A verse in an old folk song by the Limelighters’ claimed “All of life’s a circle, sunrise to sunset.” I’m afraid they may have been right.
We do seem to be revisiting the historical era known as The Age of Ideology. Napoleon’s defeat ushered in a thirty-year period of turmoil and unrest, described by historians as a battle between Enlightenment science and secularism on the one hand, and various forms of Nationalism and religion on the other.
The problem with clashing ideologies is that reason and evidence take a back seat to a priori beliefs. People can no longer communicate, because they have different worldviews, different mental paradigms. They literally occupy different realities.
Evidence of such a disconnect is everywhere–in Congress, in the Indiana legislature, on the internet, and in what is left of the news. Politics is no longer concerned with governing in the public interest; it has become wholly a struggle for the power to use government to impose the “right” ideology. Those of us who lived through the Cold War often noted the similarity between communism and religion–both were matters of faith. Ideologies do have a lot more in common with religion that with policy analysis.
Historians also note that ideological passions rise in times of uncertainty and social change, just as nationalism and parochialism rise during financial downturns. So perhaps the current levels of ideological rigidity and bigotry shouldn’t surprise us. On the other hand, understanding how we got here is cold comfort for those of us who find the current environment incompatible with the sort of rational, civilized environment that makes human progress possible.
If all of life’s a circle, I hope this one turns pretty soon.