As we celebrated Independence Day yesterday here in the U.S. of A., we found our social media feeds crowded with posts telling us what we should be celebrating; it goes without saying people on social media LOVE telling others what to do.
Me, I don’t like being told what to do whether by Parent, Priest, or President, and I’ve never been one for big holiday celebrations. What I do think, though, is that the celebration of your nation’s independence – July 4th, May 5th, June 23rd, or what have you – is an apt time to ask yourself two questions: are you declaring your own independence? And if you have, what steps are you taking towards actually achieving it?
If you’ve read my books or followed this blog for any period of time, you’ll realize I’m a strong believer in individualism and personal self-determination. While there are many levels of freedom and a person in the modern First World may never become truly free (we’re all too interdependent on each other), the first step to any kind of freedom is ideological independence. So let’s talk about ideology.
Ideology is like religion, and in fact all religions (including Christianity) are forms of ideology; for this reason I’ll use the two words interchangeably. Ideology can be useful when it helps to give us an ethical compass, a consistent set of values, and a method of connecting to the spiritual; used in a spirit of open-mindedness and healthy skepticism ideology can be our servant and our friend. Yet when we allow our ideology to become the prime focus of all we think, say, or do and become so invested in it that nothing even slightly out of agreement can be tolerated, that’s when the ideology becomes our deity and our master, and we make ourselves Useful Idiots to those we consider our ideological leaders.
To become free of an ideology’s influence is to throw off mental bondage and become capable of recognizing other opportunities to increase your degree of self-determination.
My Own Ideological Enslavement
I came to see this in myself. At one point, I was an extremely devout Catholic and I’d say I was more well-read than most. My focus was the spirituality which I saw as emphasizing self-control and self-honesty, and my analysis of the theology and spirituality is the reason for this website’s existence. All well and good insofar as it goes. Yet there was a time when I’d bought into the one true faith thing so entirely as to lack tolerance for divergent ways of thinking (in fact I still have a disdain for five-point Calvinism, though more for psychological than theological reasons).
Most of all anything that came out of Vatican II – i.e. what Traditional Catholics call “Novus Ordinarianism” – was anathema; those who’ve read my original edition of Occult Catholicism can see this anathema dripping on every page. While I never went so far as to claim institution was the only vehicle of “salvation” or confuse the Church’s identity with the Pope, I allowed myself to have an emotional investment in an ideology which in turn led to the ideology being a sort of master.
That’s the thing right there: when it comes to ideology, emotion is our downfall. Your level of enslavement under any ideology is a direct correlation to your amount of emotional investment in it, or at bare minimum your emotional “need” to be accepted by your peers within that ideology’s community. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about Cultural Marxism, the Red Pill community, Dianic Neopaganism, or even Traditional Catholicism: no ideology can enslave you if you disengage your emotions and thus don’t allow it to happen. Declare your emotional independence.
Diagnosing Ideological Enslavement
The first key is in asking yourself: “Am I enslaved to some sort of ideology?”
Start by taking an examination of yourself and asking: what ideology am I invested in? For me it’s the idea that each individual is a free person imbued with the Natural Rights to Life, Liberty, and Property. For you it may be something else. One of the best ways to sort this out and how emotionally invested you are is by looking at what groups you belong to (both in real life and online), how much you contribute or post to them, how little tolerance you have for opposing viewpoints (or even constructive criticism), and why you have so much or so little tolerance.
This last part is the hardest, because humans are terrible at self-diagnosis and ideologues tend to be utterly self-deluded. You can get an idea, though, based on who you block on your social media feed and why, or your emotional reaction when somebody simply says they disagree with you: do you immediately call them a “racist” or a “heretic?” Or do you actually listen to them for any good points they may offer and maybe even change your viewpoint where it’s warranted? In fact you might want to crowd-source this one if you seriously want a realistic picture.
Throwing off the Shackles
Once an ideology takes root, it will be very difficult to throw it off completely. For example, the “convert apologists” who converted from Protestantism to post-Vatican II Catholicism and claim to defend the Catholic faith while not being culturally Catholic; in fact they tend to come off as Protestants who just happened to accept Papal Infallibility. On the flip side I’ve met Protestants who converted to Traditional Catholicism who walk, talk, and smell so Catholic they can fool us Cradles. In those cases I’ve found that they didn’t become independent so much as they simply succumbed to a stronger ideology.
The other way an ideology can continue to influence you is by your reaction against it. A well-known example of this could be Ayn Rand, whose “philosophy” of Objectivism (largely Nietzschean “Master Morality” taken to its logical conclusion) is rooted in the Communism she left behind in the Soviet Union. While she may appear to have thrown off the shackles and done very well for herself, her thinking was still shackled by her reaction against the Soviet version of Marxian collectivism.
While difficult, it’s not impossible. We can begin throwing off the shackles of ideology by monitoring our thoughts and reactions to anything opposed to that ideology. Sometimes the opponents of an ideology have good points, while others times they’re full of crap. It won’t be easy to tell in the beginning, but gauging our gut-reaction to what we read and then fact-checking what they say (and what people on “our side” say) is a good place to start.
Another thing we can do is stuff outside our regular group affiliations whether in real life or online. Our world’s become so polarized that this was easier to do 15 years ago than it is now, but it’s still possible to find people not totally hung up on their own ideological agendas. Look for the people on social media who aren’t afraid to say “Hey, wait a minute” and try to keep the discussion logical, for example, and watch for these people in your social and professional networks in real life. These are more likely the people you want to spend time around.
The key here is to put yourself in a situation where you’re faced with people outside your ideological sphere and outside the community that supports the ideology. If you’re heavily invested, then this step will be REALLY uncomfortable and take a LOT of getting used to. But as you go, you’ll find yourself with access to other people’s thoughts and opinions that you can examine and fact-check alongside your own, and put your own beliefs into a larger perspective. This requires a lot of humility and some of the opinions you hear may be as cockamamie as some of the ones you’re getting away from, but that’s part of what keeps the free market of ideas a free marketplace.
Evaluate, examine, confirm, verify, and above all fight hard to keep your emotions from taking control of you just because you like one idea better than another. The more you keep within a fact-based structure, the more you can learn how to discern good from bad, and to get a handle over your ideology. When that time comes, then you will no longer be the ideology’s servant but its master, and it can help you instead of hindering you in ways you may not realize.
This isn’t as easy as I make it sound. In fact genuine self-improvement is genuinely hard. But for one who seeks to be a free person, self-improvement in all areas is necessary. It’s a necessary good that begins with freeing your mind, and a free mind – something collectivists and institutions of all stripes have always tried to extinguish – makes a clear road to becoming a free person.