Just our political ideas.
As someone who’s full of ideas, but tries (sometimes fails) not to adhere to a certain ideology, I’m really excited to be part of this community. For the past eight months, I’ve been interviewing people from all over the world. At first, I thought that meant being a “global citizen” because problems like climate change, poverty, inequality, famine, war, and the popularity of Reggaeton are global problems that take a global mindset to solve.
But upon further reflection, I realised the term “global citizen” has become an ideology in itself. Now, I’m just trying to be part of a balance of stories. Stories that don’t push one ideology over another. Stories that show we’re a diverse species of primates just trying to figure ourselves out.
Also, you write “I am very aware that our words have become politicized, that they come with biases and baggage. But they don’t need to. They can just be words. Words we use to explain things.” I agree, but do you think this is possible? These words are ideographs, which operate enthymematically. They almost always counts on its consumers to provide the necessary information to understand the argument. They are the building blocks of ideologies. To separate these words from all the contexts and ideology seems really difficult. A great paper about this is The Truth About Ideographs: Progress Toward Understanding and Critique by Josh Boyd
You had me at the title Elle. And the rest turned me into a paid Substack subscriber for the first time. I'm looking forward to the next 12 months as you meander through each ideology. What a treat.
Killer post as always. The guiding quote of my thinking life has been Andre Gide's, "Believe those who seek truth, doubt those who find it." I don't always respect it--the mythical gods know I am opinionated--but to come at a discussion from a legitimate space of curiosity versus conviction seems to be as good a starting point for a conversation as any.
The one caveat I'll suggest here--and it's something that I think currently plagues a lot of social discourse in the US of A--is that in a socioeconomic culture that defines comfort as the preferred goal, it is VERY hard to get into the nitty gritty with people as soon as the conversation causes discomfort. To make a simplistic argument, because I live in France, Americans (myself included) need to accept the reality of smelly cheeses in the fridge. Sometimes our senses will be offended for good reason. And that's okay.
Along with George Washington and John Adams, I believe political parties are the root of all evil in government. They lock people into rigid ideologies that don’t allow for individual thought and opinions, or compromise. I think politicians should be regular citizens who serve a single term and then go back to private life. Everyone an independent candidate. Government was supposed to serve us, not rule us.
This post convinced me to sign up for a year.
This sentence is so refreshing and has my *vote*: "I always say that I have a lot of ideas but no ideologies."
As soon as labels (party names) are applied, thinking stops. Granted, a lot of power in labels--that I do not deny--but I'd like a space to think things out and revisit and challenge and to turn upside down, our current status quo, to optimize it. Oh wait! We DO have that place! It is The Elysian! :) @ellegriffin.substack.com
"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function"
even better is multiple rather than two.
I've come to feel a live and let live attitude is the most honoring thing I can do. However, It's not popular with people who are certain they know what is best for others
It is a conundrum. I have seen so-called socialism destroyed by totalitarianism and so-called democracy destroyed by commericalism. I see the West deteriorating because people are treated as puppets manipulated by pupeteers who sell products for profit. The notion in this society of success comes more from greed than unity.
When I worked as a journalist in the old regimes I met people who wanted a new form of socialism, they did not want capitalism and found socialism even with all its flaws, flawed as it was utilised then, to be better for women - more equality means better sex. And people did so much outside of work, they didn't judge each other by their jobs but by the exchange of ideas, their sharing of interests, their outside work activities.
Like you I try to leave the partyism, the lines that divide - which are all pretty centrist anyway, and read, and debate with myself if no one else. And like you, I am willing to change. I've been reading Rousseau and Voltaire lately and trying to figure where it went wrong. How can we have change without violence and more pain? And yet how can we allow the violence and pain that is a result of disparity to continue?
As writers we might not have the answers but we need to go on the quest to find answers and when we show the quest we give people the chance to make their own choices. I will try to follow your book list but I am coming in late. I love the ideas, and live by the notion that respectful disagreement is so much more honourable than complicit pretence. We can learn from the debate and exchange. And we owe it to writers to read, to learn, to think.
Hear, hear! The two major political parties in the US have huge incentives to create divisions and they spend billions to do it well. But, there is actually an amazing amount of common ground around the outcomes that we want as a society. At the same time, I understand that battle lines are being drawn in a high-stakes game and political engagement is necessary to affect change. No easy solve, but it could certainly be better. The current debt ceiling debates make this very clear.
It really is very important to look at things from multiple perspectives, because it generally is completely impossible to understand something by looking at it from one angle. In The Matter With Things, Iain McGilchrist brings up the analogy of the Zen garden, where no matter what spot you stand on, you can't see all the features at the same time, and all this big lofty stuff about utopia works like that too.
Very well said, Elle! My own professional path has taken me into roles in government and the public sector, where I’ve worked on both sides of the ideological spectrum in mainstream American politics. This spectrum is presented as a vast unbridgeable gulf in popular media. Undoubtedly that is rooted in some grains of truth. But it misses two very crucial points: 1) the range of ideas about how to live a good life and structure a cohesive society are far more vast than the suite of options offered by the mainstream parties (in the United States); and 2) ideologies, as I’ve experienced them, are a combination of tribal signaling and mental models that are decent enough as shorthand methods of cooperating or defecting in circumstances of political debate, but they are inherently limiting and restrain, rather than expand, their adherents ability to analyze problems and work cooperatively, or even alone, to build a better world.
"The Elysian League", I really like that.
So I've been following this series with great interest, and trying to understand it through the lens of my fictional town that I've been writing about in my murder mystery novel. (My novel is like your political ideas example, multi-layered, with bits borrowed from a variety of sources). Currently my fictional town is a crap-bucket, but through applying what I learn from you and the Elysian League, my aim is to gradually make the town a better place to live through poverty reduction, responsible and wide-spread economic growth, and cleaning up all of the things that have brought the town's standard of living down. Application of all the ideas discussed here to Sitka Cove will help me to grasp those concepts better.
I've gotten my hands on copies of a few of the books you've listed in your self-made curriculum (which was a fascinating and inspiring idea, btw!), and I can't wait to dive in to Ursula LeGuin, Kim Stanley Robinson and all the others. This whole concept you've come up with, and nurtured here is what I'd hoped college was like, and what I hoped the internet would be like.
You're much more invigorating, honest and enjoyable to hang out with!
Thanks for all you do here!
Well said. I’ve actively refused to identify with an ideology for as long as I can remember. All my favorite people are people who do the same; who just see things clearly. Honestly, I think identifying with an ideology is how you get into a lot of trouble, even if the ideology is really good. Ideologies are only ever sound in theory--in real life, pluralism is always more effective and more harmonious. This applies to everything from politics to spirituality. I’ve never come across any evidence to the contrary.
The problem with ideologies and even political parties (especially in countries with a two-party system like the US or the UK) is that people assume you agree with most if not all their ideas. Republican? Immediately you're pro guns, anti abortion. In one fell swoop. This is obliviously silly and not nuanced at all. So I totally agree with your POV that you can take ideas from every ideology to create something that suits the context of a particular country. And for that, you need to study every idea without biases.