Liberty Expose: The Price of Ideology

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Hamlet was obsessed with justice. As well he should; a student at the University of Wittenberg who is most comfortably in the intellectual realm, the prince of Denmark takes the pursuit of abstractions such as justice seriously. The problem with abstractions, as Hamlet will show in his vengeful crusade, is that constructing abstract ideas into reality is a near possibility.

In Hamlet’s example, his delayed, if romantic, pursuit of revenge for his father’s death results of the demise of Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Gertrude, Laertes, and Hamlet himself in his war against Claudius. No need for concern though, as long is poetic justice is received. Hamlet perfectly embodies the vocational true believer; in his pursuit his ideas, he destroys the lives of people around him due to his blindness of the consequences his notion of justice will have upon those around him.

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One might call Prince Hamlet a “true believer.” True believers are those whose adherence to ideology warps and sense of reality that that individual may have. They are found everywhere and represent all sides of the ideological spectrum.

They are the Islamic extremists that terrorize the Middle East and beyond, they are the ultranationalists who so firmly believe in independence for regions such as Catalonia and Kurdistan that they are willing to disregard the consequences of a non-sanctioned referendum. They are the Bolivarians in Venezuela who would rather see the Latin American nation degrade and fall and blame the United States for their economic woes than take a sober look at the reality of socialism. They are those in Europe whose commitment to bureaucracy and pacifism might ultimately lead to the fall of the European Union that they hold in such high regard.

True believers can be found in America too; they are the people, mainly journalists and writers unfortunately, that believe every national event bends to their will. They are so extreme in their partisanship that every malady that plagues the nation is the fault of the other guy. Check social media if you want to find them; they tend not to hide.

The tyranny of the true believer is not particularly new; the twentieth century was sprinkled with examples of what happens when ideas are relentlessly pursued without taking consequences into consideration. The last century was the climax of the French Revolution’s influence upon the world; ideological strife dominated much of that century, and the extreme human cost of conflict reflects the reality of ideological submission.

Take the communist states as the perfect examples. In their pursuit of social and economic justice, the regimes under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and Chinese leader Mao Zedong resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of people. Sure, many of those deaths are the result of the paranoia and political maneuvering of the leaders themselves; but the vast majority of the lives lost were not due to genocidal political scheming, but rather the result of communist policies.

It was Stalin’s collectivization of agriculture to exterminate the last refuge of capitalism in the Soviet Union, and Mao’s attempt to industrialize China and control the economy in the Great Leap Forward that would resulted in some of the most horrendous suffering in all of human history. And all done in the pursuit of an idea – in pursuit of economic and social justice. Ideas so intoxicating that to this day there are adherents to those ideas in the West (but that wasn’t real socialism!)

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There are other examples of ideologically seduced-terror that the twentieth century bestows upon us; the anti-colonial movement, however justified it may have been at times, led to countless deaths when the imperial powers withdrew from colonies that lacked a strong enough political body to handle independence. The ramifications are being brutally felt to this day. And there are still adherents to fascism in the West, most notably found in the Orwellian and ironically named Anti-Fascist Movement, or “Antifa” as they are commonly known.

Samuel Johnson once wrote in one of his Idler essays that “nature has taken sufficient care that theory shall have little influence on practice.” Or in the common vernacular, there is a dep divide between abstraction and reality. Part of, or indeed what does, make America such a great nation that the United States is an ideological nation. unlike most countries, the US was established on the foundation of enlightenment philosophy; specifically, that of John Locke’s notion that governments are only justified when they protect the life, liberty, and property of their citizens.

This is a blessing; because of the United States’ origins in ideas, the American people have a common goal that they can strive for. Most nations do not have that luxury. Though the pursuit of the American idea is a noble one, one must not forget the dangers of ideological commitment. Though the US was founded on a single, unifying idea, part of that idea includes the recognition of the intellectual diversity that dominates the country. It is the reason a Federalist system was established, and why much of the problems today originate from the erosion of the Federalist system.

Federalism is the understanding that those in Texas, New York, and Utah have different cultures and beliefs, and those states should be left to make policy decisions on their own. When this notion is eliminated, that is when there is policy gridlock in DC.

Taking the consequences of ideas is not to mean one can be a conservative, progressive, or libertarian. It is to mean one should avoid the cult of the true believer; or, one should not bend truth to one’s own will. Once truth becomes relative, and reality warps to the will of the individual, an increasingly common phenomenon in the age of social media, power becomes distributed to the true believer.

When one submits to an ideological movement, the self becomes warped. In a dichotomy, the individual loses their identity when seeking a movement, but also judges reality by that individual’s chosen movement. It is both collectivism and egotism, but erosion of the self nonetheless.  It is the starting point of national decline.