Against Ideology

Jeff Bone
Wed, 03 Oct 2001 00:36:59 -0500

I wanted to quote a whole selection from an incredibly provocative
book [1] I've read several times now, for which my opinions have yet
to converge...  I can't decide it this book is more like _The Bell
Curve_ (stinker, in my opinion) or _The Panda's Thumb_ (great book.)
Would love to get some critical feedback on it, but can't seem to
generate any response on it.  (My opinion has run from "screed" circa
a year or more ago to "extremely cogent if slanted" in light of
recent events.  It is, unassailably, well-researched.)  I think this
quote strikes right at the heart of many of our perenniel debates...

     "An ideology is usually a high-minded mask for a group's
     itch to take power and resources from other social groups.
     It's a meme - a cluster of ideas anxious to fatten on the
     substance of a superorganism's neighbors.  Hans Morgenthau,
     [2  -jb]  [cf. 3 -jb] the political theorist, has said that
     men don't willingly accept the truth about human nature and
     especially political nature.  The aim of politics,
     Morgenthau says, is not to make people better or to
     alleviate misery;  it is to increase the power of another
     man or group of men.  Morgenthau says our enemies are never
     as bad as we make them out to be, and we are never as good
     as we think.  We're convinced we're MORAL.  [my emphasis
     -jb]  And we know damn well that our enemy is only our for
     power and resources, but has no morals at all.  Yet, we,
     too, are out for power and resources.  And our enemy, like
     us, has a moral sense.  He uses that moral sense just as we
     do, says Morgenthau, to narrow the aperture of his
     consciousness and ignore is appetite for power."

I submit that this provides a powerful objective lens with which to
view the political motivations of any sociopolitical system, whether
communism, fascism, totalitarianism, democracy, libertarianism,
social democracy, socialism, Marxism, pure capitalism, Islamism, or
Zionism.  Or any other -ism.

To hesitantly quote a suspect but (I suspect) sage moment of pop
culture from my formative years [4]...  Ferris Bueller:

     Ferris:  It's not that I condone facism....or any "ism" for
     that matter.  "Isms" in my opinion are not good.  A person
     should not believe in an "ism", they should believe in
     themself.  I quote John Lennon, "I don't believe in
     Beatles...I just believe in me."  A good point there.
     After all, he was the walrus.  I could be the walrus, I'd
     still have to bum rides off of people!

While I thankfully don't (yet, pending further economic disaster)
have to bum rides off people, I couldn't otherwise agree more.



[2] Herman Harvey intv. -w- Morgenthau, tape, Sum and Substance,
Newport Books on Tape