These are good ideals.

What’s the point? Ideology often springs out of a genuine need. And as the Legend of Korra has done an excellent job discussing recently, the aims of ideologues are worthy, moral aims. But taken too far, all out of balance, and what was moral becomes immoral.

Think of pacifism as an example. It arose from the ashes of world wars. At its core were the good ideas of restraint and peace. But taken to its logical conclusion pacifism can only bring chaos and total instability.

So, we can learn a lot from ideologues, and they can inspire us. But we must stay in balance.

ideologies conflicted and there was no stable path, fascism promising order set out to provide a new social order to guide people.

Limitations of Ideology

Classifications are restrictive. To identity with a given classification, you must meet its ‘definition.’ As a conservative you’re supposed to be against Keynesian economics, not support progressive social policy (eg. Gay marriage), crack down on social welfare, and be a defence hawk.

Ideology, with its fanatical zeal, compels us to follow all of these positions. A ‘true’ conservative would be all these things one might argue.

Ideology compels one to fit the definition. Beliefs and values are a product of ideology.

This is restrictive. What if one was against progressive social welfare, yet a libertarian and against massive defence spending? How could this balanced view be seen with ideology?

Ideology is also restrictive in the sense that it oversimplifies. Definitions are meant to be concise, and clearly designate the world around us – they are specific. So when you espouse an ideology with a set of definitions, you’re always going to get simple answers.

For a libertarian the government is always too large. Tax cuts are always good. For the pacifist, there’s never too few arms. For the capitalist we should always remove ‘red tape’.

Never mind that government can serve a purpose. Never mind that tax cuts aren’t always good. Never mind that deterrence requires arms. Never mind that ‘red tape’ is often well-minded regulation that protects consumers from predatory mercantilists.

No, let’s not mind. Our ideology says it isn’t true.

And think about it – how could ideology ever encapsulate the world? I discussed before of how ‘the real world’ as a phrase merely referred to a shade of the world. Like, ‘the real world’, we cannot hope to explain the life, the universe and everything in a mere few principles. How arrogant. We can only hope to capture a shade of the world…

Of course, this shade does exist, and ideologies have a good core. But if we permanently adjust our lens to a single ideology, most of the world will become invisible. A single lens is like the human eye and the Electromagnetic wave spectrum – hardly able to see the frequencies.

The poison of ideology

A few years ago, I labelled ideology ‘poison’ on a debating website. This forum danced in highly intelligent extremists.

At the time I didn’t realise that ideologies had a sound basis in reality. All I saw was forceful advocates who seemed to have all the answers. Their knowledge of philosophy and many fringe scholars was impressive. I learnt an awful lot from this website, and still could in many regards. Yet what I realised at the time and still hold to is what we discussed above. Ideology narrows your mind, compels you to fit things where they don’t fit. It blocks out your world.

It is a poison.

I’d label something a poison that addles your mind, leads you to hallucinate as to reality and corrupts your eyesight. Ideology does all of this.

My message? Stop drinking posion.

The Appeal of Ideology

Ideology creates a simple world with a simple vision. Its not a world of complexity, contradiction and downright fog. You can see where you have to go, and know you are treading the path to your destination.

Its comforting and its energising.

I put this last point in italics because its important. I’ve talked before of meaningful ends, and I’m a powerful proponent of purposeful living. Trivialities and irrelevancies create nothing, and send us into a malaise. Yet purpose gives life to our bones, force to our actions, vigour to our weary minds. And if there’s one thing about ideology, its that it gives us purpose. And, of course, the most enticing ideologies are those with seemingly realistic, yet wondrous visions to inspire us – peace, order, prosperity. Make no mistake – many ideologues can achieve great things with these purposes.

You see, having narratives about life is vital. Its just that having one-dimensional narratives is not.

Conclusion? One good thing about ideology is that it gives us drive and vision. Those are qualities we must remember and take from ideological positions, even if we don’t become an ideologue.

Conclusions

Ideology is a limiting poison that we shouldn’t drink. Instead, we should filter it. There’s a good core inside because ideology spurs from genuine causes and needs. Also, ideology can give us purpose and make us act.

I suppose we’ll just have to take a balanced position on ideology, won’t we?

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