“Our blight is ideologies — they are the long-expected Antichrist!” Carl Jung, The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation (1954)
Are You Serious?
Here is a list of questions for revolutionaries, radicals, and all who hold a firm political orientation:
- Are you serious about what you advocate?
- Do you really want what you advocate? Is what you advocate really what you want? Is there something else?
- Why do you want what you advocate?
- What stories do you tell yourself that support what you advocate?
- What is your base value at the very bottom of your scheme of justification for political belief?
I think people need to question their assumptions and reevaluate their beliefs on occasion. To do this constantly is not healthy, but to never do it may be worse.
I have been interrogating myself with these questions in recent months. The reason for this is three-fold. First, moving has put me in an untrodden psychic territory- dropped out of college, enrolled in trade school, gotten a new job, and moved cities- and I have had to figure out the new landscape. Second, I have also been alone a lot without Wi-Fi, try it sometimes, it can be nice. It can also be unpleasant once you sit down, get bored, and let your mind start to dialogue with yourself, you start asking yourself questions like the ones above and the responses aren’t always the ones you would expect or desire. Lastly, I had recently begun listening to lectures by Jordan Peterson based on his book Maps of Meaning. Peterson’s insights have made this path of interrogation less traumatic and more structured.
Was I Serious?
Two months ago I would have called myself a revolutionary, I was engrossed with Marx, Kropotkin, and myriad of leftist discussions/journals. I treated this arena with some higher truth and urgency. I was convinced of the correctness, the moral authority, and the necessity of these ideas. I was an ideologue.
Being an ideologue is a dangerous intellectual territory and a dangerous social territory. It is intellectually dangerous because it seems to increase your psychic tendency for confirmation bias. You no longer search for facts and plausible descriptions of the world but instead search for stories and descriptions of the world that only increase the value of the ideology that you serve. Socially it is dangerous territory because if you think that your worldview is the whole story morally, descriptively and beyond that a social necessity, then the actions that can emerge from this can be very violent.
Take 20th Century Marxism, for instance, this was a totalizing worldview with a utopian end and backed by the winds of history (or so the doctrine states). The last supposition seems to be the most detrimental since it removes responsibility from the actor, he is merely a tool of history. Many of the atrocities and misguided policies of the USSR were backed by this very justification of historical necessity.
What Is To Be Done?
The aim of the questions above is to break from ideology or at least interrogate the assumptions, which they are based. The potential outcomes of this: one, a toppling of the hierarchy, which the worldview/ideology is built, or two, building a few more beams to support if the assumptions seem to be verified.
Now the thing about ideologies is that they are most times true, but only partially. So, you can find a lot of support for all sorts of beliefs, however, they are often unidimensional in the way they look at and describe the world, and thus the prescriptions for which they recommend are incomplete.
I think it is good to go to the very base assumptions, which are often rooted in a moral framework. What is your basic moral axiom, which is being used to evaluate the world? Is there one? Or are you just resentful and vengeful that the world is unfair?
I was resentful and vengeful and when I pushed a little bit on the structure of my ideology, it tumbled. Luckily, what was revealed was a foundation I had forgotten existed. The moral axiom, which could guide my individual behavior and my desire for the social world: I wish for a sustainable social world that can reduce human suffering. This axiom has no particular ISM, but certainly is a basic value system.
Looking at a fundamental axiom and using this as a building point and not forgetting about it seems like a better way to engage the world. You use the base value to look at the world, but not ignore it. The world is full of obstacles and tools for use, it is up to me to decide how to relate to them.
Build your worldview, just hope that the levels aren’t rotten. Maybe a pyramid would be the best design?
As for me… I am back down at the foundation, re-examining to see if it will get the job done of supporting the structure.