Sunday, June 22, 2014

"ideologies are dying"

I heard it said the other day and it has been rattling around in my mind -- "Ideologies are dying."

For gum-chewing conversational purposes, such a broad-brush assertion feels pretty much right to me. Religion, politics, education, business, family life -- the spires and minarets seem to be losing the adhesiveness that ideological mortar once provided.

Maybe it's so or maybe I am just old. Whatever the case, the assertion rattles around like a pinball racking up brightly-lit points in its travels: KA-CHING! KA-CHING!

An Internet dictionary definition of "ideology" is short and sweet:
-- an orientation that characterizes the thinking of a group or nation
That sounds about right to me. Ideologies within and without are collections of thought that reach out for some achievement. When many people/ideas get together, a great deal of collective and personal good can be created. When many people/ideas get together, a great deal of collective and personal evil can be created. Each person/thought supports and gives compelling reason to the next and the next time anyone looks up from his work, the Panama Canal is complete, the church or factory is up and running, or the latest world war has broken out.

Based on the good results, much can be said for ideology. Based on the bad results ideology can be sent to bed without any supper. Those who have poured blood, sweat and tears into an ideology may be endlessly loath to revise or let go. Those who have discovered the flaws and frailties of ideology may be teenage-quick to dismiss ideology out of hand ... going so far, sometimes, as to say things like "no ideology is best" -- another ideology if ever there was one.

Are ideologies actually dying? Or are they rather just looking around for a new and improved home? Is there are man or woman without an ideology of some sort -- an agenda that will see him or her through the dark night and into the bright of day? I doubt it.

What I suspect is that "ideologies are dying" just means a slow and intractable movement towards an understanding that ideologies have their uses and have their flaws but that in all cases, ideologies are tentative. Blood, sweat and tears, sincere assertions raining down from heaven, life-giving delight coursing through the veins, accomplishments beyond number ... all of this may be very compelling, but cannot escape the tentative nature of ideology.

"Ideologies are dying" is more a personal annoyance with the responsibility that comes with the realization that ideology is tentative. It's your life and your choice and your responsibility. Ideology may be a very good thing and a very bad thing and ... well, whose responsibility is that?

"Tentative" does not mean "useless." It just means "tentative."

1 comment:

  1. I've always taken ideologies to be high flung/big brained pack/herd identifiers. Whether couched in religion or nationalism or racism, they still come down to us vs them. Turning away from them is available to an individual who can live without the protections of the group. But i imagine most folks will still cling to one or another of the ever changing banners that parade by. Ideologies appeal to ones instinct to belong, it's an emotional experience. The slogans usual fail in the light of reason, and evolution from instinct to reason seems a slow and unlikely process.