Ideologies are Faiths
With big leaders it starts by one or two people, perhaps not so important but significant in their own sphere, getting thrown out for disagreeing. Maybe a whistleblower or two pronounces. The media catches it for a day or two before it quietens down. Then along comes a big issue and the true colours of the leader are on display, white and shivering like a naked body just out of an icy sea. Now a really big fish speaks up, someone of stature, someone who cannot be ignored.
The tide turns. Here is a light to follow, an umbrella for the downpour. Now we can openly associate ourselves with the right side of the issue. We have a haven to return to. General Jim Mattis is such a one. Since his departure from the White House, Mattis has maintained a polite, discreet silence. Recently he has found it necessary to talk. The divide the President is creating in America is too great. It is destroying the very philosophy the United States stands for, democracy.
And Jim Mattis is not going to let that go unremarked.
The crowds assembled all over the world to commemorate George Floyd and his tragic death are another turn of the tide. Like Mattis, they will quieten down in due course but the impact of the strong feelings being shown everywhere will not be lost. Tears of anger are turning to tears of resolution, of determination. But what are those tears about, what is that determination to achieve? Is it a simple, straightforward change that is needed or are there several forces at work?
Well, of course there are. The trigger is never the issue; a match is not a bonfire. It lights at the moment when lots of people say ‘enough’. The bonfire is already set, dry, aching to burn, to wave its frantic flames as a warning that disaster is near. The treatment of black people is a big enough issue to be sure. Slavery is abolished, but it still exists all over the world in many different, grotesque ways. From the bullying boss to the unattainable KPI, from the intimidated housewife to the underpaid miner, slavery still flourishes. George Floyd represents them all.
The ideologies of freedom and control are also in close combat today. Over eighty-eight years I have seen greater restriction of free societies decade by decade without let up. All in the name of order. Freedom is a practice of the generous, of those who think the other person has a right, too. Control is the effective marshalling of resources to maximise profit – and often to give those in charge the best lifestyles, it must be said.
Generally, humans have demanded more freedom as they have become wealthier and this may yet prove to be the case, even today. But the pressure of population on the planet is such that we are bound to have freedoms restricted for the purpose of survival of the race. More people making greater demands from fewer resources is a troubling enough scenario. Competing ideologies on top of that is scary.
Living with different ideologies is not easy. They are religions in their own way and, as with so many beliefs, they will fight for supremacy. Faith is deeply involved in them since we have, as yet, no method of measuring the best way for humans to live together. As religions have found, compromise is the only credible habitat for different beliefs. When we get it, they can live side by side reasonably peacefully. When we don’t, they fight. We cannot afford world war for it would be too destructive. We cannot afford it economically, either, for the present and the foreseeable future. The price would be mass starvation.
But the ideological struggles are hotting up as demonstrated in Hong Kong and Washington. These are no passing issues. They are the roots of civilisation, the credos of a good life. They are beliefs, though, like all beliefs, not without substantial evidence to support them. They are therefore easily capable of turning into war. The human race and the planet cannot afford wars now or at any time in the future. We should have grown up enough to know that.
We can and should afford peaceful demonstrations of a scale that authorities cannot ignore.
And authorities should learn not to ignore them.