The hotbed of political incoherence

26/11/14

An ideology is a set of ideas, values and principles according to which we make decisions and interpret our surroundings. Everyone has an ideology; it can be more or less defined, more or less coherent, more or less (sometimes not at all) «classifiable.» In recent history, especially starting with Marxism (paradoxically one of the great ideologies of the contemporary era), this concept has been demonized, which is attributable to the manipulation and exploitation of ideas to gain power and to justify atrocities and in cases where ideas have been imposed.

In politics, however, to have no ideology is akin to being lost or being motivated to defend one’s own interests alone. Democracy’s foundation is found in the people electing their leaders in hopes that they will make the best decisions. For this choice to happen (for someone to delegate his parcel of sovereignty), the voter determines that his candidate will act in a specific way by interpreting decisions  he made earlier, the promises he has kept, the commitments he has assumed and his electoral program. If all of this is coherent, it allows the voter to become acquainted with the candidate’s underlying values and predict his future decisions or, at least, the voter is assured that those future decisions will be made respecting the values that the voter shares.

Thus when a party fails to fulfill an election promise, when an official acts contrary to his platform, when he searches out the majority or consensus at the expense of those implicitly expressed values, he is not just being incoherent, he is not just betraying himself and his principles (and an unprincipled politician is a corrupt politician), but he also betrays and bewilders his voters. In a system that is no longer coherent or explanatory of action, where voters no longer retain the basis on which their trust was founded because it has been lost, broken or betrayed, the vote is the only thing left and it becomes an end or means for personal gain.

Therefore, when a popular movement or a new party claims that they do not have any ideology, or when multiple parties are declared moderate «centrists,» which is understood as the neutral (uncommitted?) option, and all of this collapses into a version of the same nonsense, the average citizen inevitably becomes somewhat suspicious.

In order to sustain this foundationless system, they sell us nice ideas and catchy slogans that are, at the end of the day, sensations. Serious questions and deep inquiry become irrelevant. No one is interested in having an opinion and everything becomes based on sensation, impression, and feeling. Opinion has been discredited and devalued and has been situated on the same level as primitive perception. It has even come to be used to discredit with the stark phrase: «Well, that’s your opinion.»

This hotbed has far reaching roots. Our knowledge society is simply a society of accessible information— and there is so much of it that it is hard to delve into any one part. We think we know the world, but we only have a vague knowledge of it, consisting of loose brushstrokes in which we perceive defined shapes. Reader, I invite you to ask yourself how much you know (really know, beyond what you have seen or heard) about contemporary news. Machado’s verses rejoin, «From the sea to perception, / from perception to concept / from concept to an idea.» In an age of immediacy, ranging from pocket-accessible information, to a keystroke, to ultra-fast connections, we find ourselves at a comfortable, but shallow level of perception. We base our decisions on a system of ideas, assumptions, and beliefs that is often built on pure sensation.

And it is dangerous: sensation does not make it through the long and thorny road of reason. It reaches us from the same road that a chocolate stain on a white shirt might, in an instant and with the same immediacy. Thus, it is not easy to fight sensation with arguments: it is not easy to contradict our senses (and we are continually bombarded with invitations not to do so, e.g., «Follow your heart.»)  This is such a strongly held assumption that natural law is identified with things that are nothing more than acquired «knowledge.» Indeed, if we scratch the surface a bit, we see that behind the economic, political and social crises of our day, a crisis of knowledge can be found. Let us continue on, then, toward reflection, deepened understanding and, ultimately, knowledge.

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