The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

An Excess of Ideologies

More than most people, I understand the effort it takes to plan and write a book—any book. It’s for that reason that I stand in awe of a true author, an individual who uses words to create art, but at the same time delivers just a bit of wisdom along with an intriguing story populated by well-crafted characters. Carlos Ruiz Zafón is one of those authors. Early in his book, The Angel’s Game, one of Zafon’s characters makes a passing comment to the novel’s protagonist: “It seems that in advanced stages of stupidity, a lack of ideas is compensated for by an excess of ideologies.”

As I read those words, I couldn’t help but smile. The advanced stupidity of those on the extreme Left and those on the extreme Right is compensated for by an excess in ideology. More dangerously, this excess in ideology has not only pervaded our mainstream political parties and media, but has begun to become a controlling element of them. The result, I’m afraid, regardless of the party in power, is advanced stupidity.

An extreme ideology (whether on the Left or the Right) can be visualized as a triangle. Each vertex represents a core tenet, and without it, the ideology becomes unstable. There is no room for compromise or for adjustment—each vertex defiantly rejects rationality or facts that do not fit its self-imposed mime.

The extreme Left’s ideological triangle is denoted by the notion that the West in general and the United States in particular are the cause of most of the word’s problems, that big government can solve those problems, but only once it has been cleansed of capitalist thinking and all vestiges of self-responsibility, and that the “oppressed” have a right to act in barbaric ways, shielded from sanction or judgment because of their "victimization."

The extreme Right’s ideological triangle encompasses an absolutist view of abortion, suggesting that a government that they are wary of can and should intercede to control a woman’s body, that gay people are inherently unsavory and that gay marriage is somehow a “threat” to a heterosexual institution that fails more than half the time, and that the inevitable change in our national demographics is something to be resisted, rather than embraced.

There’s really no point in trying to refute these extreme ideologies. As they say, you can’t reason someone out of a position they never reasoned themselves into in the first place.

But as the structure of these ideological triangles becomes more robust, our future becomes less certain. Zafón is right. We are, it seems, entering into advanced stages of stupidity, where our political and opinion leaders are being driven not by what is right but what fits within their ideological triangle. It certainly isn’t an angel’s game.