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The French philosopher Louis Althusser once said, “Ideology has little to do with consciousness – it is profoundly unconscious.”

I find I have to agree with the man…

We have become a divided planet – nations, classes, tribes, faiths, all brought about by ideologies based on conceptual rather than logical thinking. The banes of man are ideology and ego – put those two together, add a dash of religion, and you have the recipe for inevitable disaster. If you hone ideology enough it becomes a belief system. Add some politics and sooner or later you’ll detect the faint odor of corruption, because by the very nature of man, no one wants to leave the stew alone – they’ve just got to fool with it.

Ideology offers a sense of identity, and man is, by nature, a gregarious creature. He needs “the tribe, and the tribe needs him. But as President Bill Clinton once said, “The problem with ideology is, you’ve already got your mind made up. You know all the answers, and that makes evidence irrelevant and arguments a waste of time. You tend to govern by assertion and attacks. (I have to wonder if his wife has ever heard that…)   

Let’s face it, ideology can be so easily twisted, and in the end it can become little more than a poor substitute for simple decency and compassion. It is our actions that define who we are, not our beliefs. Not the words written by long dead prophets or the promises of vain political sycophants. If you can’t determine right from wrong then you lack empathy and virtue, not religion.

Given the recent news – our president giving nuclear weaponry to peoples who have sworn our destruction, we have a good ways to go yet with our ideologies. While some appear to be leading us toward the light, others appear to be taking us down the road to extinction. Personally, I feel the combination of nuclear weapons and fanatical ideology is an amalgam no rational person can accept with any degree of comfort. If we’re to be considered a successful species to anyone out there watching (if there is anyone watching), we’ll have to last more than a few thousand years.

The amazing part about ideology, evidenced by the looping, destructive path of America, is that the revolution of change seems to be embedded in the nature of man. We seem to be witnessing a continual circle of ideologies over and over again, throughout history. Also embedded in the nature of man is a relentless dissatisfaction, which perpetuates these principles. All this reminds me of a quote by the Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich: “The fact that political ideologies are tangible realities is not proof of their vitally necessary character. The Bubonic Plague was an extraordinarily powerful social reality, but no one would have regarded it as vitally necessary.”

With all these ideologies bouncing around the planet, what really bothers me most is the widespread habit of disregarding facts, or turning conjecture into reality. It’s as if man is not content unless he has everyone else believing as he does – it’s like a confirmation of his correctness.

If I don’t believe what you do, it doesn’t lessen your faith or weaken your ideology, unless you let it.

The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the ownership and staff of The Polk County Pulse. Michael Reisig is a freelance writer and published author whose works are reproduced throughout the globe.


  1. This column I have to applaud without reservation – I just hope it doesn’t go over the heads of too many who should read it.

    • His premise is false……tribalism isn’t new……it’s the way the world has been ever since lone families gathered and united for mutual benefit…….same song….different singers…….J.Kraus, J.D.

      • All human organizations function as tribes, with the same roles, status hierarchies and social dynamics, whether they are a group of children who play together or a major international corporation. Ideologies – including religions – are one of the ways humans justify and rationalize tribal behaviors, and lead to some of the most destructive conflicts we see.

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