Any, Every, And All Ideology Is Un-American.

The dictionary definition of ideology is no longer tenable: a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture; the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program; a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture; or visionary theorizing.” Thankfully, Hannah Arendt recognized the change and gave it enduring expression. Capitalism and totalitarianism have combined in the twentieth century, or rather mutated, to force a new definition of ideology:

namely an all-embracing “system of explanation” that boils down the complexity of life into one fundamental “principle.” Ideologies are more than the general political credos that can be found in most modern societies. They offer those who subscribe to them a limited set of interpretive postulates with which to understand reality, and a shield against any experience that might throw these postulates into confusion or doubt. An ideology subjects the world to the coercion of an idea, to axioms and deductions that force every concrete event to comply with its logic; as such, it complements the coercion of terror that works on the senses. What had made ideology so attractive in the modern world, Arendt argued, was less any particular content than the fact that it had appeared in societies ravaged by “loneliness.” To people uprooted and superfluous for whom “the fundamental unreliability of man” and “the curious inconsistency of the human world” were too much to bear, ideology offered a home and a cause, “a last support in a world where nobody is reliable and nothing can be relied upon.” The price of that support was incalculably high: a rupture with reality and the submission to that “‘ice-cold reasoning’ and the ‘mighty tentacle’ of dialectics which ‘seizes [the believer] as in a vise.’” [Peter Baehr, “Editor’s Introduction,” The Portable Hannah Arendt]

Sound familiar? The closed-minded intransigence of the Pro-Life movement. Or the NRA on the Second Amendment and gun control. Proliferating hate groups and white supremacist violence. Individualism. (It is a virtual axiom in America that the individual, rather than groups, organizations, or society, is responsible for everything: Global Warming, the crime rate, racism; therefore, solutions must rebound to individual responsibility. In other words, the solution to Global Warming, or what is euphemistically re-framed as morally neutral jibe of Climate Change, is for each individual, one at a time, to alter his or her behavior in such a way as to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A good idea for corporate marketing purposes, but one that eliminates the possibility of coherent social policies.) Political discourse reduced to bumper sticker slogans. It is something we experience every day in America, in the schizophrenic invective and gridlock of a rogue White House and Congress, and in a Supreme Court that kowtows to inherently unaccountable corporate power. This new and virulent strain of ideology is how the corporate entelechy of capitalism and totalitarianism deal with what historian Perry Miller once called “the complexity we now endure.”


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