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Friday, November 20, 2015

Ideology Matters

Upon what rock-like structures might you be basing your security... (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1267).

How is it that ideology divides us?  Let’s map it out a bit.

Let us take an example: ideology about the basic legitimacy of government action.  Some believe that government should be minimalist–it legitimacy extends primarily to matters of national defense and law and order.  Others believe government’s legitimacy extends to activist social programs.  Notice in both cases people BELIEVE something, and their divergent belief divides them.  Since it is the nature of man to believe, we are guaranteed a rocky ride.  We may ask, what are some characteristics of belief? Let’s create a bullet list.
  • Belief helps us organize the world.
  • Belief gives us a sense of meaning and purpose.
  • Belief is an anchor in times of trial and turmoil.
  • Belief is a human psychological need.
  • Belief gives us a security blanket.
  • Belief simplifies decision-making eliminating stultifying complexity–it clears one’s desk of “extraneous” matters.
  • Belief is a bonding mechanism forming groups of like believers–thus is a source of extensive social significance sometimes spanning centuries.
  • Belief gives us our own shared language of words and symbols (which can estrange us from other groups).
  • Belief gives one a sense of identity–you may pride yourself is sharing the beliefs of your parents (or contrarily–you may pride yourself in rejecting their beliefs for what you take as more worthy ones.)
  • Belief can profoundly unite or divide generations, nations, etc.
  • Belief frequently afflicts mankind with feelings of superiority (which precipitates great cruelty).
  • No one is immune from the prejudices that accompany belief–even within mild mannered institutions intense and bitter rivalries exist.
  • Belief begins at an early age–not infrequently very young children and their parents have different views regarding principles of appropriate behavior. 
  • People hold their beliefs sacrosanct–they perceive their beliefs to have inherent legitimacy even though others (with an air of superiority) consider them the epitome of illegitimacy.
  • No one is immune from the need to believe, thus all are vulnerable to the nobility (or ignobility) of belief.
  • Belief triggers the fundamental attribution error and vastly escalates the tendency to judge others unfairly.
No doubt you could add to this list based upon you own observations and experiences.  I suppose the perennial question that confronts us is how to tame the more explosive aspects of divergent belief.  It seems to me that the essential thing to do is to realize that we are a brotherhood of believers (however radically we stand in opposition) complete with all the vulnerabilities this inherently entails – the principal one being that we can be reflexively  dismissive of others and hold them in contempt as being less than deserving of elemental human respect and consideration.  Let us always note that when we point a finger at others three fingers point back at us, and that the faults of others are mirrored (in one way or another) within ourselves.

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