From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Wed Jun 27 2007 - 16:18:02 EDT
What I meant to say to you Jerry is this - in my opinion, in the real world of politics, ideology is often much less important than intellectuals suppose. You have a problem to solve, and you have to organise people to solve it, and ideology often is more of a hindrance than a help, to solving it. Let's say for an example that you have half a million starving people, and you have to feed them, which the UN and Bob Geldof often try to do. Whether you are leftwing or rightwing, most people will at least morally agree that these people should be fed. I talked once to somebody who said, "well if they are too stupid to organise their own food supply, let them starve to death until they learn to organise it" but they would be a small minority. And then in organising the food supply, you have to work with all these different kinds of people from different ideological backgrounds, and basically all that amounts to, is different styles of work, to achieve the objective, they might disagree about methods, but the reasons might not even be explicable in ideological terms, perhaps it's more in the sort of people they are. Of course, this simple example assumes that there is already a common purpose, and you might argue, that the existence of different ideologies mean precisely that there is no common purpose. Yet in practice, in a democratic society, people from different ideologies have to work together in the same organisations anyway, and I think that intellectually you can exaggerate differences which don't really exist in practical reality, or that differences exist which are really attributable to differences OTHER than ideological differences. The other side of the story is that, if you have power and authority, then the mere fact that you have that, enables you, with access to resources, to do good (and of course bad) things for people regardless of what your ideology happens to be - simple fact is, that if you say that something has to be done, or you have the majority vote, people will do it, or you can do something, because you are in that position. The 1960s American radical and community organiser Saul Alinsky (the subject of an honors thesis by Mrs Clinton at Wellesley College), therefore remarked something to the effect that the real activist in truth had to be something of a "welldeveloped schizo", since in politics, truly good things get done for the wrong (ideological) reasons, and truly bad things get done for the best of reasons. So just by looking at the reasoning itself, or the ideology, you don't necessarily get very far, a dialectical/reflexive approach is necessary. The thing is, in the end, people will not judge you primarily according to your unrepentant ideological fidelity, but according to your contribution to improving people's lives, i.e. according to what difference you made to their lives or to the world. They will say, I didn't care for his ideology, but what he accomplished, that's a fact, or they will say, he had great ideas, but in reality it turned out to be a fart in the bath. It's only really among the intellectuals, that quality of ideas is of prime concern. A similar idea occurs in pop music - Paul McCartney had this bit which was put at the end of the Abbey Road record, where he wrote almost tautologically: "And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make". That is an optimistic generalisation (which doesn't just refer to sex), you may be crippled for life in giving love or taking love, the equation may not balance in the end (a tragedy), but nevertheless there is something real in it. Marx himself wrote: "Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge a period of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life". That is to say, we have to distinguish between the reasons and rationales, and what actual gets done, and we have to understand what gets done, in the whole practical context and background in which it occurs. Personally I'm an incurable intellectual, insofar as I continue to be curious, even after others have moved on and lost interest, and therefore I do care for quality of ideas. I can also acknowledge that quality in other people, even if I don't see eye to eye with them on most other things. But I am inclined to relativise the power of ideas, along the lines that Marx indicates. My own "disease" is often that I end up thinking too much, whereas I should be taking action, for the sake of a balanced life (then they call me "cloghead" or some such thing) - it gets mighty difficult to pursue your train of thinking through to the end, while keeping all the rest of life going as well. Yet, when you experience life as being terrible and you can't get out of your bubble, your inner intellectual world might be a consolation, or, you might simply be "in love" with a train of thought, even if you are not actually loving anybody real. They say "it's lonely at the top", but independently thinking through an idea and writing about that, can be terribly lonely as well. So you suffer for an idea you had. In postmodern thought this is often regarded as crazy, in that you shouldn't suffer for an idea, or you need therapy etc. But this is also a safe and convenient way of denying the meaning of what's actually happening with a person, driving him further into his "crazy" mode of being. And in the end, people do cry out for people to explain to them, the meaning of what's happening, and they grow cynical and anti-social, because nobody is doing it satisfactorily. That is to say, independent thinking does have something to recommend for itself, even if its total effect shouldn't be exaggerated. Jurriaan "Love is the only way to understand another human being in the innermost core of his personality." - Viktor Frankl (I love Frankl quotes, although I don't agree with all his ideas).
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