Search our Archives:
» Opinion & Society
Ideology: take the good with the bad?
By Jason Hariton
Ideology (noun) - A set of aims and ideas… a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things, as in common sense… The main purpose is to offer change in society… systems of abstract thought applied to public matters. Implicitly every political tendency entails an ideology.
Somehow over the past few decades since WWII, the West has made a distinctive shift from an ideologically driven bastion of freedom and democratic values to an amorphous and unguided appeaser unsure of itself. Principles have been replaced by acceptance. A collective, conscious motivation to spread and champion Western doctrine has gone by the wayside in favor of a new consciousness that does not believe in a singular collective at all. Western ideology now only exists inasmuch as a desire to abandon such collectivism in favor of compassion and acceptance, regardless of philosophy or deeds.
Oddly though, while defense of the Western dogma, including democracy and freedom for all, is taboo, the acceptance of counter ideologies is not. In essence, it is okay to defend a foreign regime’s right to dictatorship, autocracy or theocracy, usually despite the implications to the citizens of such a regime, but it is not okay to openly advocate our own ideology, especially as a superior alternative. Thus we see the recent trend amongst Western governments toward engagement with despotic regimes, all the while conscious not to appear insensitive or belligerent. I presume the West fears that concepts like right versus wrong or words like “superior” conjure hatred and contribute to the West’s (particularly America’s) supposed “arrogance”, as President Obama recently described it.
Contrarily, it is actually our inaction in the arena of public debate that creates such animosity. Our lack of a defined vision and denial of our Western roots empowers these alternative viewpoints, which are currently responsible for mass suffering and have historically been proven unsustainable.
We no longer represent the light at the end of the tunnel for the world’s needy and oppressed. If we are ashamed to let the world know the greatness of Western freedoms we should not be surprised to learn that repressors are gaining strength, using us as a bad cop to their good, in order to prop up their exploitive governments. The West must regain its footing and its moral fiber in order to weaken these regimes while providing a shining alternative to the world populace by standing on our principles.
Western ideology was and remains the catalyst for modern day advancement. When we actively or passively endorse those who seek to reverse our progress, whether through our aid, apathy or otherwise, we are sending the wrong message. We fought long and hard with great sacrifice to beat back such suppression only to stand silent now as it resurges. Silence can often be as telling as noise.
Our democratic ideology has allowed for us to reform politically, religiously, technologically and socially, albeit not without significant and ongoing hurdles. We pulled ourselves from the depths of the dark ages, through the enlightenment and beyond. It is our reformation as an advanced society that has brought about congregations like the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. Yet, our appeasement now manifests into complacency as we invite many of these despotic governments into the forums of world decision as equal partners, allowing these mechanisms to be hijacked by those who disagree with the very principles they were founded upon. World bodies have become a politically manipulated tool with everything other than the welfare of individuals in mind.
The West’s new modus operandi respects the world’s governments and belief systems, whether they conflict with Western foundations or not, but ignores the individuals suffering within the confines of freedom-stifling regimes. On paper our newfound “globalism” may sound like the humane approach but, in reality, it is extremely dangerous and will ultimately, if unchecked, lead to the dilution of our ideals on a global scale. True globalism should defend people, not government.
Unfortunately, by turning away from our founding principles of freedom and equality for all, our compassion for our fellow man now simply ends at compassion. Action and condemnation is reserved for those within our own ideological circle: Israel, America, The United Kingdom.
The recent Israeli incursion into Gaza resulted in the deaths of approximately one thousand combatants and civilians. Whether justified or not, no one can deny that the incursion was a retaliation for missile attacks from Gaza and, whether successful or not, that precision weaponry was employed in order to reduce civilian casualties. For its action against the Hamas terrorist organization, Israel has been condemned in the West as a war criminal and a violator of human rights. Meanwhile, over the past few months the Sri Lankan government has waged an all out offensive on the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) terrorist group. All media access was blocked and reports are now emerging that more than 20,000 civilians were killed in the offensive. Medical facilities and entire towns were systematically bombed to ruins. The Times of London is now reporting that high-level UN officials were aware of the bloodbath and civilian deaths, including aids to Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, but they did nothing. The hypocrisy is enlightening.
We must look to the heart of our rationale. Why is it “social upheaval” when people slaughter each other en masse but it is a “war crime” or “genocide” when a guided missile misses its intended target? Whether justified or not, the first is an act of intentional, ideologically driven murder while the latter is the terrible result of an act of aggression designed to limit collateral damage to noncombatants. There is no moral equivalence.
It is time for Western democracies to climb back atop the soapbox that is “ideology”. Freedom of the press, freedom of political expression, freedom of speech, civil society, right to petition, equality before the law, political pluralism, separation of powers, human rights, social equality, universal suffrage, secularity: these are tenets of our Western ideology that must be advocated with pride and vigor. The only way to counter oppressive ideology is by putting forth its alternative. Simply put: “ideology” is not a bad word.
We can thank Western values for our society’s successes and for the rise of democracy and freedom throughout the last century. Ideological bias, while capable of terrible results, can also be the perpetuating force behind equally positive action. Western civilization was built on unflinching principles and we must stop being afraid to say that our freedoms represent a better way.
from the July 2009 Edition of the Jewish Magazine
Please let us know if you see something unsavory on the Google Ads and we will have them removed. Email us with the offensive URL (www.something.com)