Every culture has its own way of accounting for reality. These explanations are necessary to enable the culture as a whole, and the individuals within it, to act and to justify those actions. We cannot come to grips with anything until we have some way of understanding and explaining what we are dealing with.
Legislation enforces the ideology of those who elected the government, but may quash the ideology of those who voted another way. (Photo: Wikimedia)
Unfortunately, there is a huge problem here. The scheme works best if our explanation of reality is sound. In some areas, we may indeed have adequate accounts of reality (e.g. engineering), but human knowledge is limited, and in many more cases (e.g. medicine), our explanations do not coincide with actuality. In these situations, we must act within inadequate frameworks. So tenuous is our conceptual grasp on reality that sometimes we are aware of the damaging shortcomings of our explanations while at other times we remain in the dark.
Mythology was how the ancients explained the world around them. The inaccuracies of these imaginative tales are now very evident, so much so in fact that we have switched to regarding them with a psychological rather than a literal perspective. The failures of our own explanations – while often no less large – can be harder to perceive. Mythology lingers on in lurid tales of UFOs, alien abductions, psychic powers, and the notion that the world is riddled with conspiracies. However, most of us have moved on to a tasty little item called ideology. There were few of these in the beginning, but as our culture has grown more sophisticated, they have begun to proliferate. Contemporary examples would include feminism, environmentalism, cultural Marxism, socialism, capitalism, cultural and moral relativism, multiculturalism, conservatism, liberalism, and so on, and so on.
Any ideology employed as a reason to act and as a justification for how we have acted is controlling our behaviour. Our ideological beliefs motivate and vindicate us.
Given the large variety of ideologies in play, and recognizing that many are mutually exclusive, we face a critical question. Who decides which ideologies will guide our actions? The answer in democratic countries is twofold: the family and the government. Parents try to raise their children according to their own ideological beliefs. At the societal level, a certain segment (hopefully a clear majority) of a culture’s members will mandate their government to enforce a set of particular ideologies.
Ideologies outside the authorized set may or may not be tolerated. Thus, socialist cultures such as those that predominate today quash conservative political, economic, and social theory in favour of ideologies more congenial to the left. This policy is most visible in our schools, since education is the surest way to control the ideological orientation of the people. We also see it in the way we hamper and even despise capitalism, in our casual tolerance of environmentalists who block important development, and in the liberal use of slurs such as “homophobic,” “xenophobic,” and “sexist” to describe those who do not share leftist views on homosexuality, immigration, and the status of women.
All of the above is to say that ideology controls our behaviour and is maintained by the use of parental and governmental “force.”
Here is where it becomes vital to remember that ideology, while needed to guide our actions is an inaccurate explanation of reality. Ideologies take hold relatively slowly and by the time they become well established the milieu that prompted their development is no longer existent. It is foolish and destructive to follow any particular ideology without honestly evaluating the results of our actions. We damage ourselves as individuals and impair society by persisting with badly outdated ideologies that do more harm than good.
Therefore, from time to time, we may need to dislodge counter-productive ideology. We are living in just such a time.
Ideologies are human creations – not absolute truths – and as such are inherently unstable. Our continued existence depends upon exploiting the instabilities of ideologies. That is to say, to survive, we must change the way we act. To change the way we act, we must change our ideologies.
We can undermine any ideology by pointing out those things the ideology ignores or does an especially poor job of explaining. Feminism, for example is now vulnerable since it has clearly helped bring about the extinction-level reproduction rates that now threaten Western culture with eventual collapse. The numerous bankrupt European states expose the fatally flawed view of reality offered by socialism. The human ability to analyze must lead the way to a new perspective on life and how it may be lived. We must work out new more-accurate explanations of the world. We are in need of fresh ideologies.