2006-12-06

Idealism as Golden Calf.

Today, on MSNBC, they had one of the guys from the Baker/Hamilton Commission, I think it was Edwin Meese, the former Attorney General under Reagan. I can't find the transcript on MSNBC.com, but it was something along the lines of:

"throughout most of my career we have been fighting the same people. In World War II it was people who quoted Mein Kampf and shot at you, then it was people who quoted Marx who would shoot you in the back of the head, now it is people butchering the Koran and trying to kill you. Its the same people, but different books."

Again, this quote is butchered but I tried to get it as close as I could remember from my sleep, and hangover addled state.

We can add people quoting the bible and killing millions in its name. Or anyone trying to screw over everyone for a mere idea, such as libertarianism, God, capitalism, communism, any "ism" really. Idealism is the scourge of humanity, when we grasp a "big idea" we do so at the cost of the small ideas such as humanity, and reality. When we attempt to shape the world "for its own good", as guided by some grand thought, we become nothing more than mere tyrants. From our lofty hight we loose sight of the toll our ideas cause on real people, people suffering to make your abstraction a reality.

While some ideas have done great things, and moved the world, most of them have lead to suffering. What is the difference between these two classes of ideology? How is universal suffrage different from eugenics? How is the Magna Carta different from the Turner Diaries? One set of ideals (the good ones) have human well being at their core, they spring from humanity, while the other desire to shape humanity towards them. A good way to illustrate this difference would be say that there are "ideas that are controlled by humanity", and "ideas that control humanity".

Sometimes we live in our heads, in the realm of abstraction, rather than the real world, comprised of people and suffering. Sometimes an idea is so powerful that we lose track of what actually matters, people and suffering, compassion, love, beauty, our common humanity that we share with all individuals. Ideology is the ultimate sin.

Along these lines... We entrench ourselves within our various ideologies, creating a false "us vs. them" dichotomy. Republicans vs. Democrats, liberals vs. conservatives, Christians vs. secular humanists, the poor vs. the rich, etc... We get so busy defending our select ideology, that we forget to actually step back and see what we are defending, to see if it REALLY is worth defending. We accept it as dogma, as biblical truth. It becomes another blind ideology to use to subject humanity to our view of how it should be. We are right! We are the creators of the world. We are our own tyrants, subjecting ourselves to a false idol of our own devising. We need to keep in mind the human effects of any ideal we hold.

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1 comment:

phaereyfarm said...

I've been thinking about what goes wrong in ideology, which seems fairly complicated...
I'm not sure that ideology is fundamentally wrong, I think what might be wrong is the way in which ideologies are implemented. I'm not certain that all ideology is wrong, but I am certain that mis-placed ideology always is. I think the trouble though, then lies in the decision of which ideologies are right and wrong; generally (in my understanding) it's too late when you know for sure.

Well, I'll keep thinking on this. Interesting topic. Also, I really do like the perhaps Edwin Meese quote.