If I seem obsessed with evil lately, it’s only because it’s an important idea to understand. Evil takes many forms, and one of the most prevalent being ideology.
You see, the devil–or whatever you want to call that malevolent part of humanity–isn’t a guy with horns and a pointy tail living in a place full of fire. And the devil doesn’t do stuff to you or force you to do stuff. It’s worse.
The devil makes you choose, of your own free will, to do stuff that’s bad while thinking it’s really, really good.
Tempter . . . seducer . . . dare I say it, the champion of convenience.
This is how we get a world where, for example, babies are killed in the womb in the name of “liberation,” and we all just go, “Meh.”
The worst part of this, the most devilish of all, is that, since no one likes to change their minds, ever, any such behavior that leads to bad results is nearly impossible to reverse.
I’m sure you can see the connection between devilishness and ideology now.
Ideology, and we’re talking political ideologies here, box you into a way of thinking that’s tough to break out of, no matter how consistently bad the outcomes are. It’s the old saying about how when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail come to life.
Ideologies can be useful. They provide a framework for seeing the world, for conceptualizing causes and effects, and for proposing solutions.
In a way, though, they are like science, or at least what science should be: constantly tested, constantly revised, and in danger of being falsified. In short, they should be flexible in light of new information and evidence.
Instead, ideologies become rigid, entrenched, and oddly antifragile. Indeed, it seems that the more holes you poke in a given ideology, or the more flaws you point out, the stronger its adherents devotion. They become highly dogmatic and, dare I say it, cult-like.
“But Alex, aren’t you a Christian? Isn’t religion just another ideology?”
In short, no. Christianity is (1) a highly individualistic religion, (2) not concerned with political structures, (3) is reliant on a person’s own actions and faith for salvation, and (4) doens’t require forcing every other person on Earth to live the exact same way you do. Other religions might be more akin to an ideology–I can think of one, in particular, that just can’t seem to keep itself out of the news–but I leave further discussion to the experts.
Back to the secular, and smellier, realms of law and politics. Whether you’re a hardcore free-marketeer or a Marxist, your answer to everything is more of the same. The market-worshiper is just as apt to lament “We’ve never had really free markets!” as the communist is to whine “We’ve never had real communism!” And in both cases, there is a strange belief in the magic power of laws, as though laws are powerful spells that can compel proper behavior if only we use the right combination of words!
More, more, more. Hammer, hammer, hammer.
This is what I mean by devilish. No matter how much human suffering, either physical or economical or social, ideologies cause, their proponents double and triple down. Witness those who categorically refuse to see the repeated failures of the neoliberal world order.
(I point out here that my utter disdain for Marxist communism, perhaps the greatest failed ideology in the history of mankind, is intense, and yet as this putrid system’s failures and horrors are so well known as to be axiomatic, they don’t really need any further discussion here).
Neoliberalism has wrought some positive changes, sure. But it hasn’t all been sunshine and lollipops. And yet, to suggest that things might need to change is to bring down the aspersions of credentialed idiots upon your head.
“How dare you?! You’re un-American!”
These same overeducated morons, who claim to be Our Betters, either refuse to or actually can’t see any nuance. Any deviation from the status quo and you’re a “Nazi” or a “Marxist” or some other 20th century boogeyman used to scare people out of their wrongthink.
I have a special ire for the bow-tie wearing, free-market/open borders crowd, those out-of-touch blowhards who think that humanity’s sole motivation in life is lust for money. They are, of course, projecting their own beliefs on to the rest of us. To this type of “conservative,” who has conserved nothing save their own family fortune, all that matters is efficiency and profit.
The “businessman” becomes a hero, never mind how often the businessman bends the rules and buys politicians to secure his advantage in the so-called free market.
“It’s okay! We all benefit!”
Corporate tax cuts will “trickle down” to the rest of us! Open borders, offshoring, and cheap labor will make the goods and services you crave cost less!
Now, if all of those benefits were actual, I’d say they have an argument. But when you point out the devastation in both economic and cultural terms that open borders, offshoring, and crony capitalism (or corporatism, or whatever you want to call the unholy union between Big Business and Big Government) has caused in our country, or that this new “knowledge economy” has really only benefited a select few in certain urban centers, the almost knee-jerk answer is, “That’s because we don’t have enough open borders, offshoring, and corporate tax cuts!”
It’s like a doctor who prescribes his patient poison, charges an exorbitant rate for the privilege of being administered said poison, and then responding, when told by the patient that they are in fact getting worse, that the only answer is more poison. And that the poison is good for you.
The evils of ideology, of course, cut across more things than economics. And I am, of course, providing a very broad overview of the economic situation. But we have 50 or so years of hard evidence demonstrating that ideologies based on materialism, whether they come from the Right or the Left, have the same deleterious effects whether preached by a spittle-flecked Leninist or a bow-tie straightening devotee of Ayn Rand.
Coincidentally, both of these materialists hated religion, and wanted nothing more than its utter extinction. Now, if that is not devilish, I don’t know what is.
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