Post Images

Ideology – the closing of the mind

We live in an age of ideology. One of the reasons for this is the demise of Christian belief and cultural patterns shaped by Christianity that have, in the past, shaped and directed western civilisation. In Catholic thought faith and reason are not in opposition to one another but complement and complete each other. Pope John Paul II expressed it quite poetically when he said, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth” (see Fides et Ratio, 1998).

An attitude of faith actually opens the mind to the pursuit of truth. Whereas ideology is a closing of the mind around one pre-conceived idea. Ideology arrives at an idea which may have come from philosophical or scientific enquiry but then seeks to conform everything to this one idea.

As our world has become more interconnected, as access to information has become so readily available, so the sheer complexity of the world has caused a heightened sense of uncertainty. This fosters a yearning for some simple all-encompassing idea on which to hang one’s world view.

The twentieth century witnessed the rise of two powerful ideologies, Nazism and Communism. When both these movements gained political power it resulted in mass human suffering on a scale not previously experienced in human history.  Now the Marxist ideology, which lay at the heart of Communism, has morphed into new cultural expressions which at the present time are having a profound impact on Western culture. In particular, it is currently shaping society’s view of gender, sexuality and race.

This cultural Marxism lies at the heart of the rise of the Woke movement which has captivated not only the young, through its domination in educational institutions, but even leaders of business and politics. It is driving social change.

The root source of the notion of ideology is linked to a nineteenth century movement who called themselves the ideologues. The movement proposed a ‘science of ideas’, it maintained that all human knowledge was knowledge of ideas, and which therefore rejected the approach of ancient Greek ‘metaphysics’. It involved the belief that one should not just be concerned with trying to ‘explain’ reality, as was the case with philosophy, but rather to change the world.

Karl Marx adopted something of this approach. Marx conducted what he considered a “scientific” study of human society. His studies led him to the conclusion that human society is essentially grounded in a class struggle. His theory was not just about the struggle between the capitalist (bourgeois) and working classes (proletariat), but became in his eyes an explanation of the whole of human existence revealed throughout human history. In other words, it was a total picture of reality. What was most important for Marx was that through this conflict between the classes that humanity would eventually come to progress to a communist utopia, the final end of human development, the end of history. This is his dialectical materialism.

Marx adopted a revolutionary standpoint. It was all about bringing change to the world we experience. While Marx was himself critical of what he referred to as ‘ideology’, his thought and ideas have themselves been taken up as what we would now refer to as an ideology.

Ideology is essentially an abstract thought which considers itself complete within itself and brooks no self-examination. It has to be acted upon. It has to change things which it sees as wrong.

Ideology is the logic of an idea that has to be implemented at any cost.

It assumes that its understanding of reality is sufficient to explain everything and therefore it must be realised. Its source of validation and power is the logical consistency of the idea and does not require an external validation from experience. Indeed, ideology lives to change reality to conform with its driving idea.

One result of this is the attempt by adherents of ideological movements to impose their vision of reality through the control of various social institutions.  Once such control and has been achieved all opposition must be silenced. Ideology is by its nature totalising. The idea is everything.

For old school Marxists the central ‘idea’ was equality. For feminists it was absolutely equal treatment of men and women which recognises nothing of the biological, psychological or spiritual differences. For Critical Race Theory the central idea is that the structures of society are inherently racist and need to be changed. Ideology reduces the complexity of human life to simple formulas. The ideological thinker organises all reality on the basis of some partial truth, which is developed into a universal interpretation of reality.

We cannot escape the world of ideology which is now a powerful force in contemporary Western culture. It is a world that has chosen to relativise truth. And this relativism has become, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger famously said, a dictatorship. Now it is the individual person’s view of reality that is uppermost.

Those who have embraced an ideology, be it in relation to gender or sexuality, or race, are now loud in their denunciation of their opponents and determined to reshape society according to their ideology.

They are absolute in their view and determined to impose it on everyone. Thus, in the pursuit of their objectives, education is reduced to indoctrination. Society is being shaped by the force of these ideological positions. They have been able to coerce not only governments but also corporations, sporting bodies and the media such that decent men and women who sense that the ideological position is false are kowtowed into submission by the activism of those belonging to these movements which operate by threatening and bullying.

Ultimately, the answer to ideology lies in the orientation of a person towards the Transcendent. Faith takes a person outside themselves. There is Another to whom one looks. Meaning and purpose are found outside a driving idea. They are found in the person of a loving and merciful God. They are experienced in a relationship which is the fruit of faith. They are nourished by the freedom of choosing to live a life oriented to Someone greater than ourselves.


    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *