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IDEOLOGY IS A DISEASE
AN IDEOLOGICAL PROPOSITION
BY DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
There seems to be something wrong with our Western civilization today, led by the Bush Administration of the United States of America, the only super power in the world, an empire unknown since the Roman Empire. The United States seeks to fashion the world in its own image, with or without the consent of that world, as did the Roman, French, and German empires. The United States wants to make the world safe for its version of democracy, and now its leaders are eager to make pre-emptive strikes and to wage offensive wars far from home to obtain equality under its definition of the law liberated people should obey. The United States is willing to go it alone and to kill as many people as might be necessary to liberate them from themselves, that all the survivors may become productive members of the New World Order. While the wars to end all wars continue, a few Americans, very few, are becoming increasingly inclined to feel that the arrogant effrontery of the American government, which is enormously
popular in the United States, together with the violent action it has taken against the will of the overwhelming majority of the people of the rest of the world, is an inauspicious sign, perhaps of an impending precipitous decline and fall. We think there must be something wrong with the American ideology, something that is paving an unethical highway to hell. Let us ignore the supposed differences between ideologies, and propose, just for the sake of argument, that ideology itself is the problem. We cannot help but notice that, no matter what sort of ideology a person thinks he adheres to, he is never wrong. No matter what sort of evidence is presented to refute him, he is always right. He is a slippery character armed with bowls of red herrings. Whatever the reality might be, he will contrive statistics to suit his ideological prejudice, or he will simply ignore contrary evidence and say, "To hell with the facts, to hell with current circumstances, we must keep the goal in mind, and this is the only way to get there." Yet, in the very next breath, he will speak of adhering to his facts, to his concrete interpretation of reality, and denounce 'utopian' thinking. In fact, his answer to every pressing question is derived from his ideology, not from reality. No experiment or argument will suffice to give him the slightest doubt about his ideological perspective on the world. And he will insist he adheres to it when he acts against it - he cannot see his selfcontradiction in the mirror even when his hypocrisy is so blatant that it is obvious to a seven-year old child. Ideological thinkers seem to be infected with rigid, highly organized illusions. Marx and Engels said ideology is "empty talk about consciousness", that it is "false" and "illusory", as opposed to "real, positive science" and "real knowledge." Engels coined the phrase "false consciousness" as a synonym for "ideology." Americans apparently caught the ideological disease from the French - we understand that Destutt de Tracy invented Ideologie. Napoleon labeled those who practiced ideology, Ideologues, and complained that France suffered the ideological disease. "We must lay the blame for the ills that our fair France has suffered on Ideology," said Napoleon, "that shadowy metaphysics which subtly seeks for first causes on which to base the legislation of peoples, rather than making use of laws known to the human heart and of the lessons of history. These errors must inevitably and did in fact lead to the rule of bloodthirsty men." (Moniteur - 21 December 1812) The disease apparently caused illiterate people to think they could constitute a brotherhood of equals under a free republican government. John Adams, a highly educated Federalist, the world's leading authority on the history of constitutions, dubbed ideology “idiotology.” He expressed his disdain for the quality proposition in a On July 13, 1813, letter to Thomas Jefferson, who had caught the dementing disease during a visit to France: "Dear Sir.... The first time that you and I differed in opinion on any material position, was after your arrival from Europe, and that point was the French Revolution. You were well persuaded in your own mind that the nation would succeed in establishing a free republican government. I was well persuaded in my mind, that a project of such a government over five and twenty millions, when four and twenty millions and five hundred thousand of them could neither read nor write, was unnatural, irrational and impracticable as it would be over the elephants, lions, tigers, panthers, wolves and bears in the royal menagerie at Versailles. Napoleon has lately invented a word which perfectly expresses my opinion, at that time and ever since. He calls the project
Ideology; and John Randolph, though he was, fourteen years ago, as wild an enthusiast for equality and fraternity as any of them, appears to be now a regenerated proselyte to Napoleon's opinion and mind, that it was all madness…. "... Inequalities of mind and body are so established by God Almighty, in His constitution of human nature, that no art or policy can ever plane them down to a level. I have never read reasoning more absurd, sophistry more gross, in proof of the Athanasian creed, or Transubstantiation, than the subtle labors of Helvetius and Rousseau, to demonstrate the natural equality of mankind. Jus cuique, the golden rule, do as you would be done by, is all the equality that can be supported or defended by reason, or reconciled to common sense.... "... When the French assembly of notables met, and I saw that Turgot's 'government is one centre, and that centre the nation', a sentence as mysterious or as contradictory as the Athanasian creed, was about to take place, and when I saw that Shay's rebellion was breaking out in Massachusetts, and when I saw that even my obscure name was often quoted in France as an advocate for simple democracy, and when I saw that the sympathies in America had caught the French flame, I was determined to wash my hands as clean as I could of all this foulness...." (1) Of course Jefferson was not persuaded by Adams. In his March, 14, 1820 letter to Adams, Jefferson praised the leading Ideologue, Destutt de Tracy, the man who called his science of ideas, Ideologie, as one of the "ablest metaphysicians living." Jefferson included Tracy's Ideology in an outline of a college curriculum he sent to Peter Carr in 1814. Ideology was included in the curriculum finally established at the University of Virginia in 1824:
I. Latin and Greek, higher grade, Hebrew, Rhetoric, Belles Lettres, Ancient History, Ancient Geography. II. French, Italian, Spanish, German, English (Anglo-Saxon), Modern History, Modern Geography. III. Higher Numerical Arithmetic, Algebra, Trigonometry, Plane and Spherical Geometry, Mensuration, Navigation, Conic Sections, Fluxions, or Differentials, Military and Civil Architecture. IV. Mechanics, Statics, Hydrostatics, Hydraulics, Pneumatics, Acoustics, Optics, Astronomy, Law and properties of bodies. V. Chemistry, Mineralogy, Geology, Rural Economy, Botany, Zoology. VI. Anatomy, Surgery, History of Medicine, Physiology, Pathology, Materia medica, Pharmacy. VII. Mental Science, Ideology, General Grammar, Logic, Ethics.
VIII. Common and Statute Law, Chancery, Laws Feudal, Civil, Mercatorial, Maritime Law of Nature and Nations, Government, Political Economy.
Notably absent from the curriculum are courses we would might find today in a department of religion within many colleges of arts and humanities. Jefferson abolished the professorship of divinity at William and Mary in 1799 to make way for law, medicine, chemistry, modern languages; and, in 1814, he omitted theology from all future proposals of subjects to be taught. But never mind; Ideology, even if it be false consciousness or illusory thinking, might be more convenient than theology nowadays; the churches do not seem to provide the attractive, viable alternative to secular life as they once did. Yet even atheists need religion, hence they might turn to ideology. Ideology is political theology. Political theology and religious ideology both worship absolute Power, but politics is more concerned with the material distribution of Power. Ideological religions can be just as intolerant as theological religions - people have used them all to justify mutual mass-murder, often in the name of the same god, who, of course, favors the victor. In order to make the world safe from ideology, it should behoove us to inquire into the etiology of the ideological disease. Of course we presume that the disease is not, as some thinkers insist, actually good for us, just as we reject the presumption that peace is a sort of malaise indicating the need for profuse bleeding, that it is, in English, a malease (bad ease) precedent to yet another healthy outbreak of war to temporarily decide an ideological difference. Since our ideology is allegedly a French export, an invention named Ideologie by a Frenchman, and was spread by its carriers contemptuously called Ideologues by Napoleon Bonaparte, we must turn back the pages of history to the Ideologues for an understanding of ideology. To Be Continued
NOTE (1) The Athanasian Creed deemed absurd by John Adams is the doctrine that god, the father, is of the same substance as his son. The Trinitarian doctrine itself was deemed logically absurd since it violated the fundamental law of static logic, the law of identity, that A = A, from which follows that A cannot be both A and not-A. Arguments in favor of triunal existence preceded Christianity and were in large part based on the natural observation that father, mother, and child were a unity, of one family, from which were projected triunes of deities. The Christological arguments continued the logic-juggling of the pre-Christian games—in Bharata, the loser of the metaphysical games played by wise men had to submit as a disciple to the man who had mastered him, or else be beheaded. The Christological arguments or dialectics, although seemingly absurd and silly, helped develop not only static logic(s) but our modern dynamic logic as well. Further, as absurd as the historical arguments for justification of a trinitarian creed may seem to us in retrospect, we should not forget the political underpinnings of the differences, which were concerned with the relative distribution of power among various peoples.
The doctrine of Transubstantiation criticized by John Adams refers to the belief that the bread shared at communion is transformed into and therefore is the actual blood and flesh of Jesus Christ. This practice was identified by some thinkers as a vestige of the early human sacrificial or food-sharing ritual, where, to appease the highest power, the food was offered to him first; what he did not take was shared with the others, first his main troop and the high priests, who were the cooks, then with the rest of the population including the poor—to share with the poor was important for the maintenance of the overall ideal, to maintain power in the few current elite by buying off the many. In some cultures the high power or head man was incorporated i.e. eaten for his power when he was killed or otherwise died. The highest power of all was of course invisible or spiritual, to whom was offered the smoke and heat from the sacrificial fire. Aromatic materials or herbs were burned on the food for the enjoyment of the one-god or Sun-god—the fire was associated with the Sun, fire being a gift of god, the Sun. The sacred cooking implements and furniture evolved around the primitive campfire. The tripod was a three-legged device, three legs being discovered throughout the world to be the most stable foundation for elevating things. The tripod might be a cooking kettle, a bowl for food, a bowl for gambling to determine the will of god, a medium for sacred symbols, a trophy for winning warriors and atheletes, a chair for the priestess to sit on when delivering oracles, etc. Of course the altar was the table of the Lord—the Church once divided it into two parts: male and female. The sacred power beverage was discovered by the cooks who attended the fires while the others were hunting or making war; they drank the fermented beverage at first, but eventually swore off of it to maintain intellectual control. According to this view, the Pope is God's Head Chef. The garb he wears and his staff are derived from the habit of the ancient cave-man hero of 40,000 years ago, who was called Hercules by many peoples. The habit was continued by the ancient Egyptian priests, the Cynics, and so on.
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