Sunday, February 03, 2008

A primer on ideology

As a professor constantly surprised by the lack of ideological literacy demonstrated by students, I appreciate this post by Steve Boriss that seeks to explain both political ideology and its various manifestations. The key here is in the basic constructs: right and left, not right vs. wrong, or Democrat vs. Republican, Liberal vs. Conservative. Then you can progress to dynamist and stasis.

Now beyond the obvious benefits to citizenship, civic responsibility and informed democracy, why is ideological literacy important? Well, it helps people see through the ridiculousness of mainstream media simplifications about such things as corporations, oil and the environment, let alone the more obscure conspiracy theories that abound.

An awareness of ideology can assist in understanding news items such as this report on the non-disclosure, disclosure by UN officials on finances, which allows a better understanding of what is and is not going on around the world in certain hot spots (such as Iraq, Dafur, Chad etc.).

Literacy also gets you beyond the perfunctory labelling of sides in the mainstream media that does little to inform as to the intent of the differing factions, let alone which are the "good" guys and who are the "bad" ones.

In the case of the UN, "rebel" forces means people who haven't paid anyone anything yet, while "government" forces usually refers to the regime we are propping up as they do pay us.

In a revolution, rebels can be right wing, left wing, popular, unpopular, represent the poor and oppressed, or represent vested corporate interests -- without any reference to an ideological construct what designates those who oppose repression and/or those fighting for individual empowerment?

And without transparency in ideology, how do we ever hope to make the UN accountable as an agency for democratic reform and justice?