It is an odd thing about an ideology that it is never acknowledged by the person in the grip of it. He or she thinks it is the purest common sense or the soundest theory. No one ever thinks, “Yes, I am an ideologue and proud of it”. Religious ideologies, political ideologies, racial ideologies, gender ideologies, philosophical ideologies: no one in the grip of them ever realizes it. That is why it is so hard to dislodge ideologies, and why they seem to their believers to be completely rational. They always seem to involve an enemy that is demonized, and they consist of simple propositions that can be used to subsume anything that comes along. How do you tell if you are the dupe of an ideology, as opposed to a believer in a true theory? There is no litmus test, but anyone outside the ideology can see that it is operating. I think the clearest sign of it is a habit of generalizing about large classes of people in a derogatory way, without much regard for specific facts. I wonder how long ideologies have been around: did cave men and cave women have them? What about Neanderthals? Are any current apes ideologues? There is no doubt that they are a main curse of the human race, and surely everyone wants to avoid being an ideologue. Yet so many people are. Everyone should make every effort to ensure that they are not in the grip of an ideology, as a basic moral duty, being well aware that ideologies do not proclaim themselves as such. I am probably a victim of an ideology myself: I am thoroughly convinced of the ideology that ideologies are bad–I am an anti-ideology ideologue. And this ideology strikes me as the purest common sense.
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