Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ideology as opinion

My first post, located here, was shared by someone on Google+ and one of the comments said that they liked my paragraph about ideology being an opinion. So, partly out of pandering, and partly out of a genuine belief that it is a topic worth exploring further, I want to talk about that a little bit more and explain why it is an important view to take.

I'm sure there are some out there who would argue that I if I don't think that my ideology is 'right' that I'm somehow betraying my belief in that ideology. But that is based on the false premise that me being 'right' means everyone else must be wrong. Say for example there is a fire. I want to throw water on the fire, someone else wants to throw a blanket on it. Who is right? If we argue over whether to throw water or a blanket on this fire, then whatever it is that is burning is going to be nothing but a pile of ashes. However my argument that ideology should be viewed as an opinion goes beyond mere polarization.

Believing that your ideology is right and the other guy is wrong implies that there is no overlap. I can think of no ideology where that is the case. A communist and a libertarian can certainly agree that murder should be illegal. But those two ideologies are most assuredly opposed to one another at face value. During the republican debates, Michelle Bachmann proudly declared that she disagreed with everything Obama said. Does that mean that Bachmann thinks murder should be legal? Obama certainly does not. They agree on that.

So far, I'm still giving examples of polarization. But that is because I am giving the most extreme examples. For every extreme position that an ideology subscribes to, there are thousands of little gray areas. It's within these gray areas that we can work together to effect change. Most people have no problem agreeing with me on that. Michelle Bachmann, her far right buddies, and the (much smaller, or less vocal) far left opposition might be the only ones that do not.

Now I know what you are thinking, "But John, if you talk about the areas where the ideologies agree, then you aren't pointing out why you should be willing to listen to opinions where they don't." But aren't I? I've mentioned in a discussion about healthcare on another site that Singapore has a system which is both more libertarian than ours, and more progressive. It was correctly pointed out that we can't simply transplant Singapore's system into the U.S. and expect it to work. But if we don't discuss that issue openly, then the black view of one ideology and the white view of the other never have the chance to become a workable gray area. We never find a solution where both ideologies can further their goals and our society as a whole benefits.

Almost every single issue has a common ground. It's only by accepting that we either don't have all of the answers, or don't have the answers that everyone can agree on, that we open up our mental palettes beyond monochrome.

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