Wednesday, December 17, 2008

there's a problem with ideology

"'Let me tell you something, Paul', the Bear said in a slow voice, as if he were lifting his heavy paw for a shattering blow. 'If high culture is coming to an end, it is also the end of you and your paradoxical ideas, because paradox as such belongs to high culture and not to childish prattle. You remind me of the young men who supported the Nazis or communists not out of cowardice, or out of opportunism, but out of an excess of intelligence. For nothing requires more thought than arguments to justify the rule of nonthought. I experienced it with my own eyes and ears after the war, when intellectuals and artists rushed like a herd of cattle into the Communistic Party, which soon proceeded to liquidate them systematically and with great pleasure. You are doing the same. You are the brilliant ally of of your own gravediggers.'"

I don't know where to start with this one. Not because I'm without anything to say, but because I'm wondering where to start. A passage like this makes me immediately look at myself in the mirror. I don't really identify myself as a liberal, but my friends would say that I am. Rob used to call me a "commie pinko bastard" with great affection :-). Although, I don't eagerly jump into the ACLU parades, and I'm not referring to political thought, or legislation. For me, liberal and conservative thought, if we are to pit the two against each other, represents a different approach to how you see the world. Although, does it represent a different approach to living your life? There are those who will vehemently proclaim that they live out their ideal to the fullest, and I will immediately wonder if that eagerness comes from intellectual pride or hope (based on books read, associations, surrounding culture) or the belief that their way of thinking ultimately leads to a better life for us all, and does that ideal always represent the best way to solve a problem. I've always thought that when people repeat that old saying, "There's no such thing as atheist in a fox hole", in a way that sums up the whole question. I wonder if ideologies ever remain unaltered after being stained by practice and blood. Do they remain perfect when not faced with the wrench of humanity? There is a Pedro the Lion song that asks, "have you ever seen an idealist with grey hair on his head." Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nadar, Dennis Kucinich...are these men idealist? Or are they merely men with hope? Dick Cheney, or Rumsfeld, ...are these men merely realists? Does ideology (conservative or liberal), after launching movements with benign and honest intentions, hinder those causes from moving forward due to the impassioned obstinate nature of those involved? Is pragmatism a surrender or an amended approach? There are those who protest wars who will be the first to have their family and their ideas destroyed. There are those who launch attacks will open doors for the void to be filled by opportunists with bad ideas. There are those who will protest capital punishment on the steps of a courthouse in Texas, and then pull the trigger by rote reaction when a madman kills his firstborn. When the free market swallows it's champions, they will be the first in the soup line. Exposure to the unpleasant reality will throw any idealist in a tailspin. How can one support Ayn Rand and socialism all at once? I suppose one who explores the past and confronts problems with an open mind will always be an impressionable example a sober common sense approach, but that person may not be the best leader. There is room in this world for everyone, the madmen and the priests. This topic deserves more of a discussion (and more research on my part), and ultimately leads to morality and human nature. Do the fence sitters have the right idea?


Blogger Melanie said...

Wow, just typed out a longer, thought out reply only to lose it to an error message.

I know that Capitlism sometimes needs controls, and communism frequently leads to total control. I would normally consider myself quite conservative, but find I can almost double back to a liberal position at times (albeit, usually for different reasons.)

Ideologically speaking, I'm not really a fence-sitter, but that's almost what I've become.

I think you ask some excellent questions, and I think no matter what side of the political spectrum one falls on, they are questions a lot of people on both sides may have asked themselves, if they allow themselves to ask them.

I got almost excited reading this.


(P.S. I expressed this much better first time around. I hope I didn't leave out anything crucial??)

12:00 AM

Blogger David said...

I think a better title of this post would've been "is there a problem with ideology". It's frustrating that we are reminded again and again of our politicians and their failure to grasp the nations problems in favor of putting party agenda before and ideology. I wonder how personal ideals should translate into public policy. We've dealt with it within Mae, and i'm sure everyone deals with it in their own way. Also, I've wondered about personal beliefs and their role in someone's role as a civil servant. Can the separation of Church and State really exist? I think it should, I think it's necessary. Although, if someone has convictions, and understands those convictions in a certain that may make it his/her responsibility to bring those ideals into public practice. Hmmm.

8:50 AM

Blogger Melanie said...

Separation of Church and State is a tricky issue. I can't imagine how one's beliefs, whether they are athiest, Christian or Buddahist, would not influence their view of the world, and therefore the decisions they make (even if the decision the make is to ignore one's own gut feelings on certain issues.) Otherwise, does that person really believe what they say they believe? How can what you believe not affect you in some way?
BTW, I believe the Separation of Church and State originally mentioned by Jefferson was intended to mean that the state didn't interfere with the church (regardless of whatever church that might be), not that the church had no role in society or government whatsoever. Ideally, we'd all know who God is intimately well, and it would be a moot point, although an athiest might suggest that ideally no one would believe in fairy tales? Everything would all be voluntary because everyone would do the right thing. There would be no "bad guys" and everyone would be good. I guess on that issue, I am more of a realist - sometimes an idealistic realist, perhaps.
Politically, we crave statesmen, but vote for politicians. Go figure.

11:48 AM

Blogger chris zak said...

i've kind of just confronted the problem with idealism today. i'm leaving london, and so are the people from this program, to go back to philadelphia. everyone in the program goes to my school - temple. the majority of people were sad to leave - i wasn't. i said, i'm just going to see people when i get back. but it hit me today that my friendships with the people here were so easy. we lived with each other, had class with each other, were trying to rediscover confidence in ourselves, out of place in a foreign country - we relied on each other...and when we get home, we have lives that we've already established. the other lives we've built to feel ok. i feel like you'd have this problem touring for 3 months. it won't be so easy to see people, or care, when i get back. and then i have to deal with giving people space - only to think...i'm going to graduate. this does kind of suck. but then again, i don't know how things will play out until i get home and life starts happening. nothing is ever as ideal as you want that's why i kind of kick myself for spending time thinking about it, anyway. it's interesting, at the least. haha.

i used to think ideology was a worthless practice, because nothing is ever as ideal as you might think. and it can narrow your focus. at the same time, i'm pretty ideal about how i want to live my life. and in that broad sense, ideology is incredibly important.

even the idea that i don't want to limit myself to a set of ideas that aren't always practical to real life is an idealism! my ideology has taken shape over time. the less i think about who i should be and trust my experience, and believe that i'm actually OK, the more of whoever I should be comes forth.

that's what i think, anyway. sorry if this wasn't exactly what you were talking about, or i focus too much on the word itself. seems kind of stupid to not recognize that idealism exists in everything. this post was partly for me too.

in short, there is no problem with ideology, because it exists and it's human and blows up in your face whether you want it to or not - and when it does, that's when you see new things about yourself.

3:59 PM


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