We all know people, probably a lot of them, who are decent and well-meaning in most aspects of their lives but whose brains switch into an ugly mode of operation once politics comes up. They are fine neighbors or coworkers until you say something that goes against their ideology, and then they turn into bitter adversaries.
This abrupt change from Ms. Nice to Ms. Nasty can be rather troubling when you see it up close. And for good reason: it’s like a sci-fi movie where an alien takes over one of the crew.
The truth is that political ideologies are a devolutionary influence on us. They make us harsher, angrier, easier to manipulate, and almost impossible to reason with. In almost every way that can be examined, they’re bad for us.
The great problem is that people think they’re required to have political stances. This is a tremendously damaging and false belief, but the Western world is currently addicted to it. In our time, Politics is Almighty.
The truth, however, is that we are more than capable of examining the world and coming to conclusions without the mental partnership of a political ideology.
Ideologies Are Mind Parasites
People usually get pulled into one ideology or another at an early age. Very often they will be raised in an ideology and will slowly adopt it. Other times, teachers will lead them into an ideology or simply force it upon them. This is more or less standard at universities, where holding the wrong ideology takes a point or more off your GPA.
And beyond this, many people will routinely push you into one category or another without even meaning to: “Which party do you like?” “Who are you voting for?” and so on. Once you make a choice, they identify you as being within a specific ideology and will treat you that way. And unless you strenuously defy their categorization, that’s where they’ll keep you.
Once you come to see yourself inside of an ideology, there are emotional benefits. If you align with the Blue Party, you will be continually furnished with reasons why the Reds are to blame for all the ills of the world… and vice versa. The emotional benefit is that by being in the right party, you are absolved from all responsibility – the enemy party is always guilty.
This mind parasite shortcuts your thoughts and pays you off with some fake self-esteem and pats on the back.
People stay inside ideologies for the emotional protection they gain. And if they’re not careful, their identity will merge with their ideology. From that point onward, all political questions become blood feuds.
Politics turns your naturally limber thinking process into an animalistic and angry “us versus them.” The ideology – the parasite – shapes your thoughts to serve itself.
Ugly by Nature
Politics is ugly by nature. Think about what a political process really involves.
Once a political process is completed, people have a binary choice: either obey or be punished.
At the end of every political process are armed men, violently enforcing it. That’s barbaric, and it’s ugly.
The truth is that we really don’t need those embittering ideologies. And if we ever really did need them, we’ve outgrown them.
Most People Are Better than Their Ideologies
Consider your otherwise good neighbor who turns ugly over political opinions. He or she is better than their ideology. In daily life, they are considerate and cooperative. But when politics comes up, they instantly turn confrontational, oppositional… barbaric.
It’s politics that changes your neighbor from a nice person into an angry, hazardous person.
Most people are far better than their ideologies, and I think it’s a good idea to tell them so. You’ll have to wait for a good time, of course, but you might consider saying something like this:
Ron, you’re a good neighbor and a nice guy… except when you talk about politics; then, you’re scary. It’s not your opinions – I may disagree, but I can understand how you’d reach those conclusions – it’s that you change, and you defend them like you’re at war. As a friend, I’d really like for you to step away from that kind of political identity – it diminishes you.
I’m not promising that this will always work, but it is the right thing to do and you are at least likely to plant a good seed in this person. And if you say it at the right time, with genuine concern, it’s unlikely to cause a real problem.
As best I can see it, the truth is that political ideologies make people consistently barbaric and ugly. They make them worse. Our lives would be improved if we dropped them.